My Frugal Simcha features reader’s stories about their beautiful simchas – on a budget. If you have hosted a budget-friendly wedding, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Brit Milah or other simcha, we’d love to read about it! Please fill out this form to submit your story.
By Linda Lebovic
The year before last, I sent my 20 year old daughter Malka off to Camp Stone in Northern Pennsylvania to work as a counselor teaching in the Beit Midrash. I never thought she would fall in love with her Rosh Beit Midrash, Mike. Within months they were engaged, and by last winter we were looking for the ‘perfect’ place to have a wedding.
The sentimental favorite was to return to camp, where the fairy tale began, but the idea of ‘roughing’ it didn’t appeal to anyone, until…
The cheapest photographer we could find was around $6,000, florists were $2,500 and up, and the caterer – in Maryland – was at least $10,000! (And if you are having the wedding at a place that does not have a kosher kitchen, the price nearly doubles).
Add in invitations and a slew of other ‘necessities,’ and soon a small wedding on a budget with 150-200 guests easily runs into the upper 20’s, if not 30’s. Everything in a wedding is sticker shock!
All of a sudden the idea of roughing it didn’t seem so bad at all. The camp director assured us that it was his pleasure to host such a beautiful event, and in fact felt it was his social duty to bring the cost of Jewish weddings back from the brink of affordability.
We took a deep breath and decided to go for it, even though we had no idea what to expect. The last time we had seen camp housing, or camp at all, was when Malka was going into 8th grade!
It turned out to be incredible.
The venue was free. We hired a caterer from Cleveland who was amazing and accepted the challenge to work with us on a destination wedding. We hired a local florist, who just did the bridal bouquet, bridesmaids bouquets, and boutonnieres. That alone was $400 (like I said, florists are expensive).
We made our own center pieces, which turned out amazing. We took branches from around camp, bought silver spray paint from Walmart, sprayed the branches, bought candles (Walmart, again), and laid out fern leaves (the florist threw the leaves in for free). It was just perfect.
We also made the place cards. I bought leaves and a paint marker from Michael’s and wrote everyone’s names and table numbers on the leaves. I had my mother-in-law make personalized “stones” (Camp Stone) out of polymer clay and hot glued them on the leaves.
My husband, an artist, designed our invitations and had them printed at a local printer. To save a bit more, we did email RSVP. I added a little gemstone (another play on the name, Camp Stone) on each invite, which added just the right touch. Beautiful!
Our daughter bought her dress off the rack at a bridal warehouse in NYC. We took it to a local seamstress to make it more modest. Our other daughter and I bought our dresses at Macy’s and Banana Republic. My two sons and husband bought matching suits at H&M.
That left us with two more big expenses — the photographer and band. A friend of ours really wanted to get in the simcha photo business so we took the leap and went with him, paying for his expenses and a bit more. The pictures are fantastic!
The band was really important to our future son-in-law, so Mike’s family negotiated a price with the band and promised to use them at their other son’s wedding! Remember you can always negotiate. The band was amazing!
The whole wedding took place outdoors, from the Chasson’s Tish to the dancing to the meal. We had beautiful June weather. The kids got married under a gazebo at the lake. Their friends bought fabric from Walmart and designed the chuppah. From there, an Amish man drove them away from the chuppah by horse and buggy. (There are only Amish who live around the camp!)
The best surprise of all – being that Camp Stone is out in the boonies (The nearest airport is 1.5 hours away, and it’s a 6 hour drive from Baltimore) – is that 130 people came! Amazing!! And everyone stayed until the END! It was midnight and people were still hanging around. There was nowhere else to go. That was such a bonus and so appreciated. Usually, people leave a wedding before dessert, because we all have such busy lifestyles.
There were about 60 kids, and they all stayed in Tzvet (counselor) bunks. Most of our relatives stayed in mishpachot (family) housing, which was not “campy” at all and worked out great. Ten of our dear friends came and stayed in the camp’s malon (hotel), and a few people stayed at the local Comfort Inn about 20 minutes away. To make it extra special, 60 of us stayed for Shabbat Sheva Brachot, which camp catered at an affordable price.
It was truly a destination fairy tale wedding on a budget! And the kids loved it! Yay – Success!
The My Frugal Simcha series is being sponsored this month by SimchaCentre.com, home to the “bencher pen” craze. Find deals on kippahs, benchers, ketubahs and more for your next simcha at SimchaCentre.com.
Linda lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Linda was a stay at home mom when her kids were little. About 5 years ago when her youngest was in 8th grade, Linda started her own business, SWIRL. Linda handcrafts and designs beautiful and top quality serving utensils, glassware and giftware. You can check her out at www.swirlgifts.com!