DIY versus the WIC

A commenter wrote this on my recent post on economic uncertainty:

I definitely have made sure not to buy into the WIC, but at the same time I don’t think I can do the DIY route either. My new career is more travel intensive (and 8 weeks before our wedding it will be at its most intense period). I don’t craft. I’m not a designer (I can barely sketch!) and I don’t have friends or family who are designers or seamstresses. While I really like this post, I feel like the opposite of the WIC is the DIY movement. I guess I don’t really feel part of either.

I’ve been thinking about this ever since.

First of all, I don’t consider myself to be part of the DIY movement. I’m part of the do-it-together movement, but do-it-yourself? No way. I’m always reading long little essays about things people lovingly crafted by hand for their wedding days, and I’m fascinated, and then tired by the end of the post. I work really long hours, and have more than a few side projects (achem, blog, achem), so I just don’t have that much time to get things done. We’re taking on projects for our wedding, selectively. We pick projects based on what we care about, what we like to do, and what we can save a bunch of money on. Basically, we have no time, but we’re really cheap. Since David and I produced theatre together before we started dating, much of this feels natural. We designed our Save The Date’s, sure, but we used found internet images, and we’re printing them at home on our color printer. It’s creative, but not very labor intensive. My mother, sister, and I are going to attempt to sew my wedding dress, but we’ve been sewing for years, we’re keeping it simple, and we have relatively low expectations. All this helps.

As the DIY movement has reached new heights of coolness (hello etsy!) the bar keeps getting higher and higher. It’s important to remember that we can do things on our own without being professional crafters. The tips I talked about when I did my DIY flower dry run help. In sum: think about what you like, don’t follow the rules, and just go for it. Everyone is going to be far too nice to tell you that you screwed it up, and the aura of confidence covers up a world of flaws.

Which brings me to my second point: Maybe we should all just lower our expectations on this wedding stuff. I was pondering DIY vs. WIC and it occurred to me that there is a very real third option – it’s the old fashioned route. Yesterday we talked about smaller and simpler weddings of a generation ago. I don’t think our grandmothers would tell you that their wedding was DIY (though some part of it probably was. Weddings had been less professionalized a few decades ago). I suspect our grandmothers would tell us that they just worked with what they had, and made do. My paternal grandmother took a taxi from Alabama to California to marry my grandfather when he was released from a prisoner of war camp after WWII. She told me that he told her to get a white satin dress, so she bought the only one she could find and refused to let it out of her sight the whole trip. The only wedding picture we have up in our home is theirs. It was a really meaningful wedding, but I can tell you right now that they didn’t think about colors, let alone favors.

So. Where does that get us? Bride in Exile made an excellent point yesterday when she pointed out that weddings are more complicated today since most of us have people flying in from all over. For us, this meant that we really wanted to feed everyone. But, that said, regardless of where people are traveling from I think we need to lower our standards. Our guests want to see a wedding that genuinely celebrates who we are. Just because they bought a plane ticket doesn’t mean they expect us to throw them a party just like the last 5 weddings they attended. What is important is that your wedding day is really happy, and is the start of a fantastic lifelong partnership. The trick is figuring out what will make us happy, and what is just extra fluff. If you can’t DIY your dress, can you buy a white suit off the rack? If you can’t DIY your Save The Dates can you skip them altogether, and drop people a note or a give them a call? If you don’t have time to DIY confetti packets, can you just let people throw confetti by the handful?

What do you think? How can we collectively ratchet down wedding expectations? What is the middle ground between DIY and WIC?

Picture: Me rocking my DIY bouquet

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  • What is WIC?

  • E

    I can so relate! I love DIY in theory, but in reality, I don’t have a creative bone in my body, and I’m also really, really lazy.

    For us, the middle ground between WIC and DIY is having the WIC contribute in a very simplistic way. For example: Flowers. These are actually one of the few things that I feel like I could *maybe* do a semi-decent job of DIYing, but if I DO get the WIC involved, I’ll be going for some very simple, monochromatic, single-bloom, IN SEASON bouquets. I don’t need a half dozen different blooms, all of which are flown in from some other part of the world. I don’t need a bouquet as big as my head. I don’t need a “floral design team.”

