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Our $9K Staten Island Backyard Garden Wedding

Flowers everywhere and a bonfire

Jenny, Horticulturist & Will, Horticulturist

sum-up of the wedding vibe: Plant geeks are blessed by family and friends in a misty backyard

Planned Budget: $6,000
Actual Budget: $9,000
Number of Guests: 70
Location: Staten Island, New York

Where we allocated the most funds:

We spent the most money on photography, delicious food and drinks, and tent rental. The tent was necessary, a fact that wasn’t evident until it rained the entire day of the wedding. The food came from a local Indian restaurant, our favorite on Staten Island. We got kegs of my preferred beer from Sloop Brewery. Like most people we know, we hate getting our photos taken, so we considered skipping a photographer. Everyone tried to convince me that was a bad idea; thanks friends! Once we met Kyo and Janna, we knew that they were the right ones for the job. Kyo spends a lot of time photographing the natural world, so we knew he would highlight the plants, flowers, and trees in the backyard the way they deserve. They made us feel relaxed and got some great candid photos of friends and family. In the end, the total of those four items came to about $6000; so worth it.

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Where we allocated the least funds:

The venue! It meant so much to us to host the wedding in this beautiful backyard and home that we have been caretaking for the past two years. We saved money by doing all the landscaping and decorations ourselves (we are lucky to have very creative and talented friends who did a lot of the decorations). Will and I collaborated on a bulb design that we planted last year, and Will designed all our centerpieces with plants from his personal carnivorous and bog plant collection. Will also made our invitations, which were a digital collage of plants we both love and trees in the backyard.

I dedicated a lot of my creative energy to making the wedding mix, which after years of making playlists for friends, felt like making the Grand Poobah of All Mixes. We made giant lists of songs while listening to the radio in the car on our way to visit Will’s dad in Upstate New York, and it was my job to spend late nights winnowing down the list. Spotify was our preferred mix host, and we just rented a speaker, which saved a ton of money. The best part is we can listen to that mix and transport ourselves back to that wonderful day. Lastly, we decided to have another local favorite, Eggers Ice Cream, make wedding cakes for us, which was maybe less expensive than traditional cakes.

What was totally worth it:

Two of the splurges we were so grateful for were house cleaning the day before and hiring a friend to do day-of coordination. Absolutely worth it. The entire wedding was supposed to be outside, but it was a misty, rainy day, so we had the cocktail hour inside, and I was so grateful for their spotless cleaning. Also, as someone who spends a lot of time with leaves and sticks in her hair, it was a relief to have to someone style my hair. It wasn’t what I would call “wedding hair,” but it felt luxurious to sit still for an hour and come out of there feeling natural and beautiful.

What was totally not worth it:

I’m really glad we didn’t try to do EVERYTHING ourselves. We began with the idea that we could make everything and spend as little money as possible, and I’m so glad we spent the money and kept our sanity with items like prepared food, favors for guests (homemade candles on Etsy), and house cleaning.

A few things that helped us along the way:

I got the APW book early on and browsed the website for planning tips, and honestly, that relieved a lot of my apprehension about not knowing what the heck I was doing. Also, it may sound cliché, but we couldn’t have done it without family and friends. My mom made what felt like a ton of rhubarb puree and lemon juice for the cocktails, my brother was on audio duty throughout the whole wedding, my dad and Will’s sister shared their comedic and oratory skills for the toasts, one of my girlfriends married us, some of my other girlfriends arranged all the flowers for my hair and gazebo, and the remaining family and friends just showed up and just took care of hundreds of tiny details.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Plan even more for the tiny little details and contingency. We were really just hoping and praying it wouldn’t rain, but we weren’t really prepared for the deluge that happened the week before and the day of the wedding. A couple hours before the cocktail hour, we realized the seated area for dinner had become pretty swampy. There was a little panic until one friend had the brilliant idea of finding hay bales and spreading it around on the ground to soak up extra water, and another friend found a feed store on Staten Island and took care of it.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

For me, it was seeing all the faces of the people I love during the ceremony. Everyone was situated very close to us by the gazebo, so I could actually see everyone’s tears and smiles! That was really special and I highly recommend it, if you have control over the seating at the ceremony. Will’s favorite moment was the incredible style and determination of our flower girl, aged four years and one of our best friends’ daughters, who took her job very seriously and chucked the petals with as much strength as she could muster.

Something else we’d like to share:

The venue (our current home and yard) was one of the most meaningful parts of the wedding. The land belonged to Frederick Olmsted in the 1840s, and it will hopefully join an adjacent plot of land and home to become part of a future Olmsted preserve. Will and I have been living in the house, caretaking the house and property, until it passes into the hands of the New York City Parks Department. It is a special piece of land, and our first home together, a relic of bygone days in Staten Island with many trees on the grounds that were planted by Olmsted. It was important to us to have our personality woven into the details of the wedding, and I was glad we didn’t pay a wedding planner. We wanted a small, non-traditional, non-religious, non-patriarchal, laid-back, home-made, family- and friend-focused wedding, using Staten Island vendors, and planning and hosting it ourselves allowed us to have control over those things.

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