YOU GUYS. I’ve got an NYC Wedding for you today! This couple got married on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (swanky, right? Gossip Girl, anyone?) and in NYC it is no small feat to plan a wedding. The average wedding budget in NYC is around $75,000, so the fact that this couple was able to pull it off for a third of that is amazingly budget savvy to me. Even though their total spend is high in terms of what we typically feature here on BSB, I think the lessons and advice that Kate has to share are so important and I hope you find them helpful. Plus, you get to enjoy this glittery glamorous goodness!! Congrats Kate + Douglas!! xoxo, Jessica
Kate + Douglas
May 24, 2014
New York, New York
Upper East Side of Manhattan
What was your wedding budget?
About $24k, excluding gifts to our families and gratuities. Our goal was to make the most of our budget in New York City, arguably the most expensive city in the country!
- Gown: $618 (preowned)
- Veil: $130
- Bridal Accessories: $250
- Groom’s Attire: $558 (vintage tuxedo, alterations, accessories)
- Ceremony Venue & Officiant: $2100
- Catering: $2800
- Reception Venue, Rentals, Bar: $6995
- Bar upgrades & champagne: $450
- Cake Toppers: $50
- Chiavari Chairs: $860
- Florist/Day of Coordinator: $1380
- Additional Orchids: $410
- Reception Décor: $600
- Stationery: $1000
- Favors: $125
- Marriage License: $35
- Musicians: $2600
- Photography: $1600
- Wedding bands: $1175
How many guests did you have?
106 of our closest loved ones.
What creative or personal aspects did you include in your wedding?
Before and during the ceremony, incredible Juilliard students played a mix of traditional wedding music, gorgeous opera arias, and selections from the Beatles’ catalogue. My aunt, Megon McDonough is a popular folk singer, and she performed Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” during our ceremony. There was nary a dry eye in the house! My mom surprised everyone with a traditional Irish bagpipe player to celebrate our union after we walked down the aisle as husband and wife. Our reception featured beloved Chicago band, Blah Blah Blah, dear friends of my husband! The band played their own music, as well as The Beach Boy’s “Forever” for the first dance, Stevie Wonder’s “You are the Sunshine of my Life” for the Father and Daughter dance, and Van Morrison’s “Moondance” for the Mother and Groom dance. The beautiful evening ended in a rousing dance party! Our dear friend Larissa is a noted Brooklyn mixologist, and we were lucky enough to have personally designed signature bride and groom cocktails. Guests took home Black and White cookies from famed Glaser’s Bake Shop. The groom wore black and white mother of pearl cuff links as a nod to the local treat.
Our families have been a huge influence on our lives and our wedding, so we wanted to include as many personal family touches as possible. I wore my grandmother’s aquamarine ring, and my engagement ring is made of stones from both sides of our family. We used the champagne flutes from my parent’s NYC wedding, 30 years to the weekend before our wedding! We made a toast to them on their 30th anniversary, and we look forward to sharing the anniversary for many years to come. My best friend of twenty years, who also happens to be the sister of the groom, read from her elementary school diary, where we had described our perfect mate. She set the tone for a hilarious reception.
To us, the best part of our wedding was sharing our home in the neighborhood we love with our family. Each event surrounding the wedding took place within fifteen blocks of our home! We hope that our wedding can give some inspiration to other DIY brides on a budget, who love a good time!
What was the biggest thing you did to save money?
The number one thing we did to save money was to do pretty much everything ourselves. My husband and I share an interest in design, so we decided to create all of the stationery around the wedding ourselves. This meant that we were able to get exactly what we wanted, for a price that made us comfortable. From the Save the Dates to the invitations, to the programs, to the menus, we were constantly inspired by vibrant New York City, and used the skyline as the basis for the stationery design. We put together some of the florals ourselves, and built a glittering photo backdrop out of metallic floral sheeting. Our reception venue was very affordable, and included many of the rentals and bar, and we upgraded some of the offerings ourselves. Our caterer was delicious, but isn’t big on the wedding radar, so their prices were a lot more affordable than most of the other NYC catering companies. I rented my Kate Spade bag and some of my jewelry. We negotiated a more basic photography package, and cut out videography.
We benefited from the incredible talents of our friends and families, who graciously gifted us their amazing skills. DIY gifts included: our gorgeous cake, which was expertly home made by my husband’s aunt, Shirley; the stylish signature cocktails from our dear friend Larissa, who also served as the emcee; my amazing aunt Megon gifted her musical talent for the ceremony. My mom gifted the make-up artistry, and we did our own hair.
What’s the best advice you have for planning your wedding now that you’re on the other side?
Figuring out what are the three most important wedding elements to you and your partner can really help focus your day. It’s easy to get wrapped up in every detail, but setting realistic goals helps ensure that the engagement period and wedding planning can actually be fun. We knew we wanted a touching ceremony, fun dance party, and cohesive look. After we made that decision, I stopped worrying about what color the lobby floor was, and what shape the salt and pepper shakers would be, (and a dozen other pretty unimportant details) and it was a huge weight off my shoulders!
It’s easier for your guests to enjoy themselves when the Bride & Groom are having fun, so lead the party with your own attitude. This may not be the only best day of your life, but it’s definitely worth it to enjoy as much as possible. A few things may go wrong, so roll with it. Try the drinks that you so carefully picked out, but try not to get too tipsy!
What was your biggest splurge?
Having a separate ceremony venue! It was important to me to have a church wedding, and a substantial portion of our budget went to making that possible. I have no regrets, and we think that our ceremony was one of the most beautiful and personal parts of our wedding. However if we were trying to save more money, we would have had the ceremony in the park or at our reception venue. Also, upgraded chairs were a bit of a splurge since the venue already had nice chairs. I had always dreamed of Chiavari chairs, even if no one else noticed.
What was your favorite detail?
I absolutely loved all of the sparkle at our wedding. I’m so glad we went for gold sequined linens for the cake and sweetheart tables, and did the glittering photo backdrop. We had tons of votive candles out as well, which really looked romantic.
What is the most memorable moment of your day?
At the end of the ceremony, as we had just been pronounced husband and wife, with my new husband and my new sister by my side and our families cheering for our union, I felt like the luckiest person alive. It was a once in a lifetime moment.
Ceremony: Unitarian Church of All Souls • Reception: 202 East • Wedding Dress: La Sposa Disco • Groom’s Tuxedo: Vintage Lord & Taylor • Maid of Honor Gown: Saks Fifth Avenue • Make Up Artist: Kerry-Lou Brehm • Photographer: Samantha Lauren Photographie • Day of Coordinator & Floral Design: Alexandra Townsend • DIY Flowers: Fifty Flowers • Ceremony Musicians: Khari Joyner from The Juilliard School; Megon McDonough • Reception Band: Blah Blah Blah • Mixologist: Larissa Wocher • Stationery: DIY by Bride and Groom • Favors: Glaser’s Bake Shop • Clutch: Kate Spade (Rent it from Rent the Runway!)
Editor’s note: Due to the pandemic, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Get more pandemic wedding resources here.