Two different complaints about the DIY culture of weddings came up in the comments last week. I thought they were interesting, and I thought it was high time (again) to talk about the cult of wedding DIY.
The first complaint was, in sum, “F*cking brides, man. Why are they always asking you to DO SH*T TO HELP THEM. It’s such an imposition and so uncool. You shouldn’t expect your guests to care about your wedding as much as you do.” The second was, in sum, “F*cking DIY, man. Why is there so much pressure on APW and other indie websites to DIY everything for your wedding? I hate crafting. This is so uncool.” Both of these comments made me pause, because they highlighted the dissonance between the way I view DIY and the way wedding culture views DIY.
I grew up in a semi-hippie, very community focused micro-culture populated by a lot of artists without a lot of money. The macro-culture I grew up in was a very conservative largely poor suburb/city (cityburb?), populated by a lot of friends without any money. Both of these sometimes diametrically opposed cultures viewed big life event the same way – every one pitches in to get it done. That was just the end of it. When you don’t have a lot of money, ‘making it work’ becomes your cultural default. You just don’t waste a lot of time thinking that ‘it can’t be done,’ because obviously, objectively, you can’t do whatever-it-is without money. But you don’t have money, and you are going to do it, so you just have to figure it out.
Because of the way I grew up, I’ve been able to sew since I could reach a sewing machine. In High School I would throw beautiful backyard parties with old sheets, a string of lights, and flowers I managed to pick from hedgerows, and cake and tea I made in big quantities. I knew people who lived more or less on the road in these amazing plywood shelters that they made to look like magical gypsy caravans. My friends throw these crazy anti-homecoming parties (when people couldn’t afford homecoming tickets) at bowling alleys. And, when it comes to weddings, I’ve gone to my share of potluck weddings, dish in hand. I’ve helped set up or tear down weddings and parties. Hell, I even went to one wedding where the bride paid for it by stripping for a year (Yeah. True story…. And one of the most fun weddings I’ve ever been to, actually.)So make it work? Got it in my genes. But crafty? Not me. The first time I picked up a Martha Stewart Weddings (years ago, I actually really like MSW), and came across one of their monthly craft projects (make a basket for your flower girl!) I was really confused. I kept looking at it thinking, “Weddings are pretty stressful. Why would you want to add making a basket for your flower girl to everything else you have to do? You could buy this for a dollar.” Ha. Clearly I had not yet entered the world of wedding DIY.
So what happened when we threw our wedding? Well. We made some stuff. But I wouldn’t say we crafted anything. Not because crafting is bad, just because we’re not so good at it. When I fell under the thrall of indie wedding blogs, I totally had plans to craft some things (photo booths, screen printed tote bags, photobooth backdrops). But in the end, my laziness, which I like to call pragmatism, won out, and we scrapped all those projects.
So what did we make? We made A) Things that we couldn’t afford to buy (our flower arrangements, for example) and B) Things that had dreamt up, that we couldn’t buy (our huppah, our invitations). And it was rad. It was hard work, but in the end it was this joyful, kinda-grassroots feeling wedding.
So did we craft to be indie cool? Heck no. Do I think you should craft to be indie-cool? Heck no. I think you should craft if you’re a crafter, and that’s your thing. I think you should make stuff if that’s part of what you need to do to afford your wedding (and that’s part of your ethos), and I think everyone else should simplify like crazy, and throw DIY out the window.
But what about Do-It-Together? Well, know your audience. If you are blessed with a community that pitches in to make magic happen, don’t dream of trying to stop (or control) them. You will loose, and that will be the best thing that ever happened to you. If you have a community that hates pitching in to help out, don’t try to make them (it will suck for you… trust me, I had my moments with that). So instead simplify, simplify, simplify, hire help when you can, and know that everyone else will get the h*ll over all the stuff you left out.
And wedding guests? Friends and family? If a bride asks you to help her out, HELP HER. It’s a mitzvah, first of all. And second of all, even thought we’ve spent the last few decades in a world of professional weddings, as times get harder, we’re all being called to community. And sometimes what sounds like a ginormous pain in the ass turns out to be a pile of fun:
Yeah. That’s our friend who took Polaroids for us at our wedding. I think she’s having a pretty ok time.
For more DIY free wedding inspiration, please see: Nancy & Sean, Anna & Daniel, Marissa & Nick, April & Thomas, Lyndal & Stephen, Susie’s Las Vegas throwdown, Maddie’s cheap & lazy wedding, Leah & Omid (just to name a few…)