Brenda, humanities teacher & Emanuel, chess teacher
Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A multicultural Brooklyn wedding overflowing with love and joy.
Planned budget: $30,000
Actual budget: $40,000
Number of guests: 140
Where we allocated the most funds:
We spent a large part of our budget on catering. Our venue only allowed us to choose from a list of eight vendors. Since I am Chinese and Emanuel is Jewish and Jamaican, it was really important for the food to reflect our cultural heritages. Thus, we chose a catering company that specialized in creating culturally diverse menus, and our guests ended up enjoying hors d’oeuvre as varied as latkes, dumplings, and curry goat miso spoons.
Where we allocated the least funds:
Overall, we spent the least amount of money on decor. The Picnic House did not allow us to affix anything to its walls, which was not such a terrible thing, since it is a beautiful venue as is. For the flowers, we went to a local florist, supplied her with mason jars, and asked for simple centerpieces and bouquets. The flowers did not turn out quite the way I expected them to, but we couldn’t really complain since we had spent no more than $400 on all our flowers.
What was totally worth it:
All our vendors! We considered ourselves extremely lucky to have so easily found such kind, talented, and dependable individuals who were so clearly passionate about their work. Because we are not very particular people, the Picnic House was the only venue we visited and we ended up hiring every vendor that we reached out to. Yet, each of them—especially our photographer, Julie Pepin, our DJ and MC, my makeup artist, and our caterer—went above and beyond our wildest expectations. They were all genuinely nice people who put us at ease throughout the entire process and during the wedding day itself.
What was totally not worth it:
Having endless doubts about how it would all come together. In the end, as one moment led to another, everything just fell into place.
A few things that helped us along the way:
What made our wedding feel true to “us” was the outpouring of love, support, and generosity from everyone we knew. One of Emanuel’s best friends from high school became a Universal Life Minister in order to officiate our wedding and created a ceremony that had onlookers in the park moved to tears. My cousin designed a charming, whimsical painting of us that we placed next to the guestbook, which added a personal touch to our wedding. Emanuel’s mom ordered mini Jamaican fruit cakes for our guests that celebrated his Jamaican heritage. Our high school guidance counselor sang a duet with Emanuel in Chinese that surprised not only me, but several of my older relatives as well!
I should also add that I started reading APW before I even got engaged. As a Chinese American who had only ever attended Chinese banquet-style weddings, I did not know the first thing about planning a “western” style wedding with a ceremony and reception. APW’s wedding planning articles were especially useful in helping us craft the structure of our ceremony and our day-of timeline.
Finally, creating a simple “to-do” list in a Word Document allowed me to keep track of the things I needed to get done for each month and made the whole process a lot more organized and a lot less stressful.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
There were two mantras that kept me sane and calm throughout the whole wedding planning process:
- As long as we got married by the end of the night, then our wedding would have been considered a success. (I got this from APW!)
- Our wedding would just represent one day of our lives. The days after the wedding were what would really matter at the end of it all.
Having these thoughts liberated me from sweating the small stuff. If our flowers turned out looking very different from what I imagined (they did), or if it rained during our ceremony (it didn’t), I told myself that it would all be okay. And our wedding turned out to be more than okay. It certainly had its share of minor logistical mishaps. However, the things that really mattered—the ceremony, the people, the emotions—were what truly defined our wedding and our memories of it.
Favorite thing about the wedding:
Having all our loved ones—from our past and our present lives, from so many walks of life, from all over the world—in one place at the same time was the most amazing feeling in the world! My parents finally got to meet the people whom I had been raving about forever, such as my current principal and my high school English teacher. My sister danced with one of Emanuel’s high school buddies. It was so surreal—yet so cool—to see it all happen!
other things to share:
One of the most touching moments from my wedding actually came afterward. My dad told me the next day that he and my mom had stayed up until discussing the wonderful highlights from our wedding and that they were overflowing with joy for us. My dad is usually reticent about showing his feelings at all, so it meant so much to me to hear him express his happiness.