17 ways to save on a BK wedding

Anders Bergstrom and Regan Grusy's Powerhouse Arena wedding, photo courtesy of Brooklyn Bride.

Anders and Regan's Powerhouse Arena wedding, photo courtesy of Brooklyn Bride.

Planning and budgeting a wedding can be a joyous, exciting, financially eviscerating event. That’s why Brokelyn Labs contacted local wedding planners, caterers, florists, photographers, bloggers, stationers and even Brokelyn readers to pull together this list of the most creative, “why didn’t I think of that” ideas to save money for your big day. From DIY catering schemes, to off-the-rack dresses, don’t get married without them.

An off-the-rack BCBG Max Azria dress, $548 at Nordstrom.

An off-the-rack BCBG Max Azria dress at Nordstrom.

1) Don’t fall for the $3,000 wedding-dress hype. “Check out sites like OnceWed for preowned wedding dresses…the dresses are usually in excellent condition since they’ve only been worn once, and you’ll be getting them for a fraction of the price. You can also consider buying a bridesmaids dress. Companies like Thread and Simple Silhouettes have bridesmaids dresses that also come in white for the bride, and you’ll be getting them at bridesmaid’s dress prices. Or buy off the rack at department and retail stores. Nordstrom, Macy’s or BCBG always have a selection of white evening and cocktail dresses and you’ll be sure to find a great dress for less than $1000. If you buy a simple dress, you can embellish it with a belt, flowers, ribbon, lace, buttons, or whatever you want to add some detail.”
— Vané Broussard, blogger, BrooklynBride

2) Use a one-piece invitation. “A big thing now is a tri-fold invitation with a tear-off reply card. Your invitation can then have one continuous detailed design and lots of information across three panels on each side, but because you are only printing one piece it cuts down on your price for all those component pieces.”
— Melinda Morris, Lion in The Sun

3) Or, make your own.The Arm, a letterpress studio in Williamsburg, rents out their presses  for only $15 an hour, which are available if you take their awesome tutorial workshop. We printed our own invites which was so much fun and totally affordable. We spent $175 on all materials and the press rental!”
— Megan Thompson, Brokelyn reader

4) Stick with one kind of flower. “For strict budgets, just use one or two types of flowers in bud vases. All you need is one per bud vase, scatter a few along each table and you’re set!”
— Tassy Zimmerman, Sprout Home

5) BYOB. “A friend of mine bought all her wine beforehand at Trader Joe’s, for a much better price than the catering company.”
— Nicola Monat-Jacobs, Brokelyn reader

6) Limit open-bar times. “Have an open bar for the 2-3 hours after dinner instead of having an open bar for 4-5 hours for the whole event. Before and after the open bar, serve only beer and wine, and have a cash bar for liquor.”
— Catherine Saillard, iCi Restaurant

Get married off-peak and you can still hire a fancy photographer like Josh Zuckerman affordably.

Get married off-peak and you can still hire a fancy photographer like Josh Zuckerman affordably.

7) Get married on a Wednesday afternoon in March and procrastinate on planning.
“Any couple getting married during a non-peak time (e.g. Friday, weekday and winter months) should aggressively negotiate with all their vendors. Also, booking early doesn’t always pay. The closer to your wedding date that you hire a photographer—e.g. 6 to 8 weeks in advance or less—the more likely the photographer is to cut  a steep discount because they have a diminishing chance of getting booked”
— Lisa Draho, Joshua Zuckerman Photography

8) Make your own photo albums. “There are companies that do magazine-type albums you can find online for much less than photographer albums like picaboo.com or asukabook.com
— Karen Wise,
photographer

9) Let your guests be your photographer. “At our wedding, we put a business card on each seat asking people to upload all of the photos they took at the wedding to Snapfish. We had a photographer, but a lot of the pictures we used in our wedding album came from guests. Without a photographer, I think we would have been just as happy.”
Liz, Brokelyn reader

10) Think open art studio, not Grand Prospect Hall. ”If you’re looking for an affordable venue, consider a raw type of space with a more flexible event-time limit. This lets you have your close family and friends for an actual meal and then offer an invite to the guests more on the fringe for dancing and elaborate dessert/late food stations. Places to check out include The Dumbo Loft for sure, 450 Union, and Dumbo Arts Center.”
— Chris Rechner, The DUMBO Loft

11) Skip traditional wedding musicians and find a local band you like. “We couldn’t afford a wedding band or a dj, so we went on myspace and found a local blues band that was more than happy to help. We paid them a small fee and they joined us for food and drink! The singer even did the sound for the wedding ceremony!”
— Chelsea, Brokelyn reader

12) Buy your own meat. “I had a friend who provided the meat to the catering company. He went to a bulk-meat place and bought it all. This allowed him to save with the catering company, although it is a chore.”
— Nicola Monat-Jacobs, Brokelyn reader

13) Or skip it altogether. “We are vegetarians and hosted a great 4-station dinner with 5 pastas, 5 entrees, 10 salads, and 5 sides — and it took $15 a head off of the catering bill! That was a $3,000 savings! And no one complained!”
— Liz, Brokelyn reader

14) Have your friends serve the food. “A great less expensive option if you are having the wedding in a house or a backyard tent, is just to have your caterer bring the food and drop it off, you do the rest”
— Loren Michelle, Naturally Delicious

Have the Treats Truck park out front.

