Introduction: Transform a Backyard for a DIY Wedding

About: I'm self taught. I like to make things. (I'm also very thrifty and I don't care much for shopping, so I make a lot of my gifts.) I'm pretty much a do-it-yourselfer.

After being disappointed looking at different venues, (with their lists of rules and charges), my daughter decided she wanted her small wedding held in our own backyard, that way we could control everything and most of all, save money. (A penny saved is a penny earned, right?) We didn't have to deal with any other people except for the caterer and the table/chair rentals.

Unfortunately, the yard had been neglected since the sprinklers had broken. Dead grass and weeds galore. We had "fix the yard" on our list of things to do, now it was a kick in the butt to actually get it done!

We decided to do most of the things for the wedding ourselves, including:

1. Fixing the Yard

2. Plant Flowers

3. Hanging Lights

4. Making the Flower Arch

5. Draping the Patio

6. Invitations

7. Chalk Board Signs

8. Bouquets, Corsages, Boutonnieres, Centerpieces...

9. Wedding Cake

10. Tables, Chairs and Settings

11. Music and Video

12. Wedding Dress and Home Made Veil

I hope you have as much fun and save lots of money for your DIY wedding like we did!

Step 1: Measure Your Yard

You need to first measure your yard to make sure you have enough room for all your guests. We don't have a huge yard, but we only invited about 50 people. My daughter knew she wanted large round tables. So we figured we'd need to fit at least 5 ten people tables. We used bedsheets to help visualize this. We laid them out at roughly the size of the tables and placed them around in the yard to see how they would fit.

We realized we needed a little more space and decided to remove the rusty shed. We tore it down and now just keep the lawn mower in the garage. We put the table for the bar in the space where the shed had been.

We also removed a little pine tree, it looked kind of out of place there anyway. (But don't feel bad, he made a fine Christmas tree.) Instead of just chopping it down and leaving a stump, we actually dug it up. It was easier than I thought it was going to be; the weight of the tree helped with leverage in getting the roots out.

Step 2: Trim Trees, Kill Weeds, and Rake

We had a LOT of yard work to do! Not much grass, but lots of weeds. We trimmed the trees so nobody would get a branch in their face. Raked and pulled weeds. For the weeds and grass growing between the bricks on the patio, we made a weed killer from a gallon of vinegar and a cup of salt. It's non toxic (we have a kitty), easy, and cheap; we bought 2 gallons of plain old white vinegar (a 2 pack) from Costco for about $3.75! We poured out about a cup of vinegar into a smaller bottle for other uses, and poured the cup of salt into the gallon jug. We shook it a bit to dissolve the salt, then poured the salty vinegar onto the weeds and grass in the cracks between the bricks. The next day they were wilted and easily pulled out. It also prevents new weeds from growing for a while.

Due to the drought in Southern California, the lawn had pretty much died. So we finally fixed the sprinklers so we could plant a new one.

Step 3: Prepare the Ground and Plant Grass Seeds

We had to dig up what little of grass was still left because we had no idea what kind it was, (it was weird and didn't match any grass I have ever seen.) We had actually bought a rototiller to do the work, except we had too many roots from the trees in the way and I was afraid it would break it, so we returned it and just did it by hand using shovels, rakes, and hoes. It actually didn't take all that long with all four of us working.

We realized the "soil" we had was pretty much sand. So we bought about 25 bags of Scotts Turf Builder from Home Depot, enough to cover our backyard about 1", it's supposed to contain fertilizer, composted materials and sphagnum peat moss to provide essential nutrients to grow grass.

So we raked that into our existing top soil. Then we bought Scotts grass seed, (we read the reviews and a lot of them said to over seed for it to turn out nicer so we doubled the amount the instructions said) and lightly raked that into the soil, then watered it twice a day. It took a few weeks for it to finally come up.

Step 4: Plant Flowers

Now that we had a lawn growing, we decided to plant flowers along the back wall. It's hard to keep flowers there though, because of all the shade. We went for impatiens which do pretty well in the shade as long as they are well watered. We bought several flats at a nearby nursery, (a bit cheaper than Home Depot). We also already had a flat of different succulents that we had never gotten around to planting that we interspersed with the impatiens.

