Read on as I walk you through the behind the scenes of my DIY wedding, the things you can skimp on to splurge on the rest, and the things that you absolutely should outsource in order to have the best day possible with the least amount of stress. And yes, there are a few DIY tutorials for some of the decor items.
Behind The Scenes of my DIY Wedding
I had almost an entire year to plan our wedding. Yes, ME–he helped with some things, but let’s face it, I did all the planning and most of the doing…and I had one of the participative guys! And let me tell you that I used my time wisely and efficiently, otherwise I would have had to cut corners. Scrounging together a few extra dollars to have someone do the important things for us PROPERLY rather than us doing everything was well worth every single penny! It left me with plenty of energy and excitement to do all of the other DIY wedding things I had envisioned for our special day.
A Sound Investment
If there is one thing that you don’t skimp out on and DIY for your wedding, let it be the DJ. We almost did, and before the reception even started I was already super thrilled that we hadn’t. He did so much more than play music for us! He coordinated our grand entrance, he kept timing and introduced speeches throughout dinner, and made announcements wherever needed, and really made our reception into a well-attended party. He played the type of music we had discussed prior to the event without the need to ask, catered to all guest-requests (except our no-play-list), and really helped to make the whole night streamlined and magical.
And when I say ‘one thing’, I of course mean in addition to the obvious need for a professional photographer. There are many ways to fake a gorgeous venue or to find a strategic background for your formal portraits, but only a professional can make that happen flawlessly. A professional will capture the story of your wedding day in art-worthy images for you to cherish forever. Once the day is over, that’s all you really have left. Especially since you pretty much miss most of it; this allows for you to look back on all of those details you worked so hard on. Ours did just that, and I cannot wait for our album to arrive!
Another big-ticket item that I am more than happy I invested in were the flowers. I hired a florist (who also happened be my wedding designer), who built and delivered all of the bouquets, built the arch for our ceremony on-site, and had access to amazing wholesale pricing on the actual flowers and greenery (it helped that she help me pick in-season blooms <– BIG help on keeping to our budget). The reason I chose this company in particular is because they were a one-stop-shop that also offered design services and decor rentals, and they helped me bring my vision into reality–and added their professional knowledge to make it even better. Monthly meetings, follow-ups, countless discussions, and to-scale mock-ups certainly eased my anxiety along the way and kept it as a smooth process.
Now for the venue. I will start by saying that we started our planning with the mindset that we didn’t really want to spend much on food, because it didn’t seem worth it to be spending that much on something that is gone within minutes. BUT, we ended up spending more than half our wedding budget on the venue! Here’s why. It include the getting ready area for the girls and the guys, separate from each other, the beautiful outdoor ceremony location (backup indoors), the reception dinner and dancing, and the best damn service I have EVER experienced! It was entirely worth the expense, which technically could have been kept smaller had we shortened the guest-list. I could go on and on about the level of service and touch-points this venue offered, not to mention the care they put into maintaining the property itself.
Now for what you really came for: the DIY Wedding secrets
My DIY Wedding
These custom upholstered chairs were the perfect addition to our sweetheart table. The project took a few hours, but we waited a few days for the custom-ordered fabric to come in (amazing fabric from C&M Textiles). They matched the decor perfectly (once we updated the seats), they were super comfy, and the full cost averaged out at about 75$ per chair. Keeping in mind that these are our actual kitchen chairs at home, so we opted for high-quality upholstery fabric, since the full cost was spread out for permanent use versus rentals. This could easily be done on the cheap to thrift-shop chairs, with any almost fabric for use for the reception-only.
I had planned on making the 12 napkins required for my head-table, but after my sewing machine jammed a few too many times and burnt one with the iron, two personal napkins for our sweetheart table made much more sense. All said and done, it took me about an hour to get them done properly, and only cost me about 5$–but bad decision to leave these until the day before the wedding!
Wood Hand Calligraphy Wedding Signs
I had originally intended on outsourcing this project to a local artist, but timing just didn’t work out in the end, so I spent about a week getting these done. Between waiting for the stain to dry, the paint marker to set, and giving my wrist a break–the cumulative working time was about 4 hours for the three signs. The total cost for this project was just over 100$, plus my time. For someone who doesn’t have the patience or skills to complete the DIY option, I highly recommend outsourcing. For those of you who do, you will end up with extra supplies to create something smaller and personal to hang with your wedding photos.
Wood Burned Pallet Sign
This project took months of collecting the right kind of wood pallet pieces from the local landscaping joint, to ensure the pieces all matched in colour, wood type, and were then all cut down to size. The actual project only took about 2 hours, including the tracing, and wood-burning. Since I already owned the wood-burning kit and the drill, there was no financial cost to this project other than the screws required to put it together (which I had laying around at home). Gas cost is minimal since I always picked up the wood on my way home, with no detour.
