To DIY or Not to DIY

April 15, 2010

Living in New York City, putting together a wedding is expensive. There are venues in the city that, while not too expensive to book the facility, have very expensive mandatory vendors. My brother hoped to host his wedding in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, but found it was too expensive, given that the caterer required by the facility would cost more than the budget they had decided on in the first place. While there are plenty of blogs out there about hosting an inexpensive, indie wedding in NYC, there is always some sort of compromise. Mostly, these wedding are very small, just close friends and family. But the other way to save money? Do-It-Yourself projects.

Theoretically, one could put together a wedding that is entirely DIY. Throw it in your backyard, cook all the food by yourself, bake your own cake. You could make your own dress, maybe the bridesmaids’ as well. Print out your invitations and glue everything together. Have a friend or family member become an officiant and marry you and your fiance. Is it possible? Absolutely. But is it a good idea? Probably not.

A lot of times, DIY projects can save couples a lot of money by investing their time instead of their cash. But when it comes to planning a wedding, time is valuable. And sometimes, the better, and possibly more affordable, optiong is to let someone else do it.

When it comes to invitations, I say do it yourself. Whether you’re inviting thirty people or three hundred of your closest friends, if you have the time to put together invitations on your own, you can save hundreds of dollar. Based on my preliminary research, invitations are expensive. RIdiculously expensive. Think about what goes into an invitation? Obviously, there’s the invite itself and unless you’re trying to save trees, you’ll probably have an RSVP card as well. You’ll need an envelope to mail each invite out, plus an envelope for the RSVP, not to mention any other enclosure you may want to include. Then there’s also the printing itself. Do you want your invites letter-pressed or engraved? That’ll cost more. You want more than one color on your invites? Even more money. Some places will even charge you for the font you use! And if you think you may want to design your own invites and have them professionally printed? You must be nutty, because that’ll cost you EVEN MORE!

On all of the invite websites I’ve looked at have quoted me roughly $800 to let me print my information on designs that countless of other people have already used. Additionally, the invites I’ve seen are single sheet, with the inserts loose in the envelope.

I think most people hear DIY and think it means cheap looking invitations. In reality, there are so many websites out there designed to help you put together really nice, professional looking invitations for a fraction of the cost. The website Cards and Pockets can really help you design invitations that are as simple or as fancy as you like. On that site, they sell just card stock, which can be printed and cut in any way, but they also sell pocket folds. The best part, their invitation kits. What you get is a a pocket fold, a mat background and the invitation, plus card stock for the enclosures and an envelope. You can add an RSVP envelope for a little extra. These kits start at $1.04. Yes, $1.04! What that means is that invitations for a 200 person wedding could be less than $300.

And yes, you’ll still have do your own printing, but when you think about it, printing on an inkjet printer allows you so much more choice in aesthetic. While fancier printing methods only allow one color at a time, meaning it’s more expensive with every pass, inkjet printing allows you to print pretty much anything you want for the cost of printing a single color sheet of paper. I would say though, don’t print at home. It may seem like an easy way to save money, but don’t do it. Your printer sucks. Sad, but true. No matter how good your printer is, you’re going to get spots and streaks and you run out of ink halfway through. Let them do it at the local copy center. It’s not going to put you back all that much cash.

Now, obviously, putting these together is time consuming. But if you have the time, why not take it? Putting your invitations together is time consuming either way. You still need to stuff and address each envelope. Now, you’ll have to do some glueing as well. There is a nifty little tool out there called a Xyron machine which takes a piece of paper and makes it into a sticker. Invest in one of those and the whole process will be much simpler. In the I end, I think these invites look a lot classier and a few more accoutrements, like a ribbon or a monogram to seal it shut and you’re gold.

On the other hand, when it comes to hosting the entire wedding at home do not do it yourself! Hosting a wedding in the backyard can seem like a really cheap and affordable alternative to renting out a venue. If you’re just looking to have a handful of people for a very casual affair, then it’s totally doable. But if you’re hosting a good number of people, you may not realize just how much everything will actually cost.