We wanted to cover the other wall, so we went to the swap meet and found some bougainvillea (which is a colorful climbing plant) that were twice the size yet half the cost than the ones at Home Depot.

I bought another flat of impatiens and planted them in some silver pots I found at the dollar store, and we put those along the top of the wall.

We also got some hanging petunia planters to hang off the eaves next to the house for less than $15 each.

A lot of money at weddings are spent on cut flowers, we planted them instead so we can enjoy them all season.

Step 5: Make Wedding Arch for Under $100

We thought about renting a wedding arch, but out found it cost more than to just buy; (and that was even without the decorations!) I read for a florist to decorate an arch with fresh flowers could be from $150 - $600 (!) You could probably sell this online afterwards, (we kept ours though - we have another daughter who may need it.)

We decided to just do our own and use silk flowers. We bought the plain lighted arch from Michaels using a 50% off coupon, it ended up being only $20.

We actually bought most of the flowers at the dollar store and Walmart, except for the long wisteria that are hanging in the front; we found those online.

I bought a bolt of tulle 54"x 40 yards for less than $20 at an online wedding linen store, (it was about half the price of my local fabric store of $1.00 per yard!) I also bought a roll of purple ribbon at the same online store it was 7/8" by 100 yards, for only about $5.00, (craft stores were selling a roll 7/8" x 7 yards for the same price!)

The arch came in a box and had instructions and a tool to screw it together. It was pretty easy. Then I measured from the bottom on one side, over the top and down the other side. I doubled the length of tulle and draped it over the top. I took a needle and thread and gathered the center, kind of bunching up the tulle so that it was puffier. I measured from top to bottom added 2 inches and cut two lengths of tulle. I folded over 2 inches and stitched pockets on the tops. I unscrewed the 2 top rungs in front and threaded them through the pockets like curtains, then screwed them back on. I took a length of ribbon and gathered the front curtains to the side and tied them.

The flowers we just piled on top. (We kind of just taped them down with some clear packing tape in case it got windy. Since the top was at 8 feet, nobody would notice that high up, lol.) We actually had taken the bottom rungs off so it would be shorter to work on inside, we put them back on once we got it outside. One nice thing about using fake flowers, it could be made ahead of time and stored until ready. Nobody could see up close to even know they were fake.

Step 6: Hang Lights

We needed lights back there so we got some at Costco and put those up around the patio cover and along the eaves of the roof. We ordered some tiny solar powered lights from the internet and wound them around the trees so that they would light up when it got dark. (We thought they looked so nice that we left them on the trees after the wedding, and they still work a year later.) We also bought some mason jars with handles and some tea lights at the dollar store. We tied those to the branches and lit them when it got dark.

Step 7: DIY Draping for Patio for Only $50

We wanted to decorate the patio with draping; make it a little more bridal looking, (and cover up the old wood.) Professionals charge anywhere from $300-$4000 (!) depending on size and material.

We decided to make our own draping for about $50.


1. White Tulle. (We bought 2 54" x 40 yard bolts of white tulle online for about $40.)

2. Ribbon (We bought a 100 yard roll of 7/8" white ribbon at the same online store for $5. We had purple ribbon left over from the other project.)

3. White Thread

4. Sewing Machine (It can be hand stitched, but it would take a long time.)

5. Staple gun with staples

6. Step Ladder

7. Scissors

8. 4 Ceiling Hooks (Dollar Store)

9. Tissue Paper Pom Pom (Dollar store)

10. A helper or 2

I didn't think to take photos while I was making it, (or even good ones when it was done). So hopefully you can understand these instructions. I did draw a diagram in hopes it would help.

1. To cover posts, measure the posts top to bottom. Add about 6 inches to that measurement. Cut a length of tulle. Fold over a couple inches at the top and stitch a pocket. Thread a piece of white ribbon about half the width of the top of the tulle, (if your tulle is 54" wide, then your ribbon ought to be about 27" long), through the pocket. Gather the tulle and sew the ends. Now it looks like a curtain. Take this curtain and use a staple gun and staple the top edge along the top of the post, (our posts were "Y" at the top). We used a length of purple ribbon and tied a bow around the post in the center. Make these for each post. You can do it for the backs too, if you want to, but I didn't.

