Planning a wedding is no easy feat. And, I say this as someone who 95% of the time has a plan for, well…almost everything. When Alex and I got engaged in May 2016 (read our Paris, France love story!), we waited a few months before diving head first into the wedding planning to really enjoy our engagement.
By the time Alex and I were ready to start planning, all we knew was that we wanted a September wedding in New York City. I think the scariest part of this decision was acknowledging the fact that the average cost of a New York City is $88,000. Yes, $88,000. You read that right. Not only did we not have this kind of money to spend on our wedding (come on, let’s be realistic), but we decided from the very beginning that it was more important for us to save money for a house and travel the world. Nevertheless, we were still pretty nervous scheduling appointments with wedding venues, fearing our wedding dreams wouldn’t turn into reality.
I scheduled several appointments to view venues and meet with wedding coordinators, but if I am going to be completely honest, we only toured one venue before making our decision. Ladies, you know that feeling where all you can think, “THIS IS THE ONE???” Well, that’s all I could think when we walked through the doors of the Brooklyn Winery.
The Brooklyn Winery is an urban winery in the heart of Williamsburg, that produces small batches of wine in-house. It has a rustic interior, intimate vibe, and amazing wine. (Thinking about the Zinfandel already has me wanting to plan our wedding again and again!) From our very first meeting with the events coordinator, we knew we had made the right decision. Because Alex and I aren’t too big on tradition, we wanted a wedding reception that really represented us as a couple. Our events coordinator at the Brooklyn Winery helped us create the most perfect night — one big party with our friends and family.
Okay, so let’s get to the main point of this blog post — how can I realistically plan my dream wedding???
First, define your dream wedding. For some, it is a destination wedding on the beach, and for others, it is a backyard wedding at the house you grew up in. And while you’re dreaming of your most perfect day, do not forget that this is YOUR wedding — a day completely devoted to celebrating the love you and your partner share. Don’t let anyone else make you think any differently!
Alex and I really wanted our wedding day to represent who we are as a couple. We love to travel, so having our wedding in New York City allowed us to share our love for traveling with our friends and family.
Second, decide what kind of wedding venue best fits your needs. Are you a DIY couple, dreaming of transforming a raw space into your dream wedding? Or, do you prefer a full-service venue that takes care of all details, eliminating (almost all) stress? For us, a full-service venue was the way to go. Our reception package with the Brooklyn Winery included everything we needed: an events coordinator, unlimited alcohol, in-house food, and waitstaff and bartenders. Plus, it was so much easier for us to coordinate with our few outside vendors (DJ, florist, and photographer), versus coordinating with a dozen different vendors. While full-service venues may seem more expensive, we found that it was just more expensive upfront. We paid the majority of our reception budget to one vendor, rather than to multiple vendors had we chosen a raw space.
For me, the biggest advantage of selecting a full-service venue was that it allowed me to focus on the fun stuff: flowers, bridal party dresses, and small DIY projects!
Third, consider having your wedding on a Friday or Sunday! Because the majority of our guests were flying in from out of town, having a Friday night wedding made the most sense — our guests could get settled, attend the wedding, and have the entire weekend to explore New York City!
Another added benefit is that most venues offer lower minimum pricing on Fridays and Sundays, which will definitely be appreciated by your wallet. Plus, sought-after vendors (DJs, florists, photographers) are often easier to book. For us, the main advantage was that our wedding festivities could continue all weekend!
Fourth, consider having a cocktail reception. Alex and I aren’t big on tradition, and one of the most important things for us when planning our wedding was that the night really represent who we are as a couple. We love the more relaxed atmosphere of happy hours, and we wanted to make sure we had time to see each and every one of our friends and family. In short, we wanted one big party! When we shared this vision with the Brooklyn Winery, they presented us with the most perfect option: a cocktail reception with stationed dinner. Our night turned out to be the perfect balance between elegant and relaxed, with the most epic dance party to end the evening.
