Doing it yourself is all the rage for weddings, and for good reason. At its best, getting crafty means you can save money, have fun creating personalized projects, and wow guests with your awesome design skills. In reality, though, DIY projects often don’t turn out exactly as planned. Going down the Pinterest rabbit hole can lead to lofty ideas of creating everything for the wedding day all by yourself. Custom backdrop? Sure. Calligraphy for every invitation and place card? You can learn it. Self-designed and printed invitations? Piece of cake. That perfect floral crown and cascading bridal bouquet? No sense paying hundreds to a florist when you can create your own.
Well…not really. We often see brides falling into the trap of biting off more DIY projects than they can chew. There’s so much inspiration out there that it’s easy to become convinced that these undertakings will be simple, affordable, and have stunning results. In our conversations with couples, though, we often hear brides lamenting their DIY undertakings as the wedding approaches. The supplies are taking over the apartment. After-work hours and weekends are consumed with crafting projects. Everything ended up being more expensive than planned. Learning origami or calligraphy or floral design was harder than expected, and the results aren’t looking so good.
To save their sanity and their budget, what’s a creative couple to do? We’re offering up a few guidelines for how to DIY smarter, including what to absolutely NOT do yourself!
Limit the scope: Suddenly your idea for a cute custom chalkboard or two has snowballed into a list of ten different DIY projects. You’ve pinned them all to your wedding inspiration board and absolutely HAVE to have them. Do you really, though? Consider the value of your time and whether there are low-cost alternatives that you can purchase. Take a step back and think about whether this project will be something you regret not having years down the line, or whether it’s a passing trend. A good rule of thumb is to clarify your vision before deciding which projects to take on, and to not plan on doing any more than 10 hours of work yourself (believe us, you’ll underestimate how long things will take).
Have a backup: What if your project doesn’t end up as picture-perfect as you had hoped? What if you don’t have a chance to complete it? Don’t torture yourself by taking an “it’s this or nothing” approach. That kind of pressure will drive you nuts, and can result in losing perspective of the things about the wedding that really matter. Start early and go into each task with a non-DIY backup in mind. If you begin to sense that things aren’t working out as well as you had hoped, go with your alternative. No need to guilt trip yourself—you don’t need to do it all!
Start early: Beginning a project one or two months before the wedding is a recipe for frustration. You don’t want to start so early that you risk changing your mind about style and scrapping your work, but you don’t want to experience any deadline or budget stress as the big day approaches. Allot twice as much time as you think you’ll need and your future self will thank you.
Enlist help: Delegate, delegate, delegate! Host a crafting event where wedding party members help you accomplish whatever needs to get done. Ask interested family members to take on a project or two. Find out who wants to be involved and let them contribute. Just consider whether that person will be reliable and will have the skill to achieve the results you want; this will avoid friction later on. On that note, be sure to express gratitude for any help offered!
Manage expectations: We can tell you from experience that styled wedding shoots are just that: styled. By professionals. The inspiration photos you find online are the result of the collaboration of teams of experienced wedding vendors, often with little consideration for budget. A photo shoot is very different from a real event and photographers have a much more controlled environment in which to get that perfect shot. Don’t compare your skills or your event to these professionally created, one-off (not for 100+ guests!) designs. Remember that your guests will be at the wedding to celebrate with you, not to critique your style. Nobody is going to be as much of a perfectionist about the big day as you are, so keep the pressure you put on yourself in check.
Now for the list of what to leave to the pros.
Invitations: Invitation design is trickier than it seems. It requires a familiarity with graphic design as well as access to a high quality printer. Not all paper types or printing methods will work with all printers, so providing your own paper stock is not the best idea. You’ll need to consider very specific measurements and eliminate all chance of error, or you risk a costly reprint. Custom printing jobs for a variety of cut paper sizes and colors can also end up costing quite a bit of money. If you’re looking for some level of involvement in the design process, find a designer to fit your budget and go from there; Etsy has great options, just do your homework to find someone reliable.
Floral design: When it comes to doing flowers yourself, just say no. Creating a good look is harder than it seems, and so much more goes into it than you might initially consider. Arrangements are created a few days in advance of the wedding, a time when engaged couples shouldn’t have to worry about complex, time-consuming work. Transport is difficult. Flowers wilt if not properly refrigerated and hydrated. We could go on but the bottom line is this: DO. NOT. DIY. YOUR. FLOWERS! Can you tell that we have strong feelings about this one?
Vintage items: Buying your own plates and providing that cute vintage sofa you found can be an enormous, stressful pain in the butt. The popularity of these items means they are more expensive and harder to find than ever before. They need to be stored, organized, transported, and cleaned after the wedding. You may be able to sell them after the big day but that’s not guaranteed and it could take a while. Renting costs less than purchasing and it’s hassle-free. We offer vintage rentals so we’re a little biased, but we still stand by this advice no matter where you get your rentals!
Makeup: Makeup artists are called artists for a reason. Every one has a unique style and you should find one that fits your vision and the tone of the event. Unless you’re in the beauty field, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get yourself looking as photo-ready as a pro will. Even a lighter touch, sans fake lashes and airbrushing, will look smoother and more flattering in photos when it’s handled by someone who has done this hundreds of times before. The cost of hiring a bridal makeup artist is relatively low for the returns you’ll see in your photos, and it’s one less thing for you to worry about on the morning of the wedding.
Day-of coordination: Weddings have a lot of moving parts. This is a celebration and you should have every opportunity to enjoy it, not to engage in logistical firefighting. Your coordinator will be a point of contact for every vendor and wedding participant. The coordinator will ensure in advance that everything is on track to go smoothly and will be prepared to meet any emergency situation that may arise on the wedding day. A good coordinator makes all the difference, from facilitating your ceremony, to keeping you calm, to advocating on your behalf and keeping the timeline moving along. Other vendors appreciate working with wedding planners because it means that there is less chance of something unexpected happening that might limit their ability to do their jobs well. An experienced planner’s coordination fee is a seriously smart investment in your wedding.
Hopefully this advice has you feeling more comfortable with your DIY aspirations and the planning process in general. We love helping couples create events that reflect their personalities, and if you follow these guidelines you’ll be on the right track to add a personal touch without going overboard. Still have questions? Contact us for a little extra help. Happy planning!
Photo by Amy Jo Royall, design + rentals by Chicago Vintage Weddings, floral by Asrai Garden, collaboration with BHLDN