Tips and Tricks for Planning Your Own Wedding
Are you planning your own wedding? Perhaps you don’t have the budget for a dedicated wedding planner. Or, you’ve got a knack for event planning and design. Whatever your reason for going DIY, we applaud your moxie!
Read on to discover where DIY fits naturally into your wedding vision, what (if anything) to leave to the professionals, and tricks to make the entire process run smoothly from choosing your wedding venue to sending thank you notes.
The pros and cons of planning your own wedding
If you’re still deciding if you can plan a wedding without a wedding planner, here are a few pros and cons to consider:
Save money, stick to a budget, and keep costs down.
Complete control over every aspect of the wedding.
Your own style and personality in every choice.
Fun with friends and family helping on certain projects.
Difficulty finding time, especially if you’re juggling a full-time career, classes, or family.
Endless details to manage.
Worry that things won’t turn out quite right.
Costs can add up if you’re not careful.
Thankfully, planning your own wedding doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can hire a wedding planner and make your own favors or church decor — just clarify the elements you’re handling and keep your planner in the loop.
If you go all-in for DIY, you need to stay organized and lean on others for help. Talk with family, friends, and your wedding party about what you need without depending on folks who don’t have the time or interest. Not everyone has the patience for DIY projects; build your DIY wedding team with people who are gung ho about the idea.
Top DIY wedding planning projects
Invitations. Digital invitations make fast work of inviting people to your wedding — and they help keep your RSVPs organized. For smaller weddings, hand-lettering or calligraphy are beautiful choices. Check out this hand-lettering guide for beginners.
Wedding favors. Mini hand-painted artwork on easels. Homemade jam in small mason jars. Candy in a burlap bag. These are fun wedding party projects, especially with beer and pizza on hand for your helpers! Again, think about the scope and how many people can help. Making 50 wedding favors is far more manageable than making 200 and more — be realistic.
Decorations. Start with simple projects, such as printed table menus, a hand-painted wedding seat chart, or stamped metal table numbers. If you’re particularly crafty, you can add a homemade wedding arch or one-of-a-kind chair bows.
Flowers. This is a fun DIY project provided you’re using silk flowers and can arrange vases and centerpieces in advance. If you’re using fresh flowers, this is a HAFDI (Have a Friend Do It) project. You may think you have time to pick up and arrange flowers on your wedding morning, but you don’t. Leave it to someone else.
Desserts. More and more home bakers are trying their hand at homemade cakes, cupcakes, and other pastries and desserts to serve at their rehearsal dinners and receptions. If this is your first attempt at making a wedding cake, stick to a simple design or even a ‘naked’ cake.
Photo booth. Create a DIY selfie station, encouraging guests to share photos with your wedding hashtag. Create a simple backdrop using a gauzy or textured fabric embellished with string lights — you can find inexpensive photo backdrop stands online for under $50 — or tape your backdrop fabric to the wall.
Guest book. Buy a blank journal or inexpensive notebook and cover it with scrapbook paper or decorative fabric for a quick and easy guest book. Other creative ideas include having guests sign a wooden board, plank or Jenga pieces using metallic markers, or signing paper tags with well wishes or advice that can be tied to a wire wishing tree.
Centerpieces. There are so many ideas for eye-catching centerpieces. Here are a few of our favorites:
Battery operated string lights in mason jars
Map-covered flower vases
Papier-mache fruit bowls
Floral spheres (real or silk blossoms attached to giant foam balls)
Masses of tissue paper flowers arranged in vintage silver vases
Vintage glass bottles spray-painted gold, silver, copper, or gunmetal
Chalk-painted mason jars filled with wildflowers
Table numbers. A super easy and fun DIY project for you and a few of your besties.
Wood blocks with house numbers from your local home supply store
Vintage picture frames with printed numbers
Large pumpkins with numbers formed with metal push pins
Wedding party gifts. If you’re a jewelry artist or an aspiring designer, consider making simple necklaces, bracelets, or earrings for your wedding party. Research beginner ideas online and you’ll find abundant options that don’t require much experience or special equipment. Beaded jewelry is always a good choice.
Hair and makeup. Perhaps a close friend or relative is a hairstylist and would love to give you a beautiful updo for your wedding. Or, you’ve watched hours of makeup tutorials on YouTube and always receive compliments on the results. You can manage your makeup and the makeup for a small wedding party yourself.
