Confessions of a DIY Bride

It's time for me to come clean

Sam, Semi-professional Writer & Stew, Professional Nerd

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Last year, in September, I married my dinosaur-for-life on a beautiful morning, in our home country, South Africa. We cried, we laughed, we ate, we danced. It was fab.

But, I feel like I need to come clean before continuing… My name is Sam, and I was a DIY bride.

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And, I don’t mean we wrote our own vows. I mean we designed a bespoke monogram, we hand-stamped favour bags, strung-up escort cards, and made beribboned swizzle sticks to match the paper straws in the mason jars. There were hand-tied bouquets, cutesy fabric buttonholes, handmade cookie favours (with hand tied tags), hand-stitched (don’t ask) programs and incredibly complex self-assembled paper invitations, homemade chalkboard menus, carefully collected soda bottles… And you know what? I friggin’ loved it.

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We DIYed for a couple of reasons—sometimes, it really was cheaper; it matched the laid-back, slightly wonky feel we wanted for the whole day; it allowed us some control over the finer details (we were planning a wedding in Africa, from London); but mostly—because I love making stuff, and I have a verypatient partner. I find solace in creating things and can happily lose myself in a day (or a year) of gluing, folding, and cutting.

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Don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t all paper roses. There were moments (say, half-way through the eighty-ninth invitation) when I literally wanted to set fire to all the craft supplies scattered around our house. But, then there were also other moments. Like the evening me, my husband-to-be, and my future dad-in-law, sat painstakingly ironing (I know—craziness) the pre-folded outer covers of those same invitations in a pokey little room in Wales, watching cr*p TV and generally bonding. It is one of my most treasured and favourite pre-wedding memories.

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Because, to me, that’s what the handmade DIYing was about—putting a little piece of ‘me’, of ‘us’ into as much of the wedding ‘stuff’ as we had the energy to do.

And, it turns out, on the day, there were somany more people in all those little details—my ninety-two-year-old grandpa who made all the menu chalkboards and signage for us, the cake baked by my (new) mom-in-law, and decorated by my aunt-in-law—the table runners my (poor, frazzled) mother sewed up. The hanging bottle wall my ex-sailor dad created proudly using ‘navy knots’. The cookies—baked in my grandparents’ house, using my grandmother’s secret recipe. The confetti bags, grudgingly filled by the one close friend stupid enough to cadge a lift to the venue the day before, who inevitably got roped into helping set-up.

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And, yeah, on the day, all the control-freakiness I’d had about things looking too homemade or mismatched, disappeared—replaced by much bigger feelings. And yes, I didn’t think about or (much) care about any of those details as I married my patient, caring and completely wonderful partner.

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But. There was a moment, when I stood back, and looked around at the happy smiles and goofy grins of all our favourite people, and literally felt surrounded by love.

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Because there it was—hammered into the menus, baked into the cookies, sewn into the seams of the table runners and sprinkled into that darn confetti. So if the crafty crazy is getting to you, don’t worry too much. Because it’s neverabout the details you get out. It’s about the love you put in.

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The Info—Photography: Jacki Bruniquel / Venue: Netherwood Farm, South Africa / Sam’s Dress: Sam’s grandmother’s dress (it was sixty-four years old!), expertly altered by Chambers Bespoke Tailors / Stew’s Suit: M&S / Bridesmaids Dresses: Joules

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  • Another Meg

    Oh my. This is wondrous.

  • Alix

    Um. Is that a goat? Is that a GOAT, at your WEDDING?! It literally pushes the awesome over the top. I hope someone gave him some cake!!
    Beauty, beauty, everywhere! Congratulations! xoxo!

    • meg

      I was distracted by the giant burger, myself.

    • Sam

      Yes! (There were also some cows, horses and even a zebra!)

      As for the giant plate of yum – best.burgers.ever. (When it came to the food – we went pro all the way).

  • sarahmrose

    “Because it’s neverabout the details you get out. It’s about the love you put in.”


    • KB

      Word :-) It only makes you happy if you put happy into it.

      (Well, unless you’re just happy that you’re done with it and never have to do it again, ha!)

  • KateM

    I loved this. I am a crafty person who exercises that part of her brain pretty much only at Christmas and Halloween anymore. I LOVED getting to do things for my wedding although I considered burning the invitations at one point because they were so labor intensive (inadvertently, I might add). But I was engaged for a year and half. I started all my projects in advance and so never really felt pressured by them. I remember stepping back from the reception site the afternoon before the wedding, and seeing everything come together and match the picture in my head. It was awesome. And everyone commented on how it was so us.

  • Moe

    “Because it’s neverabout the details you get out. It’s about the love you put in.”

    How embarassing, I’m crying at my desk about cookies and bottles tied with ‘navy knots;.

  • We had a DIY wedding, too, for all the reasons you mention – for us, it was cheaper, but also something we wanted to do. And apart from some stressful moments (e.g. when the outdoor tents we were borrowing were still nowhere to be seen several days before the wedding, and we had to start cooking the food already!) we had an awesome time planning everything.

