Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Years off of my life

This whole trying to plan wedding thing.... good lord, is it difficult.

And I'm not talking about a fancy-schmancy wedding, although in my secret heart of hearts, I'd love one. But we can't afford $30,000--and actually, a lot of Americans can't for that matter.

But right now, I'd just settle on being able to find a rabbi to marry us who DOESN'T charge $750 for his services (that is the CHEAPEST I've found), as well as a location to get married in.

Does anyone have a lovely farm or outdoor location in NJ that you'd like to let me use for one day, for a reasonable fee? =) Or perhaps you'd like to rent me a ballroom with all the extravagant catering... but naah, that's in my dreams. =)

Thanks for listening folks.

And may I recommend this wonderful website, www.indiebride.com; I find that there are so many people on the message boards who are going through the same trouble we are, with it being an interfaith marriage, and then not having a fortune to spend. It makes me feel much less alone in this whole confusing wedding planning mess. =)


Anonymous said...

Eeek!!!!! $30,000 is a lot of money to spend on a wedding.

BTW -- Jenny, did you ever announce who won your birthday sonnet contest? Some people I know entered, so I was curious. :)

Anonymous said...


Lots of towns have "Women's Clubs" with nice facilities and grounds. I attended a wedding (many years ago now) at one in Plainfield that had nice grounds, a great ballroom with stage, a reception area -- even a "bride's room" upstairs. I know there is one in Maplewood, one in Morristown -- not sure of grounds in either one. You bring in your own caterer, purchase liquor yourself, etc.

Good luck...

December Quinn said...

Oh boy, do I remember the difficulty of wedding planning!

We got married on a yacht (we lived in Ft. Lauderdale, but there's a river in NY, right? ;) ) It was much less expensive than it sounds, especially with catering included in the price. You could even get married by the ship's captain if you wanted--but they had the names and numbers of a bunch of wedding officiants they'd worked with.

Aside from that, my favorite savings tip we used was we didn't buy bouquets. We went to the farmer's market the evening before and bought 4 dozen roses for like $35, and each of my bridesmaids carried one, with a ribbon tied around it. My Mom made my bouquet and the boutenierres (sp?) with florist's tape and ribbon, and they looked beautiful. Considering that a bouquet can cost a hundred bucks or more...it was good.

Good luck! Seruously, look for a venue and see who they recommend.

Kelly Swails said...

Weddings are a pain in the neck. My advice is always "Elope." There's just so much family drama--everyone's got an opinion--and expense. And the wedding industry is such a racket. "People use these little glass candle holders for weddings? Let's charge $19.99 instead of $5.99!"

The only thing that matters is the love you and Chris have for each other. That alone will make your wedding day awesome. The rest is fluff.

Hope I made you feel better!

Bernita said...

My niece has a similar problem - trying to find a rabbi and a Baptist minister who wouldn't roll the whites of their eyes at each other!
My daughter and her husband just went to TO city hall - both the ceremony and the venue were surprisingly tasteful, with no suggestion of a marriage mill.

Aimee said...

The Big Day

This is a site my friends used to have people make donations towards their honeymoon -- people could buy a night in a hotel, or a part of the airfare, or whatever. Maybe it'd be helpful for you?

DementedM said...

If you haven't looked at it already, try the parks system. Not sure how it works in NJ, but where I'm at our park system has all these old estates including the one where Humphrey Bogart married Lauren Bacall and they do weddings.

When I got married the average cost was $14k and I think we spent around $5k on our wedding/reception. It's definitely possible to cut your expenses, just keep looking!

Oh, but don't skimp on the photos. Definitely pay whatever it costs to get good pics/video because those will be priceless in the future.


Laura Kramarsky said...

If you want to come up to Westchester county, NY, you can get married in my back yard...it's quite lovely, actually!

I was 39 and my husband 42 when we got married (1st marriages for both of us) and we couldn't handle planning a wedding (or paying for one) so we went to Vegas and got married in a normal (not Elvis) ceremony, then had a big party when we got home. I recommend it ;D

hollymc said...

Oh wow, sounds like a lot of stress. I hope you guys find what you're looking for.

Rachel said...

Have you tried the Hillel at Rutgers (or other vaguely local colleges)? My Rabbi only cost around 300 and I found her on fairly short notice through a B'more Hillel after my previously scheduled rabbi disappeared off the face of the earth. Although, surprisingly, when calling around, I did get a few "I don't do weddings" which I thought was weird-one would think weddings would be one of the best things about being a rabbi...

Tawna Fenske said...