2. To cover the ceiling, find the center of the ceiling. Measure from the center to the outer corner and add 1 more foot. (Example: patio was 14' x 14', measured from the center to a corner it was 10 feet so I added 1 more foot to that which made it 11 feet. So each panel was cut at 11'. I used about 7 panels per side, so that made it about 28 panels at 11 feet each to cover the entire ceiling. (You can use as many or as less panels that you want, it just depends on how full you want it to look.) (Excess length will be trimmed later.)

3. Take each panel and fold the top over 2 inches and stitch pockets that the ribbon will be threaded through.

4. The diagram above that I drew represents how to put together the panels. I numbered each panel in the drawing. Start with the first panel and take one end of the white ribbon and thread it through each pocket, then the next and so on, end to end. Then pull the ribbon as tight as possible and gathering all the fabric, smooshing it together, finally cut the end of the ribbon leaving enough to tie the two ends of the ribbon together tightly.

5. When you are done lay it out on the ground and it should look sort of like the diagram, (the blue is the ground and the white are the panels), except, of course, it will be in a more circular shape, (until we trim it later.) This is basically what it will look like up on your ceiling looking up, also.

6. Take your roll of ribbon get a step ladder and start stapling the ribbon equally apart using about 8 staples, for each side, up all around the rim of the ceiling.

7. Install 4 hooks into the center of the ceiling in about the diameter of the circle in the center of the panels. Hang the center circle up on the hooks. Now it will look like curtains hanging in a circle.

8. Take the bottom of one panel and stretch it out over to the first corner. Climb your step ladder and tuck the end behind the ribbon between the first 2 staples. (The ends will stick out a bit, but that's ok, we will be trimming these later. If the panel is too heavy and wont stay tucked in, its ok to use a staple to keep it in place for a bit, though when all the panels are up and you need too arrange things nicer, you may need to move it.)

9. Do the same with each panel, tucking the ends behind the ribbon between staples. The panels on the sides will have more excess then the corners, thats ok, we will be trimming them at the end.

10. Now that all of the panels are tucked in the ribbon, decide how much droop you want it to have, pillowy or more straight? Adjust the gathers evenly then staple along the ribbon every 6 inches or so, to keep it from moving.

11. Take your scissors and just trim off all the excess along the bottom of the ribbon.

12. Now to fill the empty circle in the middle, I hung a purple tissue paper pom pom, or you could make one from tulle using your left over scraps.

Step 8: DIY Printing for Invitations, Thank Yous and Favors

Both the bride and groom are artists. The bride is a computer illustrator, so she painted the Save the Date cards and the Thank You notes using Photoshop. The groom is a traditional oil painter, he painted the invitation and the art for the wedding favors, which were coasters, and they were scanned in..

Since we didn't have to pay anyone to do the artwork, that part was free. The bride chose the fonts and the wording and we printed that information on the backs. About 50 people were invited, but most of those were couples or families so we didn't need to actually print very many, we just decided to print them off on our own printer. We used Staples double sided matte photo paper; pack of 50 (17.99). We printed 2 per sheet, except for the coaster art, we did 6 per sheet. For the envelops we got Staples Easy Close Invitation Envelopes, 5.75" x 8.75", 100 pack (13.99.).

Step 9: DIY Chalk Board Signs

1. You don't have to be an artist to make your own chalk board signs, but to make it easier you will need a computer and a printer.

2. A spray can of chalk board paint (Home Depot $4.)

3. You can use any old board you have lying around, or buy a cheap chalk board. (The one I bought for 3.99 did not work very well, so it was repainted.) Follow the directions on the can; you might need a few coats. We were able to make 4.

4. White chalk markers, (4 sizes for $8 online.)

5. Regular chalk, (drawing with actual chalk was not very vibrant, but it is needed to help make the transfer).

6. Tape, pen or pencil

Look online to see examples of signs you like. Save them to your computer. Resize the photo to the size of your chalk board. Lighten the whole thing so that when you print you don't waste a lot of ink. If your chalk board is bigger than a standard piece of paper, you'll need to print it out in sections then tape it together.

Turn over the picture and take your regular chalk and scribble all over the back.

