If you’re dreaming of a wedding full of that quintessential Brooklyn charm, there’s no place quite like 501 Union, and no one to capture it quite like Readyluck. So, you’re in for quite the treat with this DIY Brooklyn day full of industrial glam details and a whole lot of love. See it all now in The Vault!
From The Bride…I’m not one who dreamed of my wedding since grade school, so when it came time to plan, I thought I was a chill bride open to anything. Turns out I am actually a carbon copy of Sally from When Harry Met Sally: the high-maintenance pain who swears she’s low maintenance. I discovered I had all sorts of opinions about what I didn’t want—no mason jars, no colorful back lighting, no bodacious sculptures in ice—and few about what I did.
Because my fiancé Rick and I had a relatively short engagement (10 months), we were under the gun to make some fast decisions. Happily, the venue was an easy one. Gowanus’ 501 Union, just a short walk from our apartment, had an aesthetic we loved: industrial glam, cool metallic wallpaper, and the flexibility to skew vintage or modern. It really helped to pick a place with point of view, as blank-slate venue intimidated me.
I wasn’t really a fan of traditional fall colors (oranges, browns, deep greens, etc.) so a seasonal palette didn’t appeal. We initially thought we wanted gray tones with a pop of violet, because our wonderful letterpress invitations from Brooklyn’s Papel had oyster-colored print and a purple foil edge. Finding the perfect shades of gray was tough, so three months before our wedding I was totally stymied. Luckily in NYC there are so many pros who can pull something together on a dime. I hired event designer Ashley Chamblin to help refine a design plan that I could execute myself. Because Rick and I enjoyed traveling, we made that a motif, rather than a main theme that hit you over the head. Ashley also helped me settle on blush/neutrals for bridesmaid dresses, a color that suited everyone. Being a bridesmaid is a thankless job, so I kept the bridal party small so we could afford to buy everyone a dress that they would wear again. Any style was fine with me as long as it fit the color palette.
Aside from the flowers and table setting, I sourced or created most of the décor on my own. I dragged my family to flea markets in rural Ohio to find old suitcases, travel books, and vintage postcards so guests could write well wishes on them in lieu of a traditional guest book. Planning a New York wedding, you quickly get used to taking every high-end estimate and doubling it, so looking outside the tri-state area for these details helped cut costs. We also tried to use what we had. Rather than buy a welcome sign, we placed my mint-colored bike in front of 501 Union with a hand-tied bouquet to signal where the party was.
To commemorate our separate journeys and the adventures that brought Rick and I together, we sprinkled photos of us traveling with friends and family throughout the venue. Ashley suggested clipping some onto a twinkling star garland, an idea I loved, but I was determined not to have the traditional 5-point star shape (this was a wedding, not a kids birthday party). Finding the perfect burst-style garland on Etsy was a challenge but worth the hunt. When you’re DIYing, it’s easy to drown in these kinds of details. I found myself up to 2:30 am the nights before the wedding ironing our custom logo onto welcome bags or spending way too many hours scouring eBay looking for the perfect vintage toy plane. I eventually relented and rented a few tabletop travel items from Octavia & Brown, along with some great mercury glass vases. When everything came together, I think the overall effect was us—a little hodge-podge, but fun and personal.
The dress shopping process defied my expectations. We looked at several lovely boutiques in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but all the styles I thought I’d like ended up looking like window drapery on me. Despite my trepidation, we ended up at Kleinfeld at my mother-in-law’s suggestion. Yeah, it’s sort of a factory, but the fact is they have a very deep bench. I happened to get a wonderful consultant, who brought me Jayne by English designer Eliza Jane Howell. It had an elegance that my late Anglophile grandmother would have loved, plus intricate beading and sparkle I couldn’t take my eyes off of. Sold!
As the dress was a splurge, I economized on the other details of my look. I settled on some Badgley Mischka shoes with embellishments on the back that wouldn’t compete with my dress. Because I was wearing my paternal grandmother’s engagement ring and great grandmother’s stole, I finished it off some inexpensive, low-key jewelry from Nordstrom. (By the way, I can’t say enough good things about that place for noncommittal brides. They have an amazing return policy and if there are any problems with shipments they’ll overnight you new ones.)
