Introduction: Ultimate DIY Wedding in Grand Canyon

Our July 3, 2012 wedding was my biggest ever handmade DIY project. This is our DIY-Everything-“Desserts in the Desert”-picnic-on-a-bluff-at-the-bottom-of-the-Grand-Canyon wedding! Every little personal touch is one that my husband and I and our immediate families can forever smile about. If you want a more than memorable wedding, one that gives you and your guests a unique experience to remember for a lifetime, one that can limit the size down to the most important people in your life, and one that will only cost you in the 4-digits (yes, we spent less than $10,000 including our flights and 4-day stay in nearby Las Vegas), this is the kind of wedding for you! Or if you just love creating unique handmade projects, this is for you, too!

My husband let me take the reins on all design aspects, so I happily and compulsively crafted away in the wee hours of night and tried to make it awake to my full-time job come morning. Like any DIY bride, I had all sorts of daydreams about my wedding projects being featured somewhere, but I was too intimidated to make the pitch after seeing our amateur photography, so I let that fantasy go. Three years later, I am so excited that I have a chance today to share our wedding here, better late than never!

Here are all of the items I’ve designed and handmade, as well as my personal tips on how to have a wedding at the bottom of the Grand Canyon by helicopter, if you imagine yourself doing this very thing. In each “step” of this Instructable, you will find each project, its materials and how-to with step-by-step photos, and more photos of the completed project in the context of our wedding:

1. Make Paper Suitcase Favor Boxes

2. Sculpt Terracotta Clay Succulents (used to decorate my bouquet and wedding invitations)

3. Marble Paper Using Liquid Starch (used for my invites and all stationery)

4. Paint a Kilim Picnic Mat

5. No-Sew Color Block Pillows

6. Bake Marbled Naked Cake

7. How to Have a Wedding at the Bottom of the Grand Canyon (like booking a helicopter package, how to design everything for easy transport, what to expect when you are there, what we would do differently)

I hope you enjoy all of the little projects that brought our grand wedding dreams to life. I hope at least one inspires you and I hope you will vote for me in the Wedding Contest! Thank you! And thanks for giving me an opportunity to share our wedding here!

Step 1: Make Paper Suitcase Favor Boxes

Our favors were suitcases I made from T-shirt boxes, which I painted in our wedding colors and decorated with paper details. We called them our “Keep Cool” favors and each contained items that keep one from perishing in the desert heat: a fedora hat for the men or a floppy hat for the women, aviator sunglasses, and a personal monogrammed linen bag (with guest’s initial) containing coconut water and sparkling flavored water as refreshments. I made one for my husband and I, each of our guests (our parents and my brother) and vendors (our 2 helicopter pilots, minister, photographer, and coordinator). I designed paper “straps” with Velcro enclosures, so that the box pieces/components were still separate and easily collapsible for transport, yet can be attached together when built-up.


T-shirt/garment box

Acrylic paint and foam roller

Dimensional stickers + Spray paint (or stud stickers)


Utility knife or scissors

Velcro/Hook and Loop adhesive strips


1. Paint the outside of the box using foam roller. I prefer a roller for a streak-free finish.

2. You may use stud stickers for embellisments. I already had round puffy stickers on hand as well as gold spray paint, so I decided to spray paint the stickers instead of purchasing stud stickers.

3 Cut a large circle out of cardstock, and cut into 4 quarters. Embellish with stud stickers. Each of these quarters will go to a corner of the box.

4 Cut strips of cardstock for "luggage straps". I layered 2 different colors for a striped effect.

5 I made 2 separate "luggage straps" to close the box from the top. I made them so they could be removed from both front and back of the box. Each enclosing strap had a small piece of Velcro on the underside of the strap. These were entirely removable for compact transport.

6 I also cut strips of cardstock for use as the luggage handle. I slit the top side of the box and slid the luggage handle through the slits. The luggage handle was also entirely removable for compact transport.

Step 2: Sculpt Terracotta Clay Succulents

In keeping with the earthy environment of the Grand Canyon, I decided to use terracotta as one of the main decorative components of our wedding. I made succulents from air dry terracotta clay for my bouquet (in combination with artificial succulents), my husband's boutonniere, and our boxed invitations.


