A Different Take on DIY (and DIT)

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.

Pictures from low DIY high simplicity weddings: Kate Baker, Eve Event Photography (yeah, that’s a REAL photobooth, not a rented or crafted one), and One Love Photo.

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…)

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  • Jessie

    I absolutely love this quote, “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.”

    Not all of us can live that way and some of us are called to DIY or DIT, not because we want to be hip, but out of necessity.

  • Wow, I’d say APW is the one website where I haven’t felt pressure to DIY despite not wanting to. Are we all reading the same site?

    • meg

      People occasionally accuse APW of things it’s not really doing. I think it’s just too easy to read into things, “This wedding is DIY, I hate DIY, what the f*ck!” Wedding planning is stressful like that ;)

      • Michele

        This is so true. I think sometimes people project whatever “insecurities” they already have about their wedding – or whatever element that is currently stressing them out most onto whatever wedding-related thing it is that they’re reading, be it APW, other blogs, knot message boards, etc.

        People often talk about feeling judged for the choices they’re making in regards to their wedding, when in reality, they’re often their own harshest critic.

      • Jessie

        Agreed. A friend of mine who knows I’m a huge fan of the site said, “You probably hated my wedding. It was traditional.” I answered, “I loved your wedding because you did traditional for you, not because you had to.” I feel the message is: make your day what you want it to be, not make your wedding what we want it to be.

        • meg

          Sigh. I can’t win on traditional, I really can’t. No matter how many times I point out that we had a traditional religious ceremony and a sort of traditional reception (lunch, cake, dancing), or break out church weddings in their own category on the site, or talk about how rad tradition can be…. people still read that APW is the antithesis of tradition. I’m not even really sure why that is.

          Well, ok, I DO refuse to treat thinks the wedding industry totally made up as “traditional.” They are not BAD, but they are not traditional either.

          • Danae

            I think it’s because your definition of “traditional” is something along the lines of “we thought a lot about it and decided that we wanted to echo the centuries-old tradition of our cultures and beliefs,” and when someone else defines “traditional,” they mean, “we did what everyone expected us to do.”

          • Jessie

            I agree with Danae. Unfortunately, for a lot of people in our generation, traditional means designer dress, $20,000+ spent, and a “do everything the wedding industry tells me” mentality. When, in fact, a DIY wedding is more traditional in historical terms.

          • CEM

            I don’t think this website is anti-traditional. I think it’s anti-doing-things-because-everyone-else-says-it’s-right-and-necessary-rather-than-doing-what’s-in-your-heart. If traditional is in your heart, great. If DIY/DIT is in your heart, great. If you want to have tea and a sweet table because you can’t afford to have both a full meal AND the people most important in your life (um…guess my situation), this website says, 1–that’s great, 2–that’s you, and 3–here are some ideas to make the experience work better. And THAT is why I read this website. It’s one of the only sites out there that doesn’t make me scream. Thank you.

          • CEM

            also, my current plan is to use dried wheat instead of flowers. because i wanna. because it’s loads less money. because it fits with the religious theme of our day. and because not having flowers won’t make me any less married.

          • Nicole

            “I DO refuse to treat thinks the wedding industry totally made up as ‘traditional.'” That’s the disconnect, I think. There is so much that has become “traditional” only in the last 20 or so years, and often at the behest of the WIC. Traditions have to start somewhere, I suppose, but people have been getting married for a lot longer than unity candles and videographers have been around. Someone recently was trying to convince me that I couldn’t hand address my invitations, because “tradition” dictates that they be engraved. They couldn’t understand my argument that engraving takes the place of handwriting, not the other way around. I guess it depends on whether you accept as your authority Crane’s Blue Book or Miss Manners.

          • K

            One of the reasons that I LOVE APW is that it is more traditional! But in a sense of really putting a lot of thought into the traditions chosen and sometimes making new traditions or spins on old traditions and not doing something just because “that’s how you do it”.

            I appreciate Off Beat Bride too, but frequently the weddings there are SO untraditional and unique that I find it hard to find support, advice, and inspiration there. It’s like looking at couture (OBB) vs off-the-rack (APW – where off-the-rack is still amazing, fantastic clothing, just wearable in the everyday world ;) ).

  • Sarah

    Meg, I love your reaction to the flower girl basket. I started wedding planning with the idea that we’d DIY some elements, because I thought it would both save money and also be personal and the best way to achieve exactly what we wanted. Turns out, DIY is often times NOT cheaper (invitations and stationary options, for us), and we aren’t crafty enough to actually turn our vision into reality. So it was much simpler and cheaper and less stressful to order standard invitations. I did worry for a minute that they’d be too “cookie cutter” and that I wasn’t being indie enough, but I put that out of my mind pretty quickly, in part due to Team Practical support – where I feel like the mantra is keep it simple, avoid adding stress for the sake of stress.

    We are still planning to DIY (or really, DIT) flowers, because it will be both cheaper and the best way to achieve my vision.

