How To: DIY Your Wedding Decorations

When we re-launched the APW How-To series, I told y’all that my goal was to create a Lazy Girl’s Guide To Making Sh*t. No overly intensive DIY tutorials here, just a simple over-view of the project, and common sense plan for getting it done, should you choose to attempt it. Well, I should have know that Lauren, she of Suburbalicious, and she of getting married the same day as we did, would create the best lazy girl’s guide of all. Here is here tale of tackling decorations: first pick a place you don’t need to decorate much, and second make paper flowers. Wheee! Also? Funny. Here we go:

How to DIY your reception decorations. On the cheap.

Step 1. Pick a reception site that doesn’t really need to be decorated.  This could be the first and last step if you find a great place.  We decided on a bar/restaurant in downtown Boston with floor-to-ceiling windows, red drapes, and couches and lounge chairs in the main space.  It was pretty, but I wanted something to distract from the ugly drop ceiling and the bizarre fish tank in the middle of the room.  I did not, however, want to spend any money on it.  Enter: paper flowers.

DIY wedding decor

Step 2. Email the delightful Kimi for directions on how to make the gorgeous paper flowers that she had at every place setting at her wedding.  Attempt to make equally pretty ones and fail.  Miserably.

Step 3. Look up incredibly simple Mexican paper flower instructions online.  Remember that when you were little and would go to Disney World, you always wanted to buy a giant paper flower that they sold outside of Pirates of the Caribbean.  Your mother, every time, waved her had dismissively and said “No way. We could make that ourselves.”  But she never did.  Decide that making hundreds of paper flowers for your wedding is the perfect payback for this.

Step 4. Recruit your mother, your future mother in law, and all of their friends to start folding some tissue paper.  Start watching terrible TV just to kill time while you are folding tissue paper.  End up making enough to decorate the chapel AND the reception site.  Get your husband to take a picture of this insanity a week before the wedding.

Step 5. Recruit your aunts to decorate the chapel with the paper flowers before the ceremony.  Recruit an amazing and responsible friend that for some reason did not make the wedding guest list to set up the flowers at your reception site.  If your friend is an artist, this could be immensely helpful.

DIY paper wedding flowers

Step 6. Watch your family and friends dance with Mexican paper flowers in their hair all night long.

Step 7. Feel sad when you see the staff at the end of the night sweeping your huge piles of paper flowers into trash bags.  Then remember that regular flowers get thrown out too, but those cost money, and feel pretty damn good about the whole thing.

Photos by: Lisa Rigby Photgraphy

*I should have probably said something about relinquishing control about what they actually look like, since everyone will want to make them differently and your mom will want to put them on sticks, but it won’t matter in the end.

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  • A-L

    I love lazy DIY! About the only thing I DIYed at my wedding was the table numbers, and that was plenty for me. But how long does it take to make 1 paper flower? They look great and might make a great addition to a dinner party. After all, we do have other events in our lives that need decorations!

    • They are perfect for dinner parties or baby showers! Maybe 10-15 minutes per flower? 7-10 for the folding and cutting, and then the fluffing takes as long as you want. You can also make a bunch and just leave them folded for easy storage, and then fluff them all at the last minute. I did not do this, which resulted in giant trash bags of paper flowers on our (thankfully) never-used back porch. So, whatever works!

      • Mallory

        Ooo I like the idea of leaving the fluffing till last minute. I love this idea but as we’ll be traveling 16 hours home to our wedding I didn’t think it’d be a good idea to share the car with 100 tissue paper flowers. But if we left them folded…. now you’ve got me thinking.

        • Oh, the double-entendre of the term ‘fluffing’…

        • hi I made tissue paper flowers and kusodama paper flowers and paper lucky stars for my wedding. Some of the best memories we have is doing that. For the tissue paper flowers though I made some ready to go and then the rest I left folded and ready to be fluffed at the site. I knew there would be several helpers there (think mother in law, aunties etc) who wanted to do something but would just get in the way ! This way they all sat at a table and caught up, met etc and had fun wowing over all my DIY x

  • Wow! I remember being amazed when I saw your one-week-out post, Lauren/Meg, by all those flowers on the couch. But thinking about it, it seems like quite the endeavor, and simultaneously, a really fun project and creative way to focus your energy. I might see if my fiance is up for the task… :)

  • oh my gosh hahahah you are hilarious Lauren! loved this post. I agree with A-L, I see some paper flowers in my future entertaining plans… :)

  • This was hilarious and definitely how my DIY projects seem to go. Pretty venue was my number one concern for the reception, because I want to get married somewhere nice but I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay all that money and then have to pay more and/or craft for a million hours just to make it look okay. I’m lazy and cheap like that.