Place the paper right side up on your chalk board and tape it down.

Take a pen or pencil and firmly trace over the words and designs, this should leave a chalk imprint on the chalk board. Carefully lift the paper off.

Now just fill in the out lines with your chalk markers!

Step 10: DIY Bouquets, Corsages, Boutonnieres, Centerpieces... $150

Flowers are usually the most expensive things at weddings. I read the average was $2000!

We didn't need anything fancy; we could do them ourselves.

Did you know you can order wedding flowers at Costco? Shipping is included, and they come straight to your door 2 days before you need them! They even have premade wedding packages starting at 199. to 499! Those are fantastic deals! (But they didn't have purple.)

Instead we got bulk roses at Costco, 50 stems of white roses, 39.99 and 50 stems of purple roses 39.99 and 100 stems of fillers (leaves and things) (25 stems Baby’s Breath, 25 stems Ruscus, 25 stems Eucalyptus, 25 stems Solidago) 59.99. You'll need to put them in water when they arrive, have several 5 gallon buckets on hand for this.

So all together they cost less than $150!

We made the bride's bouquet, 3 bridesmaid's bouquets, 4 boutonnieres, 3 corsages, 6 center pieces, and still had enough left over to fill 2 buckets and put them at the feet of the flower arch.

We got some floral wire, some green floral tape, flower pins, vases and bags of vase weights (like flattened marbles) from the dollar store, (probably less than $20.) We had ribbons left from the other projects.

You'll need scissors, wire cutters, (pruning shears would have come in handy but didn't have any at the time.)

You can find wonderful tutorials for making bouquets and these online, but we just didn't have time. My sisters helped put them together. We pretty much just trimmed stems, gathered them together, wound wire around the stems tightly, then wrapped the stems with green floral tape. Then tied the ribbon in a bow. Nothing fancy, but pretty.

For the centerpieces, we put the flattened marbles in the bottom of the vases as when they had just the flowers and water in they were a bit top heavy and tipped over easily.

Step 11: DIY Wedding Cake $110

I never made a wedding cake before, but the bride wanted me to make a 4 tier strawberry wedding cake. One of the reasons she rejected some venues is that only would allow a cake from their list of "approved" bakers.

(Having the wedding in our own yard, we didn't have to use anything from the venue's "approved" lists. That includes caterers; we chose the exact restaurant and food we wanted. Also for the bar we set up and had the guests help themselves. No "approved" bartender, or having to hire a security guard!)

My daughter drew what she wanted her cake to look like, and I went online to figure out how to make it.

Supplies Needed:

1. A set of cake pans in sizes of 6", 8", 10" & 12"

2. 8 pounds of Fondant

3. 2 pounds of Flower Paste (Gum Paste)

4. Sets of thin Card Board Cake Rounds 6", 8", 10" & 12"

5. Cake Ingredients

6. Butter Cream Frosting Ingredients

7. Long Serrated Cake Knife

8. Long Non Serrated Frosting Knife

9. Cling Wrap

10. Tin Foil

11. Freezer Bags.

12. Fat Plastic Straws

13. Wilton Roll and Cut Non Stick Cake Mat (or you can use your clean counter make sure to sprinkle powdered sugar on it so it won't stick.)

14. Fondant Smoother

15. Cake Lifter

16. Bowls for leftovers

17. Pizza Cutter

18. Cake Turn Table

19. Ruler

I bought a 2 pound tub of flower paste 16.99, (this is edible clay like dough that dries hard and is what sugar flowers are made from.) I went online to learn how to make roses. These can be made ahead of time and can last forever.

You also need fondant, (This will be the cakes' outer frosting, it is like an edible play dough you can roll out, and looks really smooth.) You can buy it by the tub, you'll need about 4, 2lb tubs (costs about $60 for premade fondant). Or you can just make your own home made marshmallow fondant like I did. It's nothing but melted marshmallows mixed with powdered sugar. You can probably make a batch for less than $5 each. You can find recipes and instructions online. It is easy, but messy, but you can make this ahead of time too; it keeps for weeks. This tastes better than the stuff you can buy and isn't hard to make, (though messy), and it's cheap.

