Can You Afford a Wedding? Part 2: DIY’ers, Beware

The explosion of wedding blogs and magazines have promoted the idea that you, the bride (and/or groom), can, with your own hands and perhaps a few bridesmaids’ help, create the perfect wedding on a tiny budget.  I love these blogs. The inspiration is endless. Martha Stewart, she’s like a goddess to me.  And there’s something fabulous about having your own ideas and handiwork reflected in your event.

But women, being the perfectionists that we are, sometimes put too much pressure on ourselves to create the perfect wedding. And on top of that, there’s a myth that DIY’g is the easy way to have an inexpensive wedding.  Before you commit to any large DIY project, inform yourself.

Keep these ideas in mind:

1.  Start early! Plan to have all your favors, decor, everything you are creating yourself, done 4-6 weeks prior to the event.  You’ll shoot for this, and if you don’t quite make this deadline, you still have a whole month left.  The tradeoff with not paying someone is that you have to make time to do these things by yourself, but your full time job isn’t doing the flowers, or decor, or favors – you already have a job. So, you need more time. Simple as that.

2.  Beware asking friends for help.  Most of them will do a lovely job, but give them time too, and a precise and un-overwhelming to-do list with deadlines. Make it fun:  If you need help assembling favors, have a party – with wine and cheese and girly movies, whole nine yards.

Asking friends who are wedding pros to perform their job at your wedding is also dicey; if they are someone you would already considering inviting, let them know you understand if they’d rather not work your wedding and would prefer to sit back and enjoy.  Pay them – either for their supplies, a performance fee, or both.  If they consider it their gift to you, give them a heartfelt token of your appreciation – give the photographer a point-and-shoot digital camera for test shoots, buy the florist a luxurious bottle of high-end champagne.

3.  DIYers need a coordinator as much as – or more! – than non DIYers. Yes, it’s true. The whole point is you’re trying to save money, right? I totally get it (I shopped my candle centerpieces from thrift stores myself, and had pals in production and art production set them up on the tables – I’ve been there!).  But, when your mom is providing the alcohol and your cousin is doing the flowers and your dad is bringing the favors, you  need someone to tie it all together.

For example, these flowers for this September wedding were done by the bride’s aunt and mother, two talented “on the side” florists who are doing more and more professional jobs as they perfect their skills.  Their centerpieces were a lovely gift to the bride and groom.

When I first booked the client, she asked if I could help transport the flowers. I said I could probably help, but then we discussed further, and there were going to be at least 20 arrangements with as many vases; four pillars; and other accessories, too much to fit in my crossover SUV.  6 weeks prior to their wedding date, I created a schedule that allowed for morning load in at two different locations (ceremony and reception), and load out as well, and shared with all family members.  They ended up borrowing a truck and using the help of wonderful friends who donated their time.

Also, a coordinator calls all the involved DIY’er parties and lets them know when their work is needed, when.  They ensure the family-friend DJ has the names of the grand entrance participants, and how to say them phonetically; they make sure the buddy playing the ipod during the reception does a sound check prior – that kind of thing.  We pick up stuff that slips through the cracks, so you don’t have to.

Just this past weekend, I coordinated a wedding in which the brides’ family donated the alcohol.  I was there bright and cheery at load in, ensured they had the right amounts of liquor and mixers chilling all morning, hung the bar menu on the wall, and was able to show the bartenders around when they arrived while the family members were at the ceremony.  I coordinated with the owner of the banquet hall their exact arrival time (which changed three times), so the bride didn’t have to keep on top of it.  I saw that the women wisely overbought, and left one huge bag unpacked which allowed for a easier load out. Oh – and I went out and bought ice throughout to keep up the supply.

4.  Think twice before doing your own flowers. So many brides see the beautiful colors at the flower mart and go, “I want to do my own flowers!” Trust me – I’m a flower arranging fanatic.  But your wedding is not the time to do it, UNLESS, you keep it simple.

For example – and pardon the crappy photo, haven’t received the pro photos yet – the clients at this wedding took irises, bought vases, rooted the irises in clear marbles, added some water – boom, they had a lovely, simple centerpiece.  They were able to make them two days ahead of time, making sure they had a cool space to keep the flowers so they wouldn’t wilt.

Making bouquets and boutonnieres is a whole other art, and taking a class or practicing many months prior to the event is widely recommended.

And remember, you can’t really do flowers ahead of time – 48 hours is about the cutoff. (Some florists do arrangements further in advance depending on the flower and how important it is for the blooms to open, but they have ideal temp-controlled spaces to store the flowers for optimum freshness).  So many things happen just before wedding – certainly, ‘planning fatigue’ sets in – and many brides realize they got themselves in over their head, unless a gaggle of friends and family are committed to a flower party just two days before the big event.

5.  Sometimes, paying for a service is cheaper than DIY. Cheaper not only financially, but sanity/time wise, as well.

This bride paid for the beautiful design of her table numbers and escort cards, ordered flower arrangements, but bought the tri-level candle holders herself.  She split the cost 50/50 and got to keep the candle holders, also – a good compromise.  Printing out her own escort cards and table numbers would likely cost her as much in paper and ink (especially because mistakes happen on home printers all the time), and would take up a good amount of time as well.

In summary, DIY is a great thing, but be careful to filter your inspiration through the lens of reality. Give yourself plenty of time, ask for help, and pick your battles wisely.