Wedding dress and accessories. If you or a dear one knows how to sew well, perhaps you can walk down the aisle in a one-of-a-kind wedding dress. Or, you may buy your dress and rent the tuxedos, but manage smaller DIY fashion projects such as the veil, bow ties, cummerbunds, or decorating wedding sneakers.
Must-know sources of DIY inspiration
Research a variety of online and print publications to create a vision board filled with the colors, styles, textures, designs, and specific craft projects that inspire you. Use a corkboard or a fabric and ribbon memo board to save your ideas. Check out these sources:
Craft, DIY, and wedding planning books from your local library or bookstore
The prior weddings of friends and family
Top bridal magazines and websites, such as Martha Stewart Weddings and Brides
Tricks to stay organized while planning your own wedding
Staying organized is vital for any style wedding, but especially so when you’re doing it yourself — in-part or in-full. So nothing falls through the cracks, create a physical organizer OR go completely digital with helpful wedding planning apps. Here’s what you’ll need to track:
Budget. Set a budget and stick to it! Decide what you can afford to spend, including any monetary gifts or donations from family members. While a professional wedding planner will make sure you’re staying on track, when you keep finding incredible ideas you want to incorporate into your special day, it’s easy to go overboard with spending.
Guest list. Keep a list of loved ones and friends you want at your wedding in one place, rather than on scattered scraps of paper. Start with your ‘must-be-there’ family and friends, and expand from there depending on your wedding size.
Venue options. Choosing your wedding venue on your own can feel a bit overwhelming without the support and expertise of a planner. Learn how to pick a wedding venue with our detailed guide.
Save-the-dates, invitations, and RSVPs. Once you’ve finalized your guest list, decide if handmade invitations are feasible. Making from-scratch invites for a wedding of 300 is a huge task; best to only consider this DIY project if you’re having a small or medium-sized wedding. Get started early! There will probably be some trial and error at the start before you settle on a design you love.
The ceremony and reception details (and assignments!) Write out every step of your wedding ceremony and reception so that you can easily share it with your officiant, your wedding party, the venue, and your vendors. Get detailed, with specifics such as the flower drop-off ETA and how long your helpers have to set up for the reception.
Once you have the schedule, give out specific assignments. This will include the person responsible for remembering the rings, the person managing the music for your walk down the aisle, and the friends helping clean up after the festivities.
Vendor communications. If you aren’t going completely DIY, you’ll have vendors to manage. Review and sign all contracts early in the planning process. Clarify the details with vendors — from the wedding cake design to the playlist of fun wedding songs to the timing for catering setup.
Miscellaneous. These are the little things that can easily fall off the radar, such as a change of clothes for the afterparty, water and snacks for the busy wedding party, and tips for vendors.
Best Pinterest DIY wedding ideas
Pinterest is a terrific source of inspiration for DIY wedding gifts, style, and decor design. Here are some Pinterest-inspired DIY ideas:
Polaroid cake topper. Instead of placing traditional wedding couple figures on top of the cake, take a Polaroid or two, attach to a piece of heavy gauge wire and insert it into the top of your cake.
Vintage book table numbers. Find a variety of old hardcover books at home or in second-hand stores. You can attach a wood or metal house number from the hardware store to the front of each book, or add the number with a large ink stamp.
Pumpkin floral centerpieces. Cut off the top and hollow out the center of a small to medium size pumpkin. Add a piece of floral foam to fit the center. Place your silk flower arrangement into the floral foam or saturate it with water if you’re using fresh flowers.
Flower and sand centerpieces. Partially fill glass jars or vases with sand. Push a single flower (fresh or silk) into bud vases for a minimalist look, or create clustered bouquets for dramatic effect.
Ribbon chair sash. Take a piece of fabric or burlap, about 6 to 8 inches wide, and tie it into a giant bow to place around the top of each seat. If the fabric frays easily, you can sew in a simple hem, use no-sew hem tape or leave the edge raw for a rustic look.
Glitter glass vases. Cover a work area with old newspapers. Use masking tape to create a section near the top of the vase, cover the area below the tape with Mod Podge, and pour glitter over. When the glitter is dry, add Mod Podge to a bowl, thin it with water, and brush on a protective top coat. Fill the vases with flowers, silk flowers or even candles or battery operated tealights.
