Does D-I-Y spell ‘disaster' for a wedding day? It doesn't have to.
DIY-ing certain elements for the wedding can be a fun way to save money on your big day.
There are countless ways to DIY. However, without proper preparations and knowledge, DIY-ing can turn a number of clever ideas into a total nightmare.
As a wedding planner, I've had to witness some of these nightmares first-hand. I want to share with you how DIY gone wrong can have a negative effect on your big day.
All these examples were from real destination weddings that happened in Bali, the wonderful island I call home. Each of these things happened during my internship as a wedding planner, long before I co-founded my own wedding planning agency, Amora Bali Weddings.
Let these real-life DIY tragedies serve as a warning to any couple who is planning to take on certain aspects of their big day themselves!
Check out these five examples of how DIY can ruin your big day… or otherwise known as, How to DIY your Wedding straight to Hell 🤣
1. DIY-ing flowers at a destination wedding
I once had clients who requested all-inclusive wedding planning.
After three months of working with the bride and planning the wedding long-distance, the couple eventually packed up and traveled to Bali for a site visit.
On their trip to the island, they visited their venue, did hair and makeup trials and even requested flower centerpiece with hand bouquet mock-ups. The trials went great, and the couple seemed to be happy, saying they loved everything.
One month after their visit to Bali, an email arrived from the bride who wanted to recalculate the costs of flowers and decorations.
She said: “Actually… I just need the furniture and lighting. My family will take care of all the flowers.”
I informed her that it was not wise to take on such a complicated project for a destination wedding, but unfortunately, she ignored the advice.
The day before the wedding, the bride's family members decided to buy flowers from the local market.
When I arrived at the villa on the wedding day, I noticed there were boxes full of flowers scattered around the house.
It was clear that only a few people were actually working on the flowers. They were making flower garlands, a hand bouquet, centerpieces, and floating candles for the pool. Most of the family members were chilling on the venue’s beach, including several who had originally promised a helping hand.
The rental company arrived and flawlessly installed everything from the furniture to the lighting. Meanwhile, the family members were still feverishly working on the flowers, attempting to get everything done.
It was almost time for the ceremony and the DIY flower crew was not dressed or even close to being prepared.
Eventually, everyone became nervous and stressed. Many of the flowers died because of the hot burning sun and poorly cut stems. Most of them ended in the trash bin– such a waste!
Sadly, the inevitable happened. The family was not able to deliver the projects in time! We had to start the ceremony without a bouquet for the bride! The only thing completed were flower garlands for the couple.
The couple ultimately regretted making this decision in order to cut costs. At the last minute, they called a florist to attempt to save the reception. The end result was successful, but it came at a hefty price.
The florist charged extra because we contacted him last-minute. The DIY flower project failed big time and because we had to hire a professional, not a single penny was actually saved.
- Don’t DIY big tasks at a destination wedding. Getting things done by yourself in a foreign country will always bring cultural and environmental differences that you need to familiarize with. My couple’s family underestimated the quality of the local flower market and the hot climate, which pretty much killed most of the flowers. The family started these projects without learning the quality of the materials and without proper tools and knowledge.
- Research and prepare ahead of time. Is it really worth the trouble to DIY big tasks in a foreign country?
- Master the craft. Or find people who have. I can’t stress this enough, make sure you know what you’re doing. When reaching out to friends and family, recruit only talented friends and family. Make sure that your team masters their craft, so they really are comfortable to do this on your big day.
2. Spontaneous DIY-ing
For another wedding, the family wanted to surprise the wedding couple with a DIY flower arrangement without giving any notice to the wedding coordinators.
The family members cut leaves from the plants of the villa they'd rented for the event. They wanted to make a heart-shaped flower on the grass as a surprise for the bride to see from her room where she was getting ready for the wedding.
All plants along the pathway towards the villa were suddenly completely stripped of their leaves.
It was a surprise indeed, but far from a pleasant one. The couple felt so embarrassed that their family members destroyed the garden.
As a result of the damage, the villa refused to return the expensive deposit to the couple.
- Make clear rules. When booking a venue, learn about the terms, conditions, damage protocols and restrictions from the venue or villa.
- Watch out for rogue guests. Make a point to create some rules for your guests to follow to ensure you get your expensive deposit back.
- Don’t DIY at the very last minute. If the family members had approached me about their plans before, we would've suggested or provided a proper way to make the heart of flowers, avoiding damage and extra expenses.
- Plan ahead. Always plan DIY projects ahead, instead of spontaneously starting something.
