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.

From Pinterest to Perfection

By Stephanie Vinal

An increasing number of brides have turned to various social media sites for help with the wedding planning process. And they’ve been turning the ideas they find into reality for their own big days.

Amidst an overwhelming sea of vendors, dates, stationary and chiffon, websites like Pinterest are supplying brides with a plethora of resources. A simple scroll through the boards on Pinterest shows inspiration for every kind of ceremony or celebration.

Whether you’re leaning toward a classic elegance or a country rustic theme – or somewhere in between – for your nuptial days, there are no limits in the digital wedding world. A few of our brides offered insight as to how they took inspiration from Pinterest and applied it to their weddings.

Why DIY?

A Well "Branded" Wedding  Craig & Melissa Newman Wedding on Page 32 Kemper Mills Fant Photography

A Well “Branded” Wedding
Craig & Melissa Newman Wedding on Page 32
Kemper Mills Fant Photography

Becky Gower’s wedding was a Pinterest project from the start. Her board, like many other brides-to-be, had been in the making since before she was engaged. When the time came for her now husband to find the perfect ring, a friend forwarded him a link found on one of her wedding boards.

After viewing tons of DIY ideas, Becky decided to focus on a few feasible projects to make her ceremony more personalized. She handcrafted her own table numbers by formatting 5×7 photographs of the happy couple in beautiful glass frames.

“I was able to add personal touches with sentimental items, rather than stock from a catalogue. I was also able to better create the ambiance of the day,” she says.

Many DIY projects allow for more creativity and connection between the bride and groom and their guests.

“I wanted to create an atmosphere where people looked at their watches and said ‘Wow is it midnight already?’, rather than ‘Whoa, how is it only 9 p.m.?’” she says. “By taking on some of the projects, and considering my guests, that goal was definitely met.”

Inspiration to Reality

Guests at Melissa Newman’s wedding felt warm and fuzzy as they received their parting nuptial gifts – paw-print shaped cookies adorned with a tag that cited the Blue Ridge Boxer Rescue Association.

“In lieu of traditional favors, we wanted to spend that money on a donation to the rescue where I adopted my dog Beau from in 2010. After the wedding, we sent them a donation in Beau’s honor.”

Melissa knew she wanted to pay homage to her best “Beau” and the marital logo she created for her and her husband was the perfect final touch to the dedicational favors.

“Via Etsy, Pinterest and other websites, I saw how important it was to ‘brand’ everything for the wedding,” she says. “I literally put our personal logo on everything from station signage to the cookie tags, and even the welcome bags at the hotel. I wanted it to be memorable and different, so that guests felt that everything was special and custom-made and for them to enjoy and truly feel a part of our day.”

Wine Cork Holders & "I Spy" Game David & Morgan Housden Wedding on Page 86 Amodeo Photography

Wine Cork Holders & “I Spy” Game
David & Morgan Housden Wedding on Page 86
Amodeo Photography

Morgan Housden found her inspiration early in the wedding planning process.

“Pinterest inspired my shabby chic theme,” she explains. “I loved all of the unique weddings I saw on Pinterest so that really pushed me to have a Pinterest wedding of my own. Pinterest helped me find my cork buffet label holders, inspired a dessert bar instead of just cake, and it helped me find my guestbook idea – a funky creature animal poster. It was a hit!”

After planning her crafts, Morgan raided the craft stores and dedicated nights and weekends to tackling the projects. Her bridesmaids and husband joined in on the crafting party, too.

Not only was she able to save money, but she also found a way to make the wedding planning process itself more intimate and special.

Although planning your own DIY wedding may seem daunting at first, it’s important to realize that even the smallest project can bring a new level of personality and intimacy to your day. All it takes is a little ingenuity, elbow grease and some “Pinspiration” to make your DIY wedding a reality.



DIY Favors: Soy Wax Candles

Homemade favors add a sentimental touch to your wedding. Our art director got creative in a different way, making these cute – and affordable – soy wax candles in glass jars.

Here are her step-by-step instructions and personal tips.


