There are no rules about how DIY works for weddings.
As a full-service wedding planner, I'd be lying if I didn't say the phrase Do-It-Yourself (or DIY) has made me groan a LOT of times. When a destination wedding client wants to DIY parts of her wedding, I'm never quite sure what we're in for and what to expect. It could simply be that the couple wants to hand-make their invitations. Some want to recreate and ship centerpieces they found on Pinterest. A few think they're going to ship all the parts and pieces of something complicated to a remote tropical island and assemble them when they arrive.
With the exception of that last one, I have no objection to brides and grooms DIYing parts and pieces of their wedding so that they save money and give their special day a more personal touch. I won't do the work for them -- I have a whole section in my client guide that explains the "Y" piece of "DIY" -- as in, assemble, package carefully, and mail all your DIY projects to us completed by YOU and we'll be happy to repair as necessary (and it's always necessary) when they arrive and incorporate them into your wedding however you see fit.
What I do not advise -- whether you're DIYing your entire wedding without a planner or just making a few things yourself -- is putting ANYTHING off until the last minute, at home or for a destination wedding. Mailing yourself 100 little favor boxes that need to be stuffed with goodies, wrapped, and have bows and tags added is a massive time suck and pain in the butt during the week you're supposed to be getting emotionally prepared to take the biggest step of your life. Likewise, putting off MAJOR wedding planning tasks like writing your vows until the night before the wedding is a really, really bad idea... but that's another blog.
There is nothing wrong with choosing to DIY parts and pieces of your own wedding, and hire professionals to do the rest. Maybe you want to hire a planner to coordinate all of your vendors so that you don't have to deal with that stress, but you want to hand-make all of your décor and favors. Other brides and grooms want to actually DIY the planning of their own weddings, and in that case, I strongly advocate hiring professionals to take over some of the bigger tasks.
Just because you hired professionals to execute a few pieces of your big day doesn't mean you didn't DIY your wedding. It just means you did it the smart way. You figured out what would save you time (and in some cases money) and you hired pros to execute those pieces. If you try to plan everything, execute everything, and be the bride and groom all on the same day, you are setting yourself up for failure. And worst of all, you won't have fun at your own wedding!
You might be thinking it's obvious that you'll have to hire a caterer or a limo company because you cannot DIY those things realistically. But I'm suggesting that you go a few steps farther than that. The most aggravating piece of wedding planning for DIYers is actually getting the events executed smoothly during their wedding weekend and having a chance to enjoy their own wedding at the same time. It's a difficult balance but it can be achieved. Here are six things you're better off leaving (at least partly) in the hands of professionals:
- Do not try to do all your own flowers and décor for your wedding unless you have a professional florist in the family who is willing to take that piece over completely. If you're not using flowers for the centerpieces, you can make those well in advance and not have to worry (but that means not just talking about needing to get floating candles for the vases you picked up at a craft store on sale - you actually have to buy the candles ahead of time so you're not sending a hapless fiancé out on a panic shopping trip the week of the wedding). Anything that isn't alive can be completed a month prior to your wedding.
- You won't really have time to make your wedding bouquet, or six more for your bridesmaids, the day before or the day of your wedding. And if you're using fresh flowers, you can't make them up any farther in advance and be guaranteed that they'll look good. Making bouquets isn't as easy as it looks - or rather, it takes a little practice to figure out how to make things look EXACTLY as you want them to in your pictures. So you'll have to buy the flowers months ahead and practice until you get it right. Take pictures, make lists of the flowers you need (with backups - something always dies), and order everything ahead of time. Unless you're bound and determined to do it yourself, this is one thing I strongly recommend you delegate to a professional florist. You don't have to spend $1,000 if it's just you and a bridesmaid and flowers for your moms. But whatever you spend, you want it to look good.
- Don't try to run your music at your own wedding unless you have a friend who is a PROFESSIONAL DJ that has offered to handle it for you. It's not enough to set up playlists and stick a phone into an iPod dock. First off, the music has to be stopped and started and cued properly for your entrances and other big activities at the wedding. Second, you have no idea how the party will progress and when you're going to play what. Sure, you can plan an hour or so of appropriate dinner music and just let that run, but what about when the dancing starts? How do you know when your guests will fill the dance floor and when it will be empty? There is nothing worse than seeing a whole crew dancing their hearts out when suddenly and without warning, the music switches to a slow, emotional ballad. What a buzzkill! They clear that dance floor like somebody passed gas in an elevator. No kidding.
- You cannot be the head stylist for your whole wedding party. Some brides do not trust anybody but themselves to do their own hair and makeup for their wedding day. In fact, I've had a few brides who were actually stylists and planned to do hair and makeup for their whole wedding parties. With big groups, that plan could save you more than1,000. However, a bride who is planning to do her whole wedding party's hair and makeup is setting herself up for disaster. Especially if she's coordinating the rest of her wedding and people are going to need her attention and be asking her questions all day long. A DIY bride doesn't have time to worry about getting anybody but herself ready, and honestly, she's going to need a little help with that if she doesn't want to accidentally forget to put on her earrings in her rush out the door. There is no way a DIY bride can execute her wedding setup, do her own hair and makeup and not be stressed to the limit by the time she walks down the aisle, even if everything is going smoothly. If chaos reigns with the wedding setup, she might not even have time to properly do her own hair and makeup. It's just a bad scene all around. If I'm a professional wedding planner and I do this every weekend and I barely have time to get myself dressed and ready in between the setup and the wedding, how can a bride pull it off on her first try? It's just not freaking logical. Don't do that to yourself.
- Don't try to go super-cheap with things like tents and lighting for your wedding reception. If you're doing a backyard wedding (at home or a professional venue), and there's not enough room inside for the entire reception to continue in case of inclement weather, you MUST HAVE A PLAN B just in case. Plan B doesn't mean you have four 10x10 pop up tents you bought at Costco and have never opened stashed in the garage in case of emergency. It means you have to plan to actually set up enough covered space outside for the event regardless of what the weatherman is calling for that day. On the plus side, it gives you a place to hang your lights and cool décor. On the minus side, if you're DIYing, it takes a lot of time and people to get all that stuff decorated. Most real tent companies will charge in 24-hour increments. That means that once that tent goes up, you have to have your decorating team ready to roll with the lights, décor, etc. that have to be put in place. If your setup/teardown crew of volunteers are also your VIPs and members of the wedding party, this can be difficult when everybody also needs to have time to make themselves gorgeous for the wedding. Many tent companies have some lighting options. Sometimes the DJ can take care of that for you. You don't have to be super-elaborate, but you do need enough light to make things safe and comfortable for your guests, and enough décor so that things look pretty.
- Bartenders and servers are key at a wedding and it's a category you cannot afford to skimp on. Using professionals, the general rule is one bartender per 75 guests, and one server per 10 guests for a seated/plated meal. If you're having a buffet or food stations, you can get away with fewer servers as long as the caterer has the food tables covered with station chefs. But this is important to coordinate. You do not want to see your brand-new Mother-in-Law walking around with dirty plates and glasses at her son's wedding, unless you're having a paper plate barbecue in the backyard. And there's nothing wrong with that if that's the kind of wedding you're planning. But if you want your wedding to appear professionally planned even if you do everything yourself, it's mission critical to put together a good service staff to work the event. Your caterer will probably offer to bring them - accept that offer and do not haggle. There are standard pay and tip rates for wedding events. You might save money by using your friend's little brothers as bartenders and waiters, but don't disillusion yourself into thinking your wedding will run smoothly.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Sandy Malone Weddings & Events!