I bought a set of cake pans in sizes of 6", 8", 10" and 12". I needed to bake at least 4 layers for each tier, so that made about 16 cakes(!). Which is a lot of baking, so you also need to have plenty of freezer space. You'll have to bake these ahead of time and after cooling, wrap each layer really well in cling wrap and tin foil then place in a freezer bag and freeze. Don't worry, even professionals freeze cake I found, for even a few weeks. So these can be baked ahead of time too.

Let the cakes thaw over night in the refrigerator. It took about 3 days to put together after thawing. Buy cardboard cake rounds, these will be on the bottom of each tier, so that the cake doesn't sink into each other when stacked.

You will need to trim the dome off the cake, and also the bottom dark part, to the height you want. I wanted each tier to be 4 inches high, so that means I trim each individual cake to one inch. The easiest way I found was to stack several cardboard rounds back into a the cake pan and then put a piece of plastic wrap over it, put the cake back into it. Take a long serrated knife flat against the top of the pan and saw back and forth like in the picture shone, cutting off the dome, remove the cake and carefully flip it over and do it again for the bottom. (this keeps the unwanted dark color from being seen in the layers when you slice the cake.)

You will have lots of leftover cake. That's ok, everyone in the house will help you eat it.

Make some butter cream frosting, recipes can be found online. It's best not to use canned frosting, real butter cream will set up with a "crust" and have a smoother appearance under the fondant. And well, it just tastes better.

It makes it easier if you have a cake turn table. Put a smear of butter cream on the center of your turn table, place a thin card board cake round on it to stick it down, and then smear some more butter cream on top of that. Place your first layer on that. Smear some more frosting on top of that, then stack the next, and more frosting and so on. Now we have to weight it down to squeeze air bubbles out and keep the layers from bulging under the fondant. Place some plastic wrap over the top and put a cake pan on top and put a can of veggies in the center to weigh down over night.

Take your long straight knife and trim the darkened sides off, going all around the cake, making sure everything is even.

Now you need to crumb coat, this means spreading a thin layer of butter cream frosting over all the cake, sealing in the crumbs. Use a long non serrated frosting knife. Get a separate bowl to scrape the knife into in case crumbs get mixed with the frosting. Try not to use this frosting with crumbs mixed in as they will show up as bumps under the fondant. (You can keep it for the kids to eat with the scraps in the other bowl!) Keep a glass of hot water and some paper towels to wipe off the knife, scrape off the used frosting in the bowl, wipe it off with paper towel, then dip the knife in the hot water and dry it off with a different paper towel. This heats up the knife and smooths the frosting a bit better. Try to get the frosting as smooth as possible. When you are done, place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least half an hour. The butter cream will stiffen up and lock the crumbs in. Take it out and add another layer of butter cream. Try to get it as smooth as possible because any bump will show up under the fondant. Chill it again. Do this for each tier. When you take it out you can smooth any bumps by using a clean sheet of paper and placing it over the cake and rub gently with a fondant smoother, then carefully remove the paper.

Now it's time to cover each tier in fondant. Make sure your fondant is room temperature. Prepare your counter surface, (I use a Wilton Roll and Cut non stick cake mat.) sprinkle area with powdered sugar so fondant doesn't stick.

Knead your fondant and make sure it doesn't have any lumps. Roll out the fondant with a rolling pin, making sure it is evenly about 1/8" thick, roll it out to fit your cake (for ex. for an 8" cake, measure across the top, then down the side (4") add another 4" for the other side, now add the top, so 8" + 8" = 16" then add at least 2" to that just in case, so that makes it 18". (My mat has measurements printed on it.) Roll it out to at least 18". Rub powdered sugar on the rolling pin so that it doesn't stick. Start at one end and loosely roll the fondant onto the rolling pin. This will help you transfer the fondant without tearing. Now gently unroll the fondant on the cake, start on one end and unwind to the other. Use your hands and start smoothing the fondant on the top then down the sides making sure there are no folds, air bubbles or wrinkles. Use a pizza cutter to trim any excess off the bottom. Use the fondant smoother to "iron" the fondant to make it as smooth as possible.