You have my sympathies, Jenny! I hope you find a lovely and inexpensive place for your big day.

Just over nine years ago, DH and I got married during halftime at a Portland Trailblazer game. We won a contest, and they provided everything from flowers to rings to wedding attire to honeymoon. All we had to do was show up and not pass out as we tied the knot in front of 21,000 people.

Best. Wedding. Ever.

Virtually no stress, no planning, no costs involved. Heck, even our engagement was a simple, "hey honey, we just won a wedding next Friday, want to get married?" ("uh, sure," he replied).

So maybe you could elope?!

Whatever you do, good luck!

Anonymous said...

My sister got married in Charleston, SC in a protestant Non-denominational church. The service was lovely and the wedding party afterward was a barbecue and salad bar / oyster bar. She had a wedding cake and a fruit bar on the dessert table. They didn't have a band, but my nephew played DJ and did a great job.
My wedding was on a tight budget too - at a farm, under a big tent. We had a barbecue, roasted potatoes, salad - and no wedding cake, but lots of fresh fruit and pastries for dessert. I was all for everyone sitting on bales of hay, but my inlaws rented tables and chairs.
It was a country wedding, so I told everyone to dress casual and we made it into a big barbecue.

Once you find the location, I guess the reast will be easier.
Good luck!!!

Yahzi said...

I had a long-time friend ordained over the internet, and he officiated at my wedding.

Why invite an expensive stranger to your wedding?


Jenny Rappaport said...

Oh wow, lots of great tips! Especially the one about women's clubs, which I didn't know even existed in NJ anymore.

And laura, can you e-mail me privately? I might as well look at pretty pictures of your backyard, at the very least. =)

We've tried most of the public parks and other stuff in the state, but the problem is that they're all booked. We can't do a Saturday wedding, except at night, since it's Shabbos (Jewish Sabbath). And even though I've found some lovely outdoor places, like the Rutgers Botanical Gardens, they are literally booked on every Sunday this summer, and they had four Fridays open, that was it. For the entire summer. And my mother, who I love dearly, vetoed the idea of a Friday daytime wedding, since she didn't think that anybody would want to take off of work to come.

Anonymous said...

I got married by a JP in the living room of our new (tiny) house. My mom brought the cake. My MIL brought the flowers. Guests brought the food (sandwich fixin's).

I bought a ivory dress and shoes (not a wedding dress). (now ex) Hubby wore a suit and tie. Hubby bought the wine and beer.

Total cost out of our pockets? Less than $300.

LauraB said...

Well, I can understand your mother's feelings, but 1) if they really matter to you, they'll take the day off and 2) if fewer people come, that's fewer people you need to feed, give favors to, rent chairs/tables for, etc.

My husband and I wrote our own non-denominational ceremony (we included poetry instead of religious readings) and were married by a female justice of the peace. She wore her long robes, and lots of people thought she was a minister. Legally, she couldn't accept payment or a gift for doing the ceremony.

It's easy to get sucked into all the things that the bridal magazines say you need, but remember, all you *really* need is one another and a love that will carry you through the next fify or sixty years together!

Best wishes!


Anonymous said...

Is Bucks County, PA too far away? If not, my cousin just got married (outside) in Peddlers Village and had the local restaurant cater the reception in tents. I think it was all pretty reasonable (compared to other options)

Also, on the boat thing. You can get one of the dinner cruise boats for a wedding. Another cousin got married on one, we caught it on the Jersey side, the marraige took place before launch so the officiator was able to get off and then the reception started after launch.

Good Luck,

Lisa Mantchev said...

The biggest way to save money is to find a venue with on-site catering. That means a restaurant with a really lovely courtyard, or a smaller scale hotel with a commercial kitchen, or (as someone already mentioned) a dinner cruise.

I would absolutely second the farmer's market for flowers. And distribute disposable cameras to the guests, to be collected by a responsible member of the wedding party. Some of our best shots were candids shot by family members.

We burned our own CDs of dinner and dance music to save the cost of a DJ. And family members sang us down the aisle (my aunts) and made the desserts (my mom and his.) Take help wherever it's offered, and do what's best for the two of you!!

Jeff Lyman said...

Hey Jenny,

When Angel and I got married last year, we read somewhere that the average New York, New Jersey (outside of the city) wedding runs $25,000-$30,000. We tried really hard to keep costs down. I think we ended up at $27,000 in the end anyway. (Poor Angel had to have her dress lengthened twice. She's very tall. But so happy to have a dress that finally fit. She was gorgeous).

