Tell us a little about yourselves!
We both work in tech - Sarah as a product designer and Michael as a user researcher (and recently starting his own company!). We met through a mutual friend about 9 years ago (he claims it was not a set up) and have been digital nomading for the past year. We have a pandemic cat, Kedi, and it has been a delight for Sarah to see Michael turn into a full-on cat dad (who was originally adamantly opposed to the idea of a cat). We both like watching movies and finding the silliness in the everyday.
Why did you decide to get married where you did?
We decided pretty early on that we wanted two separate events- one for the ceremony and one for the reception. The idea of walking down an aisle and doing our vows in front of a giant crowd held no appeal to either of us. We actually considered eloping but then decided we couldn’t do that to our immediate family. We both lived in Brooklyn for about 10 years before moving out last year so that is a special place for us. We chose a local bookstore to have our ceremony in because we both like reading (some people try food when traveling; I look for bookstores). Books are Magic was great because they’re set up for events and we didn’t have to rent anything. Santo was a favorite brunch place of ours that we would go to often when we lived there. Since it was on a Wednesday when we got married and they weren’t even open usually during those hours, we had the place to ourselves. The reception took place in Michael’s parents’ home. They have a beautiful backyard that they were generous enough to let us use. This really helped with our budget but made the set up easier as well, since we could start preparing in advance.
How many guests did you have?
18 for the ceremony and 75ish for the reception.
What was your budget?
Man, we originally wanted to do our wedding for around $10K USD, but we ended up at around $26K USD for the two events. Note: I don’t include outfits in this budget because we purposely chose items of clothing we could re-wear again. With the clothing, it would be around $35K USD (it is still terrifying for me to see this number). We also originally wanted to pay for this wedding ourselves, but our parents ended up helping us out, which was really, really nice. Obviously this is a luxury, but I do want to call it out because this number is still, in my opinion, astronomical, and not doable by many. We would have been way more stressed and conservative if we didn’t have the financial support.
Tell us about your outfits.
I basically used the wedding as an excuse to buy brands I love but would never actually buy regularly because of the price tag. I tried on some traditional wedding dresses, but even though I loved some that I tried on, I could not justify spending even $1000 on a dress I would only wear once so I started looking at ready-to-wear early on. I had another outfit picked out, but then I walked into a Dior store just to try things on, and well… it’s hard to not look good in Dior. I ended up getting the shirt and the skirt because 1) the pieces were re-wearable and 2) having a Dior in my closet sounded so luxurious. I originally thought about getting shoes there too but ended up finding a pair of vintage Anne Klein shoes for like $35 and they worked perfectly. I tried not to be all white in my outfit since in Chinese culture, white is traditionally used for funerals, so I incorporated a red ribbon and the skirt had some color and Chinese symbolism in it as well. I also wanted a veil moment because when else am I going to be able to wear a veil? (This was my one un-reusable thing) The veil is from a studio called Roisin Pierce. Roisin has such a romantic eye and I reached out to her via Instagram to make one of her veils for me and she did! She was wonderful to work with. For the reception, I wore Cecilie Bahnsen. It’s a brand I’ve been following for a while and just never pulled the trigger on. It’s also super comfortable and not restrictive at all. Basically I wanted to make sure that I could eat without worrying about what my stomach looked like. Michael’s ceremony outfit was a custom made suit from Brooklyn Tailors. He cares much less about clothes than I do so he actually ended up getting his suit there because our officiant friend was getting his suit made there. It ended up being a nice joint experience for them. It’s a suit that can be casual but also dressy so it’s definitely re-wearable for future events (in fact, he’s already re-worn it once!). His outfit for the reception was a pair of J.Crew pants he ordered the week of with a dress shirt and sneakers he already had. Again, comfort was key for this part of the wedding. He was able to play backyard games like bocce and badminton in this outfit.
What was the most important aspect for you, in terms of planning your wedding?