Now to stack the tiers, place your bottom tier on your cake stand. Take a clean cardboard cake round the size of the tier you will be putting on top, and gently rest it in the center on top, take a knife tip and lightly trace around the circle then remove it. This will show you where the next tier will sit.

You will need some fat plastic straws, (like the ones for bubble tea or thick milk shakes. I found a bag at the dollar store.) Stick one in and mark the straw with a marker even with the top of the cake. Pull it out and cut it evenly with scissors. Mark all the straws for the tier and trim them all the same size. Insert into the cake, like shown in the drawing, inside the traced circle. Remember make sure each straw is about an equal distance away from the other, so the weight of the cakes are distributed evenly. The bigger the cake, the more straws you will need. Smear some butter cream in the center of top of the cake, this will help hold the cake together. Carefully lift the cake, (I used a cake lifter - its like a wide spatula), supporting the cardboard underneath, and gently set it on the center of the cake. Now do the same for the rest of the tiers. You can take the tiers separately and stack them at the venue so you won't have to transport a very heavy 4 tier cake. I just stacked the cake right there on the cake table right in my back yard.

Now decorate your stacked cake. Disguise the bottom seams with a length of ribbon like I did; just wrap it around the bottom of each tier. I also had made pearl beads from fondant and wrapped those around the ribbons. Then placed the sugar flowers and the cake topper on the cake.

Ta Daaa! Now I know why wedding cakes cost so much!

(Sorry I don't have photos for every single step; I was getting behind and was still working in my apron when guests were starting to arrive! Lol!)

Step 12: Chairs and Tables and Settings

Of course we had to rent tables and chairs from a party rental place. They wanted us to rent tables linens too, but the cost of one large white table cloth was $25, to RENT! Let alone colored overlays $15 each, to RENT, napkins .50 each to RENT and chair sashes 5.00 each to RENT! That would have cost us almost $500 just to RENT linens! And that didn't even include delivery and set up.

DONT RENT LINENS!! We actually bought all our table cloths, overlays and chair sashes for only $150. (And the nice thing is, you can wash and resell online or keep for the next wedding!) There are several online stores that sell inexpensive wedding stuff. (I hate using cloth napkins, so we bought a big pack of nice paper napkins at Costco.) You will have to iron the linens yourselves though, we ironed a head of time then laid them out flat and rolled the whole stack up into a big log, so that we wouldn't have creases. We set up the chairs for the ceremony in the morning, and tied all the sashes. We kept the tables in the garage until we were ready. After the ceremony, we used the same chairs for the tables for dinner. We just had the guests go into the house for appetizers, then we had the wedding attendants move the chairs and set up the tables.

DON'T RENT DISHES EITHER! They wanted about $5 dollars to rent for one persons table setting: big plate, small dessert plate, fork, spoon, knife and glass, that would have been about $250 just to rent dishes. Also they expect all the dishes to be at least rinsed before returning. (I don't know about you, but I don't want to be doing dishes after a wedding!) We had the food catered by a barbeque restaurant, they said they supplied paper plates and utensils, but we wanted it to look a little bit classier. We went to Costco and bought a few sets of plastic disposable plates (large and small) that had a nice silver band around the rim and looked like china, for $20 each, we also got some silver looking plastic utensils, $15, and some clear plastic cups $13. The bride wanted real glass champagne glasses though; I found some online for a crate of 50 for $50. They can be washed and resold, but we are keeping them until the next wedding.

We also bought some clear plastic Ice buckets for each table for $3 each. And we bought lots of bags of ice from the dollar store too.

Step 13: Music and Video

The Bride and Groom wanted to choose their own music with a playlist on their Ipod. Another reason we didn't care for the other venues, they didn't allow it. They wanted us to hire a DJ from their "approved" list, which of course would cost like $1000.

So we simply went to Costco and bought a portable EcoBoulder Bluetooth Outdoor speaker, for $150. (It was even waterproof, which was nice, because we did not have a plan B in case it rained, lol, but we were lucky and the weather was perfect.)

We also bought a wireless microphone to go with it for about $20. They worked great, not only it played their playlist for dancing, but also the music for coming down the aisle. The microphone was used for their vows, and all of the speeches. Everything was wireless, so we could move it anywhere it needed to be. There were no complaints of not being able to hear like so often at weddings.