Flowers were one of last things to be decided. I’d worked with Lilli of Mimosa Floral, and for a variety of factors out of our control, (e.g., I got food poisoning a few weeks before the wedding), our plan wasn’t finalized until the week before the wedding. That would give most girls a coronary but I trusted her talent and it came together beautifully. We decided on ivory florals alongside greenery, with pops of coral and blush. The stunning asymmetrical chuppah with jasmine vine was one my favorite touches, and I loved how Lilli juxtaposed more romantic garden roses and anemones with protea and and air plant in my bouquet. I tried to keep the table setting fairly modern and clean, with mercury glass votives and a nubby textured gray tablecloth with a little sheen to it—less Vegas, more grandma’s silver.
I’m a firm believer that no one wants to take home favors emblazoned with the bride and groom’s name or likeness. So Rick put his excellent negotiation skills to work and cut a deal to get some cool travel kits from Flight 001 at a discount for our favors. We also created some custom leather luggage tags embossed with an adventure-themed quote and used them as place cards.
Cake was a surprisingly low priority on the list. We adorned it simply with a few flowers, as the main event was the dessert truck. The beauty of our venue was that you can pull a food truck inside the garden, so we had CoolHaus serve ice cream sandwiches, which were a huge hit. Sadly, I didn’t have any because I was too busy dancing. But you can have ice cream any old day—you can’t always geek out on the dance floor with your very favorite people.
If you’re doing the hard work of DIY-ing details, make sure they’re executed exactly as you envision at the venue. In retrospect I wish I’d hired Ashley as my planner and design-focused coordinator. You will run out of time to triple-check everything the day-of, and your bridesmaids will likely be occupied helping you with other last minute details. Having someone who can advocate for your style is important. When I tried to move a piece of décor that was in the wrong spot an hour before the ceremony, I actually had one person argue that the bride told her she wanted it in that place. I was like, Um, I’m wearing a sparkly white dress—I think that makes me the bride! Crazy stuff like this happens; I also forgot to wear my veil, and the venue didn’t have a printer so I read my vows off my phone (klassy!). You just have to roll with it.
I also implore all couples to take photos before the ceremony. Not only does it let you enjoy cocktail hour with your guests (and why would you want to miss your own party?!), but also it gives you some one-on-one time with your partner you won’t have at any other point. I didn’t even realize how stressed I was from planning until I saw Rick’s teary, smiling face at the first look and felt such relief. Being with him prior to the wedding wiped away all my pent-up anxiety and put my focus back on us. He had rented a fabulous 1953 Rolls Royce that spirited us away to Red Hook for photos by the water and in front of some awesome old factories and street art. We were lucky that our photographer, Edward Winter of READYLUCK, knew all the right spots and whisked us around to the most perfect backdrops.
Which brings me to my last tip: Find vendors who put you at ease. Wedding planning is far too nerve-racking to waste time or money on people who don’t have your back. Eddie was a super-huge win on that point. He didn’t just create amazing shots. He constantly ran interference, gently herding family members into the right spots, even sticking up for the bridal party when the limo driver refused to turn down the A/C for my freezing ladies.
Favorite moment? Too many to choose! Definitely at the altar when it all became “real”—I was finally teaming up with my very favorite person on earth. Having Rick’s four kids there to support us meant everything, especially witnessing his oldest deliver a heartfelt speech and his youngest walk our tux-clad pup Luca down the aisle. I also loved that turning point when the formalities of the evening evolved into a massive dance party/family reunion, just exactly as I’d hoped!
Photography: Readyluck | Cinematography: Hello Super Studios | Event Design: Ashley Chamblin Events | Floral Design: Mimosa Floral Design Studio | Bride's Shoes: Badgley Mischka | Catering: Betty Brooklyn Catering | Makeup: Elizabeth Lerman | Hair: The Bird House | DJ: 74 Events | Venue: 501 Union