A do-it-yourself (DIY) wedding in New York City sounds like an oxymoron, but it can be done. There are various ways of complying with that statement above and all for under $10,000. Well, under $10,000. You can still have quite an extravagant wedding, even an over the top wedding for under $10,000 AND in New York. Let me show you how it can be done, including your honeymoon. Now I know you’re thinking that is an impossibility. My husband and I did it and so can you.
It mostly depends on just what it is you want your fantasy day to say and whether or not one thing is the most important item or if you would prefer to have featured several things. For me I wanted the colors of our wedding to be featured, my dress and the water feature for my husband at the reception. At another time I will tell you about my excursions to and from the various locations to secure, just what I wanted for my wedding. Right now, I will give you the nitty-gritty about what I reaped from my excursions.
What if you only wanted one thing to be the major featured item? Of course, it does not have to be just one thing, it can be several, but just so you don’t go crazy, I suggest you choose one to two items rather than a whole slew, but if you want more than that, don’t do any more than five. Most brides start off believing they can do it all and realize within eight to six months of the wedding that they can not. A friend’s help comes in quite handily, after all your really close friends will have asked you all along what they can do to help. At about ten to eight months out from the wedding is the best time to take them up on their offers. I did. More about me later, though. I have a friend who did a wedding with a potluck reception at a very famous church here in Manhattan and even though it was phenomenally delicious, to my idea that was not even the featured item in her wedding. I am getting ahead of myself though.
Her wedding had a committee of three women -the project managers- to help her stay within her budget which was WAY under $10,000. I believe she and her new husband paid no more than $6000 for their entire wedding, which included the reception space in that very same famous church. They did not pay for catering which can be quite pricey when it comes to weddings. In fact, the wedding couple paid nothing for the food at the reception, so plus the cost of the space, If they’d paid for catering it would have run close to the $6000 for their 150 guests. By having a potluck, she paid nothing other than the cost of the hall. The Riverside Church Chapel for me cost $800 (In a previous article, I said $1200, but in reality it was $800 for mine.) in 2005, but for another friend of mine last year, she paid $1500. I got the members’ cost, but last year, there was no differential between members and nonmembers, so even though she is a member, she had to pay big bucks.
My friend’s wedding costs are an approximation, because I didn’t pry that much,.. yet. She is out of the country now, so I can not ask her at all, but I am judging from her comments to me at the time. Forgetting about the cost of hers and her husband wearing apparel which I can tell you he had his own tux in his closet and her wedding dress was bought from a non-wedding wedding store on sale.
- Since my friend is a singer too, she had friends who sang during her wedding, that were of course gratis or gifts. Basically that is a win-win situation all around. Since you tap your friends, you tap the voices you want singing your songs of choice. That’s what I did and both she and her ex-husband sang at my and my husband’s wedding.
- Here’s a big tip if you don’t want to spend big time money on your dress, if it’s to be one of the featured items, go to a non-wedding store in search of your gown. Personally I went to Filene’s Basement bridal store, a year before my wedding and bought a dress for $536 with tax, so it is possible to pay for a dress under $3000. But my friend did not go the bridal store route. She went to Paramus Mall to Lord & Taylor. I don’t remember exactly how much she paid, but I do know it was almost half as much as my dress.
- She also did not go with a traditional veil, but went with a tiara alone. For mine, I had both, but did not pay a premium for either. I made up my own veil for less than $10 and found a tiara that didn’t look cheap at Claire’s Accessories for less than $20. She wore a tiara as well. A gold tiara, which costs no more than a $100.
- For her reception, she had no music, we’d had plenty during her wedding ceremony. In another article I’ve already told you about using your own Mp3 player and saving big bucks in that respect. If you do want to hire a DJ or reception host, I suggest you go with a friend of a friend who is just starting to spin, but that the friend can vouch for their abilities, if you have not experienced them for yourself. Remember, whatever you do, GET a contract. One that spells out exactly what you want and expect them to do at the party. That means the songs you expect and when. That way, the surprises won’t have anything to do with dancing. That way both you and your guests can be happy without much annoyance on anyone’s part. New DJ’s can start as low as $75 an hour and go up from there. If you want an established DJ, it could be as much as $125 – $350 an hour. This again is if you want to stay within your budget of $10000. Just remember you will need your DJ for at least four hours, so do your multiplication from there.