As for interfaith, :-), my best friend is Sicilian and his wife is Jewish and the families wouldn't bend on the ceremony. So we had two full weddings. Big Jewish ceremony out on Long Island, big Catholic full-mass ceremony in the Bronx. Huge party. Both the Italians and Jews do food really well.

Jeff Lyman

Marva said...

My hubby of 27 years and I found that a brief ceremony in front of the fish tank in our living room with a Universal Life minister seemed to work nicely. Save your money for big anniversary blowout. But, not the first. Wait for at least the fifth. Ya never know.

Eileen said...

Best advice I got when planning my wedding is that it is one day- as long as the end of the day you end up married to someone who you are glad to be married too things have turned out okay.

Linda said...

On site catering, ballroom, music . . . consider a cruise ship. Seriously! My guy and I are spending about $20,000 to get married aboard one this July in New York, and that money includes paying for taking ourselves and fourteen immediate relatives on a five night cruise to Canada. Many more, of course, will be attending the wedding and reception.

The cruise line's wedding department takes care of all the details (working with the bride and groom, of course!), like flowers, food and music. They arrange for an officiant, but I believe you can have your own IF they are licensed in the State of New York (or wherever you choose to do the deed). Our only hassle is having to trek to NYC for the marriage license, as we're in PA.

I'm closing in on my wedding day and can honestly say I've had a pretty stress-free time -- and people are crazy excited about attending. :)

kathie said...

Well, I can't help you with anything in NJ, but I wish you all the luck. Try to enjoy it, even in the midst of all this crap, there are teeny bits of joy to behold. Not that it's always easy to see them, but they're there. Keep us posted--I adore wedding details.

Kim said...

When I got married (10 years ago this June - YIKES!!!) we chose a church hall to hold our reception. It didn't matter that we weren't members (it was a Ukranian parish center, we're Roman Catholic - sort of-). The room was huge and not decorated with religious icons - they provided the linens. They did the catering and the food was fantastic. We supplied the liquor, but most liquor stores will allow you to return anything unopened for a full refund and they are almost dead on with suggestions for how much you might need. Total cost for my reception (not counting DJ, who was a friend, flowers, or photographer) $4800. A lot of parish centers don't care if you're a member of that church (or even that religion.) People still tell me what a great time they had!

I don't know how weddings work in the Jewish religion, but we shared the cost of our church flowers with the couple who were married after us. I think we chose very simple centerpieces for the guest tables, and my bridesmaids and I used our bouquets for the head table.

The suggestion of disposable cameras on the table is a great one because you get shots that the photog probably wouldn't.

I don't know if this was helpful, but it was fun to remember :)

DementedM said...

Oh, I didn't realize you're on such a short timeline! Oy. Ummm.

Well, do you have any historical buildings at all in the area? Older libraries, courthouses, anything? Call and see if they'd let you have a wedding.

A field where you could pitch a big tent will probably be easiest, but then you have to worry about the tent being available. And bathrooms.

What about a private ceremony and a public reception to be given at a later date to give you more time to find a place?

And since you're so short on time, perhaps contact an event planner? They'll have the network and connections you need. Although I think they can be pricey.

Do you have any PR buddies in publishing? Maybe they have some ideas?


Ryan Field said...

Anon @ 3:34 pm (jeanne) has a good point. I don't think New Hope, PA is that far away from where you are, Jenny. I'm only about two miles from Peddlers Village, just outside New Hope, and there are all kinds of nice, affordable ideas for very memorable weddings. There is also a wonderful "Little Shul", (hope I spelled that correctly)in New Hope that was once a one room school house, now converted, and I think you'd fall in love with it. I've offered my own property, just on the outskirts of New Hope, on several occassions to people for small weddings, and very inexpensively (we enjoy doing it). The only catch is that while I can handle a large group on the property, my parking space is limited to about thirty cars.

But if this is a large wedding, just three miles away from me there's a place called Bowmans Hill (you can google it; it's a large, wildlfower preserve on the Delaware), where you can reserve the park for weddings in advance and the scenery is spectacular.

Anne Harris said...

As a veteran of two weddings, I sympathize with your plight, Jenny. My first go-round we did the whole schmear with the dress and the hall and the caterers and everything. It was a year of nutsitude, esp. since I'm strong-willed, and so was my mother, if you get my drift.

The second time around, when Steve and I finally decided to get the legal paper after living together for seven years, it was a piece of cake -- everyone was so damn relieved we weren't living in sin anymore that they let us do as we damn well pleased. We got married at the courthouse and had a party. The cake topper? Bullwinkle and Natasha.

