A Long Island Mansion Wedding On A $15K Budget

And a DIY reality check

Julia, Medical Student & Demond, Sociology Doctoral Student

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: Two practical and happy NYC grad students celebrate their love with family and friends at a fun, relaxed, and beautiful Long Island mansion wedding, during a heat wave… and it was perfect.

Planned Budget: $15,000

Actual Budget: $17,000

Number of Guests: 90

Where we allocated the most funds

Food! Catering was done by a great local restaurant, Wild Honey, which also served as the maître d’ and kept us on schedule that day. Wild Honey had catered at our venue many times before, so we were confident that they would be able to handle the kitchen, the table settings, etc., which was a major bonus when you are trying to cut corners! We had people join us from near and far (including aunts and uncles from Brazil!) and wanted to make sure everyone was well fed and always had a drink in hand!

Where we allocated the least funds

Venue. We looked around at a lot of venues, and weddings in NYC are expensive! We picked a Unitarian Universalist Church on Long Island that is located on a large property, with woods, lawns, and best of all, an old mansion, where we had the reception. We had such a special ceremony, that was so personal, officiated by one of the Unitarian ministers. Very important note, though: we were only able to have this wedding here because my mom is a member of the congregation—non-members can’t have weddings there, and you must be a member for two years before you can get married there at all.

We had hoped it would be outside, but it was ninety-six degrees, so everything happened indoors in the chapel, which was much more comfortable for everyone! It was nice to have a budget-friendly venue that was so flexible. We were the only wedding there that day, and we were even able to set up the evening before. The downside to a venue like this is that they don’t have a wedding coordinator or point person. It means extra phone calls, planning, making measurements and floor plans and counting napkins! It was worth it, for a beautiful fun venue that was within our budget.

What was totally worth it

Hiring a photographer! We found Steven Greaves on craigslist. We had initially asked a friend to photograph, to save money, but decided to hire someone because we wanted our friends to be able to enjoy and to make sure we had plenty of photos! Steven was affordable and ultra-cool (even in the heat wave). I also would have splurged on a DJ if we had had the extra funds. We did not plan our iPod playlist well, but, of course, we all danced the night away anyway.

What was totally not worth it

Obsessing about all the wedding DIY projects I wasn’t doing! I quickly started to love wedding blogs, and would sneak peeks whenever possible… I was busted reading a blog on my phone by a patient waiting to go into the operating room! There were many projects that would have been fun, but not worth it for time or cost reasons. We quickly learned that DIY is not equal to cheaper! There are so many cute ideas, but we needed to be practical and honest with ourselves about what we could bite off, or else we’d have been left with a bunch of half-finished projects and a lot of receipts from Michael’s Crafts! We did our own invitations on cardstock and a Word doc, and my Abuelita made bags of cookies and tied thank you notes to them to give out as favors. We also bought loose flowers and potted plants as the floral decorations, and that was the extent to the DIY we actually got to, but I pined over the other projects on my Pinterest ’til the bitter end.

A few things that helped us along the way

MY MAMA! Our family, friends and community were so good to us and helped out so much. People wanted to help us, and we figured out how to delegate! APW and other blogs were also a huge help in imagining and putting together a wedding.

My best practical advice for my planning self

Set a practical budget first! We live in Brooklyn, and New York City weddings can get so expensive, which was not what we wanted. But, we did want a celebration. Once you know what you want to spend, focus on your next priorities. Our priorities included accessible to NYC, not a catering hall (we wanted to be the only event), outdoor ceremony, and ninety to a hundred guests. We also knew we wanted Fourth of July weekend, because of our school schedules and to allow out-of-towners to make it to NY.

Favorite thing about the wedding

The love. Weddings aren’t practical ways to spend money, but it was oh so worth it. The main reason for us to have a wedding was so that we could share our commitment with our community, and for our community to commit to us too! It was ninety-six degrees on our wedding day, and our friends and family were dancing to the iPod, drinking, exploring the venue, and playing cricket. It was such a good day, and we rode that wave of love through the honeymoon, and still feel like we’re on the high!

Cost Breakdown

  • Venue: $2,500 (included tables, linens, place settings, sound setup for the iPod playlist, and minister’s fees)
  • Catering: $8,000 (included buffet dinner cooked on site by outside restaurant, passed hors d’oeuvres, and staff)
  • Alcohol: $1,500 (champagne, wine, beer, and homemade sangria—we purchased, served by the catering staff)
  • Dress and accessories: $1,000 (included fitting)
  • Groom’s gear: $300
  • Flowers: $600 ($300 for bouquets and boutonnières, and $300 for loose flowers and potted plants we used as centerpieces. Reception flowers were awesomely left from a previous wedding.)
  • Other décor: $100 (IKEA lanterns, string lights, vases)
  • Photography: $1600
  • Pianist & bass player: $400 (ceremony and cocktail hour)
  • Invitations: $250 (included card stock, printer ink, and stamps!)
  • Other: $750 (taxis, hairspray, and other things that cost money!)


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