    My last remaining DIY/DIT issue, that I’ve yet to analyze – I was pretty interested in making my own wedding cake, and got talked out of it by just about everyone – tons of “oh my gosh are you crazy” wedding industry style reaction. I don’t have a lot of experience baking on a large scale, so some advice is well-founded, but I definitely often wanted to scream when people made me feel totally incompetent and incapable.

    • peanut

      Duuuude, I got major negative reactions when I told people I was doing my own makeup; the last straw was a scoff from a makeup salesperson at a snooty department store: “um, do you even KNOW how to do makeup??” Um, YES! Geez.

      • Liz

        i was told by PHOTOGRAPHERS that i “needed” to get my make-up done professionally, or the photos wouldn’t turn out.


        no thanks.

        • Maddie

          Ugh. I totally got bullied into getting my makeup professionally done (something I couldn’t be bothered to fight at the time). But WORST is that I then turned around and was like, OMG I have to get my makeup done so my bridesmaids should totally need to get theirs done too or we won’t look good in pictures together!!! Thankfully I’m a pushover and they all politely declined. Hello crazyface bride!

        • peanut

          oh, yeah, the worst is when I went to a makeup “lesson” and the person made me look like a clown – for “the photos”. Barf. She ignored me when I told her that I’ve been in a few photographs before and I looked fine.

        • Annie

          Did you tell the photographer if your face didn’t show up in the picture because your makeup hadn’t been professionally done then there was more of an issue with the photographer, not your unprofessionalized makeuped face? Because that’s insane.

          • Liz


        • Cat

          I heard photographer say that if the bride didn’t have professional make up, they were ‘heading for wedding photography fail’. I was so outraged I could barely speak for a couple of minutes. Make up was one of the few things I did spend money on, but only because everything else was DIY/DIT (out of necessity more than anything) and I wanted to look really pretty just once. It’s bad enough that there is this nebulous ‘you must do x’ without professionals directly telling you that your wedding is going to ‘fail’ (though I question her use of ‘professional’ with an attitude like that).

        • Um, that’s total BS. This* is my engagement shot (well, one of). Not only did I do my own makeup, but I sat in a car for 2 1/2 hours right before that, with no touch-ups.

          *It looks even more amazing in color, but the only one I have a direct link to is the B&W shot.

      • Katelyn

        I’m a makeup fiend so I am entirely confident in my ability to do awesome, photo quality makeup. But my brother’s wife had hers done and I’m totally behind that route too. She doesn’t wear much makeup so she spent a little money to make the stress go away. Totally acceptable as well. And she looked gorgeous. I was a little worried about it beforehand- but it turned out fab.

      • I feel pretty confident in being able to do my own makeup, and was going to, but realized I really loved the idea of being completely pampered and not having to worry about getting my eyeshadow right that morning, so that’s something I’m splurging on… BUT I feel good about it being for my relaxation and fun, and not because I feel like I MUST do it.

      • Because apparently the whole rest of your life you’ve been walking around with house siding on your face?!

    • ddayporter

      people were pretty skeptical (read: appalled) about my sister making my wedding cake, since she had no previous experience doing it. it turned out amazing! BUT. she did spend an entire year practicing – she must have made at Least half a dozen trial run cakes. I tried reimbursing her for supplies but she refused and said it was all part of her wedding gift, so I have no idea how much she ended up spending on all the equipment and supplies, but I know it wasn’t cheap. For the final product, she spent the three days leading up to the wedding holed up at my friend’s house, baking and frosting and decorating… So I’m not trying to tell you not to do it! I know that it can be done by someone not too experienced with big cake baking – you just need to really love baking and love the idea of spending that much time and effort on it, otherwise it miiiiight make you crazy. :) Of course, my sister wanted to make a huge 3-tier cake, there are probably easier ways to do it!

      • She’s right, totally doable, my mother and I are making my wedding cake, but it IS expensive. We lucked out. My grandmother came from the “I can’t afford it so I’m going to make it myself” generation so she had all of the big pans (which can run $50+ for each pan these days) and we’re not making a traditional wedding cake, it’s going to be an italian creme cake, so I’m not spending hours piping or anything. Still though, it’s probably not going to be that much cheaper than buying a cake, but I love it, and to me it’s totally worth spending my whole Labor Day in the kitchen with my mother!

        • Liz

          yep- and the most expensive part for me, was practicing. we made like 6 cakes.

          we just timed the practice-run-cakes to happen around the time of big events, so it all worked out with (not too much) leftover.

      • wsquared

        My mother made my sister’s wedding cake, and she also spent an entire year practising when it came to frosting and working with fondant. My cousin baked his own wedding cake when he got married, and he learned to work with fondant. He and my other cousin helped my mom out. The worst part, though, was that I missed out on a whole year of free cake! ;)

    • Fab

      Sarah, you might want to read through the cake baking advice on smittenkitchen.com. Deb gives a slew of advice on baking layer cakes and wrote a series of posts about baking a wedding cake step by step. I know that some people find her recipes and advice to be intimidating in its level of detail, but it’s at least worth checking out. http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/03/layer-cake-tips-the-biggest-birthday-cake-yet/ and http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/07/project-wedding-cake-the-cake-is-baked/ Keep us posted!

