A Gorgeous Glam $18K New York City Wedding

It was stylish (and super low-key)


Holly, biologist & Yun, biologist

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A fun and intimate day that let us enjoy the ceremony and spend quality time with friends and family.

Planned budget: $10,000

Actual budget: $18,000

Number of guests: 30


Where we allocated the most funds:

The dress ($6,000 after currency conversion), the food ($7,000 for a set menu with open bar, plus cake), and our photographer ($3,000 for an eight-hour session with two photographers). We’re total foodies ourselves, so having a delicious meal was really important to us, and food is usually the centerpiece of Chinese weddings (Yun’s side of the family wanted to make sure we had tons of dishes to copiously feed everyone), so that was the major expenditure. As for the dress, you only get married once and the pictures last forever: I had an specific Art Deco fashion vision that I was hoping to achieve with my dress, so once I found the Jenny Packham design I sucked up the price tag. It was way more than I was hoping to spend, but in hindsight the dress was worth every penny.


Where we allocated the least funds:

We both hated the idea of organizing a wedding, so we ended up cutting costs in some typical places just out of laziness, and also because we were living overseas in the UK at the time of wedding planning. We spent $0 on invitations because we basically sent out an email to everyone saying, “Hey, come to our wedding in New York City!” I made a free wedding website on WordPress.com, and for table placards we only spent $80 on some neat customized postcards we ordered online from Moo.


What was totally worth it:

Splurging on a good photographer! We had lower priced offers from other photographers, but their portfolios didn’t really fit the vision that we had for our wedding. We didn’t want to get sub-par photos just for the sake of saving money. When we saw Danielle’s amazing photography galleries at Madrigal Films, we were desperate to nab her as our wedding photographer!


What was totally not worth it:

Bridal hair and makeup was so expensive, and I feel like I could have saved money there if I wasn’t in such of a time crunch to get this booked before the wedding. I spent $500 on a formal salon appointment for bridal hair and makeup, but in hindsight I could have cheaped out and gotten a full makeover at Sephora ($45 redeemable against purchase) and a Drybar blowout ($45).


A few things that helped us along the way:

The Internet. Seriously, the Internet was our best friend for researching venues and photographers from overseas (we didn’t see our venue in person until two days before the wedding!). Saving up our frequent flier miles also helped get us free/cheap airfare from the UK to New York City!


My best practical advice for my planning self:

Suck it up and book things early (even if you hate the idea of wedding planning). The last-minute stress is totally not worth it.


Favorite thing about the wedding:

We forgot to eat lunch, so after our city hall ceremony we were starving and ended up crashing a juice bar in the East Village to get some smoothies. It was so ridiculous in our formal wedding attire, but that was one of my favorite quiet moments of the day.


Anything else to share:

Neither of us are the type of person that likes wearing rings, so we didn’t get wedding bands (or even an engagement ring). We might get these down the line, but at the time of the wedding it seemed like an unnecessary expense for us.


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