“Wedding-affordable and real-life affordable, especially in New York, are two very different things,” laughs wedding planner Lara G. Mahler. She may be laughing but she definitely isn’t kidding. After all, the inspiration for launching her own wedding planning business, THE PRIVILEGE IS MINE, came in 2015 after watching good friends take on loads of stress and hefty bank loans to pay for their wedding day.
“Couples should not have to go into debt to have a wedding,” says Mahler, emphatically. And yet it seems entirely plausible that a couple would run that risk. The Knot just released its annual Real Weddings Study, and the average cost of a Brooklyn wedding rings in at $46,808.
So how do they come up with that number? We dug into the prices various wedding vendors charge, based upon a 100-person wedding, beginning with two planners.
At first impression, hiring a wedding planner may seem like a luxury to some couples, but planners could be your secret weapon in terms of saving both time and money.
Jonathan Stamper-Halpin, who, along with Alison Szleifer, runs Two Kindred Event Planners says, “While it’s an initial investment up front, paying for a planner will always save you money in the long run. Hopefully you’ll only do this once, which means you’re not an expert, and it’s inevitable that some mistakes will be made, but if you have an advocate working with you from the start, we’ll make sure those mistakes don’t happen, and find other ways to save throughout the process.”
Not all couples are ready or capable to do the kind of research and legwork required in finding the ideal venue and vendors, or managing the flow of a 100-person or more event, and that’s where experienced wedding planners come in. Mahler says she bases her pricing off of guest count so the bigger the event, the more work = the more it will cost you. She offers services as simple as Day of Direction ($1000-$2400) all the way up to full planning ($4,000-$10,000). With a Masters in Dance, Mahler also offers the First Dance package, where she personally choreographs and works with the couples to ensure their first dance is a memorable one.
While Mahler bases her pricing on headcount, Stamper-Halpin and Szleifer base their pricing on the amount of work necessary and offer their couples everything from Month of Management (starting at $2950) to customized Partial Planning and Full Service Planning (beginning at $9950), all of which include wedding day coordination.
How fancy you get with your invitations really depends upon how much you care about formality and overall first impressions. An affordable option that looks amazing, says Mahler of PRIVILEGE, is Vista Print, where invitations start at $7.30.
For a more upscale invitation suite, she likes the custom work of Ink and Nibs. Their Save the Date cards for a 100-person wedding start at $750 with printed return address envelopes; you can add calligraphy to each envelope for an additional $350. Custom invitations with RSVP cards for the same wedding is an average investment of $1,000 including custom watercolor illustrations, calligraphy and lettering as needed, with the same-add on for calligraphy on each envelope. So all in, this would be around $2500.
For similarly standout invitations, Two Kindred’s Jonathan Stamper-Halpin recommends Lion in the Sun. The Park Slope paperie offers custom invitations by a number of printers and designers, including their own exclusive collection PostScript Brooklyn. Owner Melinda Morris says a mid-range invitation suite can run anywhere from $8 to upwards of $30 per for a 100-person wedding, which translates to anywhere from $800 to $3000, not including Save the Dates. “Digital printing like a Vista Print is going to be the least expensive, but you do make concessions on paper and print quality,” she says. “There are many affordable options for thermography printing and letterpress on high-quality paper stock that can still be in the $8-$15 range.”
“Brooklyn has a lot of options if you are willing to think outside the box and seek out more non-traditional spaces,” says Mahler. She sees lots of couples choose The Dumbo Loft located on Water Street just a few steps from Brooklyn Bridge Park. The 3000-square-foot space can accommodate 140 seated or 200 standing and costs between $2500-$4500 depending on the day of the week, any time of year.
Another favorite according to Mahler is The Greenpoint Loft, a converted pre-WWII rope factory boasting views of the Manhattan Skyline. The space has a 5000-square foot main room, a 1000-square foot mezzanine level as well as a rooftop and can accommodate up to 185 guests and runs between $6,000-$9,500 depending on the day of the week, any time of year.
Both spots are owned and operated by BK Venues.