    • About cake: if you already know you can make a good cake, I say just go for it!! I love to bake, and I made our wedding cake. You just need to make a good plan for how and when to get it done & delivered to the venue (we blocked out the entire day before the wedding for cake making and decorating & transport; it ended up taking from about 12:30pm-11pm start to finish) and then don’t allow anyone to distract you. And try not to get too stressed out if your layers aren’t even (my mis-matching had me nearly in tears at 3pm… but when I squished the entire cake against the side of the box while transporting it to the venue, I decided it was really, really funny) or it doesn’t look perfect. Homemade cake TASTES so much better, and it WILL be appreciated by your guests. I also stole the idea to serve the cake ourselves from a couple other folks on this site, and that made it all the better.

      And about makeup — again, if you are confident in your ability to do your own, f*ck what other people say you *should* do. I did my own; my wife had help from a friend since she doesn’t wear makeup very often. We both looked gorgeous and our photos are AWESOME. Photo quality, I believe, is much more dependent on your photographer than your makeup artist. That said – don’t overdo it. If you feel like you have 6 pounds of foundation on, you probably look like it too. Cover your wedding-stress pimples, go easy on everything else, and let your beautiful self shine through!

      • Margaret M.

        This this this! Just make a cake. It doesn’t even have to look like a wedding cake (but it does have to be delicious).

        Our family tradtion is unadorned pound cake, so that took a lot of agonizing out of the equation and just left us with a delicious cake that everyone loves. Put it on cake stand and voila, gorgeous wedding cake.

        • Katie

          We’re making about 20 batches of Duncan Hines brownies, arranging them on a cupcake tree and calling it a day. Brownies are my favorite dessert so it’s a win-win situation. :)

    • You can TOTALLY make your own wedding cake! I’ve gotten that look and disbelief too! I WANT to make my own cake, and I’m going to. Also, there is no rule that says you have to do it all in one day! Most bakers don’t!! THIS: Smitten Kitchen.com-Wedding Cake Project is a wonderful series on how to make a wedding cake! I’m making my cakes over multiple days, frosting the tiers on separate days, and doing the final decorating on yet another day and keeping the cake in the freezer(if it will fit in my tiny apartment-sized freezer) until it’s time to take it to the venue. Butter creams freeze really well. I’ve baked the cake recipes I’m using and they freeze great, taste like they were made that day once they thaw(thawing can take a few hours!). Butter cream is SO much easier than fondant, and SO SO SO much tastier! If you don’t want to fuss with tiers then just make a few different cakes, and it will look awesome! It doesn’t have to be expensive! A big part of why I’m making my own cake is because I refuse to pay hundreds of dollars for someone else to make what I can for a fraction of that! Also, be aware cake can go long way! A ten inch round cake that’s about 4-5 inches high can easily feed 30-35 people! Also for pans, ask the internet where to get them on the cheap! Here in Toronto we have a store called Honest Ed’s they sell cake pans for a fraction of the cost that the fancy ‘chef’ stores do, and it’s THE SAME PAN! That’s where all of my pans are from!

      To sum up, making your own cake is totally doable, you don’t need to do it all in one day! And there is NO rule that says your cake has to be covered in fondant and look professional, your guests are going to be much more appreciative if your cake is yummy!

    • Go for the cake! My husband made our cake and it was fantastic. We found a perfect recipe in the America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Cookbook complete with timelines, pictures, ingredient recommendations and even bakeware. When everyone sat down to enjoy their cake they were all please, but not half as pleased and proud as my husband.

      A practical tip that worked really well for us: he brought the cake to the venue in the morning and frosted it there so he wouldn’t have to deal with squishy frosting or other issues (he also brought a friend to help with the piping). It turned out beautifully and he can bake a small replica for any anniversary or special occasion. People will give you plenty of unsolicited advice, do what is best for you.

    • Cheryl

      You can totally make your own cake. My mom and I did. It wasn’t anything fancy – no crazy piping, etc. – we decorated the cake with fresh edible flowers and fruit, and buttercream icing (I suppose it should be noted that we had a very casual wedding). We made the cakes ahead of time and froze them, then smoothed out the icing and added the accents the day of the wedding. I know that not every bride’s idea of ‘what I want to do on my wedding day’ is decorate her own wedding cake, but it was a priority for me. It was so wonderful being in the kitchen, just me and my mom, decorating the cake together – talking, laughing, creating, and working together. At the end of the day I looked back and it was a very special moment for my mom and I and I cherish it. I think of those moments every time I see a picture of our wedding cake. It is a wonderful memory. If you want to make your own cake, then make your own cake and do it your way!

  • I sincerely hope that if I asked a friend to help me out, and they didn’t want to, they’d just *say* to my face “actually, I’d rather not,” instead of agreeing to my face and then getting all whingey and resentful about my requests on an internet forum that I may or may not be reading.