Have the Treats Truck park out front.


15) Outsource your catering.”A way to save on the overall cost of your wedding would be to choose a venue that does not require you to use an in-house caterer. Three Brooklyn wedding venues that allow you to do this, Galapagos Art Space, Smack Melon Studios, and The Bell House. Or, depending on your style of wedding, instead of a costly cake and dessert car at your wedding, hire The Treats Truck to drive up and provide all sorts of fun sweets and desserts, a cost effective alternative or addition to your wedding cake.”
— Ryan Corvaia, Dish Food & Events

16) Kill the “Zoe & Justin” shot glasses filled with jellybeans. “You don’t need to have favors. You don’t have to have all the details, pick and choose what’s important to you.”
Anne Chertoff, wedding blogger, From “I will” to “I do”

17) Enlist the help of your friend. All of them. “Think of all of your friends and friends of friends and see who might be willing/able to pitch in. Cashing in on relationships—without taking advantage—is a great way to save money while making the wedding unique at the same time”
— Kristen Purdy, Brokelyn reader

42 Comment

  • Oh. You guys. There is one word that should never, ever EVER be associated with a wedding. Ever. Even if you are dirt poor and throwing your wedding on half-a-shoe string budget.

    CASH BAR.

    Never. Ever. Ever. It breaks mega etiquette rules.

    If you can’t afford to serve your guests hard liquor, just skip it. It’s up to you to throw a party you can afford.

  • I’m the maid of honor at my sister’s upcoming wedding, and I wish she’d seen this post!

  • Amber — is it still technically a cash bar if you are serving beer and wine for free?

  • You could also have a signature cocktail instead of a whole open bar with everything.

    I love the one flower in a bud vase, but where do you get 100 bud vases for cheap?

  • In my opinion (and I’m 7 months into planning a budget wedding in Brooklyn), #10 is seriously wrong for saving money. You can/will spend a whole lotta dought (and drive yourself insane) filling an empty space. A cool restaurant venue has it all for the price/per head, whereas an empty loft requires renting chairs, tables, linens, silverware, etc., etc., not to mention catering, not to mention decor… Also, I’m guessing you guys didn’t check out 450 Union before listing them, because they’re basically an orthodox jewish synagogue, so they have a zillion restrictions including that you’ll have to have kosher caterers ($$$$), have your ceremony elsewhere if you’re not having an orthodox jewish ceremony (more $$$), etc., etc., etc.
    Honestly, if you want to learn all about budget weddings, you should come to the ‘Kvetch’ forum on Indiebride and look under the ‘Vendors’ tab.

  • I agree with Amber 10000%! We did just beer and wine and therefore it was all FREE. There was no liquor option because we didn’t want to foot the bill for only some of the guests to take advantage of it. It is only a cash bar if you charge people for things. I know people reply with “but wouldn’t it be better to have free beer/wine and then a cash bar for liquor so people can make their own choices?” but I don’t agree. Think of it like this:: If you go to someone’s house for a dinner party and then hand you a plate of something great for dinner, but then they tell you that you can have something different to eat if you give them some money. You would think that was super rude, right? Same thing. You are throwing your guests a party – throw the party YOU can afford.

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  • Couldn’t agree more with #11. We’re a Brooklyn based band and we do a lot of local weddings. We can put together a program to work with most budgets, and we play a really entertaining (and danceable!) mix of dixieland, jug band, and traditional American music that’s perfect for weddings. We do everything from cocktail hour to the reception to the ceremony, and are happy to provide referrals from folks we’ve worked with previously. You can check out some of our sound here- http://rooseveltdimemusic.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-the-kings-county-opry. Feel free to drop us a line at rooseveltdimemusic@gmail.com for more info or any questions. Take care!

