Published on January 15, 2020

When Sara Urbaez still lived in New York City, her Sunday ritual was a walk through Central Park, ending with a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So it was only fitting that her now-husband, Palmer Johnson, chose to propose in an empty exhibition room. The setting couldn’t have been more different than the punk dive bar, The Ding Dong Lounge, where they met five years prior; when Johnson got down on one knee, it was just the two of them (if you’re not counting the security guard tearing up in the corner).

“We’re introverts at heart,” says Urbaez, which made the wedding planning process all the more daunting. On top of that, the couple had recently left their native Manhattan for San Francisco (Urbaez is a photo editor for Airbnb and a full-spectrum doula, Johnson works in tech sales) and they were set on holding the big day back in New York. So, they thought way outside-the-box. Early on the morning of Monday, September 9th, after coordinating every last detail from across the country, the pair hailed a yellow cab to City Hall, said “I do,” and threw a prix-fixe, three-course lunch for 37 guests at the Bowery Hotel. The entire affair—from the accommodations to Urbaez’s dress—cost a total of $7,500, and the bride still found a way to wear Manolo Blahnik shoes. 

“Honestly, it didn’t come from a place of being cheap,” she shares. “I wanted to feel beautiful on my wedding day, but I also wanted to honor the reality of my finances and what I value. I have no regrets.” Here, the newlywed reveals how they pulled it off—no crafty DIYs involved!—and why she wouldn’t change a thing. 

She Stopped Pinning for a Little While

couple holding handsPin It
photography by Maggie Portzline

I started feeling really angry when I was on Pinterest and Instagram looking for ideas—there was all this stuff telling me that I had to look a certain way and spend a certain amount of money. I’m new to California and didn’t have a strong network here, which is how I ended up finding support through the Reddit thread R/Wedding. It was helpful reading things like “We spent way too much money on invitations” from other brides. People were also sharing their spreadsheets, which encouraged me to get started (I listed everything that was a priority and had tabs for upcoming appointments, as well as our RSVP list). I became my own wedding planner. 

She Bought Her Outfit Second-Hand

imagePin It
photography by Maggie Portzline

I never once went to a showroom. I fell in love with a gown from Reformation and found it at a great price ($95!) on Poshmark. I had my “say yes to the dress” moment one afternoon when Palmer went out on a bike ride. I opened the box, tried it on, and felt beautiful. I didn’t need to ask anyone else’s opinion. It was empowering.

“I wanted to feel beautiful on my wedding day, but I also wanted to honor the reality of my finances.”

While defying convention propelled us, there were some traditional things that were really meaningful to me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a huge Sex and the City fan, but I was determined to wear Manolo Blahniks. My husband’s mother gifted me the Hangisi crystal satin flats, which I also found on Poshmark for $320 (they retail for $955). 

She Didn’t Need All the Lead-Up

gothic looking candle holders in a moody dining roomPin It
photography by Maggie Portzline

I felt strongly averse to certain norms, like taking engagement photos and having a bachelorette party, so I didn’t do them! My plan is to still do a girl’s trip with my best friend, Rachel, but we’re both so busy with our careers. I want to do it when it makes sense.

She Landed on a Flexible Venue

Most restaurants charge an insane amount of money just to reserve an area. I love the Bowery Hotel and stumbled upon the Wine Room. They don’t charge you to rent the space and the hourly minimum is easy to reach once you start ordering food. We opted for the most affordable option, which was a three-course meal with wine pairings for part of the time. The lunch accounted for the biggest chunk of our budget at $3,500. 

She Tapped Her Talented Friends for Help

My mother in-law’s next-door neighbors, Todd Carr and Carter Harrington of Hort & Pott, are incredible florists. The day before the ceremony, they let her pick flowers from their garden to use for our arrangements. A friend of mine has beautiful handwriting, so I asked her if she would make the place cards. While I got my hair done two days before the wedding (having someone come to me on the big day would have cost around $600, but the salon was $125), Palmer’s friend, Roberto Casey, an Emmy Award-winning makeup artist, helped me get ready the morning-of as I listened to Grateful Dead’s It Must Have Been the Roses. 

“I became my own wedding planner.”

The Honeymoon Became Their Registry

Instead of doing a traditional registry—frankly, we don’t need any more kitchen gadgets—we set up a honeymoon fund through Zola, where we asked friends and family to purchase experiences for our two-week-long trip to the Mediterranean. This included everything from dinner to flights to accommodations. We waited until we were in Greece, alone, to read our vows to each other.

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