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 Rachel Honeyman
Nothing about my wedding resembled what I’d always pictured as a little girl, but it was my dream wedding, nonetheless.
I always imagined myself getting married in a beautiful garden in the spring. I’d walk down the aisle to meet my husband-to-be under a chuppah adorned with the most exquisite flowers and branches, and we’d have the most incredible photographs to commemorate the event.
But… that’s not exactly how it went down. And thank G-d it didn’t! Instead, my winter wedding (in the midst of a blizzard, nonetheless) cost less than $12,000 and was still the most magical day of my life.
So how did I do it?
The first and most important piece of the frugal puzzle is recognizing that your wedding is just a vehicle for marrying the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. The intricate details really don’t matter at the end of the day, and even if you don’t have your “dream” wedding, it can still be the most beautiful, wonderful day of your life – and it should be!
Okay, now that I have that pep talk out of the way…
The biggest money saver for me was getting married in New York instead of in Miami, where my fiancé and I were both living, and where I grew up. Many people in the frum world just assume you have to get married in the bride’s hometown, but if you want to save a pretty penny, New York is the way to go.
Why New York?
Obviously, if you want to throw a $50,000+ wedding in NY, you could do so easily. But, one thing NY has to offer that you can’t find in a smaller town is the option of all-inclusive wedding halls.
I was nervous, at first, about having my wedding in an all-inclusive hall, as I knew it would limit my options, but I was pleasantly surprised. The hall we got married in, Sasson V’Simcha in Brooklyn, gave us a set price for 300 people, which included space, catering, parking, the chuppah, and all the small details you could easily forget about, like the Kiddush cup and wine for the ceremony.
The food options were not vast, but what they had was delicious (or so I heard – I think the bride rarely gets to eat at her own wedding!) and the wait service was excellent.
Open Your Mind
Once I had the wedding hall taken care of (which, by the way, was also a breeze to book) it was time to figure out the rest – my dress, the band, etc. These details were the things I was most worried about, and that most people drive themselves crazy over. But I kept reminding myself of that most important piece of the puzzle – at the end of the day, the details don’t matter, as long as I’m marrying the love of my life. This reminder made all my decisions easier, and more affordable.
I have to say, I got very lucky when it came to my dress. When I tell people about how I found my wedding dress, they almost can’t believe it. But I guarantee you could have a similar experience if you open your mind.
My mother’s good friend, Sue, is a wedding planner. About 3 days after I got engaged, Sue called me up and said, “I have a former client’s wedding gown in my closet. She gave it to me in case anyone ever needed it. Would you like to come try it on?” I agreed and thanked her, but never expected it to work out.
Well, sure enough, I tried on the dress and it fit me perfectly. It needed no alterations, and all I would have to do would be to make a jacket of some kind, since it was sleeveless.
Now, was this the dress I had always pictured myself in? Not by a long shot. I never wanted a train, I wasn’t a big fan of satiny material, and I always wanted a dress that was about as poofy as it could get. This was not that. But was it beautiful anyway? Absolutely.
I knew that if I went to bridal stores and tried on other gowns, I’d be tempted to spend a lot of money unnecessarily. So, I stuck with the gown that was exquisite, but cost me less than $200 with the minor alterations I made.
So how does this apply to you?
There are tons of opportunities to find a free or very inexpensive bridal gown. Of course, there are gemachs, but you should also think about your friends’ wedding gowns. Many of your friends are likely to still have their gowns. If you are around the same size, you may be able to borrow a dress fairly easily.
Just keep an open mind. You may not find your dream dress, but there are so many beautiful dresses out there, you’re likely to find something that makes you look like a princess anyway.
If you go to a printer for your invitations, you’re likely to spend an arm and a leg on something that people look at once and toss in the trash as soon as the wedding is over. What I did instead was order my invitations directly from Invitations123.com. They have a large assortment of options for styles and pricing, and I got beautiful Hebrew/English invitations for less than $300.
I grew up in a very musical family, and the last thing I wanted was cheesy music at my wedding – which, I’m sorry to say, many frum weddings are subject to. But I also didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a large band.
Luckily, we were set on a singer because my husband’s best friend is an excellent wedding singer (look up Dovid Stein if you’re in the market for a phenomenal wedding singer), and his voice was his gift to us. But we still had to deal with the band. Dovid recommended a one-man band as the most affordable option. The first thing that came to mind was Bert from Mary Poppins, and I immediately refused. After some coaxing, I caved, recognizing that I’d be saving thousands of dollars by doing it this way. And you know what? I honestly couldn’t even tell the difference between the one-man band and a full multi-piece band. And it cost me under $1,000.
One of the first things my husband-to-be and I agreed we’d do to cut costs was not hire a videographer. We both felt (and still feel!) that it’s a waste of money, since if you’re lucky, it might get watched once. Usually, your wedding video will sit collecting dust on a shelf, never to be touched. So, right there, we saved a couple thousand dollars.
The photographer is the one part of my wedding I really do regret scrimping on. We paid very little (also less than $1,000) and discovered the hard way – you get what you pay for! We did come out of it with a few nice photos, but I do wish we had spent a little more to get better quality pictures of our special day.
With that said, there is absolutely no reason to spend upwards of $10,000 on a photographer for a wedding (of which I’ve heard tale)! Honestly, our best photos were taken by a friend of ours on a regular digital camera. Don’t just use the most expensive photographer because all your friends use him or her. Shop around, find a photographer with an artistic style that speaks to you, and find the best price you can.
After nearly 2.5 years of marriage, I’m happy to say that my wedding was incredible, and with the exception of the photographer, I wouldn’t change a thing. Going into my wedding planning with the attitude I did allowed me to actually enjoy the process, and not to get stressed out or bogged down by the details. Some of my friends questioned my sanity at the time because I was so relaxed! Keep things in perspective and you can have an equally enjoyable experience.
Rachel Honeyman is a freelance writer, specializing in grant consulting for Jewish nonprofits. She and her husband live in sunny Miami, where they don’t have to deal with blizzards!