DIY Demon Or No? How To Decide

In a recent article, I talked about how to decide whether to use a professional planner to help create your wedding dreams. It seemed only fair that I also talk about how to decide whether to create most of your wedding from scratch or not.

I’m going to come right out and say that I was a total DIY diva for my wedding. I love to make things by hand, and I hate to spend money on paying someone to do something I’m more than capable of doing for myself. Further, I felt that putting my handwork into the day was part of putting my heart into the event. On top of all that, we had pretty much two shiny nickles to spend on making a day that our friends and families would remember fondly. We just plain didn’t have the bucks to spend on a lot of pros…but even if the budget had been more flexible, I think I would have done the DIY thing pretty much to the level I did. See above in re: putting my heart into the day.

I’ve known brides who have made their own gowns, grown the flowers, deisgned and printed invitations, baked their own cakes, made the wedding feasts in their own kitchens, designed and made all the decorations…I think about the only thing I haven’t seen yet is a bride who cobbled her own wedding shoes. I’m equally sure that somewhere out there is a lady who has done just that.

Still, it’s not for everyone. And that’s why you should ask yourself the following questions when deciding whether or not to DIY and to what extent:

How crafty am I? If the last thing you tried making by hand was that macaroni picture in the third grade, you might not want to begin with your wedding. If, on the other hand, you do lacemaking demonstrations publicly as I was doing at the time I started my wedding plans, chances are you’d be able to do plenty of things yourself. Be honest with yourself about your level of skill, confidence, and ability to learn new things quickly.

How elaborate do I want things at my wedding? If you want simple sheaf or nosegay bouquets, nearly anyone with two working hands can put that together. That makes a great DIY project that will save hugely on a florist. If, on the other hand, you want an elaborate cascade and have never tried tying any sort of bouquet, do not try it at home. Bring in the pro and pay a fair price. If you want a very simple gown and are a reasonably accomplished home sewer, chances are you can produce that on your own. But unless you’re good enough to go pro yourself, don’t try to reproduce that strapless, bustled ballgown of a confection you saw in some fantasy photo shoot.

How much time do I have to do this in? If you’re getting married in three weeks, don’t try to grow your own roses now. You just won’t be able to do it. Some things can be done quickly and easily at any time, but others require a lot more hours to accomplish. Be practical about it.

How important is it to me to do this myself? In many ways, this is the one that trumps everything in my book. If it’s really important, then it’s worth reconsidering time frames and learning new skills. For instance, it was really important to me to make my own lace for my wedding gown. It’s a skill that defines me in some ways, and something that made the day more personally fulfilling. It’s also something that takes a long time to do. In fact, it took a year. For another couple of my acquaintance who are both avid gardeners, the most important thing to them was to have flowers from their own garden used. Again, that took a long time and careful planning. Again, they both felt it was well worth the time and effort because it added something so personal to the day.

Is this really a practical thing for me to do myself? In other words, some projects can be done ahead of time and are perfectly reasonable. Others can’t be done until the very last minute and may be more stressful than anticipated. Do you really want to wake up on your wedding day and start stuffing mushrooms for the reception? If you choose to do something like catering by yourself, think carefully about creating a menu that can be prepared in advance and only needs reheating/setting out. Then appoint a crew to help with that. And please don’t try to take your formal portraits by yourself, not even if you have a camera with a timer and a tripod. That just plain isn’t going to work.

Will this save a significant amount of money or add something special to my day? If the answer to both of these questions is no, then why put yourself to the trouble? For instance, I went with a commercially available invitation. I had no computer or hand printing skills, Mr. Twistie didn’t have the time to put into it, as long as the invitiations were reasonably pretty and got the information across I wasn’t actually that worried about their specific design, and then I found some really pretty, really inexpensive invitations at my local stationers. In fact, the deal was so good it would have cost me more to make the invitations. At that point, I decided that invitations were something to buy rather than make. I’ve never regretted that decision one bit.

Will doing this myself stress me out, calm me down, or otherwise strongly influence my mood at my wedding? This goes right up there with personal significance as a decision maker in my book. As I noted in the wedding planner article, some of us are calmer if someone else takes care of all the details for us. Some of us are only content when we are handling things ourselves. Most of us fall somewhere in between. Think about how you want to approach your big day for maximum comfort to you.

Doing projects for your wedding can bring a great sense of personal accomplishment while adding a clear indication of who you are to your wedding…but as I said, it’s not for everyone. Think it over, then do what works best for you.

9 Responses to “DIY Demon Or No? How To Decide”

  1. digibelle April 12, 2008 at 5:00 pm #

    I am a big believer in the DIY approach. Like Twistie, I wanted to have my own personal stamp on the day and I wanted to save money. I ended up having the wedding of my dreams and put the money were it counted, into the food and drinks. I made my jewelry, necklaces for my maid of honor and the triplet flower girls. I also made thank you gifts for key people. I had girlfriends over for a day and we made all the favors.