    • Mary, I was about to comment and say something similar. I love this post — I think it puts DIY/DIT into good perspective, and gives some very sanity-saving advice about knowing your community. But the one thing I’d add to Meg’s last paragraph is that you shouldn’t say “yes” to a request for help unless you can help out with grace and good cheer. Nothing sucks the fun out of a day like a martyr who won’t stop telling people about how the bride and groom “made” them give up their Saturday to help set up tables! If you really feel like the request is unreasonable, it’s so much better to politely decline than to say yes and then get all whiny and resentful.

      • Erica

        I have to pipe up on this one. I totally agree that you need to know your community and plan your DIT projects accordingly. But if you are blessed to have a community that is ready, willing and able to DIT, you also have a responsibility to make sure they are not worked to the bone (or at least be clear to them that by agreeing to help you are going to work them to the bone). Your statement that you shouldn’t agree to help if you think the request is unreasonable doesn’t recognize that sometimes helpers get roped into tasks that are much bigger than what they thought they were signing up for. I know, because this has happened to me. I never complained to the bride and groom because I wasn’t about to bring them down, but I sure as hell complained to my fiance and our other friends who were in attendance because I was frustrated. I couldn’t just quit when it got to be too much for me, because the bride had no one else to help her.

        • Erica, I completely agree — it *is* essential to make it clear what your helpers are signing up for. I don’t blame you for feeling overwhelmed when you realized that the couple was expecting a lot more than you thought you’d agreed to do! I guess I was thinking more of situations where the bride and groom *are* clear about their request, and the askee says yes, but then turns around and complains about it. Most couples would rather hear “oh, I’m sorry, I can’t do that” right off the bat than find out later that a friend who said “yes, I’ll do X” was actually annoyed and resentful about doing X.

      • a friend of mine recently asked me to sew the dresses for her bridesmaids for her wedding. But the thing is, the bridesmaids live in Louisiana and Texas, the bride lives in Missouri and I live in Massachusetts. The thought of relying on self-reported measurements, no in-person fittings, etc was absolutely overwhelming. I had to say no. I was surprised at how guilty I felt, because I am totally behind the idea of DIT weddings – I want that for myself when I get married! But I think the crux of the matter as the bride is being very VERY conscious of what, exactly, you are asking for. Really thinking through what you ask, before you ask it, might save your friends an awkward situation, resentment and /or whining.

        • meg

          Well! Or really, I think we need to be ok with asking and ok with saying no. I think it’s rad the bride asked you, and rad that you were brave enough to be like, “Oh helll no that’s not going to work. But I love you. What else can I do to help?”

    • Lor

      I havne’t read the rest of the comments and I believe that the comment from the reader was why did everyone ask for help. Though I might be taking this out of context, but if someone asked me to help with their wedding, I’d be happy but scared and might say no – only because of my fear that I might mess up their day. For reals. I LOVE to bake, when there is a holiday or bake sale at the office my stuff is usually complimented and quickly gone – but if someone asked me to bake their wedding cake, it would be an honor, but the thought of making a cake for someone’s wedding other than my own would terrify me. I would hate for something to taste bad, or look imperfect, or just plain not be to their liking or what they expected. it’s a lot of pressure. but that’s just. I’d probably still do it – after a lot of talking about what they wanted and thinking if I could pull it off. Does that make sense? That might not be what the reader was commenting on – but i just wanted to put that idea out there just in case anyone else out there asks for help on a specific wedding idea and the person says no, they might just be afraid to fail their friend on their wedding day!!

      • Beth

        @ LOR, I think it’s important that you share with your friend your fears, and keep in mind what you know about your friend.

        for example… i asked a friend of mine to make my wedding dress. She makes/alters clothes, but has never made a wedding dress. she said no, and gave many of the reasons you did– fear of not doing it right, of not pleasing me, etc. I tried to reassure her that I specifically wanted something unique and *not* perfect-looking, but she adamantly explained that she had never made a wedding dress and felt really uncomfortable. So I ended up going with someone on Etsy who she recommended and it totally worked out. I guess my point is: consider your friend who is asking. If they feel like they’re imposing on you, the minute you start to say “I couldn’t, it wouldn’t turn out well” they might back off immediately, even though what they want is something personal and imperfect. But if you know they are a perfectionist and it’d all turn out uber stressful, be honest and say “I really couldn’t do it, but I’d love to help you with (x. y or z).” I’m ultimately glad my friend eventually explained that she just didn’t want to, but then suggested someone awesome. However, when she hemmed and hawed about it not looking perfect, I tried to convince her that I wasn’t going for perfect, but for personal.

    • peanut

      You seem very down-to-earth and logical. Not all people react the same way when someone respectfully declines a request for help; I’ve said no and been met with a sane response, and I’ve also said no and been accused of being a selfish bitch. There are also complicated dynamics involved with relatives, life-long friends, etc. Do I like being a bridesmaid? Hell no. Have I done it every time I was asked because if I didn’t it would break my friends’ hearts? Yes. Did I secretly bitch about it to my partner and on anonymous internet forums? Also yes :) These things aren’t always so black and white…

      • See, I think bitching to your partner or annoymously online is fine, that’s bitching in private. I think bitching in front of the other bridesmaids can be dangerous, and can also make the bitcher a total drag. But also, if the bridesmaids are friends, and one of them gets engaged, they’re going to be afraid to ask the bitching friend to do anything for them.. which in a way is good, but could mean that person is missing out of something they might have wanted to be part of.

