Weddings can easily cost thousands of dollars, which is why more and more brides are turning to DIY projects to save money. If you're going the DIY route, you need to do it right -- or you could end up wasting your precious time and money.
Rarely does DIY equal cheap wedding. It’s there for you to cut costs or cut corners, but really it’s a massive undertaking and could end up costing you the same.
Anja Winikka, site director, TheKnot.com
How Popular Is the Wedding DIY Trend?
When Marlene Montanez prepared to say “I do” last fall at a posh Scottsdale, Arizona, resort, she took the DIY route for several components. She chose reasonable projects such as programs, favors and escort card frames she could personalize.
“I am not very DIY-savvy, nor could I justify the time many projects would require so I only picked a few,” said Montanez, a Scottsdale freelance fashion and beauty writer and owner/blogger at StyleSizzle.com.
It's no wonder many brides are choosing the DIY route: The average cost of a wedding in the United States is $27,021, says Anja Winikka, Brooklyn, New York-based site director for TheKnot.com. The dollar amount varies by state. New York is the most expensive at $65,824 while West Virginia was the least extravagant at $14,203.
“We did a survey of almost 20,000 brides and the majority of them did at least one or more DIY projects,” Winikka said. “It’s extremely common.”
As owner and operator of the popular wedding venue Virginia’s House, a century old home in Glendale, Arizona, Natalie Stahl has seen an increasing number of weddings with multiple DIY endeavors in recent years.
“Our ongoing economic conditions have dictated very tight wedding budgets, leaving no room for luxuries..., " she said. "DIY is the only way to keep some brides from going without.”
Should You Try It As a Way to Cut Costs?
Stahl has seen DIY methods save couples as much as 30 percent on their wedding expenses. Plus, these projects are a nice excuse for those with large families or bridal parties to get together for an evening or two.
There’s also the personalization factor. The thought of a bride being able to say she made the save-the-date cards by hand so they're so-very-her is priceless.
“It’s a way to make sure the wedding is their own and that it was made with love,” Winikka said. “But love can cost, too.”
On that point, Winikka said, if you give in to impulsive decisions and you haven’t done your research, you will still lose money going DIY.
“Rarely does DIY equal cheap wedding,” Winikka said. “It’s there for you to cut costs or cut corners, but really, it’s a massive undertaking and could end up costing you the same.”
Amy Petrovsky, event planner and owner of Sensational Events in Phoenix, said many DIY-ers lose focus or commitment when they realize how much time, work and stress it takes to turn their dreams into reality. They also don't think about how much pressure they're putting on loved ones.
“You’re relying on that person to fulfill the expectations for this great event," Petrovsky said. " That’s a pretty big burden.”
If you hire a professional, you're just a phone call away from solving any last-minute problems. But if you have your friends and family help, they may our not have the skills to deal with the countless items, details and logistics that need to happen.
"Factor in the regular stress of a wedding, and it’s a potential recipe for disaster,” Stahl said.
Which Projects Are DIY Appropriate?
Montanez had a blast with her now-husband making their wedding favors. They made a concoction of their own special seasoning blend, which they placed in jars she decorated herself.
“I think wedding favors are absolutely something simple to DIY,” she said. “It was fun to be in the kitchen together and get creative and create something personal and unique for our guests. We both love to cook, so it wasn’t just a generic gift.”
Paper items, such as programs and save-the-date cards, are typically foolproof, Winikka says. Small items like welcome bags and bathroom accessories at the venue are simple. Putting a family member or friend in charge of these details is one way to get her involved while eliminating one more job on your to-do list.
Commissioning a stationery designer or calligrapher to create your own logo or monogram on a stamp is a trend Winikka says she is seeing from DIY brides.
“It’s inexpensive and, for $50 or $70, you have your own stamp to use on napkins and cards. It’s sort of a win-win,” she said.
Which Projects Are Best Left to the Pros?
Be on the lookout for what Winikka calls sneaky costs.
“Step back and weigh the benefits," she said. "Anything that requires supplies or skills you may not have can go up in smoke pretty quickly.
Any component that comprises the bulk of your budget is likely best left to the pros. Catering and photography are two big ones for which Stahl never recommends amateurs. She's seen the faces of too many devastated brides when they realize there isn’t a single usable photograph from their wedding day.
The cake is another biggie; it's the center of attention for much of the evening.
“Unless you’re a pastry chef, an engineer or an architect, this is not your project," Stahl said. "I have seen a myriad of sins in DIY cakes ranging from broken pencils holding the layers up to plastic grocery bags stuffed in the voids and frosted over.
“It’s an art form than needs to stand alone on a table, unattended, for several hours.”
Think having an at-home wedding is a cost-saver? Tables, chairs, glassware and dinnerware will likely have to be rented. Outdoor weddings in cooler seasons require heaters and someone to operate them safely.
Due to the liability factor, Petrovsky won’t allow any client to let a friend tend the bar or run the valet service.
“By the time they’re done with all the rentals, they’re probably spending more money to have a wedding at a house,” Petrovsky said. “The bottom line: a home wedding doesn’t mean saving money.”
How Do You Decide What to Do Yourself?
Montanez says it's all about what makes you comfortable. In her case, she put in significant time doing research on making her own invitations, then realized going the professional route was worth her peace of mind.
"If you are only saving a few hundred dollars and in return, needing to invest hours and hours of time, ask yourself, ‘Is it really worth it?’,” she said.
Anything that’s fresh, requires a lot of prep work or can’t be done months in advance --such as flowers and food -- should be professionally done, Winikka says.
Because the venue will dictate many of your style decisions, Winikka says choosing an aesthetically pleasing one could save on decor. An "environmentally gorgeous" one, she said, will keep you from adding gigantic flower installations.
Regardless of your budget or DIY desires, the experts say you need to make your enjoyment a priority.
“Don’t get so caught up in the details that you miss the event," Stahl said. "I’ve had brides that were so worried over whether all of their ideas were working, that they forgot to enjoy being the bride. It’s your day -- make it memorable for all of the right reasons.”
Natalie Stahl, owner and operator of Virginia’s House in Glendale, Arizona, says you can save money with these DIY projects.
Party Favors: Stahl estimates at least a 50 percent savings by keeping things simple, like candies inside tulle bags.
Centerpieces: A moderately priced floral centerpiece ranges from $50 to $100 per table. The rise of online bulletin boards and wedding websites has led to more DIY centerpieces, some which are made from re-purposed or up-cycled items. “This route would be considerably cheaper as the pieces are being picked up at thrift and second-hand stores.”
Hair/makeup: "This is also a relatively easy place to DIY," Stahl said. "Just turn your everyday up a notch.”
Invitations: A bride needing 60 invitations will be locked into paying for more than she needs because professionals sell them in 25- or 50-piece increments that can run $3 to $10 per piece. “DIY would cut that price down considerably,” Stahl said.
Video: This can cost $1,500, give or take. Stahl suggests buying a camera for $200 to $300 and finding a friend with a stable arm to catch the important parts.
Music: Hiring a disc jockey for five or six hours could run $500 to $1,800. For those satisfied with the traditional first dances and easy listening dinner music, Stahl recommends hiring a friend to handle a $200 iPod.