The Do-It-Yourself crafting trend started long before brides completely embraced it -- but with the help of Pinterest, Instagram, Lover-ly and literally millions of other wedding-idea websites, more brides and grooms are finding ways to take over parts of the wedding that would have previously been farmed out to vendors. This puts a personal stamp of so many elements of the wedding and really helps reflect the couples' taste and style.
While sometimes your DIY project might actually cost you more to complete on your own than to order pre-assembled, the satisfaction gained by many of my wedding clients (especially the crafters in the bunch), far outweighs the cost of materials -- and in some cases shipping to your wedding destination -- than the actual dollar amount.
Fortunately, there are several DIY wedding projects that can be cost-effective and fun, although they're all a little bit time-consuming. But that's exactly what the motivated bride and groom want -- something that costs them more time than money.
1. Invitations - It is EASY to design and make high-quality wedding invitations yourself. There are six zillion ideas online and you can take what you like from each of them, make your shopping list and head to the craft store. You may need to actually seek out an actual art supply store for some of the quality paper and ink you need to make them look professionally done, but that's a small price to pay if you can find everything you want and get started quickly and easily. There are no limits on space or rules about color and you're not stuck with an option in a stationary store or online invitation site. You can be as creative -- or elegantly simple -- as you wish.
2. Placecards - Whether you're just having placecards, or doing escort cards too, handmade displays can be absolutely lovely. For my own wedding, we created beach-themed placecards and nestled them in a bed of sand, supported by pretty colored natural sea glass. Brides and groom on our island love to do message in a bottle placecards that we bury in sand on a turquoise tablecloth so it looks like they're sitting on a beach. We've even put up little umbrellas around them! Whatever your wedding theme, you can be as creative as you like. If your guests have pre-ordered their entrees, you can indicate their dinner selection on the card in a variety of fun ways from unusual stamps to a color pattern.
3. Welcome bags and the goodies inside them - Every out-of-town wedding guest should be greeted with a fabulous welcome bag. Whether you buy something commercially available and fill it with creative things, or buy blank canvass bags and decorate them yourself, it's a much appreciated gift when it's also filled with useful information and yummy treats. You can even print out personalized labels to apply to water bottles or wine bottles you're including in the bag. This is the place for welcome edibles -- just keep in mind where you're getting married. Chocolate, chapstick, candles and lot of other things that don't begin with the letter "C" will melt if not kept in temperature controlled environments. If you're getting married someplace warm, choose sweets that won't melt, like cookies or gummy worms or something else fun.
4. Wedding party gifts - It takes more than just a casual crafter to make genuine gifts that will serve to thank the men and women who stand up for you on your wedding day, but I've seen some amazing stuff. Personalized hats and other outerwear embroidered by the bride herself. Grill brands mounted on special wood-burned holders constructed by the room. Handmade jewelry (not what you expect them to wear in your wedding -- something they can wear anytime) can be a huge hit now that Swarovski and real pearls are readily accessible to the at-home crafter. One of my brides actually took a class on making gold pendants -- and she made one for me too! Beautiful 18 karat gold orchid pendants that will forever remind us all of her wedding and be truly appreciated. Thank you Alyssa Reiner!
5. Non-traditional bouquets - In the past two years, DIY brides have embraced making their own bouquets. For some, it's a budget matter. For others, Pinterest strikes again! Button bouquets, broach bouquets, sea shells and everything else the glitters, sparkles or pops can be pulled together in a pretty arrangement that looks amazing with certain wedding gowns. Just remember, you can't throw that at anyone unless you're trying to knock them out. Ask your florist to create a small tossing bouquet for you.
6. Special Signage - Instead of having your flower girls carry traditional baskets, you can create fun signage with a crazy huge variety of different sayings from "Here Comes the Bride" to "Guess What Happens Next?" to precede you down the ceremony aisle. For beach weddings, signs that say "barefoot only beyond this point!" can be fun for guests and pop in pictures on the catwalk to the beach.
7. Décor - How much décor you do yourself is going to be relative to where you're getting married. For example, in your hometown you can make the centerpieces and other such décor ahead of time (as long as you're not doing flowers) and your planner can put it out on the big day. If you're having a destination wedding, you have to consider the cost of shipping 100 miniature neon pots (a recent example from one of our weddings) and how many will actually make it to your wedding in once piece. A few creative couples over the years have done lightweight origami projects that could be hung from trees. We've seen hand-made, color-coordinated dream catchers floating in the trees above the ceremony too. But it's not cost effective to ship hand-punched tin lanterns to use as luminaries, for example. That stuff should only be made for at-home weddings.
8. Favors - We've had clients who represented their home states with little bottles of maple syrup from a family farm, and we have a bride right now who is doing little jars of honey from her family's bee colony. When I got married, I hand-painted Christmas ornaments for each and every guest -- a multi-month project that revealed I got better with practice (the first 10 were reserved for my own tree) -- and packaged them up in sweet boxes tied with wedding themed ribbons. One early set of clients set out to make 1,000 paper cranes (in following a Chinese tradition) and although they definitely didn't hit the quantity mark, they had plenty. I still have two hanging on hooks in my guest room (thanks Jen and Mike Phelan). But also don't forget that wedding cookies and cake pops can hit the spot as your guests depart after a long night of dancing!
9. Photo Albums - There is no reason to pay a photographer an exorbitant fee to create formal albums for you anymore. Almost all photography packages offer an option where you can get all your picture files on CD and then create to your heart's delight. I know one bride who printed out all the high-quality pictures she wanted on the system at Walgreen's and created beautiful albums from supplies she had collected for her stamping hobby. Nothing has to be traditional about it -- you can create an album for each bridesmaid that's personalized to reflect your shared relationship. Or you can simply create something online and order as many as you like. The options are limitless and if you're not sure what to do, you'll find an idea from somebody else's Pinterest page.
One warning to all you DIY brides - and I know because I WAS a DIY destination bride -- don't take on more than you can realistically handle. I did a lot of my wedding myself, but the one thing I regret not having done professionally was the wedding album. I made a few and printed out some pictures -- and now because of what I do for a living, most of my wedding photos can even be found online. But I don't have the kind of REAL wedding album that I've seen my photographers create for some of my clients and I wish I did. Maybe that's a good rainy day project for me to take on when I have some free time.
Don't be intimidated by DIY projects, but also be realistic about what you can accomplish and how effectively you can deliver it to our destination. There's nothing worse than having a bride spend weeks creating individual picture frame placecards only to have them arrive in crumbles because she didn't package them properly or the box was mistreated en route. It usually too late for replacements to be constructed in the same loving manner as the originals.
Have fun crafting! And until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!