3. Nailing it in a rush
Another couple we worked with was having a hotel wedding.
The day before the wedding, the couple checked in at the hotel and the bride went out to get some nail polish.
On the big day, the bride decided to do her own nails while the stylist was doing her hair. The bride was following instructions from a tutorial she found on YouTube, but unfortunately, it wasn't turning out how she envisioned. After failing several times, she kept trying.
The bride became cranky with the tutorial playing on her smartphone. It actually turned out to be a lot more difficult in real life than expected!
“She made it look so easy!” the bride complained.
Eventually, the time had come to get the ceremony started. The bride had to hold her father's hands in a certain way so that he didn't touch her still-wet nails! This made for quite an awkward walk down the aisle to the altar.
During the ceremony, the rings were exchanged and the photographer took a close up of the couple's hands.
At the reception dinner, all the guests could see a close-up photo of the bride's failed nail art on a big screen. Yikes!
- Don’t do everything last minute. Especially not your beauty treatments. The bride's nails could have been done the day before.
- Ask for help. The bridesmaids offered to help the bride to make her nails better. However, she refused and kept doing things on her own.
- If you're not an expert, hire a pro. For certain things, going with a professional is best.
4. Booking without proper research
For another wedding, the couple initially refused to hire wedding planners.
They had read that villas were easy to find online and a lot cheaper than what most wedding companies suggested. They booked a villa with a large garden which looked suitable for a ceremony.
Afterward, the bride consulted the team of the villa to discuss having their small wedding ceremony there.
To their surprise, the couple found out they were not allowed to host a ceremony in the garden. The only thing possible was to have an indoor dinner reception.
A dinner reception with external vendors also came at an extra cost to the villa rental price. The couple had to pay extra event fees and arrange for local permits, which they hadn't anticipated.
When the couple booked the off-site venue for the ceremony, they unfortunately underestimated the distance between the two venues.
After they realized there was a 2 hour drive between the ceremony venue and the villa, the couple decided to book a lunch party at the ceremony venue in order to make the day more pleasant for their guests.
Don’t get me wrong, this wedding wasn't a complete fail– it was actually quite a lovely event! However, since the couple tried to DIY their entire wedding plans internationally without the help of a local expert, they unfortunately spent a lot more time and money than they had expected.
- Research options. Ideally, in order to save money, it’s always a good idea to book a dual-purpose venue.
- Check the Policies. Make sure to know all the restrictions from the venue, so you’ll prevent disappointing surprises.
- Prepare ahead of time. Take time to learn all the ins and outs of the venues that you really like. There is always a reason behind a cheaper price.
5. Picking the wrong vendors
A couple hired us to coordinate their wedding day after the rest of their vendors were already booked and the plan for the day was pretty much defined.
While my company was not familiar with any of the hired vendors, our job was to oversee everything and ensure the day went according to their schedule.
On the big day, after the caterer set up their food displays, one of their interns erected a big vertical colorful banner advertising their company.
It looked terrible. I had to explain to the vendor that it conflicted with the aesthetics of the wedding theme. Luckily, we convinced them to remove the banner.
Later I found out the same vendor was handing out business cards to every single guest.
The same couple had also ordered canapes to serve as appetizers from another food vendor who never delivered the order to the venue. Upon realizing the missing snacks, I sent one of my team members to pick up the order from the vendor. We actually had to remind the company that there was an order for the wedding and had to wait for them to even finish preparing it!
The snacks didn't arrive at the venue until after dessert was served.
To make matters worse, the band that was booked by the couple never showed up even though they'd been paid in full prior to the event!
We eventually just had to play music from their iPod all night, but the couple had to fight to try to get their money back from vendors who underperformed.
- Stick with professionals. Trusting vendors without witnessing their work is always a challenge. Asking for their portfolio gives you a clear idea of how the vendor will do the presentation on your wedding day.
- Get reviews. To stay safe, book only professional vendors with a solid track record.
- Check the contracts. Professional vendors will always provide a contract secure both parties from you as a client and them as a provider.
My advice for tackling DIY projects for your wedding
While DIY-ing certain elements can save a lot of money without a doubt, it certainly is more time-consuming.
Natalie Shack from A Practical Wedding made some very strong points about things you should not DIY for your wedding. I can really recommend this read.
If saving money is your end goal, reconsider every single aspect of your wedding. Can you consider other ways to save money on your wedding?
It all boils down to finding out what’s really important to you. Brainstorm with your spouse and make clear wedding priorities to successfully plan a wedding that is reflective of the two of you!