Early Decisions

The Basics of DIY Weddings

DIY weddings are all the rage, in part because they allow the couple to potentially save some cash while showing off their crafty skills. While it’s unlikely that you’ll be handling all the wedding details by making them yourself, there are elements of any wedding that can easily be made or crafted rather than bought from a vendor.

Whether your skills include sewing, baking, carpentry, or just an eye for design, there are a million DIY wedding ideas that could help you save money while adding a personal touch to your wedding. Nevertheless, getting started on DIY wedding ideas can seem a little daunting for the crafting novice. Here are some important basics you’ll need to get going on turning your big day into a DIY wedding extravaganza!

Do Your Research:

The key to all great DIY wedding crafts is beginning with a great idea for a project. If you know you’d like to add some DIY elements, but don’t know where to begin, there are great resources out there to browse. In addition to wedding and craft magazines, don’t overlook useful sites like etsy and pinterest. These can be a great source of DIY wedding ideas, no matter what style of wedding you’re planning.

Get Friendly With Craft Stores:

Your local craft store is likely to be the basis of a lot of DIY wedding projects, from favor stuffing to ribbon banners. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with one of the managers or clerks, to ask about the possibilities of special orders or bulk discounts. If you can’t find what you need at a store, don’t hesitate to search for great deals online! Online glassworks, fabric stores, and even florists may be a great source of savings- especially if you can disassociate your purchases from the dreaded “wedding” price raiser!

Prepare to Price Compare:

If you’re looking to save some dough by turning to DIY wedding ideas, be prepared to do some price checking. With bulk discounts and sales, it may actually sometimes be cheaper to get pre-fabricated items than to make them yourself. Price out the shopping list of your DIY items against pre-made versions, and don’t forget to factor in charges like shipping or tax. Of course, if you’re just looking to add a homemade, artistic touch, then craft away without fear!

Timing is Everything:

While it’s tempting to think of just how much money you’ll save by making 300 mini-jars of jam instead of buying expensive wedding favors, don’t make the mistake of forgetting the time factor. In the month before your wedding, you’re unlikely to have hundreds of free hours for DIY wedding crafts, so making everything from the chuppah to the bouquets might be out of the question.

If you can spread craft projects out between your wedding party and relatives, however, or just get all your bridesmaids over to help you stuff favors and hand-write place cards, you can probably handle quite a few small DIY wedding projects- or at least a couple of big ones!

Wedding Registry

Creating a registry is actually a big favor to many guests, who may have no idea what you want or need. When building a registry, try to think of useful items as well as luxuries, but don’t feel obligated to build a registry if you don’t want gifts.


Some people like to register at a single store, but if you can’t find everything you want at one location, try a combination registry. These online gift registries allow you to choose gifts from nearly any store with an Internet website, vastly increasing your available options. Some also allow you to link existing registries at large merchandisers to your online account, so you can still have the fun of running around with those neat little scanning guns.

Price Range:

Since your guests may have variable means, try to add a variety of gifts to the registry in a wide price range. That way, Rich Uncle Joe can buy you the thatched Tiki Bar your groom desires, while your broke college buddies can happily present you with heart-shaped measuring spoons. Chances are, you need items both big and small, so include both!

Alternative registries:

If you are all set on housewares, consider using the registry as a way to cover other costs. One great alternative is to set up a honeymoon registry, which allows you to list all of the activities, lodging, and travel plans you have for your honeymoon. Guests can then purchase individual items, such as “Snorkling trip” or “airport lei greeting,” much as you would choose a regular gift. The registry site then tallies the gifts and cuts the happy couple a check for the total amount. This is a great way to get around the “not asking for money” etiquette, since guests will feel that they are giving you a tangible gift instead of simply cash. Win win!

How to Inform:

Your bridal party and relatives are the best way to get the word out about the registry, since including registry information with invites is often seen as a tacky move.

If you’re opting for an online registry, why not take an extra cyberstep and build a free wedding website as well? These can take only a few minutes to set up, and are a good way to inform guests about the event, local area, and hotel options. Building a website gives you a tactful way to hand out registry info, since you can quite politely include the web address of the wedding website with invitations. Then, if the website just happens to include a link to your registry- well, how convenient!

Budgeting The Wedding

Establishing and maintaining a budget for a wedding can be a difficult task. While you don’t need to be an accountant to manage your wedding budget, using good organizational skills will go a long way toward making this task easier.