    Nobody does.

  • I can relate to this, and agree that the simplicity is the key.
    Our plan is a combo. We will DIY where we realistically can, scrimp and save on (or eliminate altogether) the areas we don’t care about, and spend a bit on the really important stuff (although I don’t know how much of that there will be!).

    We haven’t really started, and we may not stick to this plan, but we’re both cheap, so I think we’ll make it work.

  • I love this post- this is exactly what I feel. In between DIY and WIC, I think there can be a lowering of expectations! We can remember that this isn’t a contest (even a crafty, money-saving contest), but is an expression of our love for each other, our family, and our friends. Thank you for the post!

  • Mo

    Thank you for this post, Meg. I am not engaged {yet} but I am in a creative field and already feel the pressure to DIY everything and make it look amazing, unique, and effortless all within a color scheme. It feels like it is going to be one big art project, which sounds like it will be fun times accompanied by lots of stress!

    Thanks for reminding me to chill out.

  • Anonymous

    What’s WIC??!

  • mel

    Thank you thank you thank you! This post has brought me back down to earth and reminded me that I can’t and don’t need to do everything myself…I can simplify things and our wedding does not need to be a Broadway production—I knew a lot of this at heart, but reading your post has really brought it front and center.

  • What is WIC?

  • WIC=Wedding Industrial Complex

    Another great post!

  • I agree that the key is balance: figuring out which DIY projects save time and money (and, for some people, feed their creativity) and which ones actually end up draining time, energy, and resources from the real focus of the celebration.

    I’ll put in another DIY vote for flowers. I mean, flowers are pretty to begin with, it’s hard to mess them up! You don’t need special skills and only a couple of tools. If you’re doing a lot of arrangements, you just need people to help (do-it-together, as Meg writes). Best of all, you can’t really do DIY flowers more than a day before the wedding (except for collecting ideas and maybe doing a dry run), so you won’t be spending the four weekends leading up to your wedding making bouquets and centerpieces.

  • I completely agree on figuring out a middle ground. I’ll go DIY on certain things for a number of reasons, cost being the major one but also because I actually like these things, so why should I deprive myself of the fun? It would never occur to me to hire a florist because I know I can do a great job for much less and arranging flowers is making me really happy and relaxed!
    I think what has changed most in terms of expectations is more the “entertaining” part. Wowing guests with food and decor, for instance -I bet our grandmothers would have never thought of that.

  • Those items not DIY-ed or produced by the WIC were those items that I picked up somewhere along the way in the planning process (e.g., jewelery, shoes, etc.) and the items I borrowed. Not only that, but some “DIY” things are so simple that it didn’t feel like a craft project — like printing out table numbers and programs, addressing envelopes and writing out escort cards. It’s the WIC’s impression on DIY that makes us think that our escort cards have to be displayed on a table of wheatgrass or our programs need ribbons and monograms. If you remember the motto “keep it simple,” then “DIY” won’t seem so daunting.

  • Thanks for this post. I can totally relate. My thoughts in terms of a middle ground is to try to do as much as I can with the help of my great friends but when I need to I will also be hiring some wedding industry people. BUT, I plan on reaching out to people who are just starting out and who are not part of the major WIC machinery. My hope is that they will charge less and be excited about the opportunity to advance in their field (for example student photographers and I recently got an email from a woman just starting an invites company in Brooklyn). A happy excited person usually does better work so that’s what I am banking on :)

  • I am a big fan of asking your friends who are good at one thing or another to help. But if you do do that don’t expect perfection or really for it to necessarily fit your plans.

    But sometimes even an ugly unity candle can make for some fun stories and entertaining pictures. So really any home craft projects are best approached with a sense of adventure and humor.

