This question comes up a lot in the bridal world. Where can I cut costs? What are things I could do myself? How hard could it really be to do _______?
This topic is pretty deep, diverse, and really dependent on so many factors. But today, we are going to dive into it with you all, and give you our tried and true suggestions for what makes sense to DIY, and what does not make sense to DIY. As our parents used to say growing up, "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should". We think this is especially relevant in the DIY world. So, not only are we going to share thoughts on what makes sense to DIY or not, we are also sharing our thoughts on how you should think about DIY projects in general.
First and foremost, before we begin, we have to say one thing. WHY are you wanting to do-it-yourself? Are you simply looking to cut costs and corners? If so, we want to warn you against taking on too many DIY projects. While we understand budget is often the biggest factor in making decisions about your wedding day, and you can only work within your budget, if you are just trying to cut corners and costs, you may not be seeing the added costs of choosing to tackle so many DIY elements. You may not realize how trying and tedious these seemingly "fun" projects look. The old adage, "There is no such thing as a free lunch" applies here, too. Your time, your energy, your friends’ and family's time, their energies, are all some costs of choosing to DIY.
Do you love creative projects? Do you find joy in this type of work? If the answer to these questions, is "not really", then we would strongly discourage you from pursuing DIY projects. This season of your life should be one of excitement, joy, and love. Adding these unnecessary projects will more often than not cause 10x more stress, sleepless nights, and additional frustration when it doesn't go as planned or look how you want. Alternatively, if you do find joy in these types of projects and your choice to pursue DIY challenges are less monetarily incentivized, and more passion projects that excite you and bring you happiness through the many long hours of researching and creating and perfecting, then our suggestion is absolutely! If this is life-giving work to you, you should totally choose to DIY these special elements. Pick and choose—if it is life-giving, then do it! If it is not life-giving work, and you are simply thinking "how hard can it be to produce every floral element for my wedding of 150 people", the answer, first of all, is: much harder and more tedious and grueling than you think, and second, you probably should not do it.
Now, to those of you thinking, well that's great and all, but I don't have the luxury to just forego DIY elements and pay for all my dream vendors—I can't afford a half million dollar wedding! We get it.
We all have to work within our budgets. But before you start undertaking these projects that don't really bring you joy, but are motivated by cutting costs, we would ask you: Is it really necessary? Why not cut X out, so that you can afford the Y of your dreams. For example, do you need ceremony pamphlets? Not really. Save that few hundred dollars and put it towards your favorite photographer or florist, etc. Sometimes our best suggestion couples with a tighter budget is: less quantity, more quality. If you can't have it all, don't. Pick the things that really matter to you and invest your budget there. Don't waste the time of this special season grueling over multiple sleep-depriving projects that bring you no joy. Cut some things out and pour into the vendors, pieces, and moments that will bring you joy that day.
All that being said, here's our list of items that objectively should and should not be considered for your wedding DIY projects.
DO NOT DIY:
We can't say this enough. You really really don't want to do the coordination on your own. First of all, it is literally impossible for you as the bride or groom to handle that. And secondly, no "guest" of the wedding should be responsible for this either—they should be there to celebrate and love on you, not stepping out to the back for an hour to deal with a missing vendor and subsequently missing your first dance and every other special moment! Sorry Aunt Kathy, let's keep this one to a professional. If you want to hear our full explanation on this one, we dedicated an entire blogpost to it. Definitely check it out, here.
This should be a no-brainer. Yet many do attempt undertaking their own florals just days before their wedding. Here's the thing... In order to get quality florals that look like this (above), as opposed to just picking up roses and carnations from your local Trader Joe's, you have to get up and travel to the city flower market and begin shopping around 5 AM before the product is all bought up that day. You need: a van, patience, more than one person, buckets, a wide array of floral equipment like scissors and tape and frogs and vases and wiring, a large space to work on your flowers, a fridge big enough to store and cool the flowers, and so much more.
It takes a team of us, professionals, weeks to source and create all the beautiful floral work that gets delivered to you on your wedding day. Not to mention, when it comes to florals, many markets and floral vendors won't even sell to you without a professional license. Shopping for flowers will leave you significantly more limited if you do not have a wholesale license, and those that are available to you will more often than not, be of poorer quality.
If this still was not enough reason to convince you to leave the floral work to a professional, we will say one last thing: flowers cannot be purchased and made far in advance. Unless you have a fridge or large storage solution, you cannot source your flowers more than 3 days before your wedding ( and that is pushing it). No couple should even consider undertaking this massive project the literal last days and nights before their special day. It is exhausting and high stress, and you should be relaxing and trying to enjoy the time leading up! Don't overburden yourself.
