Paying for a wedding is no easy task, and expenses can vary by tens of thousands, depending on size, location, and type of event. We asked one recent bride to spill the beans — anonymously, of course — on every expense for her wedding weekend, from the DIY decorations to her intense pre-wedding beauty regime, for her NYC wedding.
Want to share your experience? Email us here.
Want to share your experience? Email us here.
Job: Freelance Makeup Artist
Partner's Job: Engineer
Location: New York, New York
Number of bridesmaids: 2
I didn't have a wedding planner. I coordinated and organized everything myself with the help of family and friends. I assigned certain people a task for the day. I even drew out a floor plan of where I wanted everything. We got engaged in May and were married by January 2 of the following year. We had a lot of out-of-towners coming, so it made sense to have it around the holidays.
We couldn't have done this day without the generosity of our friends and family. It truly took a village, and we were so grateful. It really was an incredible day filled with love!
Marriage License: $35
Engagement Ring: $3,500
Wedding Bands: $2,000
= Total: $3,735
My husband is from Brazil and wanted me to have something from his country, so he bought the diamond there and had a jeweler set it in New York. My wedding band was from the same jeweler and cost $1,200. His ring was a gift from his parents and cost $800.
Card Stock & Envelopes: $100
Thank-You Postcards: $50
I didn't realize the cost of stationery — wow! I bought some elegant card stock and envelopes online and printed the invitations at my mom's office. The cost of stamps for invitations and thank-you notes was $90 including international postage. We set up a free website with The Knot and included directions, gift registry, hotel information, and a place to RSVP. That definitely saved a lot of money and hassle.
I didn't have place cards because I didn't want people stuck at tables. That also saved us money.
The restaurant where we had our wedding let us decorate the night before since the party room wasn't being used. Afterwards, we went upstairs to the restaurant for dinner. Everyone paid for their own meal, but it's a very reasonable place, about $15-$20 an entree.
Venue Rental: $0
Portuguese Lessons: $50
= Total: $300
To cut down on costs, and to make things easier on our international guests who we didn't want lost and running around the city, we did the ceremony and the reception at the same venue. There was no venue fee as long as you paid for a minimum of 120 people for dinner, which is about how many we had.
Since I'm Jewish and my husband is Christian, we had my oldest brother officiate for us. He paid $15 to be ordained online and was able to incorporate both our religions in the ceremony. I did pay $50 to have a friend's roommate from Brazil teach me how to say my vows in Portuguese as a surprise for my husband during the ceremony.
Two friends also did readings. We borrowed a microphone from my friend.
Food & Open Bar: $9,920
Bar Tab: $800
Personalized M&Ms: $50
Cake & Cupcakes: $450
Originally, I wanted to rent a loft space for the wedding, but the cost of chair rentals, etc., adds up. So we found an Italian restaurant that had a bar, party room, and cool loft feel. Since they already had tables, we didn't have to pay for rentals.
We had a set price for a buffet dinner for two, plus passed appetizers during the cocktail hour. My husband loves Italian food and we wanted food to be a big part of it. Nothing is worse than a wedding with overdone food that tastes like you're at a bad prom! We had an open bar, except for the last hour. We opted for the not-super-top shelf, but we did request a better tequila and they were very accomodating. The food and drink was paid for by my mother, stepfather, and husband, but I paid for the last hour with a bar tab rather than continuing the open bar (which was about $1,680 an hour). Since it was so late, people were drinking less alcohol and more coffee. The bill came out to $800 with tip.
The menu included cheesecakes, but we wanted a wedding cake. My father offered to pay for the wedding cake, but I didn't want him to have to pay too much. So we ordered cupcakes from Molly's Bakery in the West Village, and they made us a layer cake so we'd have something to cut.
We had a candy bar for my new stepdaughter, who was 4 at the time. My stepmother put it together, and got a lot of the candy on sale after Halloween. She also paid for special M&Ms with my stepdaughter's face on it. We asked our international guests to bring candy from their own country, too.