  • Caroline

    I did paper flowers (a MUCH smaller number – maybe 30?) for our welcome reception (which was instead of a rehersal dinner). This pretty much describes the process for me too. I found they took me maybe like 10-15 minutes each, depending on how much I was actually paying attention, vs. watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns.

    The only other DIY project we attempted was confetti cones, ala Martha:
    These ended up being more work than I expected, but I really liked them. And they were a great joint project – I am a good cutter and a crap assembler, whereas my husband apparently has all the pretty, crafty, Martha genes I do not have. Go teamwork!

  • Ariel

    I endorse this method 100%.
    Step 1 for us was a botanical garden reception and a church that had fresh ferns on the altar at all times.
    Step 2: Mother’s gardening loving friend offers potted herbs for centerpieces that everyone takes home.

    Done & Done.

    Not nearly as storymaking, but nice and simple and beautiful.

    • Kate

      That is exactly what we did! We found a beautifully landscaped park venue that could be privately rented, that even had an amphitheater for the ceremony. Everything in one location. No decorations needed beyond the potted succulent centerpieces that everyone could take home.

      We were blessed with a bonus step: We hired an awesome caterer that surprised us with matching potted succulents of their own on the buffet line and pretty folded napkins with a sprig of lavender at each place setting.

  • Yes yes yes! I am in the middle of a Massive Paper Flower-Making Project right now, bad TV and all. (Say Yes to the Dress on Netflix, actually. Kind of surreal to be folding tissue paper flowers because you can’t bring yourself to spend money on flowers that will just die eventually while watching ladies spend more than your whole wedding budget on a dress.) For anyone else planning on making these, after a bit of informal research I’ve found that Target has the best price and color-selection (at least for the bright tones I was going for) on tissue paper in my area (Georgia/Tennessee). Beats Party City and JoAnn by a mile, for sure. File all this under Things I Never Thought I Would Have Opinions About…


      Yes, must say the wedding is definitely expanding my Things I Never Thought I Would Have Opinions About folder quite quickly!
      Thanks for the laugh.

    • File all this under Things I Never Thought I Would Have Opinions About…

      Oh man. This entire wedding planning business has turned into Things I Never Thought I Would Have Opinions About. ;)

    • If folks want a huge assortment of colors, Michaels sells fairly cheap 100 packs or so of tissue paper. When I ran a summer camp one year, we bought a lot of those packs for making various decoupage stuff with the kids. The only thing is that the 100 pack is a large variety of colors.

    • Kayakgirl73

      Sometimes Dollar Tree has really nice packs of colored tissue paper.

  • Annika

    We DIY (or more DIT’d) our decorations! A friend lent us lanterns, which we hung on the pews, and my cousin-in-law tied fancy ribbons on all of them. Another cousin and a few friends bought planters at thrift store and garage sales and then bought live plants and trees and filled up the planters and put them on the altar.

    For the reception, I had a pre-wedding tea in which 15 of my friends and I cut out 500 fabric triangles from fabric scraps and my aunt sewed them together to make >400 feet of bunting. I collected teapots and doilies from thrift stores, a friend filled them with the left-over plants and we used them as reception centerpieces. The day before the wedding, all our family and bridal party spent 3 hours decorating the two sites, blasting music and snacking, and it was a huge amount of fun.

    Did it look professional? Not really, but it looked pretty and whimsical and I really enjoyed it. And when I felt overwhelmed, I outsourced to friends/relatives.

  • Kate

    Ooh, was your ceremony at the MIT chapel? Beautiful! So appreciative of this tutorial!

    • Yes, that is the MIT Chapel- another location that didn’t need any decorations!

  • We didn’t have to do a thing to the venue–it was gorgeous as is. I was looking for other ways to reduce waste, so I DIY’d our centerpieces. My wedding was in October at the peak of apple picking season here in the Midwest. About a week before the wedding I met my mom, sister, and future MIL at an orchard, and we picked apples to put in baskets that went on the tables. I provided little paper bags so people could take them home. It actually took a lot of effort and planning but once I had the idea of edible centerpieces that could work as favors in my head, I couldn’t get it out!

    I also took two old wine crates, painted the bottom with chalkboard paint, wrote the menu in chalk, and displayed on the place card table with some gourds and flowers all around. I really didn’t want to print menus but I wanted our guests to see what an awesome meal they were getting (seriously, dinner was my favorite part of the whole wedding, aside from the ceremony!).