Food / Appetizers / Dessert
This one is also attempted a lot. We say attempted because it rarely has a happy ending. Just like flowers, food can't exactly be prepped too far in advance. Something many people overlook, is that most venues have 1) preferred vendors for catering, but if they don't, then they have 2) a clause in their contract stating that no food can not be prepped on sight without certain permitting (in most cases meaning, without a professional caterer). When your mom's cousins offer to help create the appetizers for your wedding, it might sound like a great idea that saves a lot of money! Win-win! In reality, what most often happens is the venue requires the coordinator to put a stop to "preparation" of the appetizers as soon as it is noticed. In these cases, you loose your appetizers and your deposit usually gets dinged. Lose-lose.
The only caveats we would add to this section would be in cases where the wedding is a very small, think backyard BBQ where everyone attending the wedding brings a dish to share. That would work. Or, if your Grandma made her famous wedding cookies and you just liiiiiiiive for them, sure! Such a sweet, and meaningful addition to your dessert bar.
Overall, the key here with food is: if it's prepared in advance, and you're handing it to your coordinator who can literally plop it down, perfect. If things need to be made, cut, organized, put together, arranged: do not consider it. Don't make your coordinator the food prep person, under the belief that someone else already "did it themselves". Your coordinator's job is already making sure your entire day goes according to plan, and on schedule, as the point of contact for each vendor, and who is constantly putting out fires. Would you really rather have her take 45 minutes away from everything else going on so that she can plate and put together food? Wouldn't you rather make sure you were able to do all the things you planned for this very special night instead of running an hour behind schedule and missing out on certain elements that the coordinator arranges like special dances or tosses or speeches or your fancy exit?
Like we said before, just because an element can be DIY doesn't mean it comes without a cost or sacrifice of something else.
The paper products associated with weddings are great opportunities to DIY! Whether it's your invitation suite, ceremony pamphlets, or menus, you have a lot of room to share your personality as a couple or give it a unique twist. You can really be creative with these specific elements! Menus could be printed on paper, framed on a table, or even on a large-scale sign leading into the reception space. Your ceremony pamphlets could be printed on fans in the summer, or also on a large-scale wood sign at the ceremony entrance.
Escort boards are usually the most expensive type of wedding day signage so we thought we would highlighted it. Whether you opt for a version on paper, or written out on a massive mirror or wood board, the medium you use to tell your guests what table they are assigned to can be extremely beautiful, like its own work of art. If this type of creative outlet is right up your alley, check out the post we did on 9 Wedding Escort Board Ideas We Love for some inspiration!
Name cards can be another great DIY project. There are so many creative ways to make a name card. It could be on paper, on broken bits of terracotta, on a plant leaf, a seashell, a porcelain tile, on marble, on a rock, a cork, on citrus fruits or pomegranates, on mini potted plants, or mini tequila bottles, etc. etc. etc.! We could literally go on and on about different mediums for your name cards. That's what makes it so special to DIY. It can really tie in the decor of the wedding or highlight the couple's shared interests.
Signage. Weddings can really have a lot of signs. Parking sign, welcome signs, restroom signs—you name it, there is a sign for it. You can also make cute "pick a seat, not a side" signs for the ceremony, food or dessert menu signs, signs for special themes like "distance traveled", and so many more. If you love making signs, then DIY your own for your wedding day. Whether its on chalkboard, wood, metals, or glass there are tons of options.
Instead of purchasing rentals, you could easily DIY some of your decor. One of our favorite DIY decor projects are sourcing antique glasses! Whether you have tons in your family already or love hitting the local antique shops, vintage glasses really bring a beautiful and unique touch to your wedding decor! You could do the same with vintage brass taper candles.
Part of what makes decor a good DIY project, is that you can shop for months and months before your wedding day, keeping the final days leading up a little less stressful. Keep in mind, the potential down side with sourcing your own decor is you will be stuck with it all after the dig day (you'll also have to arrange for it to be picked up, packed up, moved, and cleaned up). So unless your soon-to-be husband is down with the garage becoming "wedding storage", you may want to be prepared to sell it or donate it after.
Hand dyed napkins can be another fun DIY project for your wedding, and a really special momento to have and use in the future. You can dye them any color or even dip-dye them. There is something so beautiful about hand dyed napkins—the texture is really highlighted in the weave of the napkin, and it adds a special touch to the table decor.
There you have it, folks! There really are tons of ways to DIY for your wedding. The key here for what works in the DIY world is choosing things that can be done at least two weeks in advance of your wedding! Ideally, they could be done months before. You really do not want to be doing any projects in the final days. Most importantly, we hope this has helped you consider the potentially unseen costs and sacrifices of choosing to DIY, and given you the opportunity to really ruminate on whether a DIY project is a misunderstood money-saving attempt, or a life-giving creative outlet worth the time and money it requires.