It’s crucial to know what the most important things in your weddings are to you, because that’s where you will want to invest extra funds. For some people, it’s the perfect venue, for others, it’s the couture dress of your dreams or phenomenal catering. Try to make a top-five list of the most important priorities in your wedding to help you get started.

Research First:

It’s impossible to make even an rough budget without knowing the general price for services in your area. Try to get estimates from three or four vendors- they don’t even necessarily need to be ones you’re considering- to create a basic range of costs in your local area. If the numbers you are getting seem too high for a certain service, such as bouquets, do a little research to find out what the cost would be to do it yourself.

Spreadsheets are Your Friend:

Once you start receiving estimates, build a simple spreadsheet or table that will add up each vendor’s total to give you a final budget number. Use your priority list to look for places to swap in cheaper alternatives in order to make the more expensive, more important services affordable. Using a spreadsheet can be preferable to do-it-yourself budget sheet, since spreadsheet programs will do calculations automatically, thus cutting down the chance of errors.

Include the Extras:

Add in the extra costs, such as tax, shipping, and vendor tips to make sure you are getting an accurate total. Without these important items, your budget could look up to 20% smaller than it really will be.

Ask Early:

If there is a chance that parents or other relatives might be willing to chip in for the wedding, find a way to start this conversation early in the planning process. While it can be difficult to find the right way to bring this up, it’s important to know what outside resources you will have as early as possible.

Scheduling The Wedding

Scheduling the day of the wedding can seem overwhelming, since it can start the moment you wake up. Try to remember to be flexible about schedule break-downs– no one will care if you serve cake at 7:45 instead of 7:15!

Bridal Preparation:

If you are getting your hair/makeup done for the wedding, discuss the exact amount of time it will take with the hairdresser and makeup artist. Ideally, give them pictures of the desired look several weeks in advance so that they can give you an exact estimate.

At the Venue:

Try to arrive at the wedding site at least an hour in advance, to give yourself lots of time to get dressed and deal with last minute kinks. Designate a wedding party person who can coordinate between the bride and the groom if they are staying out of site before the ceremony.

At the Reception:

Depending on the traditions and the style of service, you may have several different things to schedule, including the cocktail hour, meal time, first dance, cake cutting, and bouquet toss. As you are scheduling, remember that the time allotted for each portion of the event is an estimate- don’t panic if you are not exactly on time.

Your venue manager and DJ can be your best friends when it comes to the schedule. Give them a sheet at the beginning of the event that lays out your approximate schedule, and ask if they can double check with you before announcing the next event in the wedding. They are there to help, and many are happy to keep an eye on the clock for you so you can enjoy your day.

Children At The Wedding

This can be the source of perpetual Dear Abby letters on etiquette, but remember, the bottom line is- whatever works for your wedding. Kids can be a delight or a terror at the wedding- it all depends on the kids and their parents.

If Kids are Allowed:

  •  Ask your ushers to try and ensure that families with small children get aisle seats, so they can take the kids out if they become disruptive during the ceremony. Let the parents know ahead of time that it’s totally appropriate to step out with the kids if necessary.
  •  Take note of the number and age of children, and be sure to let your caterer know. Many will charge only half price for older children and may not charge at all for little ones.
  •  Caterers will also sometimes provide kid-friendly meal options if asked in advance.
  •  If your venue has a bridal preparation room or other small, comfortable space, ask if it can be used during the reception as a quiet place for kids. This way, parents can deal with diaper emergencies, breast feeding, and naptime in a peaceful environment.
  •  At the reception, try to provide a basket of toys, coloring books, or other items for the kids to play with so they don’t get bored.

If Children are Not Allowed:

  • Try to hunt down a responsible babysitter in the local area who would be willing to watch several children so that parents can enjoy the wedding.
  • Try to avoid making exceptions for one or two children as the parents of uninvited children may be offended.
  • If your favors are child-friendly, such as cookies, make sure that parents get extras to take home to the children.

Helping Guests

Chances are, at least some of your guests will be doing some traveling for the wedding. Helping them find lodgings and learn a little bit about the local area can be a good way to ensure they have a great trip.

Build a Wedding Website:

Free wedding websites allow you to post information about the event, as well as items for out-of-town guests. These can be set up in minutes, and updated whenever you have new information. Include the web-address with your invitations so guests know where to find you.

