DIY Bride

Where Do I Even Start? DIY Wedding 101 Part 1

Traditional weddings are a large amount of work; Do-It-Yourself weddings take that amount of work and remove the amazing people that staff the multitude of vendors, and transfers all that work onto your shoulders. Are you really sure you want to do this? If so, follow me after the jump…

I’ve said it before in these columns, but it bears repeating – DIY wedding planning is not for the faint of heart. Not only are the big details on your plate, from catering to decorations to clean-up, but the little things are on you as well. The number of details will boggle your mind. I worked every single night for the three months before the wedding, managing and minding the minutiae. It was exhausting, overwhelming, and worth every single minute. Our wedding was a perfect expression of our personalities; I don’t know that we would have achieved the same effect if we had gone a more traditional route.

Choosing DIY was one of the main decisions in our process and definitely affected all aspects of planning. Unfortunately, because we were doing things differently, the majority of wedding planning lists available were almost completely useless. I didn’t need to know how far in advance to audition string quartets (one of the groomsmen doubled as our awesome DJ), we didn’t need to order our hand-engraved invitations eight months in advance (I found packs of Martha Stewart DIY invitations on clearance at Marshall’s for $7 for 40), and I didn’t need to schedule multiple dress fittings with the bridal boutique (just two, the day I bought it and the day I rushed to the seamstress three weeks before because I had gained ten pounds and needed to have her rebuild the damn thing so it would fit. Thank goodness it was doable, because I was too busy folding poofs to hit the gym). The list goes on, but only about 15% of the items on these lists applied to me.

What follows is my attempt to help your planning when the other lists don’t apply. I am assuming you have the person you plan on marrying; if not, please replace number one with that, then adjust accordingly. Also, this is a rough list of the big things to think about and manage. I could go on for pages regarding our own event, but you will need to adjust based on your choices. If anybody needs help or advice, please, always feel free to ask in the comments or message me.

1. Pick a date and time. If you have always dreamed of getting married outside, please don’t get married in December. I have a friend that got married at 9 a.m., outside, on the waterfront in Monterey in early December. That is just cruel to do to your guests. It was freezing and many of the guests were drunk by 9:30 just to stay warm. Conversely, if a long-sleeve formal Duchess Satin gown with a fur collar is your dream dress, July might not be the best choice. Most wedding advice will stress that you need at least a year to plan a wedding properly. This is just not the case. We decided on our date in late November and got married in July, but the real planning and all took about 3-4 months, so trust me, it can be done. The only caveat to this- if you plan on getting married in the summer, it is a good idea to look into booking your main items- location, photographer, caterer- to make sure they are available, as far in advance as you can.

2. Make a guest list. I cannot stress the importance of this. I thought we would have around 100 people at our wedding; by the time we were done, we were at 200, and that was leaving out a large number of extended family members. It is amazing how quickly the people add up and you don’t want to get your heart set on a particular location only to be unable to use it because your guest list maxes you out of it.

3. Choose and book your venue. We got married at my parents’ house. They have an acre of redwood trees and a huge backyard with a pool, so it was the perfect place. Having a wedding at someone’s house gives you a ton of control over everything, from where you want the cake table to how your decorations are set up. Be creative- one awesome Persephoneer is planning on having hers at a movie theater. How awesome is that? If you choose a venue that does weddings normally, they may require you to use certain caterers, florists, or other vendors. Be sure to check with them on this if you want to be able to choose your own.

4. Send out Save-The-Dates, if you so choose. Ours were postcards with just the basic information that Jon designed. We had them printed at – they are great quality printers at excellent prices. I love that whenever we go to almost anyone’s house that came to the wedding, we see this on their refrigerator. People loved them!

5. Choose your color palette. I have known for years, spurred on by an awesome pair of socks, that I wanted my colors to be teal and orange. Something about that contrast between the two makes me unreasonably happy. Choosing your colors after choosing a location can be helpful because you can work off the existing decor and select something complimentary. However, if you have your heart set on hot pink and lime green, who cares if it clashes horribly? Do what you want. Also, don’t worry about everything being in your color scheme. While the bulk of our decorations were orange and teal, the flowers were just really, really obnoxiously colorful.

6. Pick a photographer. To me, this is the most important decision you will make after the whole “person you are going to spend your life with” one. A good photographer is essential. This is the only area of the wedding that I wasn’t going to do super-budget because it was important to me to have great pictures to look back on, although we were able to negotiate a great deal with an amazing photographer- Plus, his name is Mike Hawk (say it out loud a few times. Awesome, right? And, he’s totally good natured about the whole thing. Many members of my family has the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy-namely me- so we warned him in advance that the cock jokes would probably be flying. Even my nana got in on it a few times. He not only took it all in stride, he made a ton of his own. Priceless.) We had talked about hiring some photography students from a local college, but you really want someone who is used to working weddings. They are incredibly busy and fast paced events. Liking someone’s work isn’t enough; they need to be able to wrangle errant family members, blend into the crowd for great candid shots, and be on top of their game. If anyone is getting married in the Bay Area, I cannot recommend Mike enough.