Mason jar lights. Add a set of battery operated string lights to a mason jar and screw on the lid for a simple DIY project that creates a lovely ambience. Place the jars at strategic locations throughout your venue. Leave the lights turned off until right before the reception so the batteries don’t wear out, or go for solar-powered ‘fairy’ lights.
Salt dough. Traditionally used to make ornaments, you can use salt dough to create pendants, wedding favors, table markers, or place-card holders. The basic recipe is 4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup salt, and 1 ½ cups warm water. After molding into your desired shape, poke a small hole in the top for a ribbon. You can bake your pieces (around one hour at 325 degrees) or let them air dry for three to seven days. When dry, embellish with glitter, puff paint, or acrylic paint.
Scrabble tile table numbers. Use real Scrabble tiles as a reference when making this DIY project. Get a large wood plaque from a craft or home improvement store - 8” x 8” or larger is best. Use black paint and a small paint brush to paint each plaque to look like a giant Scrabble tile. Once the paint is dry, brush on a coat or two of Mod Podge to seal the paint. Place the tiles in the center of each table.
Pine cone place cards. You can gather pine cones yourself or find bags of them at most craft stores. Leave the pinecones in their natural state or enhance them with a bit of gold or silver spray paint, glitter spray, or flocking. Print out individual guest names on heavy cardstock and fit between the needles.
The best places to find supplies for planning your own wedding
You can find beautiful, rustic, and elegant items to uplift your wedding decor — if you know where to look and are willing to put in the legwork. Here are some of the top sources of unique and affordable wedding supplies:
Dollar stores. Among the goodies you’ll find: metallic serving trays, plastic bowls, glass vases, garland strands, paper streamers, satin ribbons, paper napkins, table covers, candle holders, and silk flowers.
Online stores. A quick search online will turn up many sources of bargain supplies such as Oriental Trading, Beau Coup, Fun Express, and even Amazon. Hunt for good prices on arches and columns, photo booth props, centerpieces, chair covers, floral supplies, table numbers, wedding favors, and cake decorating supplies.
Party supply shops. Not just for Halloween and kids’ birthdays, party supply shops have a great selection of plastic cutlery, drinkware, plates, table covers, candy, invitations, balloons, baking supplies, and much more. Go in person or find many of them online.
Craft stores. Jo-Ann, Michaels, Hobby Lobby are the big names in craft stores. Or, head to a mom-and-pop craft store in your area.
Second-hand stores. Flea market and thrift shops like Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity ReStores are goldmines of inexpensive housewares. Think vases for centerpieces, a shabby chic bedside table for your guest book, or mirrors to use as table runners. These stores get “new” items often, so check back often.
Yard and garage sales. There’s one almost every weekend and you never know what you may find. Items to look for: mason jars, bottles, suitcases, trunks, wood crates, ladders, globes, tablecloths, napkins, and doilies.
Your house! Save a few dollars by repurposing some of the items in your own home. Upcycle that old window in your garage into a seating chart. Grab those table linens you never use. Bring your grandmother’s candelabra out of storage for the sweetheart table.
What to consider leaving to the pros
Professional vendors take some of the pressure off you and your planning team. Turn to the pros for wedding planning tasks that stress you or that require expertise you don’t have. Here are some ideas:
Invitations. Many companies can help you design a beautiful print invitation. With Joy lets you design digital invites and order traditional print versions to match.
DJ and music. If you don’t have a tech-savvy person on your team, you might want to enlist the services of a professional DJ or even hire a live band.
Wedding cake. A large and elaborate cake can take days to prepare. Professional wedding cake bakers have portfolios of cakes and experience designing cakes couples love. And who doesn’t like taste testing cakes?
Photography and videography. Photos and videos let you look back on your big day through the years — you want these to come out perfectly.
Venue. Beyond providing beautiful spaces, venues are at-the-ready for your big day. They often have caterers (or stocked kitchens for your caterer), lovely wedding photo locations, and a maitre d' to help manage the wedding day. This takes a lot off your DIY plate.
Before kick-starting DIY wedding planning, imagine yourself designing and completing the projects on your list. What’s your gut reaction? Are you excited to dive right in or worrying about how you’ll manage? Be realistic from the start. You don’t want to discover you took on too much three months before your wedding. Once you’ve narrowed it down and started — remember the most important thing is to enjoy every step of the DIY way.
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