This $15K Brooklyn Jewish Wedding with 110 Guests Is Flawless

With a dress from Reformation and an indoor picnic

GRACE, Chef & Barry, Comedian/Actor
Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A homemade, eclectic, warm wedding with an indoor picnic reception filled with personal charm and family touches.
Planned Budget: $12,000
Actual Budget: $15,000
Number of Guests: 110

Where we allocated the most funds:

The most funds went to the venue, food, and booze.

Where we allocated the least funds:

The least funds went to decor and cake—we did a small personal cake for us, and a dessert option with the catering company. (Note: Our photography rate was slightly discounted, and we borrowed the photographer’s Polaroid camera for our photo booth.)

What was totally worth it:

For us, a great DJ and great photographer. Hands down. Knowing that you have professional people who know what they are doing on your side was worth it. We also had a trusted childhood friend day-of coordinate for us at a “friend rate,” and that took a lot of stress off us. Also, we wanted to have a photo booth, but it wasn’t in the budget, so we borrowed a Polaroid camera, bought a bunch of film and set it out for the reception. It ended up being a great tool to play with for people who were not big dancers. Plus now we have a lot of great candids of the receptions. And a lot of pictures of our friends’ butts…

What was totally not worth it:

The angst. Which is perhaps unavoidable. We were a pretty lean mean machine about what we included, but boy did we get angsty about it. I initiated way too many conversations about the merits of renting “the nice chairs” that ended in frustrated bickering and long loaded glares. If I could go back and give myself a hug and a kiss on the forehead and tell myself to chill, I would.

I spent a lot of time worrying about my dress. We didn’t have the budget for a traditional wedding dress—which I’m embarrassed to say, felt like a perfect-wedding death sentence. After forcing myself to let go of that irrational despair, I realized the Internet is mighty, and there are SO MANY GREAT DRESS OPTIONS OUT THERE. I ended up finding my perfect one at Reformation for a few hundred bucks that I LOVED. All that is to say fight the urge to splurge, and hold out for the one that speaks to you. Something will hit and feel perfect. That being said, I splurged on earrings for myself, my bridesmaid, and my mom. It felt expensive at the time, but when I finally had them in my hand, and could share them with my women, it was a really special moment. Plus you can wear earrings again, right?

A few things that helped us along the way:

Friends. Family. They wanted to help, and where they couldn’t physically, they wanted to listen. You are not in planning your wedding alone. It can feel like it sometimes, but weddings are a big deal and people are excited for you and want to help. Even if it’s just venting.

My mother-in-law put together our chuppah. They don’t come cheap—not even to rent—so she got some seven-foot dowel rods from Home Depot for $25, hammered a nail into the top of each, and stuck an old lace curtain on the nails. Voila!

My mom and I spent the day on Friday making flower arrangements in vases that we’d been collecting from thrift stores. We had three or four different size vases on each table, each filled with some hydrangeas, baby’s breath, and greenery. They were so beautiful and authentic. And cost effective! Each table cost us about twenty bucks.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

I have two.

First, whatever your worst fear is about people not having fun, or whatever your personal worst-case scenario is, it won’t happen. People got all dressed up, and came all this way to celebrate you. They are excited and ready to take your cue. You’re jazzed; they’re jazzed.

Second, if one of you guys is really keeping an eye on the budget (not me) then the other one (me) should try their very best to respect that. When it’s all said and done, you will not care about whether or not you got the “nice chairs,” or whatever else it feels like you need. Brides, we have been sold a false bill of goods. It’s nice to have that stuff, but you can have a great wedding without it.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Grace: Vows. A hundred times over. We wrote them ourselves. They were funny and personal. They set the tone for our wedding, and people were ready to be together and laugh and celebrate all night.

Barry: The dancing. It was the moment when everyone let loose. People who never dance, who pride themselves on “not dancing,” were on the dance floor. Together. Celebrating.

Other things we’d like to share:

Our wedding was homemade, eclectic, warm, and honest. It was an indoor picnic, I guess. We had big round tables and folding chairs, a barbecue buffet, and an open bar. Everything we chose was dictated by our budget. But I wouldn’t change anything, even if we had had all the money in the world.

We had an “in loving memory” table for our family who couldn’t be there—both sets of grandparents on my side, and three of four grandparents on Barry’s side, plus his dad who passed. It felt like a way to honor the people who loved us well, or made people who loved us well, but couldn’t be there. Like a presentation of our history, as we moved forward into this new, combined future. Plus, we were able to incorporate Barry’s dad into a lot of great stories when the best man, Barry’s brother, spoke. It was nice to have them there.

Barry is Jewish, I am not. We both grew up in a faith tradition, but as adults decided that it was more about the culture (Passover Seder, Christmas dinner, a menorah and tree on Christmakah) than the doctrine. But that stuff is still important to our families, and for me (the Catholic) it was important symbolically to show his family that I was going to share in those traditions in the future with our kids, but probably in our own way. Which represents our handmade Chuppah pretty well.

We held the whole event at Littlefield, an art and music space in Brooklyn. It was nuts and bolts—function over form—and while we were planning, it felt like we were going to have the ugliest wedding ever because nothing felt like the bridal magazines or Pinterest, or whatever. But it wasn’t ugly at all! We learned that its impossible to have an ugly wedding if you add your personal charm and the party is rock’n.


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