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How to Get Hitched Brooklyn-Style, Without Breaking the Bank

By Sonja Sharp | February 14, 2013 6:49am

BROOKLYN — The "Brooklyn" wedding is now a brand unto itself, synonymous with the quirky, the homespun and the utterly unique. 

It's also downright expensive.

As Mason jars go mainstream, the cost of a fête with that borough-made feel has risen accordingly. For brides and grooms looking to take their vows on Brooklyn soil, the Kings County cache can have a distinct dollar disadvantage. 

Thankfully, a little local savvy can go a long way when it comes to keeping costs reasonable while ensuring that special day is both memorable and sanity-sparing. DNAinfo.com New York has collected a few of the very best local vendors, from dressmakers to florists to hidden-gem venues, with options to fit a wide range of budgets and aesthetics, arranged under Alternative, Artistic and Affordable.

"I think a lot of the wedding industry as it exists is very serious and a little stuffy and impersonal," said Williamsburg Seamster's Nayantara Banerjee. "Obviously it’s a big deal and it’s very special, but it also should be fun."

Location, Location, Location:

♦ Artistic — The Borough of Churches has no lack of places to get hitched, but when it comes to the party, many venues are surprisingly small and few let you choose your own caterer. Enter Smack Mellon, a gallery in DUMBO that doubles as a wedding hall.

"People can make the space feel and look exactly how they want," said Suzanne Kim, the gallery's director of exhibitions. "Even if you don't want to do a whole lot, it's pretty easy to make the space look fantastic."

♦ Alternative — Prospect Park may be one of the most coveted wedding destinations in the borough, but for those priced out of the scenic and storied Boathouse, the park's private Picnic House can be "pretty darn affordable," according to Sarah Izzo, who manages rentals for the Prospect Park Alliance and helps oversee the more than 100 weddings in the park's private venues each year.

"The Picnic House can be a lot more do it yourself. Some people hire a caterer and have the caterer do everything for them, whereas others do the decorating themselves," Izzo said. "If you make the right choices with a caterer within your budget, it’s actually one of the more affordable places in Brooklyn."

♦ Affordable — If you've got $25 and a few friends willing to pitch in, you can get married in Fort Greene Park, on the Williamsburg Pier, or on almost any other public land in the borough.

For the price of a permit and no small amount of sweat equity, adventuresome Brooklyn couples can say their vows under Prospect Park's Oriental Pavilion or Grecian Shelter, which offer a lovely location but little else.

"For some people, they want to get married in the midst of the public park and that’s wonderful," Izzo said of the park's ultra-affordable alternative. "It’s a $25 application fee, and then they get their permit."

Say Yes to the Dress:

♦ Artistic — The Williamsburg Seamster told DNAinfo.com New York that ever more of her business is geared toward brides, with dozens seeking out her expert eye and noted needle each year. While some are looking to add a sparkle of personality to an off-the-rack dress or get a sample sale steal sized to fit, others come in search of something entirely their own. Nayantara Banerjee can help with that. 

"I work with a few clients every year to make wedding dresses — usually it’s people who want non-traditional wedding dresses," Banerjee said. "I work with people that don’t want big stuffy gowns, they want something that is to more suit their body as well as their personality."

For a few hundred dollars, the seamster's touch can take a David's Bridal gown from generic to genius in a hurry.

"A client of mine I just saw this weekend has a David’s Bridal dress," Banerjee said. "There’s a lot of options to make it her perfect dress even though it wasn’t to start."

For those with more time and more money to spend, a custom-designed gown made to order can run between $1,000 and $2,000 — still a great deal when compared with many off-the-rack options. Banerjee takes her clients with her to hunt through designer scraps in search of the perfect piece at the perfect price.

♦ Affordable — The best budget wedding gown isn't a wedding gown at all. Lovely white frocks like this season's Natalie dress by Brooklyn designer Alexandra Grecco would feel right at home among the popular pieces at Anthropologie's wedding site BHLDN, where off-the-rack gowns range from about $600 to more than $3,000. But because they're not "bridal," they sell for just a fraction of the price.