  • This post was so great. I’m having a weekend wedding at a state park in the middle of nowhere, which means v. few wedding elves are available to help, and we’ll have to truck in everything but the food ourselves. I am cutting down on lots and lot of DIY projects we commonly see because of the sheer logistics, PLUS I am also not that crafty (I enjoy it but the results are usually not that impressive). The one area we are doing a lot ourselves is flowers because our budget is skimpy and this is a place where you can really save a lot DIY’ing. I have several talented friends and family members helping out here (do it together!).

    But invites? I have compared costs and to get what I want (simple simple), I can DIY and save about $100, or order something pretty close to my ideal from Costco and jazz it up a little. The $100 is not worth my weekends spent cutting and assembling, blood, sweat and tears especially since I have no fancy software and no particular design skills.

    We each have to decide what’s important to us and how we can best achieve that in our budget and time constraints. Maybe DIY is the way to go, but it’s not the only way to go! None of us is a failure for hiring someone to help us with things we have no expertise in. We’re all doing the best we can.

  • That was me!


    WOW! This is the first time anything I have written has actually sparked a blog post. I am very honored. :) That being said, I think it’s true about striking a happy medium about all of this planning. Maybe I will snap of out my apprehension of DIY. I may attempt the flowers if we don’t get any reasonable quotes from florists.

    I definitely think you are right about the expectations about weddings. To be honest, much of it comes from us as individuals (especially women). I feel like there is the expectation to have the most unique wedding possible, and DIYing things is a part of that. At the same time, I think we’ve got to be confident that we and our fiances are enough to make a wedding special and unique. At least this is what I am telling myself. :) I think (and hope) that people will love us on our wedding day whether or not we have handmade fan programs.

    Thanks again for a thoughtful post and calming my angst a bit. :)

  • I agree. The standards for a wedding have been set so high, that the actual ceremony part, you know, the most important part, is least important to someone. You don’t get asked “Will you write your own vows?” but instead “who is your DJ?” My grandmother bought herself a white tea length prom dress, they got married and afterwards everyone walked into the church hall and had a cake and champagne reception. Done and done. And that is what it is all about. The ceremony. The part where you get married. The after party should be an afterthought.

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  • I don’t have the skills or patience to DIY the majority of my projects so I have found a middle ground. We are saving money on flowers by not having centerpieces, only bouquets and other small floral accents. I got a cheap veil by using a coupon. My mom is a wonderful seamstress so we made custom table linens, flowergirl dresses, ring pillow. For everything else I’m using custom work by people on etsy and elsewhere like, jewelry, invites, hairpieces, etc. I think it’s great to support local artists and you get amazing creativity and a great price. I just have to not get caught up in lighting packages, and make-up artists, and guacomole bars. I just remind myself that i don’t really need that stuff amd those things will not be what I remember when I look back at my wedding day!

  • Great post and great discussion. Personally, I’m not planning to DIY anything more complicated than handwriting the addresses on my invitations because, well, I stink at arts and crafts! Whenever I try one of those Martha Stewart-type projects, it turns out all lopsided, then I get sad about how terrible my project looks, and mad because it doesn’t look better, and stressed because I’m sad and mad … you get the picture. So for me, the stress is just not worth the savings. Sometimes I feel bad about my DIY stubbornness when I see the charming results of others’ DIY projects, but then I remember that mine never turn out like that!

    I don’t know if we need to seek out a “middle ground,” necessarily, so much as we need to do what Meg said: decide what’s really important to us and simplify everything else. If you can’t find a favor you want your guests to have, don’t give favors. If the thought of spending another $300 on stationery for save the dates makes you feel sick, send out an e-mail instead. Or, on the opposite end, if you’re an arts-and-crafts goddess and your heart breaks at the thought of not creating handpainted centerpieces for the tables, ignore the naysayers and get out the paint!

  • I don’t think DIY is the opposite of the WIC at all–if anything, the crazy intimidating DIY stuff on all the wedding sites is as much a part of the WIC as the $5000 dresses. Martha Stewart has made gobs of money off convincing people that to “do it themselves” they have to learn the special techniques and design schemes and who knows what-all.

