This is a never-ending quest: Finding a place to combine a simple wedding, and a meal. In summer, you can look for ubiquitous outdoor gardens in the backyards of restaurants. Winter may be more cramped. Look on Citysearch.com, chowhound, menupages.com and other websites for restaurants with "private dining" or meeting rooms, or private rooms. These are frequently mentioned in magazine articles and websites each year, such as: nymag.com, and private party rooms, savorynewyork.com.
Just call a restaurant, ask if they have any private rooms or private areas (alcoves with curtains are frequent). If you are willing to have an afternoon wedding (2-4) you may be able to get a private room "between service", at a good price. Then order drinks and some eats. Make sure you tell them you are having a 'small civil wedding ceremony', no fuss, 15 minutes, everybody standing, no rice, no mike, no flower petals, no chuppah, etc. Most places will tell you right away whether this will work.
In no order, here are some places we have used: Moran's in Chelsea, Keens Chop House near Macy's, La Lanterna in the village, Bette Midler's New Leaf Cafe in Fort Tryon Park (at the Cloisters), One if By Land, Two if by Sea, Aaron Burr's townhouse in Greenwich village, City Hall Restaurant in Tribeca, Bayards in Wall Street, and lots of small restaurants in the East Village, in Brooklyn, Queens, etc.
Ideas for informal wedding locations in case of rain:
Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) - less busy in the rain, and there is a small glassed-in viewing area you can use. This only works for small elopements, however.
Any restaurant with a 'view', in the rain -- there won't be enough business so they probably won't care. Perhaps Beekman Towers - the art deco restaurant by the UN..
Grand Central Station - just find a corner! Avoid rush hour.
The viewing arch at Bowling Green, you'll be covered, with a good view of the Statue of Liberty.
The balcony overlooking Central Park at the Time Warner Center (I've never tried this, but in a pinch, it would make a great 'private' spot, as long as the bored security guards didn't mind).
The Little stage at the back of the Tourist Bureau in Times Square - it's not used for anything else, the building lobby is attractive, and I'm sure the staff would find it fun.
In a carriage, in Central Park, with the hood up. Be creative!
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