Throwing a spectacular, 80-person wedding in Brooklyn for anything less than $40,000 is a feat. (That’s the low-end, average price of hosting your nuptials here–The Knot estimates the cost is closer to $60,000.) Throwing a wedding here for $14,000 is a bit of a miracle. But Laura Dolce-Bun, a teacher, and Mey Dolce-Bun, a farmer, managed with the help of talented friends and a lot of hands-on planning.
Of course, not everyone has a wedding photographer friend they can ask to shoot their weddings, as Laura and Mey did. Their connections at their venue helped, too, but they rented it at an opportune time when it was just getting started. Any couple can do this and expect to save money, as brand-new or soon-to-open venues often discount their prices to fill the calendar quickly and get cash flowing.
Laura and Mey also kept costs down by doing a lot of the work that a caterer would typically do, like arranging for the rentals of tables, seating and dinnerware, procuring all the meat, produce and alcohol themselves, and asking friends to bartend.
Even if you don’t intend to go DIY like they did, their tips, particularly for savoring the moments of a day you’ve spent a year planning, are worth heeding. Here’s how planned their October 2016 Williamsburg wedding.
Brooklyn Based: What year/month did you get engaged, and where were you?
Laura Dolce-Bun: We got engaged twice! Mey proposed to me first in July of 2015 on my birthday overlooking Bannerman Castle in Cold Spring, NY. And I proposed to her in October of 2015, one year before our wedding, at our venue, North Brooklyn Farms.
What were your original assumptions about your wedding (including the total cost), before you picked a venue or began to plan it?
We knew we would be planning on a budget since we were paying for it ourselves and because we couldn’t, and didn’t want to, spend huge amounts of money. We set our budget at $10,000 even though we were told that sticking to that would be close to impossible. Our plan from the beginning was to make our wedding as DIY as possibly and to enlist our talented friends and family to help.
We originally envisioned getting married on a farm upstate and considered the farm where Mey was working at the time, in the Hudson Valley. We assumed venues in the city would be way too expensive, too small, or just not our style in general.
We knew from the beginning that regardless of the money and material items, we wanted our wedding to feel like an intimate celebration with close friends and family. Because our wedding would, by nature, be non-traditional, we wanted to make it feel as “us” as possible.
What was your wedding actually like, and what was the ultimate tally at the end?
After making a large spreadsheet of what seemed like every farm-ish wedding venue in New York, we realized they would all be too expensive. At the time we were looking at caterers too, and the costs seemed outrageous. That’s when our original plan of enlisting friends came into play. Our friends are the founders of North Brooklyn Farms and at the time it was just starting to take off, so we got a good deal on the rental. A good friend and amazing chef pulled together a team to cater, a photographer friend shot the wedding, our farmer friends grew all the food and flowers for us, our family did all the decorating, and we had friends bartend, serve, do makeup, hair, officiate, DJ, sing, play guitar, and even make Sweet Buns– our chosen dessert since our new last name is Dolce-Bun.
Even with all the help and discounted services, we still went over budget by about $4,000. We now know that a $10,000 wedding in NYC is pretty tough, however we know that relatively, we kept the cost pretty low! It was eye-opening, to say the least, to learn all that goes into a wedding—money and planning. But our wedding was beautiful. Cozy, intimate, and very US.
How long did you actively plan your wedding?
We were pretty actively planning for a full year. The last three months were the busiest, but we were searching for connections and making plans from the time we booked the venue in September 2015.
Do you remember the order in which you chose your vendors, and who were they?
The venue was first. We asked our photographer shortly after that–our friend Leslie Satterfield who owns Kiss The Bride Films. I found my dress at J.Crew and Mey’s suit was custom designed by Bindle & Keep. We decided to work with Diana Mae Flowers, our friend who grows and sells her flowers in Beacon NY, but travels for weddings. We bought the meat and vegetables for the chef from our friend’s farms—also in the Hudson Valley–Common Ground Farm and Glynwood Center. Our cake was from Luckybird Bakery, a bakery next to my old Brooklyn apartment. These decisions were all made by around April 2016.
All of our rentals—tent, dinnerware, cooking supplies, chairs, tables were from Atlas Rentals. We began talking to them way in advance—in March—and they were so helpful over the next months, arranging everything we needed.
A friend designed our invites and printed them at Vista Print—we sent them out in July.
Brooklyn Brewery provided all of our beer (I used to teach their son and they are so gracious), we bought wine at Trader Joe’s and used a connection to get liquor at wholesale price.
We rented speakers and mics from Sound House Rentals, portable toilets from Call Ahead (fun details!) and got insurance through Eventhelper.com about a month before the wedding.
We also used theKnot.com for our website and for wedding favors. Having the website was a huge help.
What did you love about your wedding?
We love that our wedding was pulled off because of our amazing friends and family (not to mention it was almost 100% woman-powered). It rained on our wedding day, which felt very discouraging, but the rain led to all of our guests being cozy inside the tent and made for some cute umbrella photos 🙂 Again—we love that it felt like us. We had some traditional elements—a first dance and speeches, but we read poems to each other, wrote our own vows, included the Cambodian Buddhist tradition of our loved ones tying knotted bracelets on our wrists for good luck and prosperity, and had sweet buns for dessert. Our families and friends traveled from near and far—from Brooklyn to all the way from Australia—to celebrate our love. Doesn’t get much better than that!
What would you have changed—either about the day itself or the planning process?
I think this is pretty common advice, but it can’t be said enough—try to SLOW DOWN and enjoy every minute of it. We both took off work a couple days before the wedding, yet still felt rushed to get things done the day before. The slower moments, like when Mey and I got coffee and practiced our vows the morning of the wedding, were the best. I wish we would have given ourselves more time than we thought we needed so that none of it felt rushed. We planned for a year for this one day, and it was a little overwhelming when it actually arrived. Soaking in every moment is important!
As for the planning process, if I could go back, I would use Pinterest (and other similar sites) less! It’s great to get some ideas online, but it’s overwhelming and can set unrealistic expectations. When looking through thousands of images of “perfect” weddings you forget that you’re not seeing the stressful moments or the rain or the part where the car was late, etc. It’s also discouraging when the majority of the “tips” or ideas are geared towards heterosexual couples. If I wanted to see a same-sex wedding, I had to actually type those words in the search box. I sometimes needed reminders to keep that original important idea in mind—this is OUR wedding and it should be unique to us.
For more wedding planning inspiration, come to our wedding fair, Wedding Crashers, this Sunday, March 19!