Research Lodgings:

Guests may have different traveling styles and budgets, so it helps to post the websites or phone numbers of hotels in a few different categories. Try to include a budget motel, a moderate, chain hotel, a nice bed and breakfast, and an upscale hotel to cover your options. Be sure to read online reviews of these places before posting- you don’t want your guests stuck in a fleabag place on your advice.

 Find Out about Group Rates:

If you have many out-of-towners, you may be able to reserve a block of rooms at a discount rate. Guests can then contact the hotel, tell them they’re with your wedding party, and book however many rooms they need. Most hotels will only allow this option if you’re booking 10 rooms or more, but bed and breakfasts may offer discounts if you fill up their (smaller capacity) lodgings. You may also want to appoint a “travel captain” from among your friends/relatives to handle the booking.

Area Information:

If guests are traveling to an unfamiliar location, they may not know where to get a sandwich, let alone where the local attractions are. Include a section on your wedding website, or provide out-of-towners with a packet upon their arrival, that includes a few favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner spots, as well as information on any neat local attractions or activities, such as parks, zoos, or museums.

Choosing Your Groomsmen

Choosing the best man and groomsmen can be difficult for a guy with a large circle of friends or family. Nevertheless, take a few steps to make sure the male side of the bridal-party is stress, and drama free.

Picking a Best Man:

Ideally, a best man should be a close friend or relative who is willing to pitch in and help with the planning or day-of activities. A good best man is one you can trust to keep the ring safe, plan a fun and appropriate bachelor party, and who will be able to be on hand for weird tasks during the wedding (ie handing out tips, making sure the limo is on time) so the groom can spend his time with his new wife.

 How Many:

In general, the amount of groomsmen is about equal to the amount of bridesmaids, but this is hardly a dead-set rule. If you are having a large wedding, extra groomsmen can be handy when it comes to crowd control, seating, and similar issues. Make sure that each guy is willing be helpful- slackers and flakes may be welcome at the bachelor party, but can be a drag and a stress as groomsmen.

 Who Pays for the Clothes:

As with bridesmaid’s attire, this is an individual question that may depend on the budget of the wedding and the financial situation of each guy. If you are requiring them to rent a suit, it’s customary for it to be paid for out of the budget, but if the groomsmen offer to pick up the tab, that’s okay too.

If Renting Suits:

One problem often faced is that groomsmen may not all live in the same area. Most large chain rental houses (such as Men’s Warehouse) allow the groom to place an order for all suits, but have the individual garments picked up by each groomsman at his local store. This can allow each guy to pick up his suit a few days before the wedding and have it altered if necessary.

Going Rental Free:

If you prefer, you can have everyone wear their own suit to the wedding. You may want to specify the color of the suit, pants, shirt, and shoes, and get together a few days in advance to make sure everyone matches well enough. The groom can buy matching ties for each guy to wear to help coordinate the look. This can be a less-expensive alternative in many cases.


Grooms traditionally give out small gifts to groomsmen at the rehearsal dinner or bachelor party. If knick-knacks don’t suit the bill, consider sporting for a fun outing together, such as an afternoon at a paintball range or golf course.

Choosing Your Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids can be an incredibly valuable resource, or a serious source of drama. Making a few simple decisions about bridesmaids can help make the whole bridal party experience stress-free.


Your criteria for choosing bridesmaids is quite simple- people you feel very close to, and people who you think will be willing to help you prepare. It may be difficult if you have a large family or group of friends to narrow down options, but don’t cave into pressure to include bridesmaids that you don’t know very well, or those who will cause more problems than they solve. If you want a stress-free wedding, trust your own instincts about who to ask.

How Many:

This may depend on the size and formality of your event or the size of your circle of friends and relatives. Just remember, adding more bridesmaids can lead to a bigger chance of stress- about dresses, parties, tiffs, bridesmaid’s gifts- that will ultimately end up driving a bride nuts. While you can certainly have a bevy of beauties, consider limiting your bridal party to the most essential people, just to cut down on stress.

Who pays for the dress:

Since you’re choosing your best friends and closest relatives for this task, you should be able to have a frank talk about money. If you really want a friend to be in the wedding, but know she can’t afford the dress you want, see if you have room in the budget to assist her. If the situation is reversed and you’re on a shoestring budget, make sure you let the gals know upfront that you can’t pay for the dresses, and that it’s no problem if they want to bow out because of the expense. When everyone is on a tight budget, consider looking at clearance sales or using non-wedding specific dresses to cut down on expenses.

