A New York Wedding & Reception for $175

by Marcy Rae

I'm going to tell you how I did the impossible: a New York City wedding and reception for under $175!

Let me first be upfront: this is not including wedding bands. (Two - 14-karat gold bands cost $300 cash at neighborhood jewelers. If we had used a credit card, they would have cost us $150 for my size 8 1/4 and $175 for my husband's size 11. We could have bought them at a pawnshop for considerably less but they didn't have my husband's size and the rings didn't match, which we wanted).

The dress was a name-brand chalk-pink sleeveless knee- length shift. I saw it for considerably more in a catalog than the $8.99 that I paid at Goodwill! I went to a bridal shop that was going out of business, selling shoes for $10, but they were mostly too small sample sizes. I wore a pair of old, but well shined, black pumps and a lightweight black bag, which carried a disposable camera. (The camera cost $9.99 at a discount drug chain. We later mailed it off for developing at a discount film developer for $6.40, jumbo prints plus .90 shipping and handling for the 27 photos, including reception shots. More on that later). I wore my grandmother's pearls (old) the dress (new), an antique bracelet from a friend (borrowed) and my husband bought me a package of mints with a blue wrapper (blue, of course). He bought a white long-sleeved collared shirt for $34 and a pair of khaki pants for $15 at two chain discount stores. He wore them to the ceremony with a pair of brown boat shoes, a tie and blazer and looked wonderful.

We wanted a private ceremony. We had each been married before and had the 'big shebangs' in our pre-frugal days. So we went to City Hall! The marriage papers cost us $30 and the wedding ceremony cost us $25, payable with two money orders for an additional .75 each at the post office. A lovely woman agreed to be our witness, as her wedding party was married a few minutes before us. A clerk married us, and we took some pictures. We went off for our after-wedding luncheon and dessert (remember, not included). Then we took a week to ourselves for our 'honeymoon'.

We then invited 30 people for a "Rooftop Potluck Wedding Celebration". We had gotten promises of food and soft drinks. The Noreaster blew over our area with perfect timing, drenching our roof. (It was not entirely unexpected). We got to work and scoured the apartment using many Dollar Stretcher cleaning suggestions made of vinegar, baking soda, bleach and detergent. Our one bedroom apartment glowed. We moved the party indoors. (It was a blessing that half the guests assumed I would not have a wedding reception because of rain. HAH! ) We really left the party up to G-d.

We bought a few loaves of bread, a pound of Swiss cheese, 1 large eggplant, 2 fresh red peppers, garlic, onions, tomatoes, a jar of olives, jar of pickles, jar of capers, 1 bag of dry red beans, lemon juice, plain yogurt, tuna, mayonnaise, mustard, honey, pretzels and 3 liters of soda. We bought all generic products. Ice was made beforehand and waiting in a zippered bag in the freezer. We also bought generic foam plates, plastic cups, spoons and forks; napkins and paper towels because we wanted an easy clean up, so that was our extravagance. The paper products cost under $15 and the total was $42.27. We used the grocery bags for the trash. Yogurt, garlic and spices were on hand. Then we put on our reception clothes (we both wore white long sleeved collared shirts, plus khakis, and boat shoes for him: a long black skirt with flats (with Grandmother's pearls) for me and met our guests.

We were praying some guests would bring food - and they exceeded our expectations! One man who cancelled sent us a gorgeous, huge bouquet of flowers. We used it for a centerpiece. Another brought two canned hams and my husband deftly plattered one can with the Swiss cheese. He also made a spectacular caponata with the eggplant, tomatoes, onion, olives and capers; a tuna salad with 5 cans of tuna, mayonnaise and the remaining red pepper and honey-mustard. I made a red bean humus with lemon juice, garlic, yogurt and spices. One guest brought a wonderful pasta salad with grapes, strawberries and walnuts. Another brought wonderful rice flavored with cilantro, a dozen bagels and a gallon of diet cola. Two more guests brought other soda. Another brought several loaves of sourdough bread. Someone else brought a chocolate raspberry cake from a gourmet bakery. And one darling man bought us a white sheet cake - a wedding cake! Their generosity was overwhelming. We had 16 guests in all and we had just enough seating. We passed around the camera, took pictures and possibly made friends for life. And we got the loveliest cards and unexpected gifts: 2 sets of goblets, cigars for my husband, a $75 money order from a department store, beautiful note cards drawn by a famous local artist (who brought the pasta salad), and, of course, the flowers and wedding cake

I would have liked to have confirmations on food and people's attendance for the party; good weather; a honeymoon away from New York and more money to spend. But we ended up having the greatest party I've ever attended. The friends who arrived really went out of their way to make it special for us. But we didn't just have a party - we had a reception! And it all cost under $175.

My Story is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have information that would help our readers, please send it to gary@stretcher.com with "My Story" as the subject.

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