Stamper-Halpin and Szleifer suggest 501 Union, a 3,500 square foot venue located in Gowanus featuring three distinct spaces: an open-air courtyard, a cocktail lounge and a reception hall that can accommodate 160 seated with room for a dance floor or 299 standing. Their rental fees range from $5,000-$12,600 depending on the day of the week as well as the month. Right now they and their sister venue The Green Building are offering a Summer Wedding Package through March 31 that allows you to book the venue at up to 30% off the normal cost for non-Saturday weddings.
We randomly chose the next few vendors—a number of which appear at our annual wedding fair, Wedding Crashers—either directly from the preferred vendor lists on the 501 Union and BK Venues sites or from Two Kindred and THE PRIVILEGES’s recommendations.
Caterers and Cake
All three venues featured Ryan Brown Catering New York on their Preferred Vendor List so we reached out to Brown to find out what a couple could expect to pay for catering. Brown, whose specialty is farm-to-table New American cuisine, told us his standard, seated dinners, which include a selection of hors-d’oeuvres, two courses seated and either a plated dessert or dessert table begin at $85 per person plus an additional $40-$50 a person for staffing for a total of $135 per guest.
For couples who opt for a cocktail party format instead, Brown offers a selection of between ten to twelve hors d’oeuvres choices beginning at $60 per person with an additional $30 for staffing for a total of $90 per person.
“Whenever possible if the venue and logistics permit it, we encourage people to provide their own beverages as a way of saving money,” he suggests. According to Brown, clients providing their own beverages can expect to pay approximately $20 per person for a full bar at a sort of mid-range tier while his own packages start at $25 for preferred beer and wine and go up to $42.50 for top shelf well.
501 Union requires all beverage service to be contracted through the venue with a 75 person minimum buyout. Their basic bar packages of beer, wine and soft drinks only start at $42 per person and go up to $72 per person for a premium bar (i.e., top shelf, six signature cocktails) with an 18% staffing fee added. As part of their Summer Wedding Package, you can add on a signature cocktail to the basic bar package for the same price.
Brown says one thing couples should be aware of when reviewing catering pricing is that unless specified, the rates do not include rentals (i.e.: flatware, glassware, china, tables, chairs, linens) or delivery, transportation, administrative fees or city, state, local taxes, so all of that needs to be budgeted for too. (We compiled tips for hiring a caterer, here).
For more out-of-the-box and wallet-friendly catering concepts, you could bring in a vendor like The Food Truck Catering Company to feed your guests. We talked to their Events Director Debbie Kaye who told us they work with a variety of different trucks like Eddies Pizza, Takumi Taco, and Gotham Poke to offer almost any type of cuisine: Hawaiian, American, Italian, Japanese, Mexican and Fusion. They can even accommodate all dietary options including kosher. Prices begin at $1400 for up to 100 guests.
When it comes to traditional wedding cakes, Nine Cakes, one of the preferred vendors the 501 Union site, offers theirs starting at $10 a slice. A more modern take on cakes would be Momofuku Milk Bar’s iconic “naked cakes”; a 3-tier one that can serve 120 guests is $700.
Flowers can really bring a space to life and one of the preferred vendors on the BK Venues site recommends MC Nino Designs Florals and Events for the big day.
We spoke to owner Maria Nino who advised, “We don’t have set prices or base our pricing on table counts. We find out what the couple wants and give them a proposal. Then we take it from there. A wedding with a very minimal budget might start at $3500, but a price like that wouldn’t include a Chuppah if it’s a Jewish wedding because a lot of work and detail goes into those types of pieces,” Nino warns. “I’ve done $3500 and I’ve done $50,000 budgets when it comes to flowers. We’ve done it all,” she says.
Buds of Brooklyn, a floral design studio specializing in Brooklyn weddings, comes highly recommended by Two Kindred Event Planners. Like MC Nino, owners Nicole Cannon and Connie Tolan have worked in all three venues. Says Cannon, “An average wedding for us ranges from $5,000-$12,000, depending on size and number of guests and reception tables.”
Finally, Starling, a floral and event planning service that works with 501 Union and The Green Building, offers streamlined floral packages that start at roughly $3000 for a 120-person wedding.
Not every venue has access to or provides the kind of decor and seating you may like for your guests. In general, what you may save by booking a raw space, you will often need to fill with rentals that do not come with the venue–such as a lounge area for guests or the kind of chairs you prefer for your ceremony. While every wedding’s orders will vary, ACME, a rentals company recommended on the 501 site, says that a spend of about $2000 for rentals and delivery is a fair starting point.