    DIY can be a lot of work (definitely think through ALL the steps that will be required before moving forward with a project), but I loved seeing my ideas come to life at the wedding.

  • –Lisa

    We are DIYing our centerpieces with origami flowers from old, broken-spine books. I am estimating 6 or 8 flowers per vase x 15 tables = me losing my mind. I”ll let you know in a few months.

    • Katelyn

      It seems like a big number, but if you break it down and fold while you’re watching TV and whatnot, it will take no time at all!

      I’m an origami fiend – what kind(s) of flowers are you doing? I’ve done lilies before which are a pretty quick fold once you get the hang of it. I do so much origami though, sometimes I’ll still have the “muscle memory” of another origami fold and accidentally make something completely different!

  • i think this is so funny because part of my wedding decoration plan was to make bunches and bunches of mexican paper flowers. in the weeks before the wedding this got crossed off the list for being too hard. ha! the fact that i found out my ceremony site had some pre-made ones on hand didn’t hurt, either. i love the way they came out at this wedding, though. and the photos of people holding them. and the note about your mom wanting to put them on sticks.

  • Kaitlin

    This was basically how I handled my decorations, except instead of paper flowers it was “a sh*tload of white candles.” Even that got more involved than I would have liked — a combination of me wanting tons of candles, in glass holders, of all different sizes, while not spending a fortune. The effect was simple but effective and I sold all of the candles on Craigslist a week after the event.

  • I think a whole load of one simple thing is a great decor way to go. It has a lot of impact.

    A quick story about picking a lovely venue – we chose a gallery, its all white inside and we both loved it straight off. Although as it turns out I thought it was a fantastic blank canvas for filling with ‘stuff’ and Mr. Fiance though it was a fantastically beautiful minimalist space … oops.

    • Liz

      that’s what i was thinking as i read this post- it’s so easy to find a “venue you don’t need to decorate.” it doesn’t even have to be as gorgeous as the one shown above (which is AMAZINGLY gorgeous) it just has to be not ugly. like a blank white gallery.

      great post and AWESOME photos.

      • Totally. This is exactly why we picked a park. We hardly had decorations and it still looked pretty and green/made a good backdrop for photos.

  • I’m supposed to be working but now all I want to do is go buy tissue paper. My son’s fiance loves making things with me and thank god I read you can fold then fluff later. i was imagining having to rent a storage unit for the flowers cause the both of us get carried away on new exciting projects.

    ANd the line bout lazy girls! I have always said when you hire employees find someone really lazy …AND smart. They will figure out the quickest way to get it done.

    I’m the future mother in law, the kids were engaged Xmas morning and she said she thought she might disappoint me cause she does not want a big frou frou wedding and would rather save the money ( I ask ..what money? LOL) for the house and the kids.

    A practical girl after my own heart. who captured my son’s

    Thanks for the laughs and the fun and now I need to go shovel some snow

    • ka

      “I have always said when you hire employees find someone really lazy …AND smart. They will figure out the quickest way to get it done.”

      Hahaha, you’ve just explained away my helpful talent of finding the quickest way to stuff envelopes, or collate something, etc. Definitely born of pure laziness!

  • This sounds much like the spirit our wedding decorations were made with. Ours were origami paper cranes. I don’t know whether we (me, mum, girlfriends, even a few blog-friends) managed to fold one thousand or not, we did not bother to count them, but there were hundreds of them and they were enough to make a beautiful reception place even more beautiful.
    And I loved the fact that at the end of the party a lot of guests took down the cranes chains to bring them home as a keepsake. A friend of mine even used that to make a hanging mobile for her child :)

  • LOVE IT. Lauren, you’re fabulous. :)

    A big thumbs-up to the pretty wedding location. We got married in a converted barn, and it was absolutely gorgeous. The only ceremony decorations we had were tulle bows on the chairs in the last row. Since we decided to do our own personal flowers, we’d either have to do floral centerpieces (yikes) or non-floral. My husband fell in love with vases with river rocks, filled with water and a floating candle (he loved the mix of elements). My mom did some Serious Internet Research and found (AMAZING if you’re doing any projects) and a cheap candle provider. I loved the centerpieces, and it was easy- our venue even set them up for us. My mom has been giving away 14″ hurricane vases to everyone she knows. :)

  • Ash

    I’m thinking these could be strung together, or hung independently by string, quite easily from the lodge rafters of our reception this summer! Yay! I got the handmade weddings book from my lovely best friend and was considering dying coffee filters pink and etc etc etc etc somewhere down the line getting similar looking flowers . THIS IS WAY MORE SANE!! Thanks

    • Kate

      I have Handmade Weddings too and got the idea to do these flowers from that! I was a little on the fence about it, but seeing these photos, I’m like- yes! I’m going to do it! I have until September and I love a do-it-while-watching-bad-TV project.


