It's Wedding Season
It’s wedding season.
The national average cost of a wedding is $35,329. That’s a crapload of money in my opinion, especially for just one day, but who am I to talk? Much to my embarrassment, my first wedding cost around $50,000. What can I say, other than that I was young and stupid and a very Orange County Cali Girl?
After that failed marriage and a complete waste of money (though it was an epic party), I never thought I would marry again. As the saying goes “never say never.” Lo and behold I found my person, Matt, and we found ourselves engaged within a few months of dating. It’s true, when you know, you know, and we didn’t spend much time bullshitting around. Matt was damn sure he wanted to marry me. Why waste time? So now we were engaged and had to start planning a wedding with a budget of $10,000 and guest list of 80+. To make it even more difficult we wanted to get married in NYC, probably one of the most expensive cities to have a wedding in.
The average budget for a New York City wedding is $88,176. I was seriously having doubt as to how we were gonna pull off a $10,000 one. We did it though, (and I have to say it was just as epic if not more so than my first one where the budget was ridiculous.)
Luckily there is one key way to hack the system. We got married “off season,” meaning wintertime. Prices are literally cut in half when you get married November - February. We still only found three places in NYC and the surrounding areas that were willing to work within our budget. Key things we were looking for in a venue: No need to decorate (cause we didn’t have the budget), ability to feed and hold 80+ guests (wheelchair accessible), and a wedding that lasted longer than 20 mins.
The first place was Liberty Hall. Located in Manhattan at the Ace Hotel, this venue offers food from their Michelin-starred pub The Breslin.
Pros: They would work with our $10,000.
Cons: We would only have the space for 4 hours, and we would need to provide decorations, as the venue downstairs was pretty bare.
The second venue was in Brooklyn, in a quaint brownstone home, converted to a party rental space. Maison May offers farm to table food in a beautiful space with a really cute backyard!
Pros: Could work within our budget and the food looked delicious.
Cons: The brownstone was not wheelchair accessible and the guests would be divided up for dinner.
The third venue we looked at was literally across the street from Chelsea Market in Manhattan: Toro.
This Spanish tapas restaurant had everything we wanted: delicious food, a great roomy space, awesome decor, and a 6-hour wedding time frame. They were so awesome and accommodating. Of course, we ended up going with them!
I cannot say enough good things about Toro. Seriously some of the best food I have ever had. Our menu included Bone Marrow, Foie Gras, and Duck, just to name a few dishes. Due to our budget, we did not have an open bar. If you let your friends know beforehand, it really isn’t a big deal. Honestly, I would rather spend money on good food rather than drinks, but if alcoholic beverages are something you want to provide, Toro will completely tailor your wedding just for you.
We didn’t need to decorate because Toro provided candles, and really that's all we needed. Plus, the restaurant has a really cool vibe already. There is a great back room available for private events or pretty much whatever you want. We used it for our cocktail hour while we did a Chinese Tea Ceremony in the main room. We also took some wedding pictures in front of their gorgeous backdrop with a tree.
As you can see, a budget wedding is totally doable in the city. We were able to have an amazing venue, delicious food, and over 80 friends and family on hand to share our big day. Plus, after the ceremony and dinner, Toro allowed us to open up the rest of the evening to friends that we couldn’t invite earlier. Roughly 50 more friends were able to spend the evening celebrating with us.
All wedding photos in this piece by Mari Uchida Photography
Alex Chester is the creator and producer of the theatre company WeSoHapa - a theatre based on diversity and inclusion. She is a New York City based columnist for On Stage Blog and contributing writer for ManhattanDigest.com and HuffPo. She also hosts a podcast with fellow writer Melissa Slaughter, We're Not All Ninjas. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram @AlexFChester if you like food and cats.