Weddings can take months of planning, but they are over in the blink of an eye, so you want to make sure you’ve got a professional capturing the big day.
Photographer Lacey Gabrielle, who comes recommended by BK Venues, advises, “Choosing a photographer can be tough and it’s one of those things you don’t want to skimp on when it comes to your budget. Sadly, I’ve heard too many horror stories! However, I do understand people have a budget they want to stick to so figuring out all of their options and how they can save is important.”
Gabrielle, who has covered weddings in all three venues offers two options: A 7-hour ($3600) and a 10-hour package ($4400), both of which come with a second photographer. The main difference in the packages is the amount of getting ready and reception shots taken.
To cut costs, Gabrielle recommends hiring an Associate Photographer instead of a Senior Photographer which can save between $500-$1,000 or alternatively, couples can opt for only one photographer in their package and save a few hundred dollars.
Chaz Cruz Photography has also covered weddings in all three venues and comes recommended by both 501 Union and Laura G. Mahler.
Cruz, who specializes in editorial portraiture and weddings, says, “A photo budget range is pretty broad, as it’s dependent on the photographer’s experience, style and how long they are covering the event for.” In general in New York City most experienced photographers fall within the middle tier of pricing, which can be between $4,000-$8,000, while the high-end photography pricing here starts at $8,000. Cruz himself says he falls into the high middle tier with 10+ years in wedding photography in the NYC market.
Couples should be aware when hiring a photographer that the fee typically includes a set number of photos and that photo albums, which can run $1000+, are usually a separate cost.
Some couples may opt for a band and the price for live music often varies significantly. Lucy Music, recommended on the 501 Union site, represents a range of bands (a number of which will be performing at our upcoming Party Crashers showcase on March 18). For cocktail hour music, an ensemble like Soft as a Pear runs around $1000, while the popular Tribute String Quartet costs $1400. For your reception, one of their dance bands, The Loyales, can cost $6900 for a six-piece format, while another oft-booked band on their roster, The Engagements, can run up to $10,700. Both are $500 less if they are not providing cocktail hour music.
If it’s a DJ you want, 501 Union and Two Kindred both recommend 74 Events, a DJ service that employs a roster of 20+ DJs. Owner Gary Hoffman says the average wedding gig runs six hours and their standard rate is $1850 in the tri-state area.
Adding it all up
There really is no average wedding budget or typical wedding, for that matter. If you’re foodies, you may want to go out all on the food and drink and skimp on things like décor, while others may elect to splurge on a live band and save on food by doing a buffet or food trucks. It will all depend on your personalities as a couple, and of course, your budget.
What we can tell you now that we’ve dug into the costs is that a Brooklyn wedding for 100 guests can start at roughly $20,000 and go up from there depending on day, month and dining format.
Here are some examples:
A “budget” Brooklyn wedding for 100 guests on a weeknight
Online Invitations: $730
Day of wedding coordination: $1000
Venue (Dumbo Loft): $2500
Food Truck Format Dining: $1400+
Bar, with own alcohol: $2500
Decor Rentals: $2000
$19,180 plus taxes, administrative fees and other line items (like a gown and favors)
(We profiled a wedding that cost even less, through the help of friends.)
A high-end Brooklyn wedding for 100 guests on a Saturday night in June
Wedding Planning (up to a year out): $7,000
Custom invitations: $4000
Venue (501 Union): $12,600
Catering: $13,500 ($135+ per person)
Bar: $7,250 ($72.50+ per person)
Cocktail Hour Music: $1400
9-piece live band: $10,200
$72,950 plus taxes, administrative fees and other line items
A more streamlined version at the same venue on Thursday night in June
Online Invitations: $730
Venue (501 Union): $5,600 using their Summer Wedding Package
Catering: $9000 ($90+ per person)
Bar: $4,400 ($44+ per person)
$29,280 plus taxes, administrative fees and other line items
Two of these scenarios fall right into the national average for weddings, $33,391 according to The Knot. What did you spend on your Brooklyn wedding? We’d love to hear in the comments how you splurged and where you saved.