DIY Wedding From Start to Finish

Introduction: DIY Wedding From Start to Finish

About: A chronicle of ideas and projects from a designer and thinker in repurposing obsolete technology and discarded materials. Professional Musician, Grad student at NYU's ITP program, co-creator of the TapeScape…

We’re Mike and Melody, two crafty and musical tinkerers who met one night and fell in love. Doing a DIY wedding was hard work, but also a lot of fun that paid off in the end. We took many liberties with our big day, but stuck with the basic formula that an awesome wedding = good food, good booze, and good music. We’ll show you how we filled in the other details.
Visualizing the dozens of details that need to be planned is key. Mike found a big chalk board being discarded by a local high school and this was used as our organizational home base.

Step 1: Save-The-Dates

Being collectors, we had an extensive inventory of unused cardstock, so we took what was on hand to make save-the-date postcards (which also saved on postage).

Melody drew a silly drawing in MS Paint and then imported it into Photoshop and pasted in photographs for the heads.

Step 2: Invitations

  We bought a package of plain white card stock and worked in Photoshop for the invitations. Mike proposed during a cross-country trip that included passing through Nashville, where we were inspired by the designs of Hatch Show Prints . The front of the invitations were drawn by Melody (which includes the barn and our three cats). After scanning and cleaning it up in photoshop, we included an RSVP as a cut-out postcard. This kept the invitations light enough for a regular first class stamp and we only had to use postcard stamps for the RSVPs. A boning tool was used to fold the invitations, then stuffed into colorful envelopes bought from Staples.

Step 3: Centerpieces

We bought wooden craft birdhouses from Michael’s while they were on sale, and acrylic paint with the theory that it could be used later on for random craft projects. Doing this was much easier and inexpensive than bouquets and vases while fitting in with our eclectic barn wedding. We sprayed the birdhouses with acrylic to seal them, added wire and (musically themed) name tags for the tables, then put local honey jars around the centerpieces for favors.

Step 4: Mismatched Dinnerware

The summer before our wedding we were living in an area of upstate New York that is filled with old estates and amazing tag (garage) sales. Nearly every weekend we explored the countryside, visiting households that had dinnerware to get rid of for short money. We're proud to say that we bought enough plates, utensils, and mugs to outfit all 130 guests at the wedding, and at prices that were less than renting would have cost.

The style of each piece was so disparate that the whole setup actually matched by being so mismatched. The menu was a country bbq buffet, so the quirkiness of the dinnerware matched the cuisine as well.

It was all heavy to transport in the big wooden boxes Mike made for the task, but nothing a UHaul van and an enthusiastic wedding party couldn't handle. We were able to borrow a friend's dishwasher beforehand, and then plastic wrapped everything to keep it all clean. For the silverware we used paper napkins with handmade paper napkin rings.

Step 5: Place Cards

With plenty of card stock left, we decided to make bird-shaped place cards. Melody stenciled out birds and wings, cut them out, and folded over the card stock to hold the bird. After the wings were glued on we wrote the guest and table names, then glued on googly eyes for that special, silly touch.

Step 6: Bridesmaids Gifts

For bridesmaids' gifts, Melody combined flasks from, and scrap-booking paper that reflected the interests and personalities of each bridesmaid. The paper was Mod-podged to the flask, then sealed with acrylic spray.  

Many of Melody's clothing designs use felt applique, so she wanted this technique to be integrated into the tote bags she also gave her bridesmaids. She used a bag on hand as a pattern, chose fabrics already in her stash, and made appliques personalized for each bridesmaid.

Step 7: Gifts for the Groomsmen

Mike wanted to give something special for his bad-ass groomsmen, so he chose to give them each a pair of brass balls, a la Alec Baldwin's scene in GlenGarry Glenn Ross . They were bought from an online vendor, then Mike handstitched the groomsmens' monograms to each carrying pouch, and put those into handmade boxes he made from scrapwood. Also in the boxes were cards made with handmade paper with the Hunter S. Thompson inscription: "Walk tall, kick ass, learn to speak Arabic, and never forget you come from a long line of truth seekers, lovers, and warriors." The boys were pleased.

Step 8: Envelope Box and Guest Book

Another roadside  treasure: our birdhouse envelope box and guest book covered in silk fabric.

Step 9: Picking Flowers and Making Bouquets

Flowers from Costco are usually fresh and inexpensive. Flowers from your backyard are free! We used both.

Mike and his best man Dave went traipsing through the meadow behind our house to pick wildflowers. Not only did they have time to stop and smell them, they also found a praying mantis clinging to the vegetation.

The day before the wedding, all the flowers, both wild (inspected for lingering insects) and store-bought flowers were laid out by color and everybody made their own bouquets. We tied them with wire, put them in a plastic cup of water and stuck them in the refrigerator to keep them crisp. The next day they were still in tip top shape and we wrapped green ribbon around them for a final touch.

Step 10: The Morning Before: Setting It All Up

The big trick to throwing a DIY wedding is the doing it yourself , though it's nice to have friends and family to help out.

We had only two hours to set up at the barn the morning of the wedding, so we had to do as much prep as possible before arriving. The mothers of the bride and groom bonded while decorating, and the wedding party pitched in to set up tables and chairs, unwrap and set out tableware, and run wires, tune guitars, and set up the PA for the music setup.

Step 11: Hairstylin'

Being lucky enough to have a mom that does hair = free, and Melody wouldn't have had it any other way. Alternatively you can find another relative/friend and throw them a few bucks and let them put photos of their wedding work in their portfolio.

