A week ago Sunday I spoke at the Dayton Wedding Connection about my experiences as a “DIY Bride.” I was asked to share what I learned through the process, and pass along some advice to brides thinking about DIY-ing elements of their own weddings. Since I’ve wanted to share some about my wedding for a while now, I thought I’d pass along my tips here, too! (And, being out of the wedding-planning stage, much of this could apply to any event planning or craft project that you might want to take on).
For our wedding, we DIY-ed all of the reception decor (including flowers, table runners, centerpieces, place settings & flatware, napkins, place cards, and Mason jars with flowers hanging on the walls), our paper (save-the-date cards, invitations and programs), favors (homemade mini loaves of pumpkin bread), and drinks. The only vendors we dealt with were our venues, caterer, and a rental company for chairs and tablecloths. A friend DJed, and we asked Sweet Betsy to provide music during cocktail hour.
I knew pretty early on in our engagement that our wedding would contain a lot of DIY elements. We had a relatively small budget, and I knew there were certain elements that we just wouldn’t be able to afford unless we did them ourselves. Plus, I enjoy crafting and making things, so it was a perfect fit.
(a few of our DIY elements by our photographer Jon Morton.)
The biggest piece of advice I could give anyone considering DIY projects for their wedding would be to consider why you are including that element and only include those that are important to you. I got so wrapped up in the wedding-blog world at points that I started to think I needed all kinds of “extras.” In reality, it is so much more meaningful to focus on the few projects that are really important to you. And those will be different for everyone! I wasn’t too concerned about flowers, for example, but all the paper elements were really important to me, so I focused more of my energy (and money) there. Speaking of invitations…
If you are DIY-ing to save money, plan ahead and price out every element before you begin. I absolutely loved our invitiations but, after adding up the hours, stress, and money I put into making them (something I had absolutely no prior experience doing!), I probably could have found equally nice invitations for the same cost, if I had just purchased them. And, as tempting as those craft-store-coupons can be, you’ll save money if you only purchase supplies once you know exactly how you’ll use them. (For example, I, um, may still have two oversized, gold picture frames in my trunk that I bought “for the wedding,” never found a place for, then couldn’t return).
Know your own abilities. If you’ve never sewn a dress in your life, it might not be realistic to want to make all your bridesmaids dresses (not that I, ahem, know anything about that, either). Also, know the abilities (and time availablity!) of those around you. You can’t assume that your bridesmaids, or other family and friends, will necessarily be available or willing to spend hours embroidering hankies with you, but most people are probably thrilled for you, and can’t wait to be involved in your wedding in any way possible. Our wedding never would have come together without the wonderful group of people who poured hours of their lives into helping us. We had a whole crew helping us put the reception decor together before the rehearsal dinner and, when it all came together, it felt like a barn raising, in the most wonderful way. And, through the evening, wherever I looked I saw reminders of how much everyone around us cared about us and our marriage.
My last tip is so important–I can’t stress it enough. Hire an awesome wedding photographer. Now, I know this might sound a bit biased coming from a wedding photographer, but it makes such a difference. As Meg has said, an awesome photographer doesn’t necessarily equal an expensive photographer. Maybe–maybe–it might not even mean a professional photographer. But I have several friends who personally spent so much time handcrafting beautiful, meaningful weddings, only to have photos that don’t reflect the beauty of the day. We spent nearly a quarter of our pretty small budget on photographer (even though, as photographers, we had plenty of friends willing to shoot our wedding for a steep discount), because it was so important to me to have beautiful images to remember our day. Find someone you trust to give you the most beautiful images of your wedding possible, whoever that might be!
I hope that helps! I’d love to hear about your experiences, too? Did you DIY any elements for your wedding, or are you going to? Is there any advice that you’d give that I missed?