    Love the post, the advice and wonderfully cheeky delivery! My mom did buy me some of those overpriced paper flowers outside of Pirates of the Caribbean, so I can’t guilt trip her into this one, but luckily she is a glutton for craft punishment and bad tv. I’ve been wondering what I could do with all the old sheet music I have lying around the house and now I know how to re-purpose all that paper! Thanks Lauren for the encouragement that even us lazy ones can make the paper flower thing happen!

  • I’ve embraced this concept completely. Maybe I’ve taken it even further. Both my wedding (outdoor courtyard) and reception (rooftop deck) are going to be completely free of centerpieces and decor. I’m relying on the space to do the work for me. It’s so liberating to not have to think about decorations.

  • We did the same with a place that didn’t need decorations and then put candles and homemade flowers on the tables. Ours were ribbon instead of paper and so now they decorate our home in little bits here and there.

    Sitting down to make a few flowers at a time was part of my relaxation-do-something-with-my-hands-so-my-brain-can-stop-for-a-minute each day. Hmmm. I should get my knitting back out again. I think my brain still needs that. :)

  • Denzi

    This is me, except with hundreds and hundreds of pinwheels. T. and I looked at each other and went “NO FLOWERS. GACK.” And I said, “Well, I like pinwheels!” So we are all going to be living wrapping paper and straws and pushpins and pony beads for the next ten months…

    • Fun! I love pinwheels too! You must share pictures.

    • Shotgun Shirley

      That is awesome!! Pinwheels are so cool! And yes, pictures pictures PICTURES!!

  • I LOVE this idea! I’m going to be posting about this in a week or two, just watch! Posted our practical wedding party dresses, today!

  • i seriously kept repeating the “find a place that needs minimal decoration” over and over when we were looking! we lucked out, too, we found a new restaurant that was still under construction (hello pre-construction pricing discount!!!!) but which had already finished their upper floor with a GORGEOUS natural colored wood cupola ceiling. Sigh. And views of NYC right outside… seriously, I think any decorations would just detract from what they built. My teensy decoration budget is very excited about this!

  • Class of 1980

    Here’s the web site to Save On Crafts, mentioned above::

    There are things you can use to decorate that don’t involve crafting at all IF you’re not up for it. Decor is available everywhere, from the produce department in your grocery store to inexpensive accessories you find everywhere.

    • Class of 1980

      But yeah, I agree that a place that needs little to no decor is ideal!!!

    • Katelyn

      I love that website – I’ve definitely lost hours upon hours just browsing through.

      • Class of 1980

        I always get lost in the Moss Aisle on that site. What can I say? I love moss!

  • That was our plan too. And I’m trying to make the giant paper flowers for mine, but that’ll be all except for lights and fire. More effort going into the homebrew! :)

  • ka

    From Mexican paper flowers to mourning your choices, Lauren, you rock my world!

    • I’m glad you enjoy my eclectic choice of subjects, ha ha :)

  • Ah! The timing of this post could NOT be more perfect. THANK YOU!

  • Alternative Option: (what we did)
    Pick Venue that is as cheap as possible. Realise its kinda nasty without decorations.
    Be gifted roof ribbonning that a friend used for their wedding in the same venue
    Add Christmas Tree lights to the roof space and about 6 matching balloons to the centre of the room
    Add posters of your own photos of meaningful places to the huge empty wall behind the bridal table
    Decorate tables as normal with whatever you can be gifted / buy for cheap (we hired white linen, bought black table runners and decorated with round mirrors, plan candles and glass scatters)

    Turn the lights way down! :)

    • I’ve decorated our own house with enlargements of pictures I’ve taken at different places. To me the decorations mean more if I have a connection to them. And that is ESPECIALLY true in the home I live in.

  • Dana

    “Recruit your mother, your future mother in law, and all of their friends to start folding some tissue paper. Start watching terrible TV just to kill time while you are folding tissue paper. End up making enough to decorate the chapel AND the reception site. Get your husband to take a picture of this insanity a week before the wedding.”

    Love it

    This is a lot how my decoration DIT is going.

    We’re making yarn pom-poms and I think we currently have a few thousand!