They did hire a photographer, but she was a friend and she did a wonderful job for a discounted price.

For the wedding video, which would have cost at least $1000. I took my own for free. Hey, I was watching everything anyway, I just held the video camera up and recorded! I handed it off to who ever when I wanted to be in the shot. I edited the video to a 20 minute highlight reel on my computer using Movie Maker. Free!

Step 14: Wedding Gown Alterations and Home Made Veil $11

Wedding dresses are meant to be altered. So if you already know how to sew, it isn't really as hard as you would think.

My daughter found her dress on the rack for a great sale price, though having them alter it would have ended up costing almost as much as the dress. She only needed the bodice taken in a few inches on each side, (and also have a strapless push up bra sewn in, added the option of using straps, and add a few buttons and loops for making the bustle.) I found video tutorials online that really helped.


1. Dress

2. Safety Pins and Straight Pins

3.Disappearing Ink Pen or Chalk

4.Seam Ripper

5. Scissors

6. Thread

7. Strapless Bra

8. Buttons

Take in a Bodice

1. Have the bride try on the dress with same undergarments and shoes she's going to wear.

2. Use safety pins so you don’t poke her, pinch along the seams and pin it smaller.

3. Some people use a disappearing ink pen to mark how much to take it in, I didn’t have one so I just used some chalk to mark by the pins along where the new seams will be on both sides.

4. Take it off, look at the inside of the dress. You will see a seam at the top edge that sews the lining to the dress. You need to use a seam ripper to open up that seam about 6 inches over the side seams on each side.

5. Peel apart the lining and the dress from the bottom and open it up by turning it inside out. The lining may be held onto the dress by little thread chains, clip these.

6. Open it up, work on the lining first. Make sure the lines you made with the chalk or disappearing ink can be seen. Take your seam ripper and open the seam in the lining. Take the lining and make sure the marks you made line up, and sew along the marks you made to take it in. (DO NOT CUT ANY OF THE EXCESS SEAMS OFF UNTIL YOU ARE SURE IT FITS RIGHT.)

7. Then do the same to the bodice piece. Make sure there are no puckers showing in the seams. Try it on. Make sure it fits before sewing the lining to the bodice.

8. If it fits, you need to sew the lining back onto the top of the bodice under the arms. You may want to trim the seams so they aren’t too bulky, (but don't do it unless you are sure!) If you do trim it, try to leave at least an inch though, in case you need to change it a bit. Turn the dress inside out. Match the edge of the lining to the edge of the bodice and sew, making sure there are no puckers.

9. Turn it right side out and have her try it on again. If it isn't right, you may have to take it back apart and do it again.

Add a Strapless Push Up Bra.

My daughter wanted to fill out the top a bit more, so we decided to sew a push up bra into it.

1.We just took a strapless push up bra she already had and tried it on under the dress.

2. Use safety pins to pin into place.

3. Take a needle and thread and carefully hand sew it into the lining and into the seams, making sure your stitches don't show through to the outside of the dress and that the bra doesn't show at all..

Add the Option of Using Straps

My daughter was a little worried the dress might slip down with all the dancing, but luckily some straps came with the dress in a little baggie. I could have sewn them on, but I wanted to keep it strapless, but with the option of using straps later if she wanted to.

1. I had her try the dress on and measured where the straps would look best and marked the spots, and pinned them on with safety pins.

2. I took 4 buttons and sewed those to the straps. (1 at each end of each strap.)

3.Then I made some thread loops and sewed those to inside of the bra where they would be hidden. (See #5 of Add Button and Loops for Bustling, I describe how to make thread loops.)

4. She could always add the straps at any time during the wedding; just button them on with the thread loops. She found the dress pretty much stayed up on it's own, though, and didn't need them.

Add Buttons and Loops for Bustling

A bustle is made to pin up a long train on a wedding dress so you don't have to carry it or drag it around all night. The lady at the dress store says some brides just pin it up with a few safety pins. I decided to use 3 buttons and 3 thread loops. I found tutorial videos online.

There are different types of bustles. Two common ones are the American Bustle which is also called an Outer bustle, and a French Bustle which is also called an Under Bustle.

