If you’re planning a wedding, or thinking about planning a wedding, you know that it’s pretty challenging to do so while keeping a tight budget. When you’re planning, it seems like every five seconds there’s something else to pay for. Oh, the florist wants a deposit? It’s time to order invitations? Your dress needs altering? It may not seem so bad at the beginning of the planning process, but as you reach the end, it can be a huge source of stress.
The option to DIY can seem like a saving grace from a financial standpoint, but can simultaneously be incredibly overwhelming. Although it seems counterintuitive, choosing to DIY can also rack up the dollar signs if you aren’t careful. With Pinterest weddingspo at every turn, there are just too many options and so many differing opinions on the DIY versus buy debate. As a recent bride, I strived to find a happy medium between the two. I weighed my options on a lot of different parts of our wedding plans, debating the pros and cons of afternoons hunched over hot glue guns, versus the idea of shelling out hundreds of dollars to an Etsy seller.
At the end of the day, I chose to DIY almost every aspect of our decor and other details. The main reason? Every time I came close to pulling the trigger on purchase, a little voice piped up to say, “I could totally do this myself for way less money.” And I was right. However, there are some aspects of one’s wedding day that, in my opinion, aren’t worth attempting yourself. There’s a reason why there are professionals in this industry, and there’s also a reason why some things work as DIYs and others don’t.
Here are four things you may want to consider DIY-ing:
Favors are a lovely touch, but they’re easily overlooked by guests, or left behind at the end of the night. In the grand scheme of wedding details, the favors are pretty miniscule. However, one quick search through Pinterest might leave you feeling otherwise; it’s easy to get caught up in all the images of custom mason jars, tiny milk bottles, and other adorable keepsakes. And it’s even easier to believe that your favors must wow your guests.
The idea for our favors came from a great blog tutorial, which demonstrated how to fill and decorate adorable test tube-shaped vials. Our favors came in three options — the first was filled with wildflower seeds, the second was filled with bath salts, and the third had chocolate. I ordered the vials and corks online in bulk for approximately $3 per lot from AliExpress and made the tags myself. I attached the tags with twine from Michaels. The entire collection of favors cost no more than $50, and they took only a few hours to put together with the help of some friends.
2. Chalkboard art
Chalkboard signs are super trendy right now in wedding decor. You could pay for a custom designed one, or you could roll up your sleeves and attempt your own for less than $20. You can find adorable chalkboard signs at almost any Homegoods or TJMaxx these days, and you can purchase chalkboard pens at Michaels, AC Moore, or any craft store. The trick to chalk pens is to make sure you shake them a lot before using them. (Bonus: it’s like an arm workout.)
If you have a steady hand, there are tons of designs on the internet you can copy freeform. If not, print out a design that you like and trace it onto the chalkboard with pencil first, then trace over it with the chalk marker.
3. Printed items
To be clear, I’m not necessarily advocating for making your own invitations or save the dates. Those might need a professional touch. I’m talking about everything else; there are tons of printed items that come up throughout the planning process. You may need programs, menus, escort cards, or table number signs.
The first thing you need in order to DIY any printouts is a Vistaprint or Staples account. The second thing you will need is imaging software. If you already have Photoshop on your computer, you’re ahead of the game. If not, my recommendation is to download the Pixelmator app for your computer, and you’re in business. Pixelmator is a $30 imaging program and a godsend for anyone who wants imaging software without paying for Photoshop. From there, you can create pretty much print anything you need. Both Vistaprint and Staples offer cheap printing services, often with lots of deals and discounts. When designing your project on both sites, you will be able to view recommended specs so you can be sure to size everything perfectly and use the correct resolution for optimal printing results.
Not everyone wants to purchase fresh flowers for every table at the reception. And faux flowers can look gorgeous if they are assembled in the right way. I used flowers from Michaels and assembled them in large glass bowls purchased from Homegoods. In the center of the bowls, I used a dry foam green brick to steady the flowers, and I covered the brick in burlap to make it look prettier. In addition to flowers, think about other things that can be used as centerpieces: candles, jars, leaves, etc.
I took mason jars and covered them with fake leaves. I filled the jars about a third of the way with uncooked popcorn kernels and nested a flameless candle inside. Our centerpieces were gorgeous and there wasn’t a fresh flower in sight.
While I was very pleased with my DIY projects, there were some things I didn’t want to leave in my hands, or the hands of my trusty friends. Here are three things I’m very glad I splurged on.
Your family friend might be a whiz on Instagram, and maybe Aunt Susie likes to tinker around with her camera, but this is one area I decided to leave to the pros. A wedding photographer is so much more than someone who takes pictures. In my opinion, he or she will capture the biggest and smallest moments of the day — the ones you don’t even realize are happening. My photographer knew exactly where to position us, what light to use, and what to say to relax us during the pre-ceremony jitters. If it rains or snows, he or she will still be able to get the shot.
Wedding photographers have seen so many unexpected issues arise at the last minute that they’ll be able to deal with spontaneity much better than your pseudo-photographer ever could.
It might be tempting to hook your Spotify up to shuffle and call it a day, but my thought is that the actual role of the DJ is more than someone who is just playing music. The DJ is not just a guy (or gal) who hits “start” on a playlist. In actuality, the DJ is the emcee of the entire wedding reception. We had enough to do that evening without worrying about guiding people to their seats when it was time to eat, announcing the bouquet and garter toss, or signifying that it was time for toasts.
3. Food and drinks
One of the most fun parts of wedding planning, for me, was going to the tasting before planning our menu. If you choose to taste menus or cakes, you literally get to eat all day, and you will eat so many delicious things.
Similarly, one of the best parts of going to a wedding is eating and drinking. Your guests have likely paid a lot of money to be a part of your wedding day. It’s always a lovely gesture to serve them delicious food and alcohol.
My advice is to keep in mind the takeaways from a guest’s experience at a wedding, in addition to your own. The atmosphere. The music. The food. The ambiance. Some of these things might be within your control, but not all of them have to be. I chose to leave a few more challenging aspects to the professionals and allow my personal touch to grace the details. With that balance, the guests, my husband, and I were able to build amazing memories without the two of us spending needlessly.
De is a New Yorker turned Bostonian and a lover of all things theatrical. In addition to writing, she is an actress/singer/dancer/teacher and owner of the fluffiest cat imaginable. She is on Twitter.
Main mage via Unsplash
Body images via De Elizabeth