But all reminisence aside, I think it's good to go the more traditional route when it's your first (and hopefully last) trip down the aisle. I have very fond recollections of my first wedding and I wouldn't have done anything differently (and it makes the older folks happy).

Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Must add my 2 cents.
My DH and I did our own wedding 12 years ago. It was a costume wedding, and not religious at all...and only costs around $3000 (not that we could even afford that at the time!)

But I must advise trying to find a date after the summer. We married outside and were rained out by a mean thunderstorm right when the ceremony was to begin. Have you considered Sept/Oct? Lots of places won't be booked and the weather is much more cooperative.

Also, try historic homes/B&Bs. They'll be cheaper in the month between summer and the leaves turning, and the grounds will still be beautiful. Plus, the surroundings are so lovely that they often need little in the way of $$ flowers and other decorations!

Anonymous said...

I hate the way priests and rabbis charge for weddings. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Best of luck with your wedding plans.

Tori Scott said...

Intersting timing of this post. My husband is hoping to change careers soon. He's always been really good as an amateur photographer, and has done a little professionally. But he doesn't want to just be a portrait photographer.

We've been talking about trying to find a church for sale, and setting up shop as a wedding chapel, reception hall, studio, gallery, wedding photograper on site--kind of a one-stop shop.

And the one thing we've decided to do is make the prices very reasonable. Starting off married life $30,000 in debt just for a wedding is insane.

Now to just find the right place, and the financial backing...

Best of luck finding what you're looking for.

Tori Scott said...

Oh, one other thing. My husband and I got married 35 years ago...in an empty bookroom at the county courthouse. It was a spur of the moment wedding, we wore jeans and t-shirts, no witnesses, cost us $10 for the preacher, no reception.

In spite of the unusual wedding, it stuck.

Have you thought about having the wedding on the beach? Ask around to see if any family or friends are ordained and would be willing to officiate for free. Check on Craigslist for beginning photographers looking to build a portfolio who would take the pics for free and only charge you for the print copies.

See if there's a Bed and Breakfast in the area that might have a pretty garden for the service and reception. They might even be willing to provide the food.

writtenwyrdd said...

Have you considered asking the Unitarian Churches if they can accomodate the wedding party and/or the reception? Some of these are grand old buildings with huge reception halls. And you can even get a UU minister to accomodate your beliefs. (At least in my experience.)

Other denominations might not be as user friendly for those of other denominations, but UUs tend to be pretty open to that.

LadyBronco said...

My husband and I got married in my parents backyard. To save money, we hit all the crafty-type stores for decorations we made ourselves, and for things like arches and tents, we found a place to rent them from.

We placed disposable cameras on the tables, and got some fantastic pictures.
We had a friend that cooked all the food - we just went out and bought what he needed from the local warehouse club.

We also had the reception immediately following the wedding, so we saved mucho bucks there, as well.
Total cost was about five grand, and we are still told 14 years later that our wedding was the most fun and the most beautiful folks have ever gone to.
(Although, the 12 cases of champagne and the rented champagne fountain might have something to do with that! lol...)

Christine said...

Well, that's the price you pay for living so close to NYC :)

You should come on down here to South Jersey...we have tons of banquet halls, some with BYOC (bring your own catering) and some with in-house.

My dad is getting married next weekend and the reception is at a lovely place right on a lake. There's even an outdoor terrace you can get married on if you choose (they're going to a church).

Christine said...

Come to think of it, Massos Crystal Manor down here in Glassboro (which also has an attached outdoor ceremony thingy - it's GORGEOUS, very full of nature) gives a discount for Sunday weddings. My cousin got married there on a Sunday.

Jenny Rappaport said...

Christine, where in South Jersey? Everything in the Monmouth/Ocean county area is still hideously expensive.

I found a nice-looking place up in Englewood (all the way up by the GWB), but we need to see it in person and all, first.

And the BYOC thing is actually really important, since I need to have the wedding be kosher, and that costs an arm and a leg. So if I can get a kosher caterer who will do me nice food cheaply, and I can bring them in... that lets me invite more people to my party. =)

Anonymous said...

What about this place? http://www.monmouthmuseum.org/nilson.html
Have you tried it yet? It's only 400 sq ft so no sit down meal, but maybe a Sunday afternoon cocktail party vs tea type thing?

Anonymous said...

You might check out http://www.bbonline.com/nj/index.html and see if there's a Bed and Breakfast you could rent for the day. Wedding and reception, all in one place.