How we made our wedding dreams come true
We did it ourselves. We made our wedding. Every detail was thought up, worked on, and admired. It is getting close to a year now since our big day. Still, we don't see a time in the future where at least one friend or family member will complement us on how absolutely beautiful our wedding was.
This is an article for you Do It Yourself couples seeking an adventure. May be you want to save money or perhaps you enjoy the hands on work involved. We can tell you that it is a whole lot of fun. Below we are going to share with you our experience and give you some tips along way.
Getting started with DIY wedding planning
Our journey started here. In Ireland, on the evening of our final full day. A few hours earlier we got engaged on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean.
While relaxing in our room we wasted no time getting into wedding ideation. The number of ideas coming to mind were outstanding, even overwhelming. We didn't take any notes that evening, nor on the flight back home.
Tackle the big projects first
"Go big or go home." Start with the big stuff. We used a process called Mind Mapping to outline our plan. At the center was our wedding. Our question, "what does a wedding need?" We started with broad items like venue and budget. After that we connected small tasks to large projects.
In our case we end up with the following projects:
- Institute a Budget
- Establish a Venue
- Choose Vendors
- Decide on Guests
- Find some Help
- Determine a Theme
- Select some Dates
Our thought was those 7 items encompassed all event requirements. Your big items may be different. Every wedding is unique. Religion may play a larger role for some while others may be focused on destination weddings or fantasy themes.
Side thought: We did not hire a wedding planner. Still, if DIY seems completely out of reach we definitely recommend contacting a few professionals. We did hire a close friend to give us a hand in design. He is an upcoming star in DIY crafts for decor. He challenged himself while having a blast with us, too easy.
Having the 7 projects visually available for reference opened a flood way of imagination. Think of it like that moment your recall one single word which enabled you to explain a whole story. Funny how that works.
After some chit chat on the project priority we moved on to the small activities. You could say this is where the planning moved into action. A single project has a lot of interconnected tasks which may or may not require and order. Here are some details about the tasks we encountered.
On to the details
Let's agree to focus on just one project. Say, vendors. Vendors is an easy project to break apart. It can be objectively referenced. No doubt you can look online to find a list of vendors you need to support a wedding. Compare it to 'theme' that is entirely subjective. Where do you start?
Okay, we mind mapped vendors to come up with the task of finding the following;
- A DJ
- A food caterer
- A cake decorator (oh that's easy, lol)
- A photographer
- And other
What we instantly noticed was the short list. In our minds we thought the list was huge. Having not written it down before we assumed there was some massive set of vendors we didn't account for. We did add 'Other' just in case our budget allowed for something extra. Turns out it did in the form of a photo booth vendor.
Getting started on vendor shopping was interesting. We already knew we were going to make the cake (Silverrose Bakery or nothing). So we looked what we needed from each of the other vendors.
A quick look at requirements for each vendor:
- Needed his own equipment
- Has more than ten years of experience
- Friendly to work with
- Has a large music collection
- Can provide speakers for the ceremony
- Is available for the date
- Food caterer
- Can deliver (serve is a plus)
- Is reputable
- Is friendly to work with
- The food tastes great
- Is available for the date
- Experience in shooting weddings
- Can also act as videographer
- Can deliver via USB and/or web link
- Is available for the date
- If possible add; photo booth
There it is. Three solid vendor outlines to work off of. Now on to planning our route.
Mapping the activities
Side thought: Before we jump into the activities we want you to know we didn't forget about the other six projects. The vendor project best to break down for purposes of this article. In reality, vendors was the final project we worked on.
Back to mapping again. This time we made a mind map for each of the vendors. Doing so allowed us to come up with parameters to stick within as well as questions to ask the vendors.
We worked on one vendor at a time. From photographer to DJ to food caterer. The photo booth was a last minute addition after receiving a generous announcement gift from Mom of the groom. Thanks Mom.
As always, we wanted to give favor to family and friends who are in the business. For photography we have a cousin who is into photography and film production. Turns out he had just wrapped up a few weddings. We asked him to take on the role and he agreed.
Next we searched for a DJ. This we knew was going to be tough. Having been to other weddings before we knew we had to be a bit nosy. We searched online for DJ's looking at first reviews, then years of experience, music style, travel, and hosting skills.
After several phone calls and meeting with prospects we landed on a winner. Now came the food. Oh foodie! *rubs hands together*
We knew our theme was forest and we booked with a cabin resort in Northern Arizona. So obviously we needed Sushi as our main course.
We were stuck between picnic and BBQ. Both seemed to offer possibility based on our theme (rustic, woods, cabin). We looked online at examples of each cuisine served at other weddings. What made the deciding factor was a picture available our resort's website. Picnic was out, BBQ was in.
Just as we did with the DJ we looked at reviews and proximity as well as cost and catering. Food is a bit easier since you can taste the product. We are particularly picky about food (who isn't). It has to be good and the service has to be fantastic. No exceptions. It was non-negotiable. We tried a catering business, went to several local joints, and traveled north to two BBQ pits. It was in Payson, AZ that we landed our caterer. The owners were a charm to work with and they made some darn good BBQ.
Side thought: Our DIY made the most impression when it came to decorating and scheduling. More on that to come.
Day before final assembly and walk through
It was the day before the wedding. Our resort was super generous in allowing us to arrive a few days before the ceremony. We took advantage of the extra time. We planned out the activities we needed to do the day before. Move tables, arrange goodies in cabins, visit the grocery store, and put together decorations.
Most of the day was utilized very well. Making it easier was most of the wedding party, having traveled up the prior evening or early morning, assisted us. We were able to tackle up to five tasks at once.
We took a walk through after most of the work was completed. We reviewed the set up, the decorations, the schedule, and finally held two practice ceremonies.
Morning of review
We woke the next morning... Scratch that. We tried waking up in our cozy bed. Eventually doing so. After a quick breakfast we headed out to work on the final touches.
We decided that any minor detail that could be completed should be. Any detail that was a bit hefty was eliminated. The work took us up to the time of wedding activities. Mind you the stress was more on getting cleaned up than on adding a missing detail.
Truth be told, we were satisfied with what we accomplished. Both of us were pumped for the walk down the isle. Neither of us knew how the other was doing since boys and girls were changing in separate cabins. We both could see our guests were seated. Here we go...
Remember its about you not working
Okay, we mentioned 'work' several times. Honestly, the word references the act of doing rather than the stress of the day job. Planning your wedding shouldn't be stressful. That is hard to say to any bride-to-be. She wants the wedding to be perfect. Even the groom-to-be can feel overwhelmed.
You both should feel enthusiastic. If you are "working" then you are not having fun. Many projects fall short of expectations for one singe reason, planning. Being completely true to yourself is absolutely crucial.
Weddings are puzzle. A set number of pieces exist. Those pieces need to be discovered, picked up, and place into position. One piece at a time. We would be shocked to see a person handle several puzzle board pieces at once (probably someone on YouTube but it's beside the point).
Steps to take when you get overwhelmed planning your wedding:
- Mind map: Get your thoughts on paper.
- Prioritize: Place all projects on the map in an order you prefer (easy to hard, independent vs dependent, fun vs very fun)
- Commit: Commit to only one project at a time.
- Schedule: Always be cognizant of your availability and the wedding date.
- Review: We've stressed this point in other articles. Review your work.
The wedding is a time of joy. It is the ultimate celebration of two individuals who hold each other of highest value. Every moment leading up to the big day should be a testament to your love for one another. Have fun. Be happy. Stand up and get planning!