These are the big issues and decisions that need to be made early on. Next week I will start in on the little details that start accumulating at alarming rates. Also, I will have an actual “list” for you all, I am working on it being editable for your customization. I know this list doesn’t address many DIY elements, but these are some basic foundation pieces that one needs to build on. From here on out, it’s pretty much all DIY. Be prepared.

P.S. – If you can avoid mentioning that your event is a wedding, do it. I worked at a banquet hall for awhile and we had two price lists- one for parties and one for weddings. The wedding price list was 3x the cost. Nothing else was different- same food, same staff, same everything, but the owners jacked up the prices 300% for weddings. Why? Because people will pay it. Don’t buy into it. If you schedule a meeting with any place, act like it is for a big birthday party or something along those lines. Yes, it is a little dishonest, but not nearly as dishonest as gouging people out of their hard earned money just because the wedding industry dictates you can.

11 replies on “Where Do I Even Start? DIY Wedding 101 Part 1”

I agree with your prioritization of the photographer. Before I got married, that’s the biggest piece of advice I got from one of my friends. She reminded me that, at the end of the day, when the food is eaten and the placecards are tossed and the favors are gone and your dress is in a box, those photos are going to be what you look back on and show off for years to come. Not something to pick lightly.

We did a mix of planned and DIY. I made our Save the Dates and invitations, but we hired out our catering and the venue helped coordinate some. Ceremony music, we had an iPod playlist for, but the reception we got a DJ for. So if DIY is daunting for people, keep in mind that you don’t have to go all the way with it.

This is really helpful, thanks!!! I’m getting married in September and while we have most of the big stuff organised (venue, photog–an AWESOME and award-winning friend!–DJ, caterer, rabbi, sent out save the date emails), there are a couple of things that are still totally freaking me out. Namely a dress, which I have not got around to yet and secretly want to have made but I have no idea where to start, and flowers. Flowers are a thing because I do not care about flowers and I don’t want to pay a florist. However the venue needs a lot of flowers as it’s a barn and kind of stark otherwise. Is it insane to think about going to a nearby garden centre and buying stuff there? We’ve got the venue all weekend so we can spend the whole day before setting up… Ah! This shit is so much effort! I would have been happy to elope but RahBoy is a little traditional like that…

Doing flowers that way is not crazy at all! My mother, sister and aunt-in-law potted all the plants for the ceremony area, and my aunts and her best friend did all the flowers for the reception. We got big buckets of really bright flowers and they arranged them in really cool steel buckets for the tables. It was important to my MIL that the bouquets were done by a professional, and she wanted to pay for it, so those were done by a florist (the florist did the men’s lapel flowers but they were the exact opposite of what I had asked for, so my aunt and her BFF remade those the night before, too). The garden center is where it’s at, baby! We got the steel pots from a tractor supply store.

Check out my other posts if you need some ideas on filling up the space with bright stuff. White lights and the tissue poofs are perfect for that backdrop.

I say go with your dress first. I like the idea of picking a general color scheme and then working with various shades in the same family. I had my bridesmaids pick whatever dress they wanted in the same cold family, and it looked cool to have subtle variations and styles. I have an awesome vendor for groomsmen ties, I will do a attendant dressing post soon, they will do pretty much any color and designs. Another good thing to do is to go to Home Depot or a paint store and grab the sample color sheets in your color family and keep those on hand when you are doing your shopping for wedding stuff.

Ooh, I’ll look around that website! We know what colors we’d like (light blue, dark purple, and silver) but what confuses me is how you choose the exact, specific color and make sure everything matches it. Like, since I want a purple wedding dress, do I choose that first? Or should we choose the purple in the invitations (which, we haven’t thought about those at all yet) or my man of honor’s tie or the…I don’t know, the tablecloths or something? Or do you just hope that the shades will all be close enough?

I am really excited about this series! A lot of my friends have had gorgeous, expensive weddings over the past few years and while I love them, I just can’t imagine spending so much. Plus I want to make stuff. So this will be fun to read up on, since I have at least years before I get married.

Quite honestly, I think the guest list is the toughest part of planning any wedding. They can get out-of-control very fast. Extremely small weddings work pretty good, but you always tend to have one person (in my case, Mr.Pear’s mom) sending major guilt trips about it.

Right?!?! Ugh, it’s the worst. I have a huge extended family, and they are the types of people who invite EVERYONE to (multiple) baby showers and (multiple) weddings just to get more presents, as in you never heard from them unless they were inviting you to something you had to bring a gift for. Classy, no? Things were said regarding “payback” by my mom and nana and I had to nip it in the bud. I didn’t want a bunch of random 3rd cousins rolling in. I couldn’t believe how big it got so fast. I didn’t even realize we liked that many people =)

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