        Why am I saying this? I have two really good friends, they are my oldest friends but one(she’s gone off to South Korea, and isn’t coming back…ever we think). Anyway, my too very good friends have gotten married in the past ten years – I was bridesmaids with them for either ones wedding. They both spent almost the entire time bitching about what a bridezilla the other was, and how much crap they were making us do. I’m getting married in a month, can you guess how much I’ve asked them to do?? If you said show up, you’re exactly right. I don’t like wedding hoopla, a huge part of why is the drama I’ve been through. I didn’t want that for my wedding. I didn’t want to know that my friends were bitching about me behind my back. I didn’t want to feel like I was imposing on them.

        So I have to agree, don’t say you will do something if you are just going to spend your time bitching about it. Bitch in private with your partner!

  • Chelsea

    I thought you had turned the comments off because you thought people would get snippy over DIY and DIT!

    I think you’re absolutely right about how your views of DIT have to do with the community in which you grew up. I always assumed that I wasn’t really having a DIT wedding because none of my friends were baking, or taking pictures, or designing things. But then, the day before the wedding, when we went to decorate the church, the group included me, my fiancé, my parents, my siblings, one aunt, two cousins, and a ten-month-old second cousin (and that was without really asking anyone to help). Because I come from a very DIT FAMILY. It was so natural that I didn’t even think of it as DIT, it was just The Way It Was.

    Also agree that you really can’t force DIT-ness – in the last two weeks, I’ve had conversations with two people who went to weddings that they didn’t really enjoy because they were forced to work, and they just didn’t want to. For the record, I know that both of these people would have helped to plan or set up or anything before the wedding, but they did want to be able to enjoy the party.

    Finally, something Meg didn’t say that I think is important: listen to people when they offer to help, and believe them! Now that my wedding is over I keep offering to help people with theirs (since I suddenly have all these useless skills and an abundance of free time), and they never take me up on it – just like I never took my recently married friends up on their offers to help. Trust that your friends are adults and wouldn’t offer unless they mean it. BUT listen to their offer and assign them jobs that they’d like; if someone offers to help you address envelopes, they might not be too happy if you ask them to set up chairs.

    • K

      I’m getting so many offers of help from friends. I look at them and say they’d better watch what they say because I’ll take them at their word!

      Totally agree though, if people offer, believe they mean it. :)

    • ddayporter

      yep, I am almost to the point of begging people to let me help them, there must be a use for these skills! haha. however, I know sometimes it’s not about not believing that people really want to help, it’s not really knowing how to delegate. I had several people offer to help me during our wedding planning and I had a hard time finding things I could let them do. it’s tough letting go!

  • K

    The wedding graduate post about the lazy girl’s wedding was one of the first I read when I got engaged and completely changed my world. I don’t like to craft. Even the thought of designing and printing our invitations made me shudder (thank you also for profiling Glo and making my life a WHOLE lot easier!). Once I realized that I didn’t have to and that I also didn’t have to include tons of things that are meaningless to me, my wedding stress dissolved.

    I suppose I am DIYing some things though if you consider that I did do our wedding website and online invitations and that we’re forgoing a DJ and creating playlists ourselves. But those aren’t crafts and are FUN to me.

    • Me too, K! In today’s world of weddings I think just planning it yourself (without a wedding planner) is pretty much DIY!

      I don’t do crafty either. The one time I tried, I made my Toast to the Groom at my best friend’s wedding into an old school scrapbook with B&W pictures go alongside certain lines and stamped out each letter of each word individually- I said NEVER again! Hahaha.

      But we too, are building our own playlist, potentially making our own bouquets, I have a crafty friend who is making the ring bearer pillow and perhaps some knitted birds for party favours…I am re-writing our whole ceremony and I have friends writing music for the ceremony and reading at the ceremony…a close friend is making my non-traditional wedding cake (am I the only one who thinks perfect fondant wedding cakes look COMPLETELY unappetizing?!) but mostly, we are just trying to keep things as simple and inexpensive as possible. So basically, I think that’s practical and partially DIY.

      • “Am I the only one who thinks perfect fondant wedding cakes look COMPLETELY unappetizing?!”

        No. No, you are not. I think fondant looks like plastic!

        • No, no you are so not! I think fondant TASTES like plastic! Ick!

      • Amandover

        That’s the kind of DIT we’re doing, too – writing the ceremony, doing our own flowers, having friends perform the music, make the guest book & invitations, and make homemade cakes. Ditto on fondant! Why work so hard for something that doesn’t look like food?

      • K

        I like how perfect fondant looks, but it really doesn’t look edible! Give me buttercream! Or the ice cream sundae bar that we’re doing for our wedding. :)

        We’ll also be creating the ceremony, using bits and pieces of traditional ceremonies. I’ll be putting together my own bouquet (hello, pretty long stem flowers of my choosing the day before tied together with a ribbon). I really like your idea that many weddings are DIY even if crafting isn’t involved.