  • Interesting, but I think you can still cut the budget a lot more:
    1) Dress: go vintage. Etsy, ebay, local stores. You should not spend more than $300 on a dress (also consider wai-ching.com)
    2) I agree with the restaurant. No need to bring in outsiders, already decorated, and usually good deals. Don’t worry about lack of dancing space. No one likes that except dirty drunk uncles.
    3) You can print and design your own invitation on these printing websites. Vistaprint.com. Also works wedding programs.
    5) Forget the band. Ipod and a friend.
    6) Student photographers. We got ours by contacting Pratt’s student employment people. $500 and a great job.
    7) Any “off peak” (non summer) time is a good deal. Wednesday evening sucks. A Saturday afternoon is easier for working people and out of towners.
    If you are thinking about something grand, than you are probably more driven about making a big impression on guests than having something that fits your budget and lifestyle. Whenever you make a choice, ask yourselves, “Is the way we want it or the way person X wants it?” (Or how you think mom, aunt Clara, etc. want it). It’s your fricking wedding. Please yourselves, not your family or friends. The way you plan your wedding can set a tone (good or bad) for you marriage. Stay true to yourself and all that.

    • Great tips everyone — thanks! Except I don’t agree that only drunk uncles like to dance. So do drunk aunts! :)

  • Janah – Guessing the ‘where do you get…’ comment was rhetorical, but in case it’s not and you’re really looking for cheap bud vases in bulk, try http://www.orientaltrading.com/ or http://www.save-on-crafts.com/

  • How can you call yourself “Brokelyn” and make a recommendation to buy wine at Trader Joe’s? You can’t buy wine in ANY NY State grocery store.

    Also, think about the future and never get married on a holiday weekend. If you stay married, you’ll never get an anniversary reservation again as long as you live – always already booked or too expensive.

    • You CAN buy wine at Trader Joe’s. Anyone on a budget and living in NYC knows this because it’s the staple of most every picnic and summer outdoor movie in BK. It’s not located in their grocery store, they have a separate wine shop (in Union Square) and probably other locations too. It’s super discounted, and their Trader Joe’s brand is less than $4 a bottle and actually not bad at all…

  • I would love to have more/any clients get married on a Wednesday…..why not Mondays and Tuesdays too! Living upstate and traveling to Brooklyn often, I would be ready deal!

  • Sarah – I was TOTALLY serious about the “where do I get” questions! Thank you – I’ll check them out. I’m planning a wedding and am looking to go simple on the flowers.

    An iPod and friend is sucky. I LOVE dancing at weddings and I’m not a dirty uncle OR aunt!

  • Oh, P.S. why does the dress have to be white???

  • The reactions about what weddings MUST have are interesting. Weddings are sensitive and people put a lot of thought into them, but they need not be as cookie cutter as we imagine. I purposefully didn’t tell many people I was getting married because I did not want to hear about the things that I “HAD” to do for a wedding (like you HAVE to have hard liquor at an open bar, you HAVE to invite all the great aunts, you HAVE to have expensive and smelly flowers) because having a wedding is stressful, but it was for us, so we made it about it. We went for uncoventional and our guests raved about how it was a really unique and personal wedding. One of my friends’ husbands called it the “best wedding ever” (probably not what she’d like to hear).
    Janah: dresses don’t have to be white. They be whatever you want. You don’t have to wear a dress. You can wear a suit (like Carrie in SATC). Dudes don’t have to wear tuxes. They can wear whatever they darn please. Be bold and happy.
    Then again, I did not want (and therefore do not have) an engagement ring, and I live a generally frugal life, so maybe I am just very unusual.

  • “How can you call yourself “Brokelyn” and make a recommendation to buy wine at Trader Joe’s? You can’t buy wine in ANY NY State grocery store.”

    Trader Joe’s has a wine shop on 14th street.

  • 3rd wedding anniversary approaching and everything was Brooklyn. We were lucky enough to have fairly generous parents, but are naturally frugal people so were always bargain hunting. Sundays are much cheaper than Saturdays at all the “fancy” places like Botanic Gardens. And we had a suburban photographer instead of a city based (“hip”) one for much less and still have beautiful professional pictures. Years from now, you will appreciate the formal family/friends shots, not just the candids. I know favors are controversial, but we boxed up mini black and white cookies from a Midwood bakery and added another home-baked treat with a pretty ribbon. Very Brooklyn and mostly DIY (I tied 165 ribbons myself!).

  • Susan just posted what I was going to say — $2.99 a bottle of wine at Trader Joe’s in Union Square. True, you can’t get it at the Brooklyn one….but it’s worth the extra few stops on the 4 train to get a couple of bottles for sure!

  • Has anyone else used The Arm? I’d love to know more about it.

  • “Amber — is it still technically a cash bar if you are serving beer and wine for free?”

    Yup. Guests wallets always stay in the pocket. Technically, in addition to not having a cash bar, there should be no tip jar out for the bar tenders and the gratuity for valet parking should be taken care of as well.

  • Amber I don’t agree.

