Money’s a tough subject because (I think) the conversation immediately becomes one of comparison. That’s not my intention with this post because at the end of day, whether the budget is $1,000 or $10,000, or $100,000, it’s all a lot of money and I think every bride struggles with where to prioritize funds. Researching realistic wedding budgets was what brought me to Weddingbee to begin with and I think it would be somewhat hypocritical of me not to disclose our actual budget breakdown before wrapping up my time here.
I will preface this post by saying, please be kind. It appalls no one more than me how many dollar bills we put into this wedding and I know all too well it was an obscene amount of money for one day. That said, I wouldn’t change a thing. For the rest of my life, I’ll get the warm and fuzzies whenever I think back to our wedding, and I can’t put a value on that. OK, here we go. This is going to hurt. A lot.
reBar’s closing definitely threw me for a loop, especially when it came to our budget. We could estimate that based on a 150 person guest list we’d be spending $27,000 on venue and staff (including tip), catering, alcohol, DJ, and cake/cupcakes. And so when we splurged in some other areas (i.e, photography, videography, my dress, etc., I felt OK about it because the deal we were getting at reBar offset those higher costs. When reBar shut down, the whole budget went to shit because (1) no other venue could match reBar’s deal and (2) we were committed to vendors that we had already booked and overspent on. So while we started with a budget of $45,000, that was re-assessed to $55,000* upon reBar’s closing. We did recoup some of the extra expense via the wedding insurance, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. OK, I was stalling there for a bit, but I’m really gonna do it now. Just like a Band-Aid.
Number of guests: 150
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Date: December 12, 2014
Type: Catholic church ceremony followed by an evening progressive cocktail reception
Venue: The Liberty Warehouse, $31,062. Jeff and The Liberty Warehouse seriously hooked us up. Pricing details for LW state that events start at $165 per person. I’ve come to learn that “starting prices” are deceiving because they usually apply to less than desirable days and times (i.e., an afternoon party on a Tuesday). So when Jeff quoted us $145 per person for our Friday night progressive cocktail/stationed reception, we were extremely grateful. There were additional charges on top of that (service fees and tax), but for what we got—beautiful venue, stellar service, tables, linens, chiavari chairs, delicious food and premium open bar for 150 guests in the NYC area—I’d say we paid a very fair amount.
Cake: One Girl Cookies, $695. We ordered a small three tiered cake (4”, 6”, and 8” rounds) suitable for 38 servings then supplemented that with three sheet cakes for an additional 90 servings. One Girl Cookies offered a 15% discount to ex-reBar couples, but even before the discount they were the most affordable bakery we tried.
Bride’s dress: Francesca Miranda Ambrosia (from The Sample Room NY), $4,250. I had a hard time finding a dress I loved, so I allowed myself a flexible budget here. I bought my dress as a sample; the retail value of the dress was $7,900 so that brought me some comfort and I saved on NYC tax by having the dress shipped to my parents’ house in NJ.
Dress alterations: The Wedding Dresser, $1,150. It was at this point in wedding planning that I opted to throw money at a problem rather than try to Google my way out of it. I will note that my alterations consisted of more than just the standard hem and bustle and the customized changes added to my cost.
Bride’s shoes: Tabitha Simmons (via GILT), $330. I’ve worn these shoes both before and after our wedding, so I’d say they were worth it.
Jewelry: Borrowed from family members, $0. Free is my favorite word. I wore my grandmother’s diamond stud earrings with dangling backs borrowed from my aunt. The bracelets I wore were also all borrowed from my mom and aunts.
Hair and makeup: Daniela Rodriguez NYC, $500. This included hair and makeup, airbrush foundation, false eyelashes, and trials.
Groom’s tuxedo: MySuit, $954. Mr. S ordered a made to measure tuxedo from MySuit and was able to fully customize the entire thing—fit and finishes. The starting price of MySuit’s tuxedos is lower than what we paid, but Mr. S opted for a slightly more expensive wool/silk fabric which upped our total cost.
Groom’s shoes: Fiorentini Mercanti (via DSW), $110. I forget how much these were marked down or what their original price was, but I know Mr. S found them in the clearance racks. I’ve taught him well.
FLOWERS AND DECORATIONS
Floral arrangements and personal flowers: Barbara Bell Design, $2,766. This included my bridal bouquet, three bridesmaid bouquets, six boutonnieres for the groom, groomsmen, and our dads, and all reception flowers, tapered candles, and votives. I asked Barbara to use seasonal flowers so that we could stay in budget (I know nothing about flowers and would be none the wiser) and she used a combination of garden roses, ranunculus, anemones, scabiosa pods, and bush ivy in all our arrangements.
Vintage furniture rentals: Patina Vintage Rentals, $2,779. We splurged here and I don’t regret it for one second. The gorgeous lounges flanking the dance floor definitely encouraged the laid-back, move around and mingle cocktail party atmosphere. Each lounge area consisted of a large couch, coffee table, medium sized chair, pair of smaller chairs, two end tables/stools, and an animal hide rug layered over a chunky sisal rug.