They’re Called “Bridesmaids” for a Reason:

The job of the bridesmaid is not simply to wear a dress and stand in for pictures; ideally they should be trying to help the bride put the wedding together. To take an enormous load of detail work off your mind, consider asking each bridesmaid to take care of a simple, specific task, such as organizing the stuffing of invitations, picking up the alcohol for the wedding, or planning the wedding shower. At the wedding, have your maid of honor or a particularly reliable bridesmaid stay in charge of the schedule, so that you don’t have to keep stealing watches and worrying about cutting the cake on time.


It’s traditional for a bride to present her attendants with gifts, though they don’t need to be large or expensive. Consider killing two birds with one stone and paying for all the girls to get manicures for the wedding, or buying them each a pretty bracelet or necklace to wear on the day.

Choosing Your Wedding Invitations

Wedding invitations provide guests with their first impression of the tone of the wedding, as well as providing important details such as the date, time, and location. Choosing the style and wording of the invitations can take a little time, but is easier to manage with a few key decisions.


Wedding invites come in hundreds of different varieties, from fancy tri-folds to sleek single sheets. Look for invitations that help convey the style of the wedding. For instance, consider using handmade paper invites for a casual garden wedding, or a single-sheet invite on smooth ivory paper for a sophisticated, modern event.


Generally, if the parents of either person are helping to pay for the wedding, their names should be included. Otherwise, couples can omit the traditional line about the parents, such as “the parents of Joe and Linda would like to invite you,” and simply state “You are invited to the wedding of Joe and Linda.”


The font used on the invitation should be relatively easy to read, and not in a color that blends in with the paper. Many invitation companies provide hundreds of different fonts to choose from, including calligraphy, whimsical, and modern fonts. This provides the perfect opportunity to personalize the event, and clue guests in to the tone of the wedding.

When to send:

Traditionally, invitations are sent no more than eight weeks before the wedding. Couples may also choose to send out a save-the-date card three to four months in advance, so that guests can start planning early. Save-the-date cards are generally the most useful when the wedding will require guests to travel or book hotels.

Saving Money:

With easy access to excellent printers and paper stock, there is no shame in saving a bundle by making homemade wedding invitations. While these may take a little time, they can be fun for the crafty couple, and add to real savings in the budget. Purchase good, thick paper and envelopes from an art store, paper store, or online, then create the text using a basic word processing program. If using a folded card, consider adding images to the front using image software such as Adobe Photoshop. Another excellent way to add a simple image is to find a stamp with a pretty image, such as a flower, heart, or swans, and hand-stamp the invites.

If you plan to have your invitations addressed by a professional calligrapher, don’t be afraid to shop for one online. Calligraphers in large metro areas (New York, Los Angeles) tend to charge higher prices than those in less populous areas. Consider looking at Calligrapher’s websites in smaller towns, and ask them if you can ship your invites for addressing. This can end up saving you big money- hundreds of dollars in some cases!

Choosing Your Wedding Color Palette

The color palette of a wedding usually involves two or three central colors that are used in clothing, decorations, and other aspects of the event. While choosing the palette may be relatively easy, deciding how to incorporate it can be a bit trickier.

Think of painting:

When designing a room, most decorators suggest choosing one or two central colors, and one or two accent colors. Creating a wedding palette can be exactly the same- choose two primary colors you definitely want, then think of one or two additional colors that can add a little contrast. A central and accent color palette will give the look of the wedding depth and dimension, without making everything too matchy-matchy.

 Color inspiration:

The colors chosen for the palette can be anything from your favorite colors to seasonally appropriate shades. Look at favorite paintings, home decorations, or the setting of the ceremony and reception for possible inspirations.

 How to use your color palette:

The palette can be incorporated into almost every detail of the wedding, from the ink on the invitations to the favor bags handed out at the end of the night. Good areas to incorporate the palette include the bridesmaid dresses, groomsman’s ties, vests, or pocket squares, all floral decorations, table linens, centerpieces, cake, and thank you cards.

 Do I really need a color palette?

Of course not- if you don’t want color uniformity, don’t bother. The goal of a palette is to tie the whole event together visually, but this is far from necessary. If you’re getting married in a brightly blooming garden, for instance, it may be more fun to use all the different colors of the season, from periwinkle to spring green, rather than focus on just a few colors. Whatever looks pretty and memorable to you is the right decision.

Next »