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The Rules of DIY

making a wedding bouquet

Make your own bouquet.
Photo by …love Maegan
Used under a Creative Commons license.

Over the years since our own wedding, seeing and participating in DIY weddings and other events, we’ve learned a few lessons. Here are a few of them. You’ll probably want to keep these in mind as you plan your big day.

Lesson 1: “Do it yourself” does not mean “do it all by yourself.”
You’re going to need a team. Surround yourself with people you trust; when it comes time to choose your groomsmen and bridesmaids, choose your most reliable friends. You’re going to need these people to carry out all your many projects, and more importantly, to rein in some of your overly-ambitious ideas.

Lesson 2: Don’t expect your friends to help for free if it’s something they do for a living.
We hired a friend’s band (actually a previous band with a different name, but the same frontman) to play the reception; we didn’t expect them to play for free, but we did hope for a discount of some sort. He very generously did the gig for half their regular charge, and they sounded great. We probably could have booked a DJ for less money, or just had a friend sit at the stereo and play music, but the band was a nice touch of luxury, and thanks to Hai’s generosity, we were able to afford it.

Lesson 3: Know when to hire a pro.
The flip side of lesson 2 is to know when to decline your friend’s offer and hire somebody. There are a couple of tasks that need to be handled by somebody with experience. The photographer, for instance. I learned this one from the other side, when I was asked to photograph a wedding because I happened to be taking a photography class at the time. My skills were not up to the job, they were disappointed in the results, and the day was saved by a wedding guest who shot a lot of really good pictures without being asked. If you have a friend who offers to do your pictures, ask to see their work. If they have previously shot weddings and know all the different pictures they are expected to get, and you feel sure that they know their stuff, go ahead and give them the gig; you’ll help them build their portfolio. If the person is not and has no desire to be a professional photographer, suggest that they handle the photos at the reception and find a pro to do the formal photos of the bridal party. Wedding photography is a specific job with particular requirements, and experience is necessary.

wedding favor

DIY favors for your guests are nicer and less expensive.
Photo by Whistling in the Dark
Used under a Creative Commons license

Lesson 4: Try to tailor your DIY projects to your (and your friends’) abilities.
If you’ve never decorated a cake before, now is not the time to take that on. If you don’t know anyone with experience at it, you’re probably going to want to refer to Lesson #3.

But there are hundreds of ideas for you on Pinterest, Etsy, and sites like 100 Layer Cake, so you can save a lot of money by doing the projects that are within your grasp. You’ll still save money, even if you do need to hire out the big jobs, and you’ll still end up with a wedding that reflects your tastes and sensibility.

Lesson 5: Be somewhat practical.
There are a few areas where it makes more sense to let somebody else do it, either because experience and skills are needed (see Lessons 2-4), or because it’s actually cheaper and faster to farm it out. For example, to bake a wedding cake requires a lot of special pans that you’ll most likely never use again, and you may find that the largest ones don’t even fit in your oven. If you know somebody who already has the pans and the oven (we did), AND you have the ability to bake and decorate a cake, you can save a lot of money. If not, you can have the bakery make a small “ceremonial” cake for the photos, and then you and your friends can bake a lot of cakes (or cupcakes or pies or whatever floats your boat). Just use the cake pans you have, since nobody will ever see these cakes until after they are cut and served. Or come up with an alternative. We attended a wedding that didn’t have a cake; the bride & groom didn’t like cake, so they had pies instead. They found an old wrought iron dessert stand that held three or four pies and decorated it to make an impressive display for a whole lot less money than a traditional wedding cake. Others have done cupcakes or other desserts.

Lesson 6: Have fun!
One of the most important parts of the process is the memories you’re creating. Twenty years from now, your bridesmaids will talk about the time they spent a whole weekend hand-stenciling place cards; whether they laugh about it or groan at the memory is up to you. There’s no room for a “bridezilla” in a DIY wedding; your friends are helping you, but if you treat them like “the help” they could bail on you. Be collaborative, open to suggestions, and above all, grateful.

While you’re planning, be sure to build in time to personally make something special for all the people who are participating in this adventure. A DIY wedding needs DIY gifts for your bridesmaids and groomsmen, and they can’t really help you with that, so plan accordingly. You’re going to need to make these without your bridal party being involved, so you’ll either do it yourself or recruit a different bunch of friends and family for that task.

The Big Wedding…

Opens April 26.

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Jim

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