Lighting: Universal Light and Sound, $642. After much consideration, we decided to forgo the uplighting and paid just for globe lights to be strung up above the dance floor. That plan changed when we lucked out and got to use a previous event’s chandeliers for free, and the globe lights were moved to either side of the dance floor.
Candles: DIY, $300. In addition to the votives that our florist provided, I wanted to have pillar candles lining the window sills in the reception area. My mom and dad scoured every dollar store in their area to find white unscented pillar candles and glass holders. Those that we couldn’t find at dollar stores were purchased at save-on-crafts.com. The plan was to put ten candles of varying heights (3”, 6”, and 9” pillars) on each of the seven window sills. Tatiana used some of the candles at the entrance and guest tables, which was an excellent idea and didn’t compromise my vision.
Miscellaneous reception décor: $103. This included the oversized L-O-V-E balloons behind the DJ booth ($34), DIY signage ($32), and metal letters from Home Goods ($37).
Church pew and altar décor: DIY, $0 (Gifted by my mom). I assigned church pew decor to my mom and before I knew it, the DIY project became her pièce de résistance. My mom purchased 30 copper buckets from save-on-crafts.com, 20 bunches of baby’s breath from Sam’s Club, ten bunches of gold painted silver dollar eucalyptus from Fifty Flowers, and 25 feet of garland from Costco. Her estimated total cost was $744.
Church musicians: St. Charles in-house musicians, $450. Sergio, who is the music director at St. Charles, sang vocals at our wedding. He and the organist provide the music for the weekly masses at the church.
DJ: Ben the Beyonder, $545. DJ Ben was the in-house DJ at reBar and after our former venue’s closing, he reached out to all the couples saying that he intended to honor his contracts at the reBar price. (i.e., had someone forgone DJ Ben when contracting with reBar, they would have received a $545 credit to their package.) With the average cost for a DJ in the NYC area at $4,000-$5000, this gesture of goodwill single-handedly saved our budget. He played for the entirety of our reception, including cocktail hour.
PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEOGRAPHY
Photography: Clean Plate Pictures, $4,750. Our package included nine hours with two shooters and an engagement session. I deemed this a splurge-worthy category and am happy I did—I am so in love with our wedding photos.
Videography: Kiss the Bride Films, $3,600. Our package included eight hours of coverage with two cinematographers, a 3-5 minute highlight film, a 45 minute edited documentary film, three DVDS, and all files on a flash drive. Citing the holiday season (and because they are just really nice people), Kiss the Bride Films threw in an extra hour of coverage for free, so we actually ended up with nine hours of filming. Another splurge in our budget, but to me the video we have is priceless.
FAVORS AND GIFTS
Favors: Virgie’s Mango tarts, $0 (Gifted by my aunts). My aunts orchestrated everything from shipping to packaging and we’re grateful that they gifted us our favors. They were such a hit with our guests! We ended up using five tarts per favor, so if I had to estimate how much our favors cost, I’d say $200-$300. However, the real labor of love was in the logistics—my aunts and other family members hauled 1,000 mango tarts in their suitcases across the Pacific Ocean from Manila to NYC.
Bridal party gifts: $1,110. We purchased four 100% cashmere blankets for my bridesmaids and my mom, four personalized branding irons for the groomsmen and my dad, and an external hard drive for Pops, Mr. S’s dad. The groomsmen gifts also included super marked down tie bars and black ties.
Welcome boxes: DIY, $100. This is a rough estimate, but the gable boxes were $6.29 for a set of 10 and we purchased bulk goodies from Costco and Amazon. We may or may not have eaten some of the snacks ourselves during assembly, so my estimate might be a little skewed.
Church donation: $500. It is called a donation, but really the cost of getting married in the church was stipulated by St. Charles.
Pre-Cana: $200. A requirement of getting married in the Catholic church.
Save the Date postcards: Wedding Paper Divas with Gilt City voucher, $102. I purchased a $50 Gilt City voucher for $100 worth of WPD merchandise. The total cost of our STDs was $58 and another $44 in postage.
Invitation suite: DIY (OMG so much DIY), $834. We had to send out 112 invitations, but I overestimated my DIY supplies at 150-160 invitations. See my past posts on our big DIY project for all the gory details, but here’s the breakdown of the breakdown:
- Letterpress class, $150
- Letterpress machine reservation and ink, $85
- Letterpress polymer template, $94
- Paper, $178
- Envelopes (A7.5, A7, and 4 bar), $125
- Lotka paper liner, $51
- Custom pit bull and return address rubber stamps, $24
- Miscellaneous supplies (gold paint, cutting supplies, calligraphy pens, twine, baby’s breath, etc.), $72.
- Postage, $55
Programs: DIY, $64. The bulk of my cost was the blank program covers I purchased from LCI Papers. I also bought heavy weight printing paper for the inside pages (like the kind used for fancy resumes) and teal ribbon to bind it all together.
