Saturday, February 6, 2010

Wedding Stuff: This Couple is My Inspiration

I really enjoy watching those Bridal Reality Shows ("Bridezillas", "Platinum Weddings", etc.) primarily because they can truly serve as an example of what NOT to do. And I am not talking about the hideously tacky dresses and wedding decor (Although...). Primarily I see what happens when people spend money they don't have on a wedding. Or in the case of Platinum Weddings what happens when they spend money they have that could REALLY go to something more useful to themselves (or the world)...

I want to have a beautiful wedding, but I am not willing to over extend myself, my honey or our families in order to have one that's ridiculously extravagant. Especially when there are so many people struggling to make ends meet (myself included).

I am grateful for couples like the one in this article (From the NY Daily News)- because I think that weddings are a celebration of the love between a couple and and the joining of families. Unless you are royalty, there needn't be all the glitz and hoopla....and more importantly, there needn't be stress and debt.

The $4,722 wedding: One Brooklyn bride proves it can be done

BY Tracy E. Hopkins
Sunday, September 21st 2008, 8:34 PM
I've never been a girly girl with visions of a princess gown and grand ballroom reception dancing in my head. So when it came to my wedding, I wanted a day that reflected my husband's and my classic and eclectic tastes, and our love of family, friends and good food in an intimate, nongeneric setting. Most importantly, we didn't want to spend a fortune.

According to The Knot, a leading wedding resource, the average cost of an American wedding is $28,000 - and $46,000 for a New York City love fest. Yet, John and I spent just under $5,000 for our 70-guest Brooklyn affair - a total that included my dress, our rings, the ceremony site, reception venue and food, flowers, photographer, violinist and wedding officiant. Sounds impossible, right? By channeling my Jedi-like knack for finding a bargain and bucking the bridal industry trend to overspend into debt, however, we orchestrated a budget wedding that looked like a million bucks (or at least $28,000).


Out of curiosity, I went to the Filene's Basement's chaotic "Running of the Brides" sale, but none of the countless dresses tempted me to part with $250. It was a deal for some, but more than I wanted to spend. So I did the next best thing - I checked eBay. And there it was, a simple yet elegant, sleeveless, satiny, ivory sheath with only one bidder and 40 minutes left on the auction. I won the dress for $27. The seller said she'd purchased it from Saks' Off 5th outlet but didn't lose weight in time for her wedding. Fortunately, her diet disaster was my happy ending.


We saved hundreds of dollars by printing our own invitations, a silver-and-flower embossed design from Party City ($30); recruiting friends to shoot video footage of the ceremony and reception, and having a photographer friend snap the wedding shots ($200). Flowers are also a huge expense - with bouquets priced at $100 and up - so my matron of honor fashioned my long-stem, white rose bouquet and the groom's boutonniere from a supermarket dozen. Another friend's aunt crafted the requisite Jordan almond favors, using a 5-pound bag I purchased online ($40,, homemade keepsake tags and leftover tulle.


A morning ceremony and early afternoon reception was a good fit for us. Between 9-10 a.m. on weekends, several sites at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden can be reserved for a private ceremony ($350 for up to 50 guests). Once we saw the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, with its covered viewing pavilion, manicured shrubs, orange Shinto shrine, wood bridges and colorful koi fish, we were sold.

The reception was at Madiba, a South African restaurant in bohemian, brownstone-lined Fort Greene. We loved the restaurant's sunny vibe and funky details: an old-Coke bottle chandelier, a huge portrait of Nelson Mandela (Madiba is the leader's nickname) fused with the African continent, and Mason jar water glasses.

Because of the early time, Madiba's charming owner didn't charge a rental fee for the five-hour reception (regular dinner service resumed at 5). By having a restaurant reception, we also skipped catering charges for table linens, flatware and flowers. With the bar's front tables removed, there was even room for a "Soul Train" line to an iPod mix of disco, new wave and contemporary favorites.

After several tastings, we refined the $40 per person menu that included pumpkin fritter and vegetable samosa appetizers; a guava juice and Champagne cocktail; ravioli topped with John's homemade marinara sauce, and a choice of salmon or Cornish hen entrée with veggie side dishes. Instead of splurging on a wedding cake that would cost about $350, in addition to Madiba's Jenny's Malva Pudding (a traditional South African dessert served with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream), we served a tiered assortment of red velvet, coconut and yellow cake cupcakes from One Girl Cookies in Cobble Hill ($184; topped with a mini-lemon and raspberry cake we happily devoured a week later.


  1. Now that's what I'm talking about!

  2. It is the best way that we should do everything by ourselves. Thanks for your post. It is good idea

  3. Hi Audrey,

    I just found your blog. Thanks for sharing my wedding story from 2008. I'm working on a budget bride book and hearing that women like you appreciate how I pulled off my wedding for under $5K is inspiring. I have a blog too. It's called Everything She Wants ( Please check it out : )



  4. Tracy - Thank you so very much for inspiring me with that terrific story! Will definitely check out the blog!