- Transportation: Ah, you can go the traditional route with the white limos, or you can go with black limos, too. Did you know that the color of the limo can determine the price. White limos are more expensive and if you mention wedding additional money is added for that special day. Just be glad that you are not going to prom, because that is the limousine’s big day(s) for money making. Limousines can be anywhere from $500 for a two and half hour rental to, of course thousands. To really save money, if you are friends with a special car association you could rent or borrow the owners’ cars. Or now with the Internet companies, Zip Car, Drive Mint or even Connect By Hertz you could rent a car of your dreams for a great rates. Each of these dot com hourly car rentals can save you a bundle. Think about it.
- Did you guess already that the featured item for my friend’s wedding was the dress? Well, if you did you would have been correct. The bride wore, what appeared to be gold. In actuality, the dress was a copper lace with a light pink undergarment that peeked through, which made the dress upon entrance and even as she continued to walk down the aisle appear to be molten liquid gold. She was drummed in. Of course, the bride is usually the center piece of most weddings, but as they say in the theater, people were humming the dress the rest of the evening, especially since she was able to match the dress with a cape, that was already in her closet.
- Transportation – Getting to and sometimes from the wedding ceremony can be challenging when it comes to keeping costs down, but with these suggestions you can be home free.
Tux Rental $56
Limo/Catering $375/$625 = $1000
Special added catering $0 Wedding gift from Mother-in-Law
Professional Photographer $400 for 5 hours – childhood friend of groom
Video $0 Best Man’s gift
Ceremony/Minister $800 Christ Chapel Riverside Church
Flowers $375 from Flower wholesaler
Reception rental and 2 cases of champagne $1251
DJ $250 – 4.5 hours
Printer $68 printing wedding invitations & thank you notes
Papers Invitations, Envelopes, (Inner/Outer) Thank You Notes/Envelopes $82
Save-the-Date magnets $16
Miscellaneous Favors, candles, material, silk rose petals, disposable cameras, decorative Chinese boxes, & tissue paper $350
Honeymoon Cruise & extras $1391
Our total expenditures in 2005 Wedding/Honeymoon $7400
- Car Rental for the weekend: Go Green with $160.33/weekend day whether it is for 6 hours or 24 hours. Go with the 24 since you can use it for those last minutes things that come up before the wedding. That is for a smart Fortwo, talk about making an entrance. Keep in mind with Hertz you can pick the car up at one location and drop it off somewhere else, as long as they have a lot. That could save you some time. For instance: pick up at a Hertz on the upper west side and drop it off at one of their hotel locations especially if you’re not going away to your honeymoon right away..
- Car rental for the 3-day weekend from Speedy-Rent-A-Car $205.00
- Rental from Zipcar.com or DriveMint.com are by the hour from $11.00 – $17.00 for the weekend depending on the car. A Scion Xb or smart Fortwo on the low end hourly or a Mercedes on the high end hourly at DriveMint.com
- Or offer relatives and friends a couple of dollars, depending on your budget, to chauffeur you and your wedding party around for a couple of hours.
- What if you want to have your wedding catered, it is still possible to do it economically in a big city, whether it is in New York City or Chicago, or even Boston, you just need a bit of ingenuity to stay within your budget. If you’re a curious detailed oriented person like I am, then you’ll decide this is the fun part, the chase or the journey to end that you really want. It is actually the magic part about the entire wedding, I think, because you are at the stage where you are shaping the outcome of the day. It will take patience and possibly legwork, to see just what you might be getting for the day of event, but the hunt (for the guys) is on and it can be a great deal of fun. Here are a few tips:
- Decide on the type of wedding and plan your food accordingly. Such as casual, spiffy-casual, or formal, (usually sit down) While casual and spiffy-casual may come very close to looking like the same thing, they really are quite different when it comes to food. I have seen casually catered events start as low as $12.95 per person or just under $1200 for 85 people. This is strict buffet style, no seating provided, but stand-up cocktail tables in various spots with food arrangements on them along with some passed appetizers, as well.
