I was very much a DIY bride. I did a lot of things myself, approached most aspects of our wedding very creatively, and thought out of the box as much as I could to pull off a fun, memorable, and gratifying event for about 100 guests on a budget. Yes, 2010 was a very busy year for us; we launched Nostalgia Film in the summer of 2010 and got married last October!
Lately, I’ve seen other wedding professionals offer advice and wedding tips around the web, and every time I do, I think of things I’d tell an engaged friend or client having just done the wedding thing ourselves!
Think about hiring a coordinator. The first thing I’d advise out of personal experience, is to hire at the very least, a day-of coordinator as your point person for the myriad of questions vendors and guests will have. Hiring a planner for the whole thing is a great idea if you can swing it, but at the minimum, a wedding day-of coordinator would be a total blessing. You need a point person because you’ll be in hair and makeup and putting on your dress and people will have questions. Lots and lots of questions!
While I was getting my makeup done on the second-floor balcony, friends and vendors were approaching me with dozens of questions. It didn’t help that I was a pretty laid-back bride about certain things, and didn’t really know where the band should set up: “Wherever they want!” Having someone attend to the last-minute details is so important. I forwent the day-of coordinator, and a few little things could have stood to have gone smoother and some details that got forgotten or overlooked could have been attended to.
Throughout the day, we did things spontaneously as we felt like, but the whole thing felt unorganized and frantic at moments from the inside. No one noticed and even some vendors said it seemed organized, but I know it would have been less stressful for me with someone handling the details, as I’ve been to weddings with good coordinators and the brides seem more relaxed and they run very smoothly for everyone involved.
Hire some helping hands. If you don’t have a planning company or a venue to clean up after the festivities, then it’s entirely worth it to hire someone or pay extra to have someone handle it for you. I did entirely too much work at my own wedding! I also crazily planned a three-day event with a rehearsal dinner and goodbye brunch (which is a whole other story). I strongly advise you hire a cleanup person or crew, so you can do your getaway and get out of there, and also not strap your guests and friends with any work! The day is emotionally exhausting (and exhilarating) enough, you don’t want to be physically exhausted, too, as you leave for your honeymoon!
Hire a wedding cinematographer/videographer. I’m not just saying that because that’s what we do! You want to be able to sit down and have the feelings of the day rush over you later–the sights, the sounds and music, the scents of the flowers, the emotions and feelings, how your dad looked walking you down the aisle or giving his toast, how the groom looked when you first saw him, how kickass you looked in the perfect dress with your hair and makeup, how your felt during your first dance, how hilarious your friends looked on the dance floor, and how your family, your aunts and uncles and maybe grandparents looked at that moment in time. A good film should be evocative enough to bring all of that back to you. You’ll want something short and sweet to show your friends and family and those who couldn’t attend, and you’ll want the longer edits to watch later too, on anniversaries, when you’re feeling sentimental, or even when you two are having a tough day and you want to turn it around! You’ll want film or video to share with your possible future family, too. You don’t want to risk all of those moments to amateur video or film! The day goes by so fast in a crazy whirlwind, and it’s so priceless to be able to sit back later and relive it. I can’t recommend making film or video a priority enough!
Consider a first look. I think back and think maybe I should have done this just to have helped calm my nerves! Plus I didn’t really remember the moment when my husband Mike first saw me since we had such a long procession. And looking back, I would have loved to go straight to the celebration and the champagne, rather than the awkward standing around for photos right after the rush of getting married. At the very least, consider getting the group shots with the gals and groomsmen out of the way in advance while you’re looking fresh! I’ve since seen weddings with a first look, and I can really tell it helps with the nerves.
Don’t be afraid to follow your heart. In the end, this day is the expression of you as a couple and your new lives together. Make it reflect you! I received some resistance to my offbeat ideas and choices, and in the end, I am so glad I stuck to my guns even when it was tough! Some of the decisions that were the most trying turned out to be the best and most talked about of the day!
Seek inspiration and support. Wedding planning can be stressful and overwhelming at times. There are a ton of wedding blogs out there for every niche and genre you can imagine. Some of my favorites are in the sidebar. Some of my favorite project ideas came from the blogs I read, and some of the greatest support came from wedding boards and forums. Some of my favorite books during the planning process were Anti-Bride Guide: Tying the Knot Outside of the Box , Offbeat Bride, and Emotionally Engaged.