  • “There were moments (say, half-way through the eighty-ninth invitation) when I literally wanted to set fire to all the craft supplies scattered around our house.”

    Hahaha. Yes! I would say it was almost exactly through invitation #89 on the dot that I wanted to throw the whole box out the window.

    But seriously. This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing, and congratulations. :)

  • “I find solace in creating things and can happily lose myself in a day (or a year) of gluing, folding, and cutting.”

    My whole wedding isn’t completely DIY, but quite a few things are. My fiance thinks I’m a little bit crazy and control freakish about the whole wedding (as in things have to be just right – as in I don’t handle chaos well *chuckle*). So doing some of the craft things helps my mind destress a little bit because it is given just one thing to focus on even if I do get a bit high strung while doing them (does that even make sense???). It also helps give me that sense that the wedding is *ours* and not just because I’m the bride, but because a lot of the elements in the place will be my own personal touch and those I love (my fiance may not have physically helped but he supported my slight craziness and gave opinions now and then such as what paint color to use).

    We get married in less than two weeks and I suspect it will be quite emotional to finally see everything pull together and then to enjoy everyone’s company. My parents just arrived this morning from the states (we’re in New Zealand) and I’m already getting a bit emotional!!!

  • So awesome and we had exactly this experience! We also did a ton of handmade stuff – we made a video for our invite, my mom hand sewed napkins, we made all the décor for the tables, etc. We also asked for a ton of help from people on our wedding weekend. Almost everyone who stayed over that weekend was asked to do one little job for us- light the candles, put the pie in the oven, put up signs. And some people had huge jobs- like doing all the flowers and table set up. But holy crap, something magical happens when you look around yourself and see all your loved ones doing silly tasks out of love for you. And since everyone participated in the wedding , and had an outlet for expressing that hey, they love us!, I think they all enjoyed the wedding a bit more too. This post was awesome and I have a huge rush of happy feelings right now from thinking back on our wedding.

  • Amanda

    THIS. This is why I sat making a crazy stupid things for our wedding. Because on the day… It was little pieces of us, everywhere. And our friends and family took that home :)

  • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

    Professional nerd! Best job description ever. I want to adopt that one. Perhaps as my online self-summary? (To tie today’s posts in a neat little package.)

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  • Brooke

    Yep, we enjoyed making lots of things for our wedding too, and were very fortunate to have many friends and family who shared their creativity in some way. Those ‘gifts’ were the best of all. Hanging out in my garage late one night chatting away with my brother while he taught me how to screen print? Chasing my friend’s toddler around the backyard while she made herself at home in our kitchen, icing our wedding cake? These kinds of moments in the weeks leading up to our marriage were wonderful, and reinforced the sense of those who care about us wanting to contribute and celebrate this big step in our lives.

    And several months into our marriage, we’ve started to notice some of those hand made things pop up in the homes of our friends when we visit. Seeing one of the napkins I sewed spread out on a friend’s table makes me smile, a lot!

  • Joanna

    “Dinosaur-for-life” got me… so much so that my own Pooh Bear-for-life looked at me like I had five heads! Your wedding was so beautiful and you can see the love in all the photos. Congratulations!

  • Kara

    Looks wonderfully lovely. That said, I’m super glad I didn’t go the DIY route, at all. I would have been insane, completely insane.

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  • i wish i have a album like this :D

  • Cara

    Love it Sam and loved your wedding when I saw it on Jacki’s blog. I had the same ideas – “it’s not about the details you put out, but the love you put in” though I could never have articulated it so well.

    It is a huge sadness to me that in the preceding weeks and days before our wedding, not only did my mum not get this TOGETHERNESS of activity, but in her stress, she obstructed others from stepping in and finishing things off TOGETHER because as you point out, those times become the real treasured memories of these lifetime events though they’re to a time frame and often against a backdrop of ‘crap TV’!!

    I live in New Zealand, but feel very rooted to family and community in South Africa so that co-operative bonding would have been so special to me. Never mind – we had a wonderfully happy day and the communal love you mentioned was so tangible. I couldn’t have done anything to change my mum’s stress levels so really it was out of my control.

    Thank YOU, Sam for posting this because I’ve never been able to put my finger on WHAT was disappointing about our wedding- the day itself was wonderful and the love I felt was tangible, thank goodness!

    To you crafty-cat DIY brides-to-be out there, I hope the people around you share your vision so you too can have these wonderful memories as you plan and prep your way to your big day!

  • We had relatives who were planning their wedding recently and wanted to make it as easy as possible. Who doesn’t? So we showed them how easy it is to DIY with Myinvitations ( to simply put together your guest list, pick an invite (or even just create the insert for your bought invites) and let the computer do it’s magic!

    Each invite can be printed from your own home printer (so no waiting and no expensive printers’ costs – it’s just £2 for up to 400 invites!) and they have all the details and each guest individual name printed on the invite to save you hours of writing! Give it a try, there isn’t much to loose for £2. Cheap as chips but much classier :) Enjoy.