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A Wedding Planner's Advice for DIY That Works

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Considering planning a DIY wedding or at least some DIY aspects? Take this candid advice to make it work from a professional wedding planner.

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DIY: Are there three letters more vilified in all of wedding planning? Spend five minutes Googling and you’ll ricochet between opinions. Is DIYing your wedding the idea that’ll save you and your partner thousands of dollars, or is it the idea that’ll leave you in tears? 

As a wedding planner with more than five years of experience and a book about modern wedding etiquette, here’s my advice.

Lower your expectations.

You know what I know: Social media lies. Not all of the time but a filter can do wonders, particularly if you’ve been scrolling wedding Instagram or Pinterest. These are magical places where every dream you’ve ever had (and a few you didn’t know you had) comes true. Unfortunately, “Real Weddings” sections rarely show the labor, time, and money that it takes to pull off said dreams.

(Note: the Real Weddings section here on B$B includes budget breakdowns in order to add more transparency!)

So the first step to winning at DIY is to lower your expectations. Unless your friend is legitimately a florist (as in, regularly makes flower arrangements that strangers pay for), it is highly unlikely that your flowers are going to turn out the same way it looks online. The same goes for favors, signs, and anything else you might be DIYing.

This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, the quirks of DIY decor are often what give them their charm. Like your relationship, these are one of a kind. Lean into that rather than fight against it. You’ll be happier for it. And if you’re having trouble discerning what’s worth DIYing and what’s not, the Venn diagram in this article may be of use.

Clear communication saves friendships.

Often, couples tell me, “Don’t worry. So-and-so is doing that.” Alas, in my experience, what so-and-so thinks they’re doing for the wedding is often quite different from what the couple thinks they’re doing for the wedding.

This is not because either party is stupid. Usually, it’s just bad communication by the couple or bad boundary-setting by so-and-so. For weddings that have a coordinator or planner, said vendor will often play the role of translator. They’ll have an idea of what the couple wants, what the team can do, and then will delegate accordingly so that those pieces get done in a way that prioritizes everyone’s health, safety, and joy.

Of course, not all weddings have a coordinator or planner; my own wedding didn’t have one. What do you do in those situations? You, as the couple, make it extremely clear who is doing what and by when. To help, I make the tools I use as a professional wedding planner available for free. 

All told, plan on 20 hours before the wedding to create a timeline and then share that timeline with your vendors including any loved ones who are performing a certain function at your wedding (i.e. officiating, making flowers, setting up decor, cleaning up, etc.).

Minimize waste.

Weddings make a lot of trash. There’s no two ways about it. So please, before you ever order that first package of individually shrink-wrapped Mason jars, take five minutes and brainstorm other ideas. 

There are many quality resale groups online (Bridechilla Buy & Sell on Facebook is a personal favorite) as well as resources like the Mindfully Wed e-guide from Less Stuff, More Meaning. These options not only stand to reduce the junk your wedding will produce but they’ll probably save you money, too.

Do not do it the night before.

A lot of things in wedding planning can’t happen until much, much closer to the wedding. Usually, the kickoff is 60 days out; this is often when final payments begin coming due and a couple will do what’s known as a final walkthrough at the venue(s) where they’re getting married.

As a planner, my deadline is to have a final day-of timeline to the couple two weeks before their wedding. Once they approve it, I send that final timeline to all of their vendors and VIPs (my shorthand for any guest we want to know a little more information than the average guest). I aim to send the vendor and VIP timelines no later than the week before the wedding.

This means that often the actual week of the wedding is very quiet. This is exactly how I like it for my couples. Emotions crank up the week of a wedding because people start arriving. There’s also often that “holy mackerel it’s actually happening” feeling, too. We want to give those emotions lots of space. We do not want to deal with those emotions while also finalizing a timeline, making centerpieces and calligraphy signs. 

So please, if at all possible, do not wait on DIY. I know it’s tempting to do it when more people are in town or you have time off work. I totally get that. And also, if we’re picking between hot-gluing lace onto 150 favors the night before the wedding and not having the favors, I’m going to say don’t have the favors. You’ll thank yourself later.

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