- My friend’s wedding although it had a very high-church of various cultures feel to it had a casual reception, since all the guests were expected to bring something. With her committee of ‘wedding corralling ladies’, the guests with each acceptance of the invitation was then asked what were they bringing. By doing it that way my friend saved all sorts of money and even had leftovers. Wedding party paid nothing, zero, zip, for that feast. Their reception had everything from appetizers to desserts including rum balls, (YUM!). Some of us were getting high just smelling the rum balls, additionally there was even a fruit bowl.
- Another casual reception could be to have a stand around party with a huge sandwich or various pizzas or have your new mother-in-law make something for the crowd. You can probably strike up a deal with your favorite pizza store once you pass 10 pizzas. Figure at 3 slices per guest and you’ve got it made. For instance, a pizza usually has 12 slices and for 80 guests, you’d have to have 20 pies feeding each person 3 slices each. My neighborhood pizza store sells a large pie for $16 each, but if I ordered 20 pies for 85 guests, my budget for food would be at around $350. Even as much as $350, you must give your guests something to wash down the pizzas.
- For more organic less oil, use whole grain flat breads; American or Italian version with different toppings, as your starter rather than bread and cheese.
- Perhaps as I did you can get a combination price with another feature of the wedding. My limousine company managed a caterer and so I got a combination price. Plus, my new mother-in-law, made something special in large quantities for her son. We had 85 guests and our total with the 4-hour use of the limousine and caterer was $625. My new mother-in-law’s food was gratis. Ours was a casual formal of sorts. It was buffet style with seating.
- The formal caterer or sit down with service is where you’ll have to weigh your options on how much is too much. These types often run as low as $27 per person and up into the thousands. If you’re trying to do a wedding for under $10,000, as I am advocating then you’re probably priced out of this market unless you can strike a deal with one of your favorite restaurants. Perhaps Carmine’s, in which the food is served family-style, but everyone is sitting. This could be a possibility. My friends took me there for graduation and we ordered one full meal and had left overs for two additional people.
- If using Carmine’s works for you, I am betting that it can work for your budget as well. Think about it, a main dish for a meal is $21 – 25, which easily feeds 5 – 6 people. If you have 12 tables of 8 could still be pricey, but your guests will be full and have potential doggy bags to take home. Roughly your pricing could still be under $1000, even with the addition of salad, garlic bread and dessert. YUM! A pure feast to behold.
- Decorations is another item that can run into lots of pennies. In this instance, I am talking about the flowers for the bride and the wedding party and the extras for the reception to make it wedding theme oriented. The extras could include tulle and floating or almost infinite ideas as motifs or table decorations of some kind. Here are few of my favorites with pricing of the day:
- Check any of the websites that sell pre-made flowers and you’re good to go. Flower arrangements start as low as $29.95 and go $79.95 for our purposes. Flowers can, of course go into the hundreds from these websites and upward if you use a florists.
- To cut cost further, the bride and matron/maid of honor could be the only people to carry flowers and then everything else could be decorated at the ceremony venue with tulle or aisle candles.
- At the reception venue, the theme could be carried further with floating candles on the tables as centerpieces instead of flowers. If, like we did, you have a water feature, add some floating candles, larger than the table candles, to it and call it a day. Candles at the reception venue could run you a whopping $100 to start unless you want or have a half an acre to decorate.
- Add some special candies or other cheery items for the table; M&M’s or Jordan Almonds or Junior mints. We went with special made-to-order M&M’s. I bought 3 bags and that was all I needed, at $11 per bag, it was a steal. And you get to choose your colors so they can coordinate with your wedding colors. Pretty cool, I think and inexpensive, too.
- Don’t forget those disposable cameras, so your guests can snap some fun pictures as well. Check out various websites and you might be able to get 9 cameras all for $35, just like I did.
So, it can be done with a bit of ingenuity, verve, and flair. Dreamers can.