    I really want to take a picture of me lying atop a mountain of pom-poms. Or perhaps, hiding inside.

  • Kayakgirl73

    Our venue was a fairly neutral blank slate that came with white linens for no charge. It did have some windows with beautiful views of the WV mountains. My mom, his mom, and my aunts decorated simply. We had leaf garlands on the buffet table and cake table. We didn’t bother decorating the bar since it was in a back corner. On the head table we had the garlands and wire pumpkins with LED candles in them. We used all LED candles so that could be lit well ahead of time and last all evening, this save major time and headaches. Costco was a good source for LED tea lights, the rest came from Wal-mart. Our centerpieces were glass anchor hocking pumpkins and apples, clear but painted red or orange by the glass outlet in WV where my mom found them. They were actually cookie jars. We put LED tea lights in them and set them on a mirror. Mirrors were beveled wall tiles from Lowes much cheaper than mirrors from the craft store. I also had silk leaves and candy corn spread on the tables. It was cheap and cute and I didn’t have to spend hours crafting, because I would have driven myself crazy trying to make something look perfect. We gave the apples and pumpkins to folks who helped us with the wedding.

  • This is one of my favorite posts ever. Pretty pictures, laugh-out-loud humor, down-to-earth advice– all wrapped up in one nice package! It may have inspired me to try to make some paper flowers… I’m doing it. Next party. Except that’s a superbowl party, which is probably not an appropriate time to try it out. Next one after that, though, for sure!

  • KMA

    Oh, how I needed (and love) this post! This is the oh-man-we-need-to-*decorate*-too phase of wedding planning for us. So- THANK YOU! Your humor, grace, and pretty pretty pictures of happy people are just, precisely, what I needed.
    (Also, super impressed that you connected with Kimi. Are you lucky enough to know her in real life? Because I have lusted after the beautiful simplicity of those flowers many, many times. Though it sounds like “simple” isn’t the right word, huh?)

    • I absolutely do not know her in person- I sent her an email that went something like “Hi, you don’t know me, but your flowers are really pretty! How did you make them?”

      I recommend this strategy to anyone since most people are psyched to hear from you and want to help!

  • Lauren, my favorite part of your post is the *, the part about relinquishing control because everyone has their own way, and what the hell does it matter, anyway?

    I’m going to tell the control freak inside of me to just “shhhh.” Or douse her in vodka.

    • meg


  • The MIT Chapel! <3

    I love it. :)

  • Paige

    A) Totally with you on picking an amazing venue. I really wanted to have the reception in a barn (always have, not just in the last year when that became trendy), and one of the places we looked at was seriously a miniature western themed town (swinging saloon doors and all). Aesthetically it was exactly what we were looking for…unfortunately it was 80% of our budget and we had to use their caterer (not very good food, and that is the second most important thing of the day after getting married of course). Enter my brother’s employer’s lavender farm. Score! Now I’m excited about having lawn games, because who doesn’t like croquet and bocce ball?

    #2) That last picture is fantastic. I can’t get over it.

    • That is my 91 year old grandmother who is pretty much my favorite person in the whole world. She was sitting with her brother and sister at the wedding (who are 88 and 93) and found me a few minutes later to tell me “Ugh. They are talking politics. They are SO BORING.” and then proceeded to not leave the dance floor for the whole night. Love her.

      • PS- Lavender farm?!! Wow.

      • That’s just awesome!

        Really made me smile. :-D

  • We’re doing paper flowers. Well, I’m doing them – my fiancé is the least dextrous person in the world.

    It involves twisting papre round a polystyrene ball like an old fashioned boiled sweet before taking the twisty paper off, taping a bunch of them to a pipe cleaner and then wrapping the pipe cleaner bit in florist’s tape.

    It’s quite labour intensive and I’m regretting ever starting, to be honest.

  • Lema

    These paper flowers are great! And they are probably easier than real flowers to save for posterity– added plus. Also, along the lines of your suggestion to choose a reception venue that doesn’t need much decoration: I’ve seen a couple people choose venues like this and add just one or two personal touches, like using a custom gobo to add a unique lighting spin, or using favors as decoration to add a personal touch that guests also get to keep as a reminder of the occasion. Hope this helps!

  • DIY projects are always fun!And when you create something beautiful and useful and even for you wedding…. That will make your event really sweet and special!Thank you for tips!

  • You can always tell an expert! Thanks for cnorbtiuting.

  • 5bjnor awprgunqgqub

  • Kelsey

    That last photo is just fantastic.

  • It is great decration ever.Thank you.