As far as weddings go, I’m pretty sure ours was as do-it-yourself as you can get. I’ve had a few weeks now to think about how it all turned out, so before I post the official photos, I thought I’d share with you how we pulled it off (and some lessons learned). Maybe our experience will help you decide to (or not to) take on your own wedding!
We rented a home for the week and invited friends and family to stay and help prep for the 5 days leading up to the big day. To save money, we assigned one meal to each person to cook for the group. This was my favorite part of the week because everyone made such delicious food and it kept the kitchen stress-free.
Early in the week, we did the grocery shopping, accepted the early rentals, and finished any projects that didn’t need to be last minute. Later in the week, we arranged flowers, freaked out about the possibility of rain, baked the cakes, cooked and packaged the picnic sides, freaked out some more, and set up our only rain cover, a huge white pop-up tent.
It was raining off and on the whole week and pretty steadily the night before our wedding. Jeff and I cried A LOT that night and into the next morning. At 6am on our wedding day, we were standing alone outside trying to figure out what to do and which plan to proceed with, still crying about the weather and our seemingly consistent bad luck. Jeff looked up at the sky and said, “SERIOUSLY?! Please. Please. Just not today.” Suddenly, the sun peeked out and it didn’t rain a drop all day.
DIY Wedding Lessons
Lesson 1: Prep absolutely EVERYTHING you can before the week leading up to your wedding. We spread out our projects over about 7 months to save headaches and most importantly, money! If you are only spending 50 bucks here and there to tackle gift bags or favors or your cake decorations, the final cost of your wedding won’t sting so much.
Lesson 2: Have a notebook with a plan. A REAL plan. I typed out every project I could think of for the week and then divided it between the days. I had layout charts for the tables, the food and the decorations. When the last minute details are coming together, you’ll be getting ready, so your notebook should be a solid replacement for yourself.
Lesson 3: Things will go wrong, no matter what, so be ready to laugh about it or to just let it go. We had rain all week, humidity that felt like a jungle, a sagging cake, no phone or wifi, and mosquito bites all over our bodies and faces…just to name a few!
Lesson 4: If you are doing your own food, think through every minute detail months beforehand. Where are you storing the ingredients? We rented two refrigerators for ours. How will you cook it all? We brought large pots and huge food containers to store in it after it was made. Who will set it up? We assigned a tray per person in our bridal party and had two family members restock the food on the buffet as people packed their lunch. How will you keep things cold or hot once they are out? We rented fill and chill tables and filled them with ice to rest our sandwich trays on top. We loved them!
Lesson 5: If you have the time, flower arranging isn’t as tough as I expected! We ordered bulk flowers that were delivered to the house 3 days before and we arranged them the morning before the wedding day. Do a little YouTube browsing for tips on how to deal with your particular flowers. We used wet floral foam so that all we really had to do was cut the stems and stick them in. The bouquets held up well resting in large drinking glasses until the next day and the boutonnieres were stored on a tray in the fridge.
Lesson 6: A LOT has to happen the morning of your wedding. If you’re going full-on DIY, you probably won’t be primping or getting your nails done or even sleeping past 6am. Definitely think through the reality of putting on a show and being the star of it in the same day!
Lesson 7: Is it really worth the money saved? Yes. We have heard from other couples that a reasonable catering package is anywhere from $100-125 a head. This usually includes booze, tables, linens, staff, etc. This is on top of your music, location, dress, suit, rings, officiant and your own personal touches. Our food and rentals came out at about $60 a head. It was certainly a lot more work, but I still wouldn’t have traded that time for the debt.
Lesson 8: Clothing. It really does save a lot of money to make your own dress if you can. My dress looked like thousands of dollars, but only cost me $350 in fabric. The bridesmaids and groomswomen paid me for their fabric (about $60 a person) and I patterned a simple cotton dress that was easy to make in a variety of sizes. At 60 bucks, it won’t matter if they never wear it again!
Lesson 9: Makeup and hair. If you can’t afford to hire someone to do these two things for you, definitely do some research and practice a couple of times beforehand if you’re not a professional. I learned a lot from these YouTube ladies and wrote down my makeup steps so I could just be on auto-pilot on the day. Trust me- you’ll want to be wearing much heavier makeup than usual and tailored specifically for photography.
Lesson 9: The aftermath. HIRE A CLEANING CREW. Trust me when I say that you won’t want to wake up the day after your wedding to the mess that was created the night before. It took us, 4 people, a full day and a half to clean everything up!
I hope this helps any of you DIY-ers planning your wedding, and feel free to post any specific questions in the comments. We’ll be selling a lot of stuff from our picnic wedding soon and stay tuned for the big reveal of the day just as soon as we get all of the official photos ready!