    I think the real, subversive mentality at the opposite end of the spectrum from both DIY and WIC is do what you love. If you love spending hours cutting up pieces of paper, do it. If you love shopping for bargains, do it. And if you don’t love it, don’t do it. If you don’t love obsessing over colors, you don’t have to DIY it–you don’t have to do it at all! Or you can do however much you enjoy doing–if you want a bouquet you don’t have to get out the preservative spray and the wire mesh to keep them in place and the silk ribbon, you can just put some flowers in a bunch and it’ll be pretty.

  • Abi

    I have to agree with Marina. I don’t think that DIY and WIC are opposites. They are opposite ways of going at achieving the same thing – the insanity/consumerism/hyper-individualism/perfectionism spawned by the WIC by putting the bride and the wedding day on a pedestal.
    I don’t care if you buy letterpressed seating cards from a top-of-the-line printer or if you cut yours out of scrapbook paper and glue buttons on them – you’re still making seating cards. The fact of the matter is that once we’re convinced a wedding should look a certain way or be a cerinamount of complicated, regardless of how we’ve gone about getting there, you’ve succumbed to the marketing of the WIC.
    The book “One Perfect Day” talks a lot about this. We, as women raised in the American culture, are so saturated in the WIC’s concept of a wedding, that it’s almost necessary for each newly engaged bride (and groom) to take a month of her planning time to mentaly detox from the WIC marketing. Until she’s aware of all the hype and has separated that from what she identified as an authentic wedding, the things she chooses to do and how she chooses to do them will still me motivated in part (if not in entirety) by the marketing of WIC.

  • Meg: Yes.

    And abi, Yes to you, too.

    The few things I am DIYing are things I’d enjoy doing even if it weren’t my own wedding. For example, we are DIYing music because it was a great excuse to buy the bose soundock I’ve been wanting, and I am a music snob who would rather listen to my own playlist than a stranger’s. But on the whole I would much rather make my wedding less complicated by cutting whole budget lines and tasks than I would make it more complicated by DIYing every last aspect of it. Simpler =/= cheaper, it means simpler. And if anything is the opposite of WIC, it’s simple.

  • great post. can we start a movement?

    i’m lowering the bar in my group of WICified friends. it’s uncomfortable at times and i ended up making some WIC-induced decisions. but still. i’m undoubtedly lowering the bar. by a lot. and i’m glad i am.

    and i think that’s a good way to start. one person, one decision, one wedding at a time, we should all refuse to yield to WIC/DIY/peer pressures. i will not have pink lighting or chiviari chairs or a 5-tiered DIY cake or flower girl dresses at my wedding because i consider all of it excess and i’m more than fine without. and did i draw some gasps with that last one? i sure did.

    but i will not yield.

    in the movie ‘just friends’, ryan reynold’s mom sings a song. “be yourselllllf. be yoursellllf…” we should all allow ourselves to be confident enough to plan the way we want and forget the pressures even if it’s not the easiest thing to do.

    i mean, what’s really important?

    and once people start going this route en masse, i think expectations will change from “how are you going to wow me” back to appreciating what a wedding is about in the first place…a union of body and spirit. like, for. ever.

  • p.s. I <3 the bouquet

  • Great post! My parents had their reception in the church basement for dirt cheap. So, definitely, it was a make do with what you have! My grandparents even more so. I’m definitely somewhere in the spectrum btwn DIY and WIC (thanks susan fennell for answering what WIC is, btw).

  • Firstly, I love your bouquet–great job!

    I agree with the comments that DIY is not the opposite of WIC. Simplification and non-consumerism are more likely opposites. While I personally like the idea of DIY a lot, I think that if you’re DIYing your save the date cards or sewing a dress for your rehearsal dinner, you’re still selling out to ideas of “what a wedding should be [according to WIC]”. I think the whole concept of weddings in this country has gone a bit over the top in the last decade. Celebrities and the ultra rich who drop millions of dollars on their weddings are also contributing to the brainwashing of America regarding the concept of what a wedding should be.

