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Weddings, as we all know, are breathtakingly…expensive. Which is why we take great joy in knowing that behind every overpriced canapé, there’s a bride outsmarting the system. Case in point: Brooklyn bride, Rachel (and her sweet hubby, Matt). The key to executing their Pinterest-perfect nuptials—and saving a colossal $18,000 in the process? Tech-savviness, thoughtful research...and enchanting their local network. Here’s how they did it.

RELATED: How This Bride Pulled Off Her Dreamy Green Mountains Wedding and Stayed On Budget (Well, Just $600 Over)  

FLORALS

“At the start, I went straight to well-known wedding vendors to do my florals, making the incorrect assumption that my regular florist would be well beyond my price point. After some frustrating research—and ridiculous wedding minimums to the tune of $5,000 in NYC—I went to our local florist, told her my budget, and she was happy to work within it. No minimum required because she knew me (and because I give her long-term business). This meant, I had all the peony centerpieces and bouquets of my dreams capping out at $1,400 total.” 

Savings: $3,600

TAILORING

First, the bridal salon told me that I needed to pay for a custom pattern ($600), plus alterations ($800). Red flag! Why do I need a custom pattern if I'm going to get it altered to fit anyway? I chatted with a seamstress (and some folks in the wedding dress biz, including someone who worked for the actual dress designer) and they said it was a scam. I paid for my dress and took it to be altered somewhere else for just $500 total.”

Savings: $700

HAIR & MAKEUP

Fun fact: Glamsquad does weddings! I used them for both my hair and makeup—they even did a trial in advance where they came to my doorstep. It was perfect day-of because I didn't have to pay the over-the-top transportation fees charged by typical brick-and-mortar salons, and I could handle everything through an app, tipping included. A game-changer day of when you're all, but wait, where do I carry cash?!”

Savings: $700

INVITATIONS

I love paper, so this was a must-have for me, but instead of shelling out on a well-known vendor with a super-high price tag, I tapped a friend who I knew who was starting a wedding invitation biz. I agreed to let her use my invite for all her promotional materials, and she gave me an awesome rate in exchange. (Instead of spending $3,000+, I only spent $1,000 total.)” 

Savings: $2,000

DESSERT

“Our donut tower in lieu of a traditional cake was a huge money saver at just $300 versus $1,500. Plus, we got them from Dough so they were completely delicious!”

Savings: $1,200

LODGING

“I researched hotels to stay in the night before our wedding, but ended up settling on an Airbnb instead, since I could pick a place with multiple rooms for a much cheaper rate. I really wanted a space that was photogenic and where my bridesmaids could spread out and chill. I was debating booking a suite at a hotel in Williamsburg for $1,500 a night (crazy town!). When I decided to research Airbnbs, I happened upon a brand-new listing—and when I popped by to see it, the family mentioned that they also had an unlisted adjoining apartment that was gorgeous. Stand-alone full-length mirrors and all. And the price? Just $250 a night, plus $200 a night for the second space.”

Savings: $1,050

CATERING

We eliminated fish from our wedding menu entirely, which shaved $6 off per head (kind of major). Apparently, there's a lot prep work involved with fish on the menu, so when we point blank asked our caterer how to trim costs, she suggested this. Done!”

Savings: $594

WINE

“My caterer was amazing and had relationships with preferred vendors, but vendors typically charge a per head fee for booze. On a whim I asked my local wine shop, and they immediately offered to beat any rate. They also had an incredible buy back program for anything unopened even if the wine/booze was chilled. The day before we left for our honeymoon, we got a credit back for $800 worth of unopened rosé. (It was chilly, so the wine-drinkers opted for red.) 

Savings: $800

MUSIC

We wanted a live band for the evening, but simply couldn't afford it, so we compromised by booking a jazz band for just our ceremony entrance and cocktail hour (this way, we only had to pay by the hour—$2,400 in total). It set the tone while people sipped French 75’s at sunset, and then for the reception, our guests could dance and request favorite tunes from Whitney Houston to Journey from the DJ (who was only $1,000 for six hours). Best of both worlds!” 

Savings: $7,800

RACHEL’S VENDORS

Photographer: Christine Han
Catering: Naturally Delicious
Alcohol: Brooklyn Wine Exchange
Flowers: Edelweiss Floral
Doughnuts: Dough
Dress: Marchesa
Venue: Smack Mellon (Ceremony and Reception); Jane’s Carousel (Cocktails)
Invitations: Smile Pickle
Band: Baby Soda Jazz Band
Hair and Makeup: Glamsquad

RELATED: A Postmortem With A Real Bride About Her Florida Wedding

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