Thank you notes: Vistaprint, $84. I used a teaser picture from our wedding and purchased 100 notecards using the upgraded, thicker premium cardstock.
Bride’s ring: Rollingring.com, $277. My tri-color gold rolling ring aka trinity ring aka Russian wedding ring was purchased online.
Groom’s ring: Philmar, $239. Mr. S’s tungsten ring was purchased in NYC’s Diamond District.
Shuttle bus service: Trans Star, $1,750. This included two 30-person shuttles from 3pm-7pm and also from 11pm-1am, at a cost of $125 per hour per shuttle. The shuttles brought guests from the Marriott to the church, from the church to the LW, and from the LW back to the Marriott at the end of the night. Spending this amount of money on shuttle buses was not fun, but since transportation was one of my biggest concerns, it was a necessary expense to keep my stress levels at a manageable level. It was a big hit with our guests as almost everyone commented on how much they appreciated the convenience, so I’d say it was money well spent.
Day of coordinator: Whimsy Weddings, $843. If I knew then what I know now about the value of a DOC, I would have paid quadruple this price. I had zero stress in the weeks leading up to our wedding and was able to truly enjoy our big day.
Hotel: Marriott at Brooklyn Bridge, $1,067. Ouch. This one hurt, but it was worth it to have the extra space to get ready with everyone on the morning of our wedding.
Marriage license: NYC Marriage Bureau, $35 and two and half hours of my life.
Wedding insurance: WedSafe, $550. This is the cost for two insurance plans (each plan cost $275). The first plan we purchased when we booked reBar, from which we were reimbursed our total upfront payment of $21,650. We purchased a second insurance plan when we booked with the Liberty Warehouse since that was considered a separate event not covered by our initial plan, but we never had to make use of it (thank goodness!).
TOTAL OF ALL WEDDING EXPENSES: $62,820. But! Our wedding insurance policy allowed for up to $8,750 in extra expense (i.e., costs that we would not have incurred had our original contract with reBar been upheld). There was some fine print that had to be explained to us and both we and Wedsafe had to do some calculations on our end, but at the end of the day we received $4,900 of extra expense that essentially made up for the difference between a wedding at reBar and a wedding at the Liberty Warehouse on an apples-to-apples comparison. So, after accounting for the wedding insurance reimbursement…
GRAND TOTAL OF THE SQUID WEDDING: $57,920. That’s $2,920 or 5% over budget. There are probably some ancillary costs that I didn’t figure into my tally, but I’m sure if we rounded up to $58,000, all those little costs here and there would be captured in that extra $80.
I wish I could tell you that we came close to staying in budget due to my strict fiscal policies, but that would be a lie. Honestly, it was sheer dumb luck (and the wedding insurance reimbursement) that we didn’t completely blow our budget out of the water because, as I mentioned before, towards the end of wedding planning, I cared less and less about the numbers and more and more about convenience, no matter the cost.
And now I am going to put on my nerd hat (and I invite you all to do the same) to delve a little deeper into the analytics of our budget to actual results. When we first put our wedding budget together, I used suggested budget percentages from Real Simple as a preliminary guide of where to allocate our money. Now that the wedding is behind us, I’ve compared those budgets to our actual expenses and percentages to see where exactly we spent our wedding dollars. And, like any accountant worth her salt, I explained the reason for the variance. The broad categories below match up to the detail I gave above, so you can refer back to see what was included in each line item.
So you can see that the overage in our reception expenses was more than offset by the reimbursement from Wedsafe. The savings in music, favors, ceremony, and wedding rings basically made up for all the other line items where I overspent, with the exception of the “Other” category. For whatever reason, Real Simple didn’t think I needed to allocate funds to an “Other” category, so if you choose to follow my method, I’d advise you to pad your budget by about 5%. My analysis above excludes the cost of my engagement ring, our mini-moon, honeymoon, and tips. The schools of thought on tipping wedding vendors seem to span the spectrum and tipping in general is completely discretionary, which is why I didn’t include it in the above breakdown. But, in the spirit of full disclosure, we tipped all of our vendors a grand total of $3,390.
So there you have it, the Squid wedding budget breakdown. Phew—I survived. In retrospect, I do and I don’t feel bad about spending the amount of money that we did on our wedding. On the one hand, it is a lot of money for one day and I truly believe weddings are beautiful occasions no matter the budget. I see gorgeous weddings on the ‘bee pulled off for $10,000 and $20,000 and I think to myself, “HOW THE HELL DID THEY DO THAT?!?” On the other hand, we spent within our means, celebrated with everyone we love, and had a once in a lifetime event for a once in a lifetime occasion. So we did it up. No regrets.
* According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in NYC in 2014 was $76,328. Crazy, I know, but at least it’s trending down from $86,916 in 2013.
(All photos are credited to Clean Plate Pictures unless otherwise noted.)