On Pins & Needles (& Ribbon & Glue): Advice for DIY Brides

Guest Post by Real Bride Blogger Sandee McGlaun

I have a confession. I’m over a year into planning our wedding, and I have yet to make my first pin on Pinterest. In fact, I’ve only visited the Grand Portal of Wedding Inspiration once.

It’s not because I’m not a DIY Bride—quite the opposite. I’ve been an artsy-crafty creative type since before the founders of pinning were out of their diapers. I grew up watching my mother draw, paint, sew, knit, and take photographs, and spent many happy childhood hours making things of my own. I remember trailing down the aisles of Hancock Fabrics, admiring the colors and textures, later snipping doll clothes from scraps as my mom stitched a new dress for me. Other hot Georgia afternoons, we lingered in the cool of the ceramics shop, dwarfed by tall shelves of dusty green-ware, trying to decide what to paint next.

Sandee breaks out the spray paint for the wire cupcake stand project.

Sandee breaks out the spray paint for the wire cupcake stand project.

As I got older, I dabbled in paper-making, polymer clay, simple jewelry. I enjoyed scrapbooking for a while and made lots of cards. I discovered the pottery wheel was not my friend. My favorite projects these days combine fabric, beads, and embroidery.

I knew from the moment Steve and I got engaged I would be hands-on with the design and décor of our wedding. Within days of saying “yes,” I’d chosen wedding colors and had a working list. I’d been hanging out in fabric stores and craft rooms for so long, my mental bulletin board of ideas—even without browsing Pinterest—was chock-full.

My mother and I have joined forces on tabletoppers, bench pillows, and paper flowers, and I’ve created a variety of cupcake stands from found objects as well as decorative columns to mark the aisle and ceremony spaces. My mom made our ring pillow, and I’m working on a clutch bag and a garter, painting some photo booth props, designing a caketopper, and mending my mother’s train so I can wear it.

I’m a lifetime DIYer working with a 16-month-long engagement, and time still feels short for our ambitious list. Based on my experience, I have a few pointers for other brides considering DIY projects.

First, inspiration can come from anywhere—and sometimes, less is more. Pinterest is almost overwhelming in its vastness. Instead, first flip through a few DIY wedding books at the library or bookstore—they’re more focused, and they’ll help you find your vision as well as minimize the intimidation factor. Limiting your sources also keeps you from being sucked in by trends that don’t suit you. Did all the brides of the last couple of years really dream their whole lives of wrapping their wedding days in burlap? I like how its rough earthiness balances tulle’s airy froth (like a leather jacket over a floral dress). But too much trendy means your wedding looks like everyone else’s.

My inspiration has come from surprising places. A duvet cover in Bed, Bath, and Beyond (perfect fabric design). A wire shoe rack at the consignment store (funky flower-like cupcake stand). I bought a few magazines and Elizabeth Demos’ book Vintage Wedding Style, which helped me refine ideas and source unique items like the antique maps we’ve incorporated into our invitations. Mostly I’ve tried to keep my eyes open for things that moved me, and let the venue itself inspire. Problem: four wide (boring) wooden benches. Solution: design and scatter colorful handmade pillows.

Some of the pillows we’ve made for venue benches.

Some of the pillows we’ve made for venue benches.

Second, consider three key elements when deciding how much DIY you want to incorporate into your wedding: your motivation, your own history as an artsy-craftsy person, and your timeline.

  1. What’s your motivation for wanting to DIY? To save money? You really love the handmade/rustic/upcycled look? You want to put a genuinely personal touch on your day?

Realistically, if your prime motivation for DIY—especially if you’re not a crafty type—is saving money, you might reconsider. You know how a “simple” one-hour home repair has a way of turning into two days + three trips to the hardware store? That’s not uncommon with DIY crafts, either. Figuring out how to do it right often means doing it not-so-right at least once (check out pinterestfail.com). Savvy crafters can accurately estimate the costs of buying 25 clear vases, glass spray-paint, and 10 yards of ribbon for wrapping and bows—and they probably already own tools like good fabric scissors and a hot glue gun. For a novice without a ready supply of quality tools—and the right tools are the key to polished projects—it might actually be cheaper to buy or rent finished vases.

It’s safe to assume most DIY projects will cost a little more than you think—especially trendy ones. People began decorating with Mason jars in part because they were inexpensive; now that they’re in demand, sellers charge a premium. Budget for mistakes: always buy enough materials (especially for complex projects) to do one or two practice runs, and save receipts so you can return any unopened supplies you don’t use.

If it’s a handmade look that matters most, consider whether it would be more cost effective (and time-saving) to purchase handmade items from a craft market or Etsy. If your primary goal is to put your personal stamp on the day, read on!

  1. What’s your history and skill level as a DIY crafter?

If you’re genuinely excited at the prospect of making your own decorations or favors, you should go for it. Obviously, the less experience you have (in general or in a specific craft), the steeper the learning curve. There is something for every skill level. You want projects to be fun, not frustrating, so the trick is to find your DIY match.

One of the aisle markers made from a plant stand.

One of the aisle markers made from a plant stand.

If you’re a newbie, consider simply refurbishing or dressing up a found object. I turned metal plant stands into aisle-marker columns with white spray paint and colorful ribbons (paint and ribbon are some of your best DIY friends). I’m making a purchased garter my own by adding lace from my mother’s wedding dress. You don’t have to start from scratch or make something completely original—adapt an object or an idea you saw somewhere and liked.

Don’t be afraid to enlist help from family or friends. Add snacks and beverages, and a group crafting session turns into a wedding-prep party.

  1. How much time do you have—and how much will you really need?

As with cost, so with time: most projects take more time than you expect. Be wary of advertised estimates, usually made by experienced crafters. Complete novice? Triple the given estimate. Crafty but never done craft X? Double it. Be sure to factor in supply shopping trips, or shipping time from online sources. If you finish early, bonus! Better to be done ahead of schedule than stressing out at the last minute.

Consider project complexity, the length of your engagement, and your other commitments when deciding how many projects are feasible. If you take on more than one or two, prioritize. If time runs short, you’ll have completed whatever matters most.

Finally, think about whether and where you can safely store whatever you make until your wedding day. Large or particularly fragile projects require extra planning and care.

2 cake stands made from found vintage objects

2 cake stands made from found vintage objects

Some wedding preparations, like catering, I think are best left to the experts—Ruth Reichl tells a funny and terrifying tale about her mother, who insisted on cooking despite not having adequate storage or refrigeration, and poisoned all the wedding guests. That’s not the DIY outcome anyone wants! But a big part of the fun for many brides is being hands-on with at least some of the preparations. If that’s you, find a DIY wedding project you love, and dig in.

Comments

  1. Lexi Andrews, The Perfect Fairytale says:

    I am so excited to be your planner and see all your DIY projects come together to make your day as beautiful and creative as you!!

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