First, we wanted to make sure that we could take care of each guest. Both of the events were small enough where we could actually hang out with everyone. The reception itself also had no dancing so we needed to make sure that there was something for everyone to do so we had a ton of backyard games! Second, re-usability. The wedding industry in general feels very wasteful so we really tried to avoid one-time use things that were created just for the wedding. For example, we needed a sign, I found some extra wood for free on Facebook and then painted on it. For the centerpieces, we bought antique brass pitches to put flowers in that I fully intend to use again. We rented almost everything else. We’re not perfect; we did have disposable cameras and I’m sure we used other materials that were one-offs, but we really tried to avoid that.
Were there any elements that were important for you to incorporate?
Not really. Michael did a traditional Jewish glass stomp at the end of the ceremony and I did for parts of my ceremony outfit, as mentioned above, but that’s about it. We also had an officiant who performed the ceremony. He was the one that introduced us. I never fully understood doing a completely traditional wedding, whether it’s western or eastern. I grew up in a Chinese household as a first generation in America so I got a little of both cultures, but I also feel like I was far enough from both. Michael was raised Jewish and follows some traditions but is not religious. Because of our upbringings, we were able to look at traditions with a critical eye, ask ‘why’ and lean into what felt right for us.
Any tips for couples getting married?
Re-evaluate what you think you ‘need’ to do versus what actually feels right to you (I would actually just give this as life advice). A week before the wedding, step back. Remind yourself these events are for you to enjoy and don’t sweat things you can’t control.
Are there any vendors that you would like to tell us a little more about?
Books are Magic and Santo were absolutely wonderful! Neither of these were wedding venues and they were so communicative and organized around the events being hosted there. We had the best time at both. Isla from Emotions + Math. Photography was the thing that I was the most nervous about since there are so many styles of photography and it’s often hard to tell if the photographer is actually good or if the setting or people are doing the heavy lifting. But all of the photography turned out so beautiful! I love how Isla was able to hit the ground running, especially since she was flying halfway across the world, and was able to be so unobtrusive that I didn’t even notice she was there half the time and we were able to focus on the event. There were a couple of posed shots, but overall it felt like true documentary style, not posed documentary style. Cheers Butlers. I honestly don’t know how we would have done the reception without them. We were originally not going to have servers or bartenders and I think we would have curled up into a stress ball if they weren’t there to take care of everything. John was also super communicative and helpful in guiding us.
Photographer : Emotions + Math @emotionsandmathweddings | Videographer : Brides sister with a GoPro | Ceremony Location : Books are Magic in Brooklyn, NY @booksaremagicbk | Reception Location : Michael’s Parents’ Backyard in Ridgefield, CT | Celebrant : Friend Cory | Reception Rentals : All Season Rentals | Ceremony Bouquet : Edelweiss @edelweissfloral | Reception Flora : DIY with online wholesaler Fifty Flowers @fiftyflowers | HMUA : Sachiko Hair + Make @sachikohairmake | Ceremony Lunch : Santo Brooklyn @santobruklin | Bartenders + Waitstaff : Cheers Butler Services | Food + Beverages : Made by family | Hot Dog Stand : Chez Lenard | Cakes : Costco | Stationery : Handwritten with paper City Papery @city_papery | Bride's Ceremony Outfit : Dior @dior | Bride's Reception Dress : Cecilie Bahnsen @ceciliebahnsen | Groom's Ceremony Suit : Brooklyn Tailors @brooklyntailors | Groom's Reception Pants : J.Crew @jcrew | Engagement Ring : Custom Erie Basin @eriebasin | Wedding Rings : NT Ferro Jewelers | Bride's Ceremony Shoes : Vintage Anne Klein | Bride's Reception Shoes : Studio Amelia @studioamelia_ | Groom's Ceremony Shoes : Cole Haan @colehaan | Groom's Reception Shoes : Allbirds @allbirds | Veil : Roisin Pierce @roisinpierce | Earrings : Wwake @wwake | Necklace : Stacey Nishimoto @stacey_nishimoto