Step 12: The Dress

Melody sewed her own wedding dress for the occasion. She used and modified two patterns to do so:  the upper part of the first pattern gave it a whimsical look, and the bottom part of the second pattern provided a full skirt. Beaded fabric for the outer layer gave it a fancy touch.

Step 13: Booking the Band

Mike's Dad was a professional musician for thirty years, so even the thought of hiring a DJ in his family is tantamount to heresy. A huge band with a horn section would have broke the bank, so we opted for a power trio of musicians Mike has known and played with for many years. We worked with the bandleader Jason Rabinowitz very closely in constructing eclectic setlists that ran the gamut from New Wave, to R&B, Classic Rock, and Straight Ahead Jazz. They killed it!

We sent the setlists a month in advance to all the musicians on the guestlist (around a dozen total). The result was an evening of smokin' tunes that got everybody up and dancing, with a constantly rotating cast of players. It was exactly what we wanted, and exactly what we got.

Step 14: Get on the Bus!

Instead of a limo service, we hired a big yellow school bus for the day that ferried guests to and from the hotel. It was a welcome surprise and everyone had a great time pretending like they were back in school again.

Step 15: Party Time

As you can see from the pics and video, the wedding was a smashing success. The hungry and thirsty were satiated, our loving guests were touched by many magical moments throughout the night, and the music got peoples' butts shakin'. We couldn't have asked for more, and recommend getting hitched on the DIY vibe to anyone whose fancy it tickles. Thanks!
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    11 years ago on Introduction

    This is fantastic! I absolutely love your wedding!


    9 years ago on Step 15

    This is inspiring! Thanks for posting and congrats!!!!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I was one of the bridesmaids in this amazing wedding. It was such a good time, they worked so hard and it definately paid off. The entire wedding was so personal, little bits of who Melody and Mike are (and why they are made for each other) in all the details. I have been to all kinds of weddings and this one had by far the most heart, something you can't buy anywhere.

    The only thing missing was the honeymoon. Directly (2 days) after the wedding these two had to move from the countryside back to the city so Mike could start a graduate degree.

    If they win this contest, they can finally get the honeymoon they deserve.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    It's awesome and abosolutely cute wedding. It shows a lot of love and happiness among the participants. I'm proud of you guys. Job well done.


    Hi Phil - Thanks for the comments. There were so many details to be packed into the instructable that we judiciously left some out. You make some good points though. We had a friend that we know to be an accomplished orator, entertainer, and sage become ordained and planned the ceremony along with him. He interviewed us extensively beforehand. We also wrote our own vows and recited them simultaneously.

    We did hire professional photographers, but only for the ceremony and posed shots of the wedding party and family immediately after. This saved money and still provided us with high quality yet memorable photos.

    The guest list is definitely tricky. We considered a very small wedding, but then quickly realized that you could either go very small, or very large, lest you risk bruising the egos of friends and family. Luckily we had a fairly reasonable group size of 130.

    Phil B
    Phil B

    11 years ago on Introduction

    I am a pastor and have been officiating at weddings since about 1975. After a very few years, I kept telling myself I should write a book on how to be married for $50. It would be more like $200 now with inflation.

    A lot depends on the setting where the wedding will happen. I have done weddings in someone's backyard, but most have been in a church. Anyone planning a wedding to be held in a church should keep in mind that any church will have its own standards for things that happen in it, and those standards will need to be considered as you plan. As a general rule, if something should not be done in a Sunday morning worship service, it should not be done in a church wedding, either. Some couples are very surprised to learn that. Our congregation has a booklet that offers helps and suggestions, as well as outlining policies for what is allowed in a wedding at our church. Also, one of our main interests is not to be a public hall where couples may book weddings, but to surround a couple with a community of believers within which their marriage may grow long after the wedding is done. If you are not a member and regular participant in that congregation, you should be generous with gratuities for the services of the pastor, the organist, the janitor, and the use of the building.

    Digital cameras have made getting good photographs much easier. But, too often people want to take wedding photos inside a large dark church without understanding lighting problems in a setting like that. This Instructable will be a big help to anyone who has never taken photos inside a large building before.

    People are usually fond of showing off their photos. Ask your friends to bring their cameras and take pictures freely at your wedding festivities. These days, they can even send photos to you by e-mail. You could assemble quite a nice wedding album from photos sent to you by friends. Be aware that etiquette for photography in a wedding usually means no flash photos during the service and also means remaining invisible, as well as very discrete.

    I once met a couple who had been married almost 50 years. Their wedding happened at the height of The Great Depression. No one had any money. They made arrangements with their pastor to have their wedding in his office on a Saturday afternoon. She wore her best dress and he wore his one and only suit. Two friends acted as witnesses. They were married in about 15 minutes. They did not have a big party, but they had a long marriage.

    In order to have a wedding for less money, I always thought the reception could be a potluck in someone's back yard. Invite friends who would not mind bringing a dish of food to share. (Maybe that is crude "guy-think.")

    If you want to keep the cost of a wedding lower, carefully watch the number of attendants on each side of the bride and groom. Each time an extra man and woman are added to the list of attendants, the whole wedding scales upward to become more expensive and more involved.

    Nearly all of the weddings at which I officiate are for people who have some involvement in our church. We meet together several times to talk about marriage and how to have a good one. I also lead them through a self-assessment tool so they gain some understanding of themselves for forming a better relationship. We talk about fighting fair, and sometimes about budgeting, too. Regardless of how and where you are married, I would encourage couples to attend a marriage enrichment seminar periodically and to read a good book on staying married every few years.