My daughter wanted the Under Bustle. I forgot to take a picture of it, so there is a terrible drawing up above that I did, showing a dress from the back without a bustle, then showing it with the French bustle.

1. Try the dress on with the shoes she will be wearing.

2. Have some safety pins ready. Lift up and tuck under part of the train like you see in the terrible drawing above. Make sure it's short enough so that she doesn't drag any part of the train. Take your safety pins and pin it, being really careful to not snag the fabric. Her dress was not a very heavy dress, and I determined we could get by with only 3 bustles. Meaning 3 points that will have buttons and loops. Take another safety pin and pin through the first layer where you pinned it up, (where the button will go) just to mark it. Lift it up and see where the original pin is through the double layer, and use another pin and put it though just the bottom layer to mark it. Do this in 3 spots.

3. Unpin the original pins through the double layers. Leaving six pins showing as markers for the buttons and loops.

3. Take off the dress and turn it inside out. (Her dress had a lace overlay, that easily hid the points where the buttons and loops were sewn.)

4. Take your buttons and place them on the spots marked by the upper pins. Carefully sew them on the inside of the dress through the layers but do it carefully so that you can't see it on the outside. (Hopefully you can hide the stitches in a seam or the end of the zipper.)

5. Now make the thread loops to loop over your buttons. (Sorry I don't have any pictures of this.) Thread a needle with some heavy thread. and sew where it is marked, and make a small loop and put the needle back in near where it came out. Hold the loop open with your index finger and thumb, and hold the thread in the needle taut with your other index finger and thumb.

6. Using your middle finger, pull the thread in the needle through the backstitch loop, making another small loop.

7. Let go of the backstitch loop, and pull the small loop through. Open the small loop and hold with your index finger and thumb. This will close the backstitch loop and create the first chain in your thread loop.

8. Repeat steps 1 – 4 until your thread chain is long enough to use as your button loop.

9. Finish the thread chain by threading the needle through the last loop and pull it tightly.

10. Sew the end of the thread chain near where you began the thread chain. Securely knot it.

11. Now you have your buttons and button loops for your bustle. To do up the bustle, just lift the train and find the loops and hook the loops around the buttons.

Home Made Veil

The cost of wedding veils are on average of $200 - $300. And looking at the ones in the shop, it didn't seem too difficult to make. Just seemed like tulle and a comb, some had a ribbon sewn on the edge, some were lace. Some were short, some were long.

My daughter didn't want anything too fancy and just a medium finger tip length. I had tulle leftover, from the other projects, but you can buy it by the yard for about a $1 a yard for some about 54" wide. If you want a really long veil, get some 108" wide so it looks more proportionate.)


1. Tulle

2. Scissors

2. Comb

3. Thread & Needle

4. Sewing Machine (optional)

1. Decide how long you want it to be. Measure it out and trim it with scissors. One nice thing is, tulle does not ravel, so you don't have to finish the edges. Be sure your scissors are sharp and cut carefully, jagged edges are not pretty. (If you wanted to sew some narrow satin ribbon along the edge, or lace, you could. Use a sewing machine and sew it about an inch from the edge, then trim the excess tulle off.)

2. You can leave the end square, but she wanted it rounded. I took a hula hoop I happened to have and some purple chalk, and traced around the corners. You can use a tray or whatever, or, just fold it in half and trim a rounded shape and unfold.

3. On the top edge stitch 2 rows of long basting stitches. Knot one end of the stitches and pull the loose bobbin threads on the other end to gather the tulle. Gather the tulle to the length of the comb. Tie off the ends and knot then trim off the threads.

4. Once you have it gathered, you can sew across the gathers to keep it securely gathered. Then trim off the extra gathered bits off the top.

5. Flip over the comb so that it is wrong side against the veil. Line up the top of the veil with the top of the comb. Use a thread and needle to sew the gathered end of the veil around the top of the comb like the photo.

6. Flip the comb back over. Your veil should now cover the stitches.

7. To put the comb in your hair so that it doesn't slip out, you start out pointing it toward the front of your head and pick up some hair that way, then you flip it to point to the back of your head, and push it in that way. That causes hairs to be wrapped around the teeth of the comb to help it stay in place. You can add bobby pins to that for more security.


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