Think creatively and get by with a little help from your friends. Don’t hesitate to think really creatively and ask others to help you do the same. I ended up finding an amazing and unadvertised venue by my asking my longtime massage therapist and friend for advice when I felt like I’d totally run out of ideas and was so upset over the venues that didn’t fit my budget or the high-stakes lotto for a park we’d loved. Word of mouth saved me when I was so frustrated with the venue hunt, and it saved me again when our band backed out weeks before the wedding and a friend suggested another amazing group of musicians whom she knew. Don’t be afraid to think of non-traditional places to have your wedding or other out-of-the-box ideas.
But know when to call in a professional. You want your friends as invited guests to be able to relax and enjoy the day. Especially if they know your friends and family, it’s very tough for them to hide behind the camera (or bar, or buffet, or whatever) and work when people want to talk and engage with them! Plus, your friends and family don’t know all the tips and tricks and angles and aren’t likely to get up close, nor will they want to keep on working once all the fun starts. Working a wedding and attending a wedding are so entirely different! Plus, should anything go wrong, you don’t want to create any awkwardness in a relationship.
If friends do volunteer, certain things can be handled well by friends, but other things are better left to the pros. For example, a friend of ours did an amazing job handling sound for our wedding so that the guests could hear our ceremony in the valley where we held it. He brought in vintage mics and helped with the band, and even shared a CD of the ceremony with us after the wedding. We feel so lucky that he gifted us with that! And we also had a good friend as our officiant. We wrote the ceremony, and she did an amazing job delivering it and marrying us!
Consider new wedding pros. Know what the things are that really matter to you that you will not budge on and splurge there. An amazing photographer. A caterer to die for. If there’s a professional’s work that you love or a place that you adore, put those on your budget and stick with them and find any way to make them happen. But then consider other pros that are newer to the wedding market. Usually newer pros will have more affordable pricing, and the quality will still be top notch, and they will be aiming to please you since they are new and still building a reputation and referrals.
Hire people you like. Don’t hire someone who you don’t jive with or feel great about just to save some on your budget. The vendors you hire will be working guests at your wedding, so choose people you want there and are comfortable with! Follow your gut, and by the time the wedding is over, they won’t just be vendors, but also new friends.
Embrace the DIY, but know what to DIY and what not to DIY. Go wild with decorations and getting help with DIY projects! All the DIY touches really make it you and your husband’s day and reflect the two of you with a whimsical spirit.
In the eleven months before our wedding, I went a little nuts with the DIY. I made hand-sewn pennant flags, hand-painted mason jars, sewed a ring-bearer pillow, made a card box, sculpted little items for our guest table, designed save the date postcards and programs, made a flower girl basket, made boutonnieres, and made jewelry and hair accessories for my bridesmaids (I also have a small jewelry design business, so making jewelry wasn’t too far a reach, and I had a lot of creative energy to unleash on our wedding!)
My gal pals and I crafted up bouquets the morning of the wedding over coffee–perfect pre-wedding bonding and catch up time with my out-of-town guests–and I made centerpieces from pre-packed European style bouquets, all courtesy of Costco! Don’t be afraid to do your own flowers (but with a solid plan in place: get tools, de-thorning devices, zip ties, and preservative, and read-up in advance so you’re confident). I did almost panic about not hiring a florist a couple of times, but I am so glad I ended up with that girl-time on the wedding day morning, and every time I look at the photos, I have the awesome feeling of “We made that!”
Other things we did: We had help from some awesome teacher friends of my maid of honor who crafted paper flowers for my shower that I re-used for the wedding. We set out a Polaroid camera and old film and ended up with a ton of amazing, candid guest-shot photos. My husband Mike made rustic-looking signs for outside our venue and around our venue, including a chalk board to greet guests. Mike and I even brewed two kinds of our own wedding beer (well, he brewed, I helped with bottling and creating custom labels), which were a huge hit. Mike even wanted to DIY our own cake for a moment there (he is an amazing cook and former baker once upon a time), but I am glad we decided to find an awesome baker to do it for us and take that stress off our plate.
Choose what’s important to show your personality, not too far a stretch of your skills, and doable for your DIY projects and have fun!
As always, if you need help planning your wedding or any ideas, or wedding film cinematography or videography, or vendor recommendations, don’t hesitate to contact us!
All photos in this post are by Heather Curiel Weddings.