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When Good Food, Family, Friends, and a Love for Brooklyn Collide

These two teachers met in AmeriCorps and took it from there

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Johanna, elementary science teacher & Angel, middle school math teacher

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A Brooklyn party filled with great food, friends, family, and love.

Planned budget: $22,000

Actual budget: $23,330

Number of guests: 100

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Where we allocated the most funds:

We definitely allocated the most funds to the venue and photography. After reading APW for years before actually getting engaged, I knew that I wanted to spend the bulk of our money in the areas we valued most. Together, we decided that great food, nice pictures, and a place convenient for our friends and family were our biggest priorities.

Thinking about what we actually wanted most out of the day helped us narrow down venue choices. Deity was at the high end of our budget; however, it included a day-of coordinator, delicious food, beautiful decorations, and a DJ. Nowhere else that we looked offered that much, so we were comfortable paying more money. Also, the most convenient location for us was Brooklyn, where Angel was born and raised and I’ve lived for the past five years. Getting married in a big city meant readjusting what I considered to be reasonable budget expectations, because everything is just more expensive.

Getting over the idea of paying a lot of money for a photographer was a little more difficult. In my mind, the photos were only for us (and our moms!) while spending a lot on the venue would benefit all of our guests. Eventually I came around to the idea of investing in great photographers like Ketan and Tahmid from KetaNuva Studios by thinking about how the photos would be around forever. Also I love looking at wedding photos and finally accepted that even though weddings are a celebration for your community, it was also okay to be a little selfish and spend some money on something that would make me happy.

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Where we allocated the least funds:

Flowers: Neither of us cares about flowers, so it didn’t make sense for us to spend a lot of money on them. I bought some carnations, lavender, and baby’s breath for $50 at the grocery store right before the wedding, and one of my amazing friends arranged them into bouquets for me and my bridesmaids. The reception venue was beautiful on its own with exposed brick, twinkle lights, and stained glass windows so we didn’t use any flowers there to decorate or use as centerpieces.

StationEry: On the other hand, the invitations, seating chart, programs, and table numbers cost so little because I care a lot about stationery and graphic design. I designed, printed, and cut all of the paper products myself. I used card stock and kraft paper I already had, so the only extra cost was time. For each table I made a sign with pictures of us at the age corresponding to the table number and got a lot of comments from friends who enjoyed seeing our cute baby/awkward tween photos. Taking on this large of a DIY project was not for the faint of heart, but it seemed worth it to invest time instead of money since I had so much fun designing everything.

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What was totally worth it:

Just about everything! Before the wedding, I tried to keep expectations for the day realistic. Afterward, I was blown away by how beautiful and happy and loved I felt all day long. Thanks to our early ceremony time at the church, we had plenty of time to take couple photos and enjoy being with just each other without having to miss cocktail hour with our friends and families at the reception. Paying more money for our venue meant we got to relax once the reception started because the site coordinator took care of all logistics, problems, crazy relatives, etc. It also meant that we got to enjoy delicious food (mac and cheese! short ribs! roasted brussels sprouts!) and have a fun dance party with our friends thanks to their DJ. We kicked the dancing off with “The Wobble” and then everyone basically stayed on the dance floor for the next two hours.

Looking around and seeing our families and friends from different parts of our lives having fun dancing together was such a special moment. For dessert we didn’t want a traditional wedding cake. Instead, we went to our favorite neighborhood Italian bakery, Tasty Pastry, and ordered eight regular sized cakes in flavors like Nutella, rainbow cookie, and tiramisu. People loved getting to try different cakes and debate about which kind they liked best, and we probably spent less than we would have on a traditional, fancy wedding cake.

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What was totally not worth it:

My only real regret was our hotel room situation. The plan was to get a room for two nights so that I would have somewhere to get ready with my bridesmaids the day of and we could go back to it after the reception. We ended up picking a “nicer” hotel in downtown Brooklyn over a more budget option closer to the church and reception venue. There was no place to park near the hotel, so everyone coming by to get their hair and makeup done ran late, and then we all hit traffic on the longer drive to the church. To top it off, the first room they gave us had a broken air conditioner. In the middle of July. In humid, sticky Brooklyn. Nothing about the hotel made me feel more relaxed or helped us get things done efficiently, so I wish we had just gone with a cheaper hotel that was more centrally located.

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A few things that helped us along the way:

The amazing help from our friends and family! I had to push past feeling like asking for help was an imposition and reached out to people to help our wedding day come together. From deliveries to hair and makeup to singing at the church, so much of our wedding wouldn’t have been possible without help from our friends and families. My dad volunteered to drive Angel and me around all day and also surprised us by picking up the open bar tab at the end of the night! It took a lot of trust to delegate all these responsibilities, but I was so thankful that we reached out. Our community really stepped up, and we couldn’t have pulled off the wedding without them. The day felt even more special because so many loved ones played integral parts in it.

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My best practical advice for my planning self:

Don’t stress out about things you can’t control! Worrying won’t change the weather or traffic or how certain family members choose to behave. All you can do is appreciate all the things that are going right and deal with whatever happens. At the end of the day we got married and had a great party despite gray skies, last minute arrivals, and other minor mishaps.

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Favorite thing about the wedding:

Feeling so happy I could burst during the ceremony and then seeing our months of planning come together to create a really fun party filled with love and delicious food.

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Anything else:

Angel and I met seven years ago while doing AmeriCorps organizing after school programs in Paterson, New Jersey. We quickly became good friends and eventually started dating. From the beginning we worked well together, and we enjoy hosting board game nights and barbecues in the park. We were able to use all of our past event planning experiences to take equal responsibility for planning the wedding. I loved feeling like we were starting this new chapter of our lives by planning this big celebration as a team.

Angel and I both researched venues and vendors, updated our massive budget and to-do list Google Doc, and tried to convince the other person to make all the phone calls. After taking the Pre-Cana class required for a Catholic ceremony, we picked out the readings together, which made the ceremony feel so special. When our families would ask why we weren’t including this or that tradition that all weddings “must” have, Angel and I would both defend our choices. We also took the lead on the parts of the wedding that most appealed to our interests and strengths like design (me) and logistics (Angel). All of the communicating, compromising, and task delegation that went into planning a wedding together felt like great preparation for the rest of our lives together.

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