For us, there were three main advantages of selecting a cocktail reception. First, flexibility. We didn’t have to worry about seating assignments, and our guests were free to mingle as they pleased. Second, our reception was super intimate. We were able to see all of our friends and family, who had traveled near and far to celebrate #badleyeverafter with us. And third, there was more food, and even more wine, than we knew what to do with. We were able to satisfy the appetites of all of our guests, and after a glass (or three) of wine, our dance party was ready to start!
And finally, if you’re crafty, DIY! There is plenty of room to DIY when planning a wedding, from wedding invitations to flowers, to wedding favors and table decorations. Because we selected a full-service venue, there weren’t many details I had to worry about — and this was completely fine by me! I was able to focus on creating a DIY polaroid camera station and marriage advice cards. Just remember — if you decide to do a lot of DIY wedding crafts, don’t forget to enlist the help of friends and family!
So, we’ve talked about planning your dream wedding on a budget, but what about splurging on the things that mean the most to you? From the very beginning, Alex and I made sure we discussed — and agreed upon — what our splurge expenses would be. (I highlight the word “our” because your wedding day is about you AND your partner, and I think it is sometimes easy to forget that our partner cares just as much as we do, even if they don’t live, breath, and sweat wedding.) Together, we decided our splurges would be our photographer, my wedding dress, his suit, and the DJ. (Also our honeymoon, but that’s another read!)
Our photographer, Jacques Mateos, is A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Jacques captured Alex’s proposal last May, and after falling head over heels in love with our engagement photos, we could not have imagined our wedding day without him. Working with Jacques was so natural and effortless — I cannot recommend him enough. I still gush whenever I look at our wedding day photos.
Looking good on our wedding day was pretty darn important for us, but who would disagree?! I wasn’t the most traditional bride, and I really wanted my wedding dress to be completely me. When I saw my soon-to-be wedding dress at Carol Hannah, I knew I had to have it. In fact, it was the FIRST and ONLY dress I tried on. Yes, ladies. It was love at first sight!
Alex and his groomsmen ordered custom-made suits from Indochino. While the process of ordering the suits wasn’t exactly the smoothest, everything turned out perfectly and the guys looked so handsome!
Our last big splurge was our DJ. And boy, I cannot emphasize how much I DON’T regret this splurge! DJ Vida from Scratch Weddings was fantastic! She kept the party going all night, and we couldn’t get our guests off the dance floor. I am not a big dancer (okay, I am probably one of the worst dancers out there), but the dance party was my favorite part of our wedding night (aside of marrying the love of my life)!
Embarrassing photo of me, but sadly there are no photos of Alex and I dancing together besides our first dance! I think we both subconsciously knew how bad of dancers we are, and we didn’t want it captured for a lifetime 😉
If I can give you any advice, it would be to have the right mindset when planning your wedding. Most of us have never planned a wedding, and even though we may hate to admit it, we have absolutely no idea what we’re doing. (Repeat: Absolutely. No. Idea.) Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and ask them for their wedding day timeline (Thanks Jenn!), or to put all your trust in your florist and tell her to do absolutely whatever she wants! (I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know the difference between dahlias and daisies, so it only made complete sense to trust my florist 110%!) If you have trust in your partner, friends, family, and vendors, you’re wedding day will be nothing short of perfect.
AND, don’t sweat the small stuff. Everything that could have gone wrong our wedding week, went wrong. We had to change our wedding ceremony location three days out (thanks Hurricane Irma), and BHLDN sent one of my bridesmaids the wrong colored dress. But guess what? I could not have imagined a more perfect wedding day.
Dress: Carol Hannah | Groom & Groomsmen Attire: Indochino | Bridesmaid Dresses: BHLDN | Photographer: Jacques Mateos | Hair + Makeup: Sachiko Yanase | Reception Venue: Brooklyn Winery | DJ: DJ Vida with Scratch Weddings | Florist: PopUpFlorist