  • peanut

    yeah, I have a friend who is a pastry chef, and her partner is a bartender. They were asked to help out in three weddings this summer – all in a row. And kind of at the last moment. With no inclination that the couple would reimburse them for supplies, such as booze and baking stuff. They have full-time jobs. It sucked for them, and from what I understand they did not see it as a mitzvah; they saw it as taking advantage of their generosity and as poor planning on the part of the brides and grooms. Not to mention, they definitely were not able to be “guests” at the wedding, since they were working and setting up and all that. I guess my point is, the community thing is great, but if you’re going to ask people, even if it’s your mom or BFF, do everything you can to make it easier on them. They are not vendors, they don’t owe you anything. At the end of the day, it is YOUR wedding, not the community’s wedding.

    I am not the DIY type, but I am the “ugh, if you want something done right, do it yourself!” type. We did our own invitations on Illustrator, which was fun, and if our wedding wasn’t international I would have wanted to do our own flowers too. It’s true that you can do things yourself without having a DIY wedding, if that makes sense.

    • meg

      I think there is a difference between having your community pitch in, and treating friends as vendors. Huge, huge difference. They are your community, not people you hired.

      That said, it was a Mitzvah. They are not always so fun, but there you go.

    • Eliza

      “I am not the DIY type, but I am the “ugh, if you want something done right, do it yourself!” type.”

      THIS. I’m not that crafy – I like baking and knitting and stuff, but I’m not GOOD at it, I just do it! – but I do get very annoyed at ripoffs and people selling you their services and then not coming through, or doing things “properly”. So I’ve found that yes, it’s often easier just to do it myself and know exactly what I’m getting! Plus then I have the pride of having done it myself, and often saved money in the process :D

    • I also think that despite the fact that you have a talented friend, you should still pay them for any services they provide. I hired several friends with special talents, I did not expect them to graciously gift me with their talent. The expectation that your talented friends will give you free services for your wedding is not DIT, it is greedy. You are right that working at a wedding and attending a wedding are completely different.

      If someone offers you the gift of a service, it is different than asking for someone to give you their service for free.

  • Rachel

    I have one comment to add about DIY and DIT. No, it’s not for everybody. But for ME, at least, being able to do things myself made the wedding feel more personal. I made our guestbook using a 4×6″ sketchbook and scrapbook supplies from Michael’s, and I love that it just screams “Rachel and Dan” instead of “any wedding ever.” My sister designed and made our invitation suite, and I was so happy with the simplicity of them, since I tend to think a lot of invitations nowadays are “HEY LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME I COST $1200!!!”

    So, for me, being able to look at quintessential “wedding musts” and make them my own was a very important process in wedding planning, and DIY/DIT was my way of connecting with wedding planning in a way I didn’t feel when I just point-and-clicked online for the same products.

  • Erin

    I didn’t really think of our wedding as DIY at all, even though we started by planning to do our own invitations (we’re graphic design-y people, sort’ve. Or so we thought.) and then realized we had no vision — exhibit A for “Easier to Pay a Professional”. Then I tallied the things we did ourselves: I designed my dress & my aunt made it; my mom deconstructed/rebuilt a crinoline for me the week before the wedding; I designed the program covers the day before they were printed; the favors turned into a big DIT party two days before the wedding, and so on… Notice the time frame? Yeah. Really last minute.

    My point is that even if you don’t have a DIY/DIT ethos infusing your wedding, sometimes “Git ‘er Done” translates as doing it yourself, which can turn out to be a lot of fun. It definitely wasn’t the Ready Made version of wedding planning, but we dove into our wells of creativity when it counted, and didn’t let Martha Stewart intimidate us into hand-crafting tissue-paper pomanders–if we didn’t want to.

  • Michelle

    Hello, not crafty at all here. The only projects I attempted were paper flowers and tissue poms because I had time. Part of me thought getting engaged would bring out this unknown crafty part of me. Nope. Neither of those turned out like I’d hoped and I ended up paying a professional and skipping the poms. Which was alright.

    The only form of DIY was me forcing my family to help us stuff, stamp and label the invitations. This became a good lesson in not being a control freak (the stamp’s upside down? Whatever.). And it ended up being fun and helping them feel invested in the event.

  • Michele

    I think a lot of brides do feel pressure to craft craft craft their way to their idealized wedding – partially because of the financial reality they’re living in, but mostly because there is this pervasive neeeeeeeed to make weddings “personal” and “unique.” And THAT, I think is partially because of the ‘it’s YOUR day (so make it YOU)’ mentality, and partially because of the blogging sub-culture. Sorry, but it’s true. The vast majority of weddings featured on the vast majority of wedding blogs are VERY detail heavy, with everything coordinated juuuuust so (usually with the intention of making it look effortless, as if everything just magically worked out. When in reality, a lot of people spend a lot of time making it look as if they didn’t spend a lot of time…if that makes sense).