This project was courtesy of the Great Glebe Garage sale, where I scored this amazing easel for a fantastic price–because it was broken/chipped in so many places. I filled the holes and fixed the cracks with glue gun, repainted the glue in gold, and then refinished the entire piece with a shabby layer of silver to match the frame I had picked up at the thrift shop. Got my maid of honour to help, since between the two of us we already had all of the supplies to finish the project. And I was able to recoup my costs entirely by reselling it after the wedding.
Invitation Suite & Menu Cards
I scoured the internet for free-for-personal-use graphics and fonts, and found these lovelies. As a professional photographer, I have access to programs like photoshop and to professional print labs–so I was able to do a lot more than the average -Joe, for less. That being said, gather all your graphics and take advantage of the 30-day trial to put them all together, and get them and printing them at your local printer (support local!). The alternate option is buying a customized template off Etsy for a minimal cost.
Thrifting for MilkGlass
We search through dozens of thrift shops for almost a year in order to find the correct size, shape and colour of milkglass vases. Prices ranges from 1$-10$ at flea markets and garages sales, to the splurge of 45$ for a true antique. To rent the milkglass, it would have been roughly 4$ each at most places, so we knew that anything below 8$ with the goal of reselling them for at least 50% of what we paid would have been the same rate of renting them–anything cheaper would make them as little as ‘free’ after the fact. We ended up spending just over 130$ on the milk glass vases and pedestal bowls <– that’s the shape you want! and sold them all for 90$ which meant our true ‘rental price’ was about 2$/item after the fact. Anything we needed above what we had collected so far at about a month before the wedding, we scheduled to rent. This ensured we had exactly what we needed, no matter what.
Scavenger Hunt for Decor Items
Anything that we had not been able to find at about two months before the wedding, we arranged to rent. We ended up renting a few easels, the unique chargers for our sweetheart table, and the dessert table dishes. These items were harder to find at thrift shops or in the online wedding buy-sell forums, and were much too expensive to buy new for just the one day. The annual Great Glebe Garage Sale proved itself to be quite useful, but since it was the weekend before our wedding, we weren’t able to rely on it as much as we would have liked. A few gorgeous unique frames, an easel that we refinished, our fancy wine glasses for the sweetheart table, and my MOH’s purse were all courtesy of the GGGS. We also found many items at the various wedding shows across the city; the most successful being the Ottawa Bridal Swap (there are a few cities across Canada who do this event!).
Just keep in mind that you’re spending on gas running around all the time finding your pieces, and spending a ton of time–so do the math to make sure it is worth your while. Since there was a St Vincent de Paul thrift store down the road from my work, it was an easy daily visit to see if our desired themed decor was in-stock.
The Right Time To Give Up DIY Wedding & Outsource to a Professional or Rent Decor
There is a certain point where you need to put down the glue stick and outsource. The easiest way to know when that point is to draw the line when there are more than a dozen of them to make, or if it will take you longer than a day’s work and cost you less to pay someone to do it.
For example, making handmade napkins for each of our 80 guests was too much work so we opted for the venue ones that matched our decor, and reserved the handmade ones for the sweetheart table. Another great example is the menu cards; they only took me about an hour to design because of my special skills and I had access to the software and print lab–so it made sense for us to custom make them and to have them printed in bulk for each guest.
There are plenty of local wedding vendors here in Ottawa who would be happy to help you out with things that are too time-consuming or outside of your knowledge-base, and many other vendors who offer decor rentals. Things like like calligraphy signs, beautiful cakes & toppers, invitation suites, linens, place-cards, and more! are readily available in most cities–you just need to look.
The Wedding Vendors We Used
Photographer: Melissa Morrissey Photography, Cumberland
Venue: La Grange de la Gatineau, Cantley
Designer & Florist: Brittany Frid of Satin & Snow, Ottawa
Baker (Cake & Desserts): Thimble Cakes, Ottawa
Sweetheart Table Chargers: Amy + Jen Decor, Nepean
Easels & Cupcake Towers: Wishes Vintage Event Rentals, Stittsville
Wedding Dress Designer: White One (Pronovias)
Wedding Dress Shop: Renewed With Love Bridal, Carleton Place
Wedding Dress Alterations: The Handmade Bride, Ottawa
Maid of Honour’s Dress: Mimetik from Second Dance Bridal, St. Catharines
Bridesmaids Dresses: David’s Bridal & All That Glitters Bridal, Ottawa
Flower Girl Dress: Dollcake, Australia
Bride’s Floral Wedges: Toms Canada
Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Modern Muse Girl, Ottawa
Groom’s Bespoke Suit & Tie: Giroux Menswear, Ottawa
Groom’s Footwear: Brako Shoes
Groomsmen’s Braces/Suspenders & Custom Bowties: Giroux Menswear, Ottawa
DJ: JP Bedford from Capital Entertainment
Officiant: André Fontaine from All Seasons Weddings
Ice Blue Linen Rentals: MasterMind Event Rentals, Kanata
Stop-Motion Videographer: Charlotte Northrope Photography, Canada & Australia
Wedding Planner: Yours truly! Stephanie de Montigny
Stay tuned for the full wedding gallery!