  • Meg

    Well, I mean, we’re sewing my actual wedding dress. I’m not sure that’s selling out…

  • I think the WIC is only “bad” in that it encourages brides to feel that they need more than they do or that their wedding is inadequate compared to a wedding found in Martha Stewart or the Knot. I do not see the DIY camp as any better; it is very stressful to DIY everything involving a wedding.

    I do not mind employing vendors. I think it is up to the couple to support ethical vendors who meet their standards. My photographer, seamstress and florist are my friends. I know without my support they would find it harder to operate their family owned businesses in these hard economic times. I disagree with eliminating wedding vendors altogether. For me, I saw my wedding budget as a way to support local vendors and hand-made vendors on Etsy.

    There are two things we are DIYing-our favors and our DJ. We did not hire a DJ because we would rather spend more money on photography and catering. We made our favors because I think this is the traditional route- giving guests something handmade and from the heart.

  • Hmmm. I agree with the advice to avoid making or buying things just because Martha Stewart Weddings tells you that your wedding will be meaningless without them, but I think it’s possible to go too far in the opposite direction. If you’re rejecting place cards and cakes and new dresses just for the sake of rejecting things, you’re still letting the Big Bad WIC dictate what you’re doing — it’s just that you’re building your wedding around saying “no” instead of “yes.” I think couples should be free to make their own choices without being judged for being “too plain” or “selling out.”

    I also think Hilary brings up a good point — not everyone who works in the wedding industry is some evil WIC-bot who’s out to guilt brides and grooms into parting with tons of money. Most of my vendors are small businesspeople who obviously love what they do, and to a person they’ve all been lovely about working with my modest budget.

  • I don’t think that DIY and WIC exist on a spectrum. so that we need to find the middle ground. I think sometimes DIY plays right into the WIC, or at least the WIC mindset: “Everything must be perfect for my special daaaaaaaaay!” We never used to “need” save-the-dates (whether purchased or painstakingly home-made), or a whole hothouse full of flowers, DIY or otherwise, or any number of things that are necessary now.

    For my wedding the important thing is having my loved ones witness my vows to my partner, and his to me. Everything else is just icing on the cake I’m not having!

    I’m planning the gathering like it is a gathering, not a wedding, and that’s helping me evade the crazyness of both DIY and WIC.

  • Thank you for this post. I’m getting married next July and after I got the locations, caterer and officiant booked, I got really stressed out because a) we don’t have a lot of money b) we both work long hours and don’t have a lot of spare time to do everything ourselves and c) half of our guests are flying in so I want them to feel like it is worth the trip.

    We are serving BBQ for the food, and part of me thought, these people are flying thousands of miles for BBQ? But this post made me realize that no, they’re flying thousands of miles to celebrate a happy day with us and they don’t need Chilean sea bass or filet mignon to do that. Nor do they need a fancy ballroom (we’re having the reception in the meeting room of a country firehouse) or expensive flower arrangements or a chocolate fountain or a photobooth or any other expensive feature. They just want to see us.

  • DIY is the way to go nice and cheap with the personal touch

  • PA

    Our guests want to see a wedding that genuinely celebrates who we are. Just because they bought a plane ticket doesn’t mean they expect us to throw them a party just like the last 5 weddings they attended.

    This actually brought tears to my eyes – it was just the type of reassurance I need right about now. I’m in the midst of flailing about, “My guests will want…” and, “My guests will expect…” and the simple truth is what you said: the guests will want to see a really meaningful day.

    So, thank you. Very much!

    P.S. I love the blog and am reading it voraciously!

  • AJ

    It stands for the Wedding Industrial Complex, or the big, professional wedding business. APW wrote a post about it a longish while ago.

    • AJ

      AAAAAND I just realized that I’m reading an old post and you asked that question six years ago and now probably know the definition of WIC all on your own. Silly me! :)