    The key is having enough time — I had a year to work on my wedding — and being organized. I was also realistic about stressing myself out. I had planned to make my party dress, but a month before the wedding I realized I would be working up to the last minute and it wasn’t fun anymore, so I quit and took my mom shopping. We found a beautiful party dress and I was thrilled. So be the DIY diva you want to be, just make sure you are having fun and leave the rest to the pros.

  2. Twistie April 13, 2008 at 12:06 am #

    That sounds like it was a great party, digibelle. And I absolutely agree that plenty of food and drink is an important priority.

    Good for you for recognizing when a DIY project wasn’t working out for you! It can be easy to go into autopilot and stress yourself out over something that isn’t working as well as you thought it would. Sometimes it’s important to know when to throw in the towel.

  3. Kate April 13, 2008 at 10:14 am #

    I think I’m getting the best of both worlds, because my mom and my sister are both creative, crafty people. My mother makes and sells jewelry, and will be designing jewelry for me and my bridesmaids for our September wedding. My mother will also be making the bouquets and centerpieces, with the assistance of her sisters – my aunts. My sister is a graphic designer and has offered to design, print and assemble our invitations for us. They’re both talking to me about what I want and adjusting their creations accordingly. It’s been great because I get something very personal and special to me, but still have enough free time to focus on other things in my life – like planning the rest of the wedding, and my job, and my upcoming licensing exam.

  4. Twistie April 13, 2008 at 10:30 am #

    That’s terrific, Kate! Yes, sometimes having crafty people around you is a good idea. I know I would never have taken on making the food for my wedding alone, but with the help of my father and one or two other good cooks around me, it worked out great. And I could have made all the lace I wanted, but if I didn’t have a close friend who was a talented and creative seamstress, I still wouldn’t have had the gown of my dreams.

    Yes, the woman who makes her own lace doesn’t sew.

  5. Melissa B. April 13, 2008 at 1:54 pm #

    Twistie, I suddenly have a strange desire to go to Italy and apprentice myself to an old shoemaker so I can learn to cobble my own wedding shoes.

    But realistically, I’m all thumbs with the DIY stuff. My attempt to help my best friend assemble her out-of-towner welcome boxes ended with the bride laughing hysterically at my inability to fold the damn boxes correctly (as in, the bottom fell out when I picked it up. Many custom-made lilac M&Ms were lost under the bed that day). I love it when couples incorporate handmade details into their weddings, but I’ve accepted that I’m just not gifted in that direction!

  6. Never teh Bride April 13, 2008 at 4:31 pm #

    I was really psyched to DIY (or is that DIM? DIO?) but received more discouragement than you’d think from family members telling us that it would be too hard, too taxing, too stressful. The only thing I ended up making myself was my bouquet, and truth be told I found the process extremely relaxing. I was using faux flowers, which was part of it. Had I been using real blooms I might have gotten a wee bit hot under the collar when petals ripped off and stems snapped. Hot glue is my friend!

    I loved our cake, but I was actually looking forward to making cake or cakes or cupcakes for the reception. Everyone upon everyone told us we shouldn’t even think about doing it. I’m a little disappointed about it still, but we had so many silly little family obligations to attend to that it really would have been hard to fit into our schedule. ::sigh::

  7. Chloe April 14, 2008 at 11:44 am #

    I’m generally obsessively DIY (a career in the arts will do that to a person :-) ) so I ended up sewing my own wedding dress, making the bouquets, sewing a vest for my fiance, making chocolates for favors, made my own jewelry and then folding 1000 origami butterflies (I couldn’t have done the butterflies without help from my MIL-to-be and my fiance’s step mom)

    I also realized that there are somethings I just couldn’t do! It was totally worth getting the cake professionally made, have the bridesmaid dresses sewn by a seamstress and getting a florist to make the corsages. Playing to your own strengths is key!

  8. Twistie April 14, 2008 at 12:16 pm #

    Melissa B, go thou and apprentice thyself! I’d love to be able to do a profile on the bride who cobbled her own shoes. Cobble is such a fun word. Just make sure you have a good insurance plan after that box folding experiment!

    NtB, I’ve known half a dozen brides who made their own cakes. And I know there were days when sitting there tossing the bobbins was the best thing I could have done for myself. Like your experience with the bouquets, I found it relaxing. The important part is being clear in your own mind which projects are relaxing to you and which aren’t…and the clear understanding that others will tell you that what they think would stress them will obviously stress you. But you know you best. You know whether baking is fun and relaxing or a huge stress to you. You figured out on your own that you would work better with faux flowers than real. Knowing your own nature is key to deciding what to and what not to do yourself.

    Chloe, you are so right that playing to your strengths is important. That’s why I made no attempt to sew my gown. Hell, after a year of making the lace, I was ready to hand it off even if I was that good with a needle and thread! And grow flowers? No way. I have black thumb. I look at plants and they die. But knowing what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, and which jobs will be too stressful for you is vitally important. For me, it was great having fruit salad and bouquets to make the night before the wedding. Another bride may want to have everything off her plate at that point. It’s all about knowing which bride you are and acting accordingly.

  9. Never teh Bride April 14, 2008 at 12:24 pm #

    Here is me bowing down to you, Chloe. I am so not worthy!

    ;-)