Dress & Accessories
Friends in my industry told me about The Bridal Garden in Chelsea, a non-profit dress shop that donates all their proceeds to charity. Designers donate showroom samples in all shapes and sizes.
I went to have a look and I found a gorgeous ivory column Nicole Miller gown with vintage looking beaded straps originally around $1,800. I got it for $600! They have an incredible seamstress who did all the repairs and tailoring for $300.
Gray and Davis, the jeweler who made my wedding rings, loaned me a gorgeous gold and diamond ring for the wedding day, and I wore a vintage gold and diamond watch that was my great aunts from the 1950s. I also bought a small gold letter earrings online for $25 with my husband's initials.
I got Spanx and a special stick-on bra for $160. I bought my crystal head piece on Etsy for $60. My shoes were knock-offs of the ones I wanted (which were about $300) and on sale from Aldo for $40. They were super comfy.
Spray Tan: Valued at $60
Botox: Valued at $500
Hair: Valued at $250-$600
Oxygen Facial: Valued at $160
Stimulating Facial: Valued at $120
Custom Nails: Valued at $600
Lash Extensions: $90
=Total: $90 (Valued At ~$1,900)
Being a makeup artist and beauty writer, I called in all my professional favors and got most of the services gifted for FREE. Everything was done by friends or clients, except for my makeup, which I did myself. I typically charge $500 for brides. The only thing I paid for was $90 lash extensions.
My bridesmaids each did their own hair and makeup. We all got ready together and had a few tequilas in the process.
Tux Rental: $200
Flower Girl Dress: $60
Dress Embellishments: $10
Doggy Tux: $12
My husband and his best man rented their shoes and tux online. I told my two bridesmaids to just get a long grey dress. They each spent about $100.
Our ring bearer was my West Highland terrier so we got him a doggy tux online. My stepdaughter was our flower girl. We ordered her dress online for $60, then I went to a haberdashery shop on 34th street and bought a silver ribbon and crystal piece and sewed it together myself for another $10. She also wore a flower headband I found at Target for $13.
Flowers & Decorations
Disco Ball Motor: $25
LED Lights: $250
Light Curtains: $50
Fake Flower Petals: $35
Battery-Operated Candles: $40
Floating Candle For The Centerpiece: $10
Light-Up "LOVE" Letters: $24
Cupcake Stand: $30
Cake Topper: $15
I asked a set designer friend and my husband to help me design the backdrop and overhead lighting display, which we set up the night before. I had an old-school disco ball and bought a motor for $25. We used battery-operated candles for the ceremony. I bought various vases online and made table settings with sticks I collected over the summer and put floating candles on top. The cake topper was two West Highland terrier figurines
If you're willing to do the online searches and hunt, you can find great stuff cheap.
DJ & Photographer
I found photographers to be super expensive or really cheesy, so I had my little brother and two photographer friends take photos. Two friends with video cameras recorded the service.
Another great thing about the venue is that it had speakers and hook up for DJ equipment, so our DJ didn't have to bring any of his own other then his decks and music, which saved us money. He is a friend and has played parties for me before so these factors he gave us a huge discount and worked within our budget.
Sunglasses With Our Names & Wedding Date: $115
Touch-Up Stations For Guests: $0
We had Jenga set up with markers for guests to write on instead of a sign-in book. We still play with it and reread everyone's messages. We also had 50 pairs of socks in a basket in case women wanted to dance without their shoes on. Being a make-up artist, I spent months collecting makeup to set touch-up stations in the bathrooms.
Earrings For Bridesmaids: $60
Cufflinks For Groomsman & Officiant: $50
Cufflinks For Husband: $30
Locket For Flower Girl: $120
Photo Albums For Family: $120
I got each of my bridesmaids thin gold drop earrings for $30 each. The best man and my brother, our officiant, each got cufflinks I got offline for $25 each. Since my husband was learning to fly, I got him helicopter cufflinks. I got my stepdaughter a silver heart locket with my husband's photo in it. After the wedding, I bought my mom, dad, stepmother, and mother-in-law mini photo albums to say thank-you.