Air dry red clay

Rolling pin

Heart-shaped cookie cutters

Wired twine


1 Roll out the clay between 1/8"-¼" thickness.

2 Cut using heart-shaped cookie cutters.

3 Cut each heart in half.

4 For pointy-tipped succulents, press the rounded side of the half-heart pieces on the base around the wired twine. Add each half-heart piece one at a time to create volume.

5 For rounded-tipped succulents, press the pointy side of the half-heart pieces on the base around the wired twine. Add each half-heart piece one at a time to create volume.

6 For even more pointy-tipped succulents, press each point to create a fold. I used this type for our invitations (without the wired twine).

Step 3: Marble Paper Using Liquid Starch

For all of our wedding stationery, I marbled my own paper so I could customize the patterns and colors in the marble. Paper can be marbled in such a simple, cheap, and fast way using less than a $3.00 bottle of liquid starch found in the laundry aisle of your grocery store and watered down acrylic paints. Marbled paper was used in our invitations, dessert labels, favor box tags and favor linen bags. Marbling paper is actually a Turkish art form, called "ebru". Ebru was a fantastic way to incorporate my husband's culture into our wedding decor.


Liquid starch

Large pan

Acrylic paints


Cup or bowl for each paint color

Heavy weight paper

Skewer or toothpick or chopstick or similar pointy object


Fill pan with liquid starch. Combine acrylic paint with water to a runny consistency. The acrylic paint on its own is too heavy and sinks into the liquid starch. Water helps the paint with floating on the surface of the liquid starch. You may need to experiment with the consistency that works for your paper because lighter weight papers tend not to absorb the runny paint. Pour watered down paints into the liquid starch. Create patterns on the surface of the paints using a skewer or similar pointy object. Place paper on the surface, ensuring the entire sheet touches the surface of the liquids. Remove quickly and lay flat to dry.

For our favor linen bags, I scanned a sheet of marbled paper and created monograms for each guest, then printed the designs on iron-on transfer sheets and ironed each design on a linen bag.

I also used the iron-on transfer sheets on fabric to make my husband's bow tie and bows for the back of my shoes.

Step 4: Paint a Kilim Picnic Mat

Kilim rugs are a staple décor item in my husband's Turkish culture, so it was a perfect base for our desserts in the dessert wedding picnic. I used dollar store straw mats to make our own custom kilim picnic mats. I've always loved how the patterns on kilim rugs are actually symbolic of such things as happiness, love, union. It turned out even better that the kilim patterns are also so reminiscent of southwestern patterns, which fit really well into the landscape of the Grand Canyon.


Straw mats

Needle and thread (if sewing several mats together as I did)

Plastic chopping board (or similar sturdy plastic material) for making stencils

Acrylic paint and paint brushes


Make stencils by cuttings shapes from plastic chopping board or similar sturdy plastic material. Sew together straw mats, if desired. Paint to your heart's desire.

I painted 2 identical mats -- one for photos while the second was set-up for the picnic -- given that our time on the canyon was so very limited and we wanted to use up our time as efficiently as possible.

Step 5: No-Sew Color-Block Pillows

I made these for my husband and I and each of our guests for some added comfort on the kilim mat. They were faux suede and were color-blocked and color-coordinated to match the rest of our décor. The fusible webbing tape worked out well as it provided stiffness for the edges of the pillows.


Faux suede

Fusible webbing tape



Pillow filler


Cut a square piece for the back of the pillow, 1" larger than your planned finished size. Cut 2 angled pieces for the front of the pillow. With right sides of the fabric facing each other, attach a seam using fusible webbing tape and an iron. Place on the back piece with right sides of the fabric facing out. Cut the corner of the back fabric. Fold the back fabric over the front fabric and attach using fusible webbing tape. Repeat on each side to create a sharp corner. Leave one side of the pillow open so the pillow can be filled easily. Seal the pillow shut by folding the back side over the front on the remaining open side of the pillow, and sealing the seam with fusible webbing tape.