Photo by Caroline McKean



  • Wax Paper
  • Fragrance (any essential oil; I used Eucalyptus purchased from the Natural Food Co-op in Grandin for under $5)
  • Natural Soy 444 Wax (5 pound bag, $15 on Amazon)
  • Several Chop Sticks or wooden skewers
  • Twine (I used Maya Road Bakers Twine Cord in the color Wheatgrass, $6 on Amazon)
  • Tags (I used Dress My Cupcake 50-Pack Gift Hang Tag with String, heart-shaped, kraft-colored, $12 on Amazon)
  • 2 Cup (16 oz.) Glass measuring Cup (I used an Anchor Oven Proof Glass Measuring Cup, $10 on Amazon)
  • Heat safe candle containers (I used jam Mason jars purchased from Kroger, 12 for $8)
  • Wicks (Medium paper wicks burn through the wax quickly and smoke. I would recommend a small wick. I purchase my wicks at A.C. Moore in Roanoke, $2.50 per 6-8 wicks)

Note: Small, medium, and large wicks refers to the diameter of the wick, not to the length. Consider a natural fabric wick to cut down on smoke.


  1. Measure out one cup of wax flakes in the heat safe measuring glass
  1. Melt the wax flakes in the microwave. (My microwave is 700 watt, so I started at 2:30 and would add 30-second increments until the wax was completely melted. For more powerful microwaves start with less time and keep an eye on the wax.)
  1. Add 10-15 drops of essential oil (add more for a stronger fragrance) and stir with skewer.
  2. Set out several Mason jars on the wax paper to catch spills.
  3. Dip the metal end of the wick into the wax; use a wooden chopstick or skewer to push the wick securely down into the glass bottom. (I dipped the wick in the wax several times to get enough wax to seal the wick to the bottom.)
  1. Place another skewer (I used skewers and broke mine in half) or chopstick on the rim of the Mason jar to lean the wick on. Having the wick stay centered as you pour the wax is important for an even burn.
  2. Pour the melted wax into the Mason jar, just to cover the metal bottom of the wick, allow to sit and harden for 10-15 minutes.
  3. After the wick has set (if necessary, melt more wax and add fragrance) fill the Mason jar up to the first line with wax.
  4. Let the candles sit to harden or very gently move them to a shallow container filled with water and ice for a quicker hardening of the wax.
  5. Once candle has set, trim wick and place cupcake wrappers over the Mason jar. Secure the lid and wrap with twine, tag and add any additional decorations like eucalyptus, lavender or other greenery.

Orchard Photo Shoot: Fun Favors, Dippable Dessert

Photo by Bella Muse Photography

Photo by Bella Muse Photography

For our photo shoot at Ikenberry Orchard, we kept it simple when it came to favors and dessert. Instead of the traditional cake, we opted for a delicious apple pie and slices of apples for dipping in yummy toppings. Favors that included s’mores ingredients complemented our earthy outdoor theme, because who doesn’t love making s’mores around a fire?

Here’s how to create these items for your own wedding!

Photo by Bella Muse Photography

Photo by Bella Muse Photography

For the s’mores favors:

  • Layer two graham crackers, one chocolate square and one or two large marshmallows in a small cellophane bag.
  • Use twine or ribbon to close the bag.
  • We also used a tag that read “S’more Love” or you can come up with a cute slogan that suits your wedding day.
Photo by Bella Muse Photography

Photo by Bella Muse Photography

For the apple slices:

  • You could create an apple dipping station for guests to enjoy.
  • Cut apples (red, green or both!) into slices.
  • Insert a popsicle stick into each slice.
  • Our toppings included caramel, sprinkles and nuts. You could also use melted chocolate, chocolate chips, graham cracker crumbs or other favorite toppings. Hint: To help the caramel stick to the slices, use a paper towel to absorb some of the moisture from the apple.

Guests will have a blast creating their own miniature candy apples!

Photo by Bella Muse Photography

Photo by Bella Muse Photography

Build This: Emergency Bridal Kit

This contest is now closed. Thanks for your great comments and entries and congratulations to our winner, Emily Hall!

If you’ve already picked up your copy of bridebook, you’ll see our emergency bridal kit on page 14. We love all the items in this kit and were surprised by some of the things we learned were necessities (who knew about having a straw handy?!).

We had such a great time putting the kit together – not only did we learn some handy tips, but this inexpensive kit can also be used after the wedding day, too! What kinds of things would you add to your own emergency bridal kit?