NYC Event Venue Budgeting 101

During my time as a corporate event planner in NYC, whenever I’d get tasked with “finding the perfect venue” for an event, I would be filled with half excitement and half dread. Of course, the act of venue hunting in isolation is entirely exciting. Who doesn’t love exploring new spaces in the hopes of finding one with the perfect ambience for a party or a conference? From discovering magical skyline views and inspiring architecture to envisioning all the ways to transform a blank white room, venue hunting has lots of perks.

So, then, why the trepidation?

Because every event has a different budget, and pricing out how much one should allocate for the “venue” really depends on the other inputs of an event (Do we need full-service catering and staff? Will there be a presentation? Is the event going to require multiple rooms for different functions? What about entertainment?)

If you’ve venue hunted yourself, I’m sure you’ve experienced these budgeting frustrations as well. You’ve probably spent countless hours scrolling through online venue directories or wedding sites, laboriously emailing “events@” addresses and frantically calling venues to find out what each venue charges, when, in reality, it may be difficult to ascertain exactly what your venue budget should be.

We know the pain point well. So well, in fact, that it served as the inspiration for Revelr. Revelr saves time for anyone seeking an event space. Rather than hunting down venues by phone and email, Revelr allows users to simply post their event details and estimated budget for venues to review, and then venues come back to them if they want to host the event.

But what if you don’t know how much of your total event spend to allocate for the venue? The following is an initial guide for putting your estimate together (and/or making sense of the estimates you get back from venues on Revelr).

Step 1: Choosing the type of space

The first thing to consider in figuring out your venue budget is what kind of space you want for your event. This entails deciding what kind of space you’re envisioning looks-wise, but also asking yourself what you’re seeking to get from your venue (Do you strictly need a space? Do you expect the venue to come with staffing or food/beverage?).

For events at spaces without in-house food/beverage, as a simple rule of thumb, you should allocate roughly 10-15% of your total event budget to renting out the venue itself. For example, if your total event budget is $50,000, at least $5,000 will likely go toward the venue rental.

On the other hand, if you end up selecting a turnkey venue, like a hotel, restaurant, or a dedicated event space with in-house catering, the allocated amount for space rental will be a bit different since there may not be a standalone venue fee at all. Instead, the “venue cost” will likely be subsumed within the per head price for food/beverage (or will otherwise be pretty minimal relative to your total event spend).

If you’re dealing with a venue that simply provides a blank space, the sky is the limit in New York City. Believe it or not, venues like ballrooms, piers, lofts, and warehouses don’t get much cheaper than $25,000 per day, and the daily rate can extend to well over $100,000. But even the most wallet-friendly venues in New York City can run you close to $1,000 to use the space for a few hours. Interestingly, the most affordable venues tend to be non-dedicated event spaces, such as coworking spaces, personal residences, art galleries, and loft spaces like photography studios. Since events are not the sole business for many of these sorts of venues, they can get away with pricing at much friendlier rates. (Tip: sometimes these spaces will be willing to give you an even more reasonable hourly rate during times that their space isn’t otherwise being utilized.) These sorts of venues typically cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars an hour to about $750 per hour. Note that spaces like these generally charge for set up and breakdown time, so even for a two-hour event, you’ll be paying for nearly four hours of time from when you arrive to when you leave.

If you’re looking to cut down on costs, using a turnkey venue is often the way to go. Of course some turnkey venues – like five-star hotels, high-end restaurants, and iconic museums – can be among the priciest places to throw an event. But, in general, finding a venue that charges a per person food/beverage price and waives other venue fees can definitely end up being more cost effective, especially for events centered around eating and drinking like cocktail receptions, galas, and weddings.

Step 2: Decking out the space

After you’ve selected a space, take stock of what’s offered by the venue and determine what, if anything, you’ll need to bring in in terms of furniture, décor, etc. This is an important consideration since these seemingly small costs can add up quickly. Some venues (both blank spaces and turnkey spaces) include some furniture in house, such as chairs, tables, and lecterns. If the venue provides everything you need, you could save a lot at the end of the day. As soon as you start adding in any kind of rental, whether serving platters, napkins, or even just a few chairs, your budget could escalate considerably since most rental companies have minimums and added delivery charges.

Having said that, most run-of-the-mill furniture is not prohibitively expensive. A very basic metal folding chair can cost as little as $2 per chair to rent, while a more “fancy” chair can cost $10 or more. High cocktail tables can start at $7 per table, and large dining rounds run anywhere from about $12 to $15. And don’t forget to account for linens. While individual linen napkins can cost less than a dollar, when you add in dining linens and banquet-table linens at $20 to $25 a pop, the costs can easily escalate. If you select premium linens, then these costs can be even more.

Let’s assume you’re holding an event in a blank space and inviting 100 people. Say you’re going to need chairs for them for a presentation (with theater-style seating) and then furniture for a seated dinner following the presentations. Assuming you choose standard rental options, you’d likely be looking at around upwards of $2,000 just for furniture and another few hundred for the linens. So before accounting for food, drinks, staff, or any other venue costs, you might have to spend a couple thousand just on rentals for an event of this nature. Keep all of this in mind when venue hunting since the bigger the event, the bigger rental costs can be.

Step 3: Putting on a show

Another critical cost input for events that often causes sticker shock is audiovisual (A/V). While some venues (both blank spaces and turnkey spaces) will include some A/V equipment in house, you’ll often need to outsource at least a few items. If your needs are pretty simple and you feel confident in your abilities to handle any potential tech snafus, there are rental companies that now rent out A/V equipment without a technician onsite. These companies simply ship the equipment to you and then pick it up. Basic equipment (mic and speakers) can start at just a few hundred dollars. The downside is that if something goes awry, you’re on the hook in the eyes of your not-so-thrilled attendees. (I’ve served as an onsite tech for an event, and I would warn anyone to proceed with caution unless you have a large event support staff.)

Audiovisual services become exponentially more expensive as equipment increases in complexity and as tech staff increases. The quotes for A/V are all customized and depend on your precise needs, but if you’re going to do a full presentation with multiple microphones, a large screen, and amplifiers to fill a space that can hold hundreds, you can conservatively estimate that you’ll spend at least a few thousand (if not $10,000 or more). Technicians, cameras, mixers, and other equipment quickly add up. Another thing to keep in mind: some of the larger venues require you to use a preferred vendor for A/V, so comparison shopping may not even be possible.

So there’s our summary of some of the major cost considerations you should include when calculating your estimated event venue budget. Once you determine your budget (our handy Event Budget Calculator can helo you out) and put some thought into your event vision and goals, post your request on Revel Street and let venues that can accommodate your event reach out to you!. Imagine finding unique spaces that actually fit your budget without devoting hours of time. It’s much more efficient than old-fashioned event planning, if we do say so ourselves…

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