Step 6: Bake a Marbled Naked Cake

I chose to have naked cake for our wedding not only because naked cake was having its first moments back then, but because 1) an unfrosted cake is easy to transport and 2) an unfrosted cake is practically the only kind that will survive in the 111F/43C extreme heat of the Grand Canyon. I thought a marbled cake was a perfect way of incorporating the cake into our theme. I stacked marbled cake on top of solid chocolate cake to bring some contrast to the design. As mentioned in previous steps, my husband’s Turkish culture was an inspiration, so I flavored the cake with apricot juice and topped it with dried Turkish apricots arranged like a flower. I had way too much on my DIY plate that I took a shortcut by using boxed cake mix, and no one could tell because the apricot juice had elevated the flavor of the cake.


Cake batter

Food color

Dried apricots



Separate the cake in batches and add food color. Randomly add spoonfuls of colored batter into baking pan. Lightly swirl together for a slight marble effect. After baking, cut and trim away edges and top of cake. Bake a contrasting layer, if desired. Ours was chocolate layers for contrast. Stack cake layers on top of each other, using toothpicks to stabilize the tiers.

Step 7: How to Have a Wedding at the Bottom of the Grand Canyon

Booking a Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour with a Wedding Package

We chose Maverick/Mustang for our wedding package. They provided a package which includes the flight out of their executive airport in Henderson, Nevada (there were also flights available from Las Vegas, however, these are more expensive), a minister, photographer, pilot, limo from hotel to airport, champagne, and standard bakery cake (which we didn't serve because the icing couldn't withstand the heat of the canyon). We requested 2 helicopters so that we could include our families. This ended up costing more than the standard one helicopter package.

Packing for a Helicopter

Understand that you cannot bring everything you want into the Grand Canyon because you are limited to the weights allowed on the helicopter. We were required to provide pictures of everything we were bringing well in advance of our day, and everything we brought in the helicopters were weighed, including ourselves.

Understanding Risk

When you are flying by helicopter into your wedding, you cannot avoid the thought of risking your or your loved ones' lives in the event of a crash. This was in my mind the most before boarding and it was in my mind for the first 5 minutes of our flight. Eventually, I was able to enjoy the ride and forget about the risk.

Preparing for the Weather

There are no guarantees with weather anywhere in the world, but there's a good chance that if you go to the Grand Canyon in the summer months as we did, it will be scorching hot. It was 111F/43C the day of our wedding and I nearly had heat stroke on our return flight home because I didn't stay hydrated despite all of the refreshments we packed.

Also note that with the summer months, the rock coloration is fairly muted and brown. I hear spring is a lot more vivid for picture-taking, when the rocks are more red.

Another thing, we didn't anticipate the high winds. I was a little irked at how the winds had blown over our décor and pillows and our picnic set-up simply didn't turn out perfectly because of the winds. Our pilots were kind enough to search for rocks to keep our kilim picnic mats in place, otherwise, they would've gotten lost down into the Colorado River.

Photography and Videography

We had contemplated hiring a photographer on our own because we had a pretty good idea that the package photography wouldn't capture the details we wanted nor have the style we hoped for. However, with the costs, we didn't hire a different photographer and simply went with the package photographer. If you are staying with the package photographer, as we did, do be assertive with explaining what you want photographed and how, as we didn't. We found that the minister took control of nearly everything while in the canyon, and that included directing the photographer. I certainly wish, with all the efforts I made with all of the décor and details, that I was more assertive with the direction of our photography. I also wish we had a videographer, but given the cost of a videographer and the very short stay in the canyon, it just wouldn't have been worth the expense for such a short time.

It's No Picnic

I will be real here and say – you might not necessarily enjoy it if you do choose to do a picnic as we did. There simply is so little time for it. Your time at the canyon is very limited, you are lucky if the company will let you stay there for longer than an hour. You really have to make use of the time very efficiently. We had the help of my mom and brother to set-up the picnic mats and desserts, however, I really regret that they couldn't enjoy the time there because they spent most of it "working". If you do choose to have a picnic as we had, make sure you have someone else there to direct it and execute it, while you and your guests enjoy every single moment!

Wedding Contest

Participated in the
Wedding Contest