♦ Alternative — Lotus Bridal's annual sample sale may happen in a showroom in ultra-hip Williamsburg, but the Sheepshead Bay bridal shop does drive a mean bargain for those on the hunt for designer duds.

A Floral Fête:

♦ Affordable — If you have space to store them and time to DIY, buying flowers wholesale and creating your own arrangements can make a big difference in your bottom line. A handful of simple vases, some seasonal sprigs of green and a few fine flowers are all you need to create your own centerpieces — that and a sharp-eyed, no-nonsense mother-in-law to help you strike a bargain and make sure your friends handle the buds with care.

If you have the time and the eye, the Brooklyn Wholesale Market in Bay Ridge is a good option.

♦ Artistic — Albany Avenue in the heart of Hasidic Crown Heights may not be the first place most people look for unique, eye-catching floral design, but Mimulo delivers. Run by a pair of childhood friends from the neighborhood, Mimulo has quickly become the go-to florist for the neighborhood's young couples, whose weddings range from big to mind-bogglingly huge. Still, Mimulo's designs never feel mass-produced — the florists' passion for wildflowers and flare for romance ensures that every bouquet and arrangement is unique.

♦ Alternative — If you'd rather leave the heavy leafing to the professionals but still want to save on the small stuff, consider learning to make your own bouquet or boutonniere. Etsy Labs, Blossom and Branch, and Chrysanthemum Rare Teas and Flowers are among the many local vendors that host classes for the budding bridal florist.

A Feast Fit for Kings County

♦ Alternative — Though your first thought might be Texas chains, barbecue in the right hands can be downright black tie. Scores of Brooklyn brides trust Bon Soir's Jeff Riley, who kept his clients fed and happy even after losing his Mill Basin retail store during Hurricane Sandy.

"Many of the venues have both indoor and outdoors space," Riley said. "Barbecue in particular, because it's an outdoor thing, is very, very popular."

♦ Affordable — Like the wedding gown that's not a gown, the cake that's not a cake is an increasingly popular option for couples that want something that's not generic but still within reach.

Nothing says "Brooklyn DIY Rooftop Wedding" like a tiered tray of mini-cupcakes from Brooklyn Flea vendors Butter & Scotch, who offer wedding cake alternatives galore. Cupcakes not your style? The ladies also make pies and trifles.

♦ Artistic — If you want a disco ball wedding cake, BCakeNY will make sure that you get one. Custom cakes starting at $150 at this Prospect Heights specialty shop.

Picture Perfect

♦ Artistic — While it might sound like an oxymoron, wedding photojournalism refers to a shooting style that emphasizes spontaneous moments over posed portraits.

As it happens, New York's news photographers are some of the best in that business. Brooklyn-based Daily News photographer Craig Warga is among the scores of professional photojournalists who also make gorgeous wedding photographs. 

♦ Alternative — Deciding whether to include a photo booth in your Brooklyn wedding is like deciding whether to play the Jackson Five. You're going to do it, you just haven't accepted it yet.

Photo booths have gained enormous popularity in recent years, and companies supplying them have proliferated accordingly. The Louisville-born Magnolia Photo Booth Co. recently opened an outpost in New York, and its booths can be found at events across the borough.

♦ Affordable — Even the most shoe-string nuptials deserve a top-notch photographer, but lucky for the bride on a bone-corset budget, cheap young talent is a Brooklyn specialty. Someone you know or whose work has been personally recommended to you will always be better than the cheap photographer you find on the Knot.com.

When in doubt, trust word of mouth — an underemployed friend of a friend may well be the best photographer for your bottom line. This goes double for video, which, while not strictly necessary, can be a cheap, fun addition to your day.

Paid photographers aside, your best friends are likely to do some shutter-bugging of their own. To make sure you see all their best snapshots, invite your guests to join Wedding Party, a live, shared photo stream for your special day.

The Bottom Line

Whether you're just searching for something that's edgier than baby's breath or designing every detail of the big day yourself, shopping local means you'll have an event to remember — without the 'Brooklyn' brand price tag.