    Anyway. Thank you, thank you, thank you for pointing out that it is entirely possible to just SIMPLIFY and chuck things altogether. I’m not much of a details person to begin with, so it wasn’t a huge struggle for me (though I can see how it could be for those who ARE detail oriented), but when I realized that I couldn’t afford something and also couldn’t make it, I did the next best thing: I skipped it.

    Which made for a very “plain” wedding.

    But you know what? I’m a very plain lady, and my husband is a very plain guy, so it suited us.

    • meg

      True. But I don’t write a detail wedding blog, so whatever. Not that there is anything wrong with pretty details, I just try to keep reminding us that they are not the point. Do them if they are fun, don’t do them if they are not fun, but don’t worry about them *too* much. You notice them in pictures, but not so much on the day of.

      • Michele

        You’re absolutely right about that Meg; APW is NOT a details blog, which is what I love about it. If I’m being honest, I really don’t even think of APW as a “wedding” blog at all, even though the word “wedding” is right in the title and weddings feature prominently.

        I also don’t really think of it as a blog about “practicality” in the way that one usually defines “practicality,” which to me connotes things like frugality, utilitarianism, and a whole lot of other things that make a lot of sense, but aren’t necessarily fun.

        Instead, I tend toward a more textbook definition of ‘practical,’ which is ‘of or pertaining to practice or action,’ and THAT is the lens through which I view this blog and this community. For me, it’s about the practice of living thoughtfully, intentionally, and authentically in general, and cultivating all of those things in your marriage in particular.

        And weddings are, of course, a vehicle for doing so.

    • Liz

      i find that APW is sliiiightly different in that many of the DIY weddings aren’t martha-stewart-pretty. (cough, mine) i did a whole effing lot myself. and i think it shows. and my wedding was awesome despite that.

      i think it’s THIS kind of DIY that APW relishes- the kind that saves you money and sanity even if it isn’t detail-perfect.

      the whole “i must diy everything” pressure combined with the whole “every detail must be perfect” pressure are at odds. luckily, this is one of the blogs that isn’t a proponent of both- or either.

      • I think your wedding was awesome *because* of that.

        I live in awe of your wedding doing-ness.

  • ddayporter

    I think “know your audience” is a really key point. my sister and I are pretty good examples – she has a HUGE church community that bent over backwards for her wedding, and they seemed really happy to pitch in as a group, helping with decor, food, clean-up, etc. She got married a couple years before I did, and I remember being totally in awe of the number of people working so hard for her, made me feel really good about the life she’s built for herself so far away (she’s in Dallas, the rest of us are east-coasters). I couldn’t imagine having a wedding like that! When it came time to plan our own wedding, I knew my friends and family would help where they could, but I couldn’t see everyone taking ownership of the event to that level. We had the luxury of being able to throw a little money at hired help – but if we hadn’t had the money, we would have further simplified everything in order to have a wedding appropriate for our community, rather than trying to recreate what my sister accomplished.

    • Chelsea

      It’s so easy to get caught up in score-keeping; “so-and-so had 50 people that were willing to help her set up, and I only have three, it must mean that people like her better than me.” Seriously, it’s like middle school. But really, maybe my friends are busier, or farther away, or used to the kinds of weddings where no one helps. Maybe so-and-so is just better at asking for help than I am. I really think the indie pressure to DIT can be even more insidious than the pressure to DIY, because if you don’t want to DIY you can justify (not that you have to justify…) it with “I’m not crafty,” but if you’re not DIT-ing, it starts to feel like all you have is “I’m not popular.” Cue 8th grade flashback.

      • meg

        I think you’re reading pressure in to DIT (I term I made up, so I’m kind of assuming you’re talking about APW here), when it’s not there. Most of us who did DIT did it because we didn’t really have alternatives. For us, we were pretty aware that we were expected to throw a party with a sit down meal for A LOT of family (not to mention all our friends). The bottom line was, we live in a really expensive city, and the only way we could make it happen is with help. So we made people help. I’m and insainly good arm twister, not shockingly, so I made it happen.

        Parts of DIT were great, other parts totally sucked. Would I have hired people to do things if I could have? Um, yes. Asking your friends to help is not always fun.

        So is APW pressuring you into having a DIT wedding? Heck no. But I also know that DIT is a reality for a lot of readers, and can have its crazy crazy awesome moments. But you shouldn’t feel like it’s about popularity (who are you even compairing yourself too, really?), or that you have to do it. There are so many other options (simplify and/or hire help being two great ones).

        • Chelsea

          Oh no, I didn’t mean APW at all, sorry it came out that way! I actually think APW is the voice of sanity here (as in so many other cases), and I didn’t realize you had created the term, or else I would have been more specific…. I’m all for DIT when you have a community that can and will help. What I’m talking about is the indie blog thing where part of a “trendy” wedding (along with the bunting and photobooth and moustaches on sticks) is having a bunch of friends who came together to make the day happen. Just like a photobooth, it’s cool when it happens but isn’t necessary.

          But I agree that a lot of the pressure is internal.

