How to plan your own {DIY wedding}

diyflowers {photography by jacquelynn buck} rs

Not every bride can afford a wedding coordinator, and not every bride wants one. I absolutely get that. The most important question is : can you get what needs to be done, done and do it stress free, enjoying the process and the day? So in the category of the DIY planner bride, the woman who really wants to, and can commit to, planning her own wedding, this article by Hannah Kane (HK) on Offbeat Bride Website was atypically interesting:

Of course, if you want her detailed list, you have to pay for it, and while I do not endorse her or the product, the overall concept makes sense. You may not be as methodical, or even as analytical, as you need to be to assign versions to your day’s plans, or draw up boards to work off of, but here’s a healthy recap of things she indicated, and my additions, to planning your own wedding:

HK said: Make a checklist for, and accomplish, the most important things first. I absolutely agree.

HK said: Set aside regular, weekly time to talk with your point person, fiance, or co-planner. I couldn’t agree more. And hooray! this is a fantastic communication tool that could carry over after the wedding and be used to, say, plan a major vacation, or, say have a baby or parent that child. Setting aside time to actually discuss an important topic also keeps that topic from becoming all-encompassing and overwhelming so that both parties have a chance to breathe away from the topic once in awhile.

HK said: Make lists that can be accomplished in two-week segments, setting deadlines and working to make those happen. My addition: Checklists are part of the wedding planning process, sure. We can all make checklists. But HK’s advice to actually prioritize those checklists with accomplishable tasks in manageable, timely segments is key. It’s like eating the elephant one bite at a time, rather than all at once. When I make lists (and believe me, I make lists!!) I have a running “everything that has to get done list” with no set deadlines, but then I also make a daily list of “things from that list that I want to accomplish today” and I make that daily list, well, daily. And even if things have to move from one day to the next, the key is they become the daily to-do, and when held up against the much larger “forever to-do” the list is much more manageable. (PS – sometimes I add something to the list that is mostly done just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing it off immediately. Weird, I know).

My advice: Be realistic in your expectations. I have had many experiences with brides planning their own weddings over the course of the years. And I have seen it go from “I am the bride and I am going to make my amazing mac and cheese to feed my 100 guests because I want my guests to have my amazing mac and cheese” to “there’s no friggin way I am making mac and cheese to feed 100 on the day I am getting married. Let’s book a caterer.” On the flip side, I second shot a wedding in NC where the groom was making banana pudding for the guests, in the kitchen of the venue, about 2 hours before the first look. Not ideal, but he did it. Which is just a reminder that setting realistic expectations needs to be part of planning your day.

My advice: Assign the tasks to the crafty and the creative and the people NOT in the wedding who can and will accomplish them without your input. Pick the people who can get it done. When I got married, many years ago, my maid of honor volunteered to make jam for my favors. I just said yes and turned it entirely over to her. And she did a great job. She bought the jars, the ingredients, labeled them, and they were awesome. But she was good at it. She had a skill set and she did her thing, but most importantly, I let her. Enough said.

My advice: Don’t be cheap. I know, part of DIY is saving money. However, if you truly are going to ask someone to do something key for your wedding, paying them something actually goes a long way towards good will and helping them feel valued for what they are doing. Yes, I know, they might just be starting out, or maybe make great cakes on the side but not as a job, or whatever. But please, honor your “volunteers” with more than just a verbal thank you. This article gives you some advice on where to cut corners, and where not to.

My advice: research pinterest fails, for stress relief and a good laugh, but also before you make large plans to create favors and strings of photos and hand written vintage signs for a wedding of 100++ guests. Because some of what you see on Pinterest, may, in fact, not be as DIY as you think. I, too, love pinning anything that inspires me. But in the category of, say, cakes that I love, I know enough about my own skill set to know that if I were planning a wedding again, I’d hire someone to make that cake, and pay more for it, but save myself the disaster of trying and failing and ending up in a puddle of tears on the floor. Case in point, for my own wedding, I had several breakdowns over the DIY tasks that were not getting accomplished and ending up in a shouting match with my fiance over japanese table lanterns that “we” were supposed to be crafting and that I had yet to do (because I was working and getting my master’s degree at the time as well as planning a wedding in Pennsylvania while living in South Carolina). So would I DIY again? No way. Or not the same way, anyway.

My advice: hire a planner/coordinator for day of. I know, the venue comes with a coordinator. But her job is to make sure the venue operates effiicnetly, not necessarily to make sure all your details get set up the way they are supposed to, or that the day goes off without a hitch. So my advice, hire a professional for day-of. Many wedding coordinators offer this service so that you can rest easy, turning the execution of all you’ve done over to someone who isn’t part of the wedding party. I recently did a wedding where the mother and father of the bride got dressed, were in all the photos, then got undressed so they could go and finish setting up the wedding. In my opinion? Not fun for them. At all. Consider that scenario when you think about DIY day of – who have you assigned tasks to and who will you want at your side instead of setting up chairs at the 11th hour?

More reading:
I’m a big fan of the “Real Simple” magazine, and they created a great overall wedding planning checklist that can be found here:

The DIY Network has some fabulous “DIY how to” articles that take you step by step through

And no planning is complete without a Budget Tracker. Check this one out on the Westchester Wedding Planner Blog:


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