Lauren, FInancial Analyst & Derek, Lawyer
sum-up of the wedding vibe: Intimate ceremony followed by a food-focused boozy lunch party in downtown NYC that extended into the night.
Where we allocated the most funds:
We knew that food was going to be the focus for our wedding, so we wanted a venue that could deliver. We bought out Vic’s for the afternoon, allocating the vast majority of our funds to the food, drinks, and venue. I do not know why more people don’t get married at restaurants. Not only did we have Vic’s event coordinator built into the cost, but so many of the mundane but plentiful wedding decisions are already made for you. The décor, the space, silverware, linens, tables, lighting, etc. are all pre-existing, so these are not decisions you have to make if you pick a place you already love aesthetically. We chose Vic’s not only for their amazing food (not something often said about wedding food), but also because it is a relaxed, beautiful, modern Italian restaurant in downtown NYC that fit our vibe as a couple and vision for the day.
Where we allocated the least funds:
We chose to forgo many aspects of a traditional wedding that often add up, so we were able to spend $0 on many typical wedding features that didn’t fit our vision for the day (e.g. save the dates, RSVP cards, cake, bridal suite, anything related to a bridal party since we had no bridal party, DJ/band since we had no dancing). In terms of what we did spend money on, we saved by finding my non-wedding white dress on sale, doing my own makeup, minimal flowers, and buying menu/signage templates on Etsy and printing at kinkos.
What was totally worth it:
Writing our own ceremony was a lot of work, but I now cannot imagine doing this without taking the time to thoughtfully consider and discuss the words that our marriage would be based on. Having our incredibly patient, sweet, and knowledgeable officiant Ashley (from HoneyBreak Officiants) hold our hands through the writing process was a huge help.
Surprisingly, I would also highly recommend a videographer. I was on the fence about having one (it seemed very “extra” to me), so I frantically found a budget option four days before (that was stressful, do not recommend). While the end result was of middling quality, we were extremely glad we had the video documentation once we realized how fast it was going by. Everyone says this because it is true: your wedding day feels like it’s in fast-forward, and you miss so much because you cannot be everywhere at once. Watching the video afterward and witnessing pockets of our party that we didn’t get to see at the time (or reliving moments that we had already forgotten) was so gratifying.
What was totally not worth it:
Worrying that people weren’t going to “get” my wedding. Serious thoughts I had at some point leading up to the day: What will our guests do if there’s no dancing? Do we need more speeches so people will remember that it’s a wedding celebration? Will people think we’re cheap because the wedding is during the day? Will my friends be offended because they didn’t attend the ceremony? Will my grandma be disappointed that there’s no cake cutting? Will people be confused because my dress is cream and not white (yes, I thought that)? There was definitely some confusion when we broke the news about certain aspects (“NO DANCING???”), but everyone got it once they were there.
A few things that helped us along the way:
My mom provided an enormous amount of help that made it possible to plan a wedding in six months– thanks mama. She has all of the skills of a professional event planner without the cost, and I trusted her to handle every decision that I did not have the bandwidth/desire to.
I found it helpful to constantly remind myself (and those around me) that “this is a once-in-a-life time event!” does not justify any and all costs – and it is very easy to slip into that mindset. Do not be afraid to negotiate with vendors, get creative, question expensive traditions, and think critically about money! I am not a DIY person (so saving in that way was never on the table), but I scrutinized every cost to the point that my own mother got annoyed at me. For most wedding vendor categories, there is an enormous price range with diminishing marginal returns as you go up in cost. I highly recommend picking one or two aspects to splurge on, and then be ruthless and/or creative with the rest. No one will remember the rest.
Because we loved the venue, we did not feel the need to have many flowers. The flowers we did have were multi-use; the arrangements we used for the ceremony we re-used on tables during the reception. While a bridal suite can be a pretty backdrop for “getting ready” pictures, paying for a hotel room in a city in which we already pay rent seemed unnecessary (I got ready at my parents Airbnb, Derek got ready in our apartment). I did my own makeup (a decision was called “insane and unnecessary” by a good friend of mine). I bought my shoes used on Poshmark (worn once by another bride!).
My proudest fiscally responsible achievement was my dress, a non-wedding dress that I bought on sale at netaporter.com. I had first purchased a final sale dress earlier in the process that I ultimately decided against, but was able to resell on Poshmark for more than I had originally paid. With alterations and net of my profits, I spent well below $1,000 on my dress – less expensive than Derek’s suit, of which I am very proud.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
First, be nicer to your mother. Second, it is easy to get wrapped up in small details that are not meaningful to the larger picture of your wedding day (e.g. seating poster font size, napkin folding options, the number of cocktail menus on the bar, frame finishes for welcome signs). Make these small decisions quickly and decisively, and do not let them stress you out.
Third, and most importantly, you are not difficult or weird because you want your wedding to look slightly different than what is traditional. Do not let the interminable questions (“but if there’s no procession, how will you get to the alter?”…. “we will walk. Also, there’s no alter”) and polite-but-confused looks make you feel alone, defeated, or difficult. The most glaring example of this was people’s reaction to me not wanting an engagement ring, a decision that I considered very thoughtfully over many years (and was even hard for Derek to accept). In spite of being a person who has made good decisions throughout her life, this choice was invariably met with confusion and attempts to convince me that I would regret it. So far, I do not.
Favorite thing about the wedding:
Our favorite thing about our wedding is how uniquely “us” it felt and how much genuine fun our guests seem to have had (also, the food). It took a lot of critical thinking and creativity (we put fun facts about us on the back of the menus!) to have a wedding celebration that felt like a true reflection of us and our hopes for our marriage, and I am happy that it came through for our guests. Also, we loved that people were having so much fun that nobody wanted to go home! After lunch, we went to a nearby bar where we had arranged for an “after party”, after which we went to a friend’s Lower East Side apartment for an impromptu house party with delivery pizza for the last people standing (of which there were still 20+ people!).
I love other people’s weddings, but had always dreaded my own. This is in part due to the fact that I hate being the center of attention, but also because I have many practical issues with the cost of weddings, and many feminist issues with the traditions/origin of marriage. I always knew I wanted to be married, but as a practical person (and a long time APW reader), it was difficult for me to conceive of spending so much time/money on an event that is traditionally a representation of so much that I disagree with.
The obvious solution to these issues would have been to elope, but I am very close with my family. I knew it was important for them (especially my 94 year old grandparents) to see me get married, so I had always pictured a morning city hall ceremony and lunch with immediate family only. While Derek didn’t need a big wedding, he did want to include his friends in a celebration. After many fraught discussions about what a wedding/marriage means to us, we came to this: morning ceremony with just our close family (28 people total), followed by a celebratory lunch with an additional 60 of our closest friends, followed by further drinking at a bar nearby. At the end of the day, all we wanted was to be married, eat fabulous food, and spend quality time with our closest friends and family (and of course, not play into patriarchal and/or meaningless traditions in the process).
Getting comfortable with marriage, in and of itself, had been a years long process for me. Wrestling with how to have a wedding in a way that didn’t make me physically ill seemed nearly insurmountable. But what ultimately made it ok (and actually, a total joy) for me is that we made it ours in every way.
I highly encourage those who have yet to get married to do the same, though it can be an enormous challenge when you have an entire industry (and some friends/family…) pushing back on you. Throughout wedding planning, Derek and I talked constantly and critically considered each of the “usual” wedding components and didn’t take part in the ones that did not feel meaningful or important to us. It was a lot of emotional work visualizing and creating a wedding that we had not seen before, but in the end we were able to begin our marriage in a way that felt true to us.