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 Surella Baer
When my son got engaged to an amazing girl from a really nice family, I knew that planning the wedding was going to be pretty easy. Neither side wanted to spend a lot of money, so we started out with an understanding that this would be a “no frills” wedding. I was SO relieved. It’s so great when you are both on the same page that spending a lot of money is just insane, especially when you don’t have the funds to do so.
I’m lucky that we live in Queens, New York, and there are many options for wedding halls. The challenge was that we had to pass on anything remotely fancy. We decided that we were fine with a plain and simple place, and that spending money to have nice wallpaper in the ladies room isn’t necessary.
We picked one in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – Ateres Chynka – because their package was unmatched by anyone else. At first I was uncomfortable because although my son and wife are very frum, I am modern and the separate seating was a little off-putting. They were lovely to us, though.
The package was $20,000 including food for 550 people, which is a great deal in New York. Split with the other side, the initial wedding cost was $10,000. We chose to keep the menu very simple, which meant that the hall was really able to shine with what they did. The food was delicious!
Plus, they sent us home with all the uneaten food, which we used for the Shabbos Sheva Brochus.
The Kallah had a lovely room, but we did have grin and bear the Chosson’s dressing room, which was an unfinished room filled with pipes hanging everywhere. Even still, the wedding was awesome and that was a small price to pay for a much more affordable simcha overall.
For invitations, we went simple with my niece designing the monogram (pictured above) — I paid her with a gift certificate to Zappos. The couple did choose to splurge on a lovely insert about the beauty of tznius at a wedding.
For decorations, the Kallah decided she didn’t want flowers at all, not even rented, because she couldn’t justify the expense. We decided, therefore, to do candles, which turned out to be lovely. I found very inexpensive candle holders and tapers at a dollar store in Astoria. I know I sure didn’t notice the absence of flowers, and I’m happy to say the Kallah was right about it.
We did rent some arrangements for her Kallah’s chair, which we later moved to behind the Choson and Kallah’s table. I’m not sure if they were necessary, but it made her mother happy and wasn’t very costly.
My wonderful daughter-in-law also decided she did not want special colors or bridesmaids, which saved my family a good deal of money in terms of our own attire. For the Kallah’s dress, she found something beautiful at a gmach. And everyone’s makeup was done by my daughter’s friend. She’s not a makeup artist, but she did a very good job and we were able to have it done at home, so it was very low pressure.
One cautionary tale: The in-laws picked the photographer because he was cheapest, but the photos were horrible. Even the photo album was terrible. I ended up making one online for her because I felt SO bad. Lesson learned: photos are important so don’t necessarily go with the cheapest.
Surella is a wife, mother and grandmother living in Queens, NY. She has three children and four grandchildren. She’s a retired bookkeeper, and has a cherished book club. Her husband’s work is kind of seasonal, so she has just gotten into the habit of not spending money. KOAB has opened up a whole world of money saving strategies for her – priceless!