    It is a cash bar if they have to open their wallet. But by having free beer and wine AND NO OTHER DRINKS, the wallet doesn’t open, therefore it’s an open bar, NOT a cash bar. We had an open bar, but only beer and wine. Guests could hold their wallets out all they wanted but it didn’t buy them anything since there was no liquor being served. NOT a cash bar.

    • Liz – Amber was responding to a comment from Faye where she asked “is it technically a cash bar if you are serving beer and wine for free” – which insinuated that the guests would need cash for anything that wasn’t beer or wine. I’m sure that Amber agrees with you that if guests don’t need to pay for drinks (whatever you’re serving) it’s not a cash bar.

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  • I had a DIY wedding this past September. I always hated traditional weddings and did not want one of my own despite my parents protests.
    -We made a postcard for our invitations to save paper and money with postage. Created a blogspot where guests could RSVP, get more details about the event, and get gift ideas.
    -Our catering was done by Fairway in Red Hook and they did a great job. It was just a drop off deal, so we hired some broke ” friends of friends” to take care of the rest.
    - I got my dress on clearance from BCBG, a kelly green silk chiffon gown. My husband wore a tie with a vest, no jacket.
    -We enlisted all of our friends and they were happy to help, an Ipod DJ, culinary student made our wedding cupcakes, girlfriends did my hair and make-up, etc.
    -No flowers, except my bouquet which I got at the corner market.
    - The wedding was going to be on our roof deck, but it poured rain the whole week up until the wedding. We had a back-up location at my friends art space, but my parents found it to be “unacceptable.”
    So the night before the wedding we had to find a venue. We found the American Legion on 9th Street in Gowanus.
    Hilarious. I felt like I walked into the 1970′s wood paneling and all. Everything was great except that we had to buy their alcohol after we had bought a full bar to have at our space. We ended up just having beer and wine open bar, in the next room at the bar where all the old vets drank there was a liquor cash bar. I felt terrible having a cash bar but I had no choice, no one complained. All anyone had to say was how it was the best wedding they had been to in years.

  • Janah: I just found out the answer. Dresses were usually blue (for loyalty) sand could be worn again after the wedding. Only wealthy people wore white because they could afford to have a dress that would be ruined so easily. People started wearing white to imitate the British monarchs, as a sign of status. When washing machines were invented, white became less of a big deal (easier to clean) and the color began to stand for purity instead. I’m paraphrasing the Rough Guide to Weddings, they have the history of all the traditions in there.

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  • @JANAH and anyone else interested in 450 Union: We’re getting married in October at 450 Union which is an amazing space (found it thanks to this website) and while it is owned by orthodox Jews there are NO restrictions AT ALL about catering and who you can bring in (mostly cus they don’t have a kitchen). There are also virtually NO indications that it is owned by Jewish people from walking around the space. They also don’t give a hoot where you have your ceremony nor do they care what religion you are. You can have a traditional Buddhist ceremony for all they care.

  • sorry…@Sarah

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  • re the green building, 450 union or whatever. my friends had a wedding here and they are still talking about how terrible the whole experience was (not the wedding, but the venue). the were told there were some jewish restrictions, but they were changed except that no one told them so they had the restrictions anyway, along with lots of other problem, including bathrooms not working, changed timing for the wedding in the middle of it. they said it was the single worst decision they made, even though it was supposed to be cheaper, it ended up costing them a lot more.

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  • i buy wine in brooklyn @ waldbaums all the time, even in walgreens once. walmart also has wine.

  • I am a wedding videographer and would be more than happy to cover your wedding! Contact me!

  • Considering my vision of a Brooklyn wedding includes in a muddy, fenced-in backyard with music from the groom’s rhythmically challenged, bongo-playing college roommates and the happy couple departing on a pair of rusty, Schwinn bicycles, I ask… Is there actual money to be saved at a Brooklyn wedding?

    • yes, that is an exact replica of a Brooklyn wedding. As pictured by a man who lives in Atlanta.

  • There are ways to cut in the budget but don’t diminish the importance or artistic vendors.

    Don’t write articles that make people believe Iphone photos from guests will be as good as photographers. Whoever (Liz?) testified that they were as happy with only the guests pictures probably did not hire the right photographer. Saying such things just put all the photographers under the same unfair, biased umbrella, and it is only adding one more way to lower the importance of the job.

    It is a fact that you CAN get the same bottle of wine in a cheaper store. But you cannot get a wonderful cook or an inspired videographer in any aisle at Trader Joe’s.

  • Great tips! I love how they come from vendors!

    For more great wedding tips and new vendors subscribe to a new Brooklyn weddings newsletter started by two college friends, Erica and Georgina.

    http://www.loveandbrooklyn.com

  • For free wedding tips and planning advice connect with vendors and Brides new Brooklyn Wedding group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/252081448287984/