The DIY Wedding, c.2013

IMG_5474.CR2Hi, I’m Jenn! I’ve been graciously invited by Jim and Terri to guest-post on the topic of the DIY wedding here at Blue Collar, Black Tie in connection with the upcoming film The Big Wedding, because I myself happen to be planning my own DIY wedding as we speak, figuratively.

True, our wedding will not be quite at the level of DIY of Jim and Terri’s wedding, being that I do not happen to be an illustrator who can design awesome custom beverage steins, and we are lucky enough to have a budget that allows us some flexibility in planning. It’s not ‘go all out’ money, but, spent wisely, it will cover all the costs it needs to cover. But it’s DIY in the sense that Mark and I are in the driver’s seat(s) and in complete control of planning every aspect of our big day. We’re getting married in Sonoma County, which is where we live, but not where our families live, and because it would be expensive for my mom to travel here to help out in person (and because I’ve discovered through wedding planning that my enthusiasm for detail and research borders on the freakish), I’ve gotten quite a bit of planning done on my own.

I knew there were certain aspects we’d take on ourselves–music, for instance, for both the ceremony and the reception. We have a vast catalog of songs we consider ‘our songs’, and while we still have to figure out the logistics of dancing and sound setup for the reception, we are endlessly compiling a list of songs which are near and dear to us, danceable, and also appropriate for the ears of great-aunties and various potential wedding guests who may not be able to stomach the Team America theme song (painful though it is to forgo.)

One aspect I did not plan on DIY-ing was my wedding dress, though through pickiness and an overwhelming experience at a bridal shop, the dress has ended up being one of the most enjoyable DIY experiences of the whole shebang. Over the holidays back home, I was shanghaied into trying on wedding dresses under the pretense of a mother/daughter/bridesmaid bonding experience of testing the waters for availability and pricing of bridesmaid dress colors and fabrics. This outing came only a week after Mark proposed to me, and we hadn’t discussed wedding colors, venues or even dates, and the combination of a very pushy salon manager and being pressured into my first time trying on bridal gowns turned the day into a bit of a traumatic experience. Add to that the fact that the saleswomen essentially rolled their eyes when I expressed that I wanted a blush dress–no white, no ‘diamond white’, no ivory, no winter white–and basically hovered around me waiting for a ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ moment as I tried not to look totally unhappy in a white thousand-dollar taffeta thing that looked suspiciously like the last, and I knew that I didn’t want to give too much business to the ‘wedding industry’ if I could help it.

Later that afternoon, my mom and I were flipping through an issue of Brides magazine together at pages I’d marked previously, and she looked at one dress I pointed out and said, ‘You know, that would be really, really simple to make.’ I knew my mom had a lot of sewing experience, but I had never considered asking her to make my dress. And because she agreed to take this project on, we’ve had a much more personal bonding experience than you can have shopping in stores for mass-produced dresses. We looked at patterns together, we picked out fabrics together, and while it will involve a bit of travel on my part for fittings and measurements, I’m super excited. Not only will my dress be designed and tailored for my shape, it’s the only way I was going to get the color I want, plus the entire cost of materials is about $100–talk about bang for your buck.

As far as venues, I found that churches tend to be much less expensive than wineries, who knew? Not to mention that the seating is generally built-in and, in the case of the church where our ceremony will be held, many decorations such as candelabras and bonuses such as a gorgeous stained glass window as a backdrop are readily available and free of charge. And we won’t have to plan for unpredictable November weather, since the wedding will happen indoors. I considered holding the reception in the church’s fellowship hall, but ultimately decided to splurge a teeny bit by having it at a restaurant. If you think about it, it’s really only the food that you’re splurging on–with a restaurant, the reception is more like the entire group is going out to dinner. No need to hire caterers and servers, linens, furniture or dishes, because that’s all provided, plus the place doesn’t have a charge for room rental or any sort of deposit. The logistics of dancing and sound setup will be worked out at a later date, but knowing our reception will provide a full meal for our guests and be fully staffed is a major load off, considering the church reception would have stringent rules on alcohol consumption and renting the room would not be free.

There were a few points we’ve had to figure out for ourselves, such as:

  • how to invite friends to be in our bridal party (we ended up writing a little personal note to each bridesmaid, groomsman and Mark’s ‘groomsgirl of honor’ and slipping it in the mail–they loved it!)
  • bridal party gifts (Etsy is amazing, that is all)
  • Save the Dates and invitations (Ann’s Bridal Bargains is indeed very inexpensive, comparatively, and allows for custom text and colors; the Save the Dates I ended up designing totally from scratch on FedEx office–they can print in literally any color you can think of–and they were dirt cheap and turned out gorgeous–just very time-consuming to come up with your own design if you choose not to use one of their ready-made designs)

All in all, DIY is definitely the way to go if you’re on a budget and/or you don’t want to hand the reins to anyone else when it comes to your big day.

The Big Wedding, in theaters 26 April.




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  1. Awesome post, Jenn. I am ridiculously excited for your wedding 🙂

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