When renting out a venue, most of the time you’ll be getting the space, plus tables and chairs as well. Your caterer, as well as providing food, will generally have all the china and silverware necessary. Plus, they’ll set it all up. If you host it in your backyard, you need somewhere for all those people to sit. This means renting chairs and tables. It means setting the chairs up for a ceremony and then moving them again for the reception. It means renting enough plates and forks and spoons for everyone to eat with. And, if you’re handling the catering yourself, you’ll need enough space to cook and serve it. You’ll probably need to hire someone else to serve it anyway.

The real reason I will always recommend against trying to do everything yourself, why do you want to spend your wedding day worrying if dinner is hot enough? The beauty of hiring people to do that sort of stuff for you is that you make all the decisions ahead of time and then let the day unfold. On your wedding day, you should enjoy yourself. You shouldn’t be worrying about the food.

But when it comes to favors? Go ahead, do it yourself! Wedding favors are a tricky thing. The best favors are useful, meaningful or tasty. How many candles have you gotten at a wedding that ended up in the bottom of a drawer? Have you ever really used that bookmark? Probably not. But you enjoy the custom M&Ms. No one will ever turn down cookies. Okay, so the best favors are almost always tasty.

The biggest problem with wedding favors is that they are so cookie cutter, no pun intended (but, hey, it works!). If you go on almost any wedding favor website, you can find the same things over and over again. At The Knot Wedding Shop there is a page for unique wedding favors. Unique? If you’re buying it on The Know, it ain’t unique.

I think the key to giving out good favors is providing something that speaks to who you and fiance are. One of my favorite ideas came from the Martha Stewart Wedding site. There are tons of great DIY favor ideas over there, but I think this is my favorite. All this calls for is buying tea bags in bulk, bake (or buy) some tea cookies and pack them into boxes. The website provides step-by-step instructions. If you and your fiance are tea lovers, this is a really cute favor that everyone will enjoy.

The key here is having the time to put together the favors. If you can commit to it. Go for it. Why not?

Plus, it’s a great way to spend some time with you family or bridal party. Invite your bridesmaids over, order pizza and bake! Put together favor boxes. Make it into a fun time.

Our favor plan.. well, I’m keeping it on the down low for now, but I will say this, it has something to do with food, but is not edible. It’s also not finalized yet, so there’s that!

Another don’t do it yourself, dresses. Most of us are not ready for “Project Runway.” I have a sewing machine, but the most I can produce is an apron or a tote bag. A wedding dress is a lot more complicated than a tote bag. I think people also forgot just how expensive making your own dress can be. The kind of fabric needed for a dress of this magnitude is expensive and delicate. Wedding dresses are many layers of fabric and those yards could add up very quickly.

That’s not to say that you must spend money to buy a dress. I think largely the idea of making your own dress is oversold as a way to save money, when it’s not always the case. One thing to keep in mind, your time is money. While I recommended taking the time to put together your own invites or favors, wedding dresses take it to a whole new level. You can put your invitations together in a day. A wedding dress is going to take much longer. If you have a full-time job, can you afford to take on another? Because that’s what designing and sewing your own wedding dress is going to be.

If a friend or relative offers to make a dress, really consider some of the points I made above. Do they have the time to invest to really make it right? Can they work with delicate fabrics? What do you want out of your dress and will they be able add those the details you want? My sister-in-law’s dress was made by her aunt and it came out wonderfully, but afterwards her aunt made it very clear that she would never be sewing another wedding dress.

There are so many ways to make your wedding personal and save some money at the same time. The key is to decide whether you want to invest the time and energy to make it look good, to do it right. I know I’ll be embarking on plenty of DIY projects in the future, but I won’t be ashamed when I throw up my hands and hire someone else to do it for me.


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