Choosing DIY Projects Successfully

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than a couple weeks, you know that my esteemed colleague and I are big fans of wedding DIY projects. DIY can save you money, add personal touches that mass-produced goods and services don’t, and – for some – be tremendous stress relievers. I know I would have gone bananas several times in the planning process if I hadn’t had lace to make, favors to put together, and melons to ball for the fruit salad.

But not all DIY projects are equal, and not all people are good at the same sorts of projects. How to tell if you’re choosing the right projects for you? Read on after the cut and see.

Is the project something you already do well? I have friends who grew their own flowers. That was something I never considered. You see, he was a landscape architect with his own firm and she was an enthusiastic amateur gardener. Me? I have black thumb. I look at plants and they die. Mr. Twistie is constitutionally incapable of identifying any flower that isn’t a rose… and he finds it much easier to tell that if it’s red. On the other hand, making my wedding lace was no biggie for me. I’d already been making lace for nearly a year when I started the project, and I chose patterns I already knew I was capable of handling. My gardening friend had never held a bobbin. She didn’t make lace.

If you haven’t tried the skill, chances are it’s better left to someone else. The more skill needed, the better idea it is to let someone else handle that part of things.

Oh, but don’t be afraid to try out a test run of something you haven’t done but draws on similar skills to things you have already done. For instance, I had never tied a bouquet before, but by choosing a very simple idea and knowing that I’ve successfully done flower arranging in vases, and that I’ve successfully tied ribbons before, I – with the help of a couple of my bridesmaids – did all the flowers just fine the night before the wedding. Grow flowers? Big no for me. Tie bouquets? No problemo!

Honestly assess your skill level – and that of any helpers. I attended a wedding once where the bridesmaids gowns were sewed by a volunteer. The sad part was that everyone could tell from the construction. The bride had chosen a shiny acetate satin, which is not an easy fabric to work with. It’s stiff, it’s slippery, and each fiber has a mind of its own bent on world domination. Even though the style of the dresses was pretty simple, the construction turned out to be horrible. In fact, that probably contributed to the sad state of affairs since the poor construction had no frills or fluff to hide behind. I’ve seen less puckering at a lemon eating contest.

I’ve also been a bridesmaid three times in home sewn dresses, and my bridesmaids made their own outfits. All of these outfits looked neat and expertly done. The key was that in all these cases, the person sewing the dresses knew how to work with both the patterns and the fabrics chosen.

Get to know what DIY projects do to your stress levels. Are you the kind of person who frustrates easily when something turns out to be more difficult than you’d expected? Are you the sort of person who finds challenges energizing? Will you have nervous energy to burn in the days leading up to your wedding? Would you prefer to simply show up on time and be told where to stand? Will you go nuts if anything is left out of your control?

There are no right or wrong answers here. There’s only how you cope with stress, deadlines, and handwork. You are the only one who can make the call, and your call is okay.

Do you have the resources to do your project successfully? Okay, so you’re an amazing baker with mad decorating skills and you’d like to make your own wedding cake. That’s great! More power to you, say I. But do you have a kitchen with enough space and the right equipment to do the job? If not, do you have access to such a kitchen? Will you have time between your busy career and all those pre-wedding events?

Honestly consider things like time, space, money, and supplies before you decide on your project(s). Sometimes it actually turns out to be more practical to pay someone else to do it, or to do without. Oh, and don’t forget that willing minions… er… volunteers are resources, too.

How will the day be affected if your project doesn’t turn out? Look, I’m not in any way trying to rain on your DIY parade. Far from it, in fact. But if you have any question about your ability to get the job done properly and in time, really think about whether it’s going to ruin your day if it isn’t done right.

You’re the only one who can decide whether a lopsided bouquet or nixing an imperfect dish for the buffet will ruin your day or not. In fact, at the last minute, I wasn’t entirely certain that my wedding gown would be ready in time. Three days before the wedding, I decided that it didn’t really matter whether my perfect gown with all my handmade lace on it made it to the wedding. If it hadn’t arrived by the morning of my wedding, I would simply hop down to the mall and buy the first simple long white dress that fit, and that’s what I would be married in.

As it happened, the gown did get to me in time and I was thrilled to wear it. I looked and felt beyond fabulous. I was proud of my lace, and of my friend’s sewing skills. It’s just that even that DIY project turned out in the end to be expendable in my mind so long as the day ended with me married to Mr. Twistie.

Your mileage, however, may vary. And that’s okay.

How much hassle will you get from those around you? How much do you care about said hassle? Are you surrounded by naysayers? Will their negativity get you down to the point where you find it nearly impossible to do your project? Will their negativity fire you up to prove them wrong? Can you just escape the carping to get on with your work? Or will they be constantly in your face?

Sometimes it’s just not worth the endless annoyance of hearing how doomed your project is. Sometimes that’s the thing that makes it sweetest when your DIY skills are victorious.

K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid. Not that I think any of you are stupid. Far from it. But we can all benefit on occasion from the reminder that more elaborate means more room to make disastrous goofs. Know what you can do, then plan something just a little less ambitious. That way you have a margin for error.

Do you enjoy the project? In some ways, this is the one that trumps everything in my book. If you’re good at it, but hate to do it, why put yourself through it? If you love doing it, it might be worth doing even if it doesn’t turn out perfectly.

Why? Because you should have fun creating your wedding. It’s just that simple.

3 Responses to “Choosing DIY Projects Successfully”

  1. Toni says:

    One of these days I need to re-create the floral Christmas lights that I created for my decorations, so I can post photos and instructions. I originally found a strand at Illuminations for something like $15 with 10 lights, and thought “I can make that for a lot less!” A few strands of X-mas lights and bunches of silk flowers on clearance from Jo’Ann’s, and I was all set!

    Here are a few photos. One, Two, Three.

  2. It can be hard to let go and not do everything yourself, because you want it all to be so personal… but you and yourrs can’t do everything unfortunately, and even if the skill base is there you’ll probably end up going nuts! It’s best to pick and choose, and leave one or two things to outside professionals.

  3. MY original intention was to DIY everything (with the help of family) but it just didn’t work out. I actually think certain things would have been better if I’d DIY’ed them, but I got so much discouragement from family and in the end, the only thing I DIY’ed was my bouquets.

    @Toni Very cool! But naturally coming from you I wouldn’t expect anything less!