        • I think Meg’s creation of the term DIT has taken on a life of it’s own. I know I’ve seen it outside this blog or alluded to on the big “pretty” blogs. Sad, because often on those blogs its coopted and does represent the trend to get all your uber talented friends to pitch in and that your wedding isn’t as cool if you don’t have super talented friends to pitch it.

          Meg’s original meaning of DIT is awesome though and hopefully no one thinks Meg is pressuring us that if we don’t DIT, then we are bad. I think it’s pretty obvious that Meg never tries to pressure us that there is only one way to do things, which is pretty much why I love APW so much. There’s always a new perspective.

    • Michele

      Absolutely. I come from a family where not only would people NOT be offended to be asked to help in almost anyway, many of them would be offended to NOT be asked. The weddings I grew up with were very low-key, low-budget affairs. VFW/Firefighter’s hall, pot-luck, plastic table cloths, no centerpieces, etc, etc, etc., and the reality is that most of my relatives view anything more than that as ‘high-fallutin.’

      In fact, my grandmother STILL talks about my cousin’s “fancy” wedding where they had WHITE LINEN TABLE CLOTHS (!!!)

      (She also still talks about the fact that my cousin’s birde thought she was “too good” for the dollar dance.)

      • Kashia

        My family is like that too. And it’s like Meg said earlier, they do things not because being crafty is fun so much as because they come from the mindset that “I can do that myself for less money” because there just isn’t a lot of money (and if buying it is cheaper than making it, then they will buy it without feeling like they’ve let anyone down).
        For me it’s crazy to see how much my community is willing to take things on with their own initiative. For example, I had mentioned a few things that maybe I’d like for our wedding (next summer) and then went on holiday for a week and came back and they were already done! I don’t think I could stop them if I tried. That said, it is a good thing that I’m pretty laid back about the wedding vision because it is not going to turn out exactly how I had pictured it but rather how a whole bunch of thrifty, capable, enthusiastic members of my community are creating it. And that’s cool. But I know for other people that would not be cool, in which case DIY or DIT is NOT the route to go if you know that your community will take things and run with them.
        One of the things I love about reading APW is all of the different ways of approaching weddings. It’s great not only to not feel pressured about doing things a certain way, but also to see so many kinds of weddings which cause me to think about things that I had made assumptions about because I had only ever seen something done one way before.

  • Marisa

    I didn’t really DIY anything. The only thing we actually made were some ribbon wands for people to wave in lieu of rice-throwing. I thought they’d look really fun in pictures. And then we forgot them at home. Oops! But I hardly ever make stuff. I have zero crafty abilities and my wedding didn’t seem like the time to start.

  • I’m getting married in less than a month and I would call mine a Do It Somehow wedding. I’m not a crafty person and we don’t have friends who are seamstress/baker/florist/etc. But we wanted also some unconventional stuff who could not be bought in mainstream wedding-oriented shops.
    So we DIT/DIY things that couldn’t be actually bought (like origami cranes, for example), bought things that we wouldn’t have been able to DIY (or did not have the time to) from both mainstream and offbeat vendors, asked friends abroad to get for us those things we could not find here in Italy. No bias, we’ve just tried to find the best way for us to get each thing we wanted in our wedding. And if it was too expensive/complicate or impossible to find or nobody was able to do it, then we gave it up.

    In Italy DIY/DIT at weddings is still rather offbeat, so we’ve asked for help only to friends who we knew could understand our way of thinking and be glad to collaborate. All the other people we’ve chosen not to involve will find unexpected elements on our wedding day and I hope they’ll be a nice surprise to them.

    (sorry for my english…)

    • “Do It Somehow” — I love that!

      Also, my family is Italian and I know my wedding will be “non-traditional” for some of them, but a lot more traditional to my friends. We have some people helping out but for the most part are just trying to DIS as well.

      In bocca al lupo!
      Auguri! :)

  • I’m a wedding vendor who actually promotes DIY. Yeah, there are some of us out there. I think this post does a great job of debunking the all or nothing mentality espoused by so many DIY advocates. At times, we seem to have some full circle from the “musts” of having wedding vendors provide every service (at its topnotch best, of course) to the “musts” of EVERYTHING must be DIY, lest the bride and groom be considered sellouts to the wedding vendor establishment.

    Reality is, of course, somewhere in the middle for most couples. Each couple has different priorities, budgets, access to talent (their own and that of their friends/family), interests, time constraints and general resources. That is as it should be. It’s all of the above that allow each wedding to be unique and there’s nothing better than a well thought-out celebration of commitment that blends DIY, DIT and professional services.

    • Chelsea

      My wedding planner was fantastic – she took care of the things that I didn’t feel like dealing with so that I had time, energy, and brain space to DIY the things I really did care about.

    • meg

      Oh, Amen.

      I forgot to debunk the “all wedding vendors are zombie WIC monsters” myth. There are wedding vendors like that, of course, but you shouldn’t HIRE those people. You should hire awesome small business owners who get you (if you can). The few vendors we used (caterers, photographers) were amazing, and I’m so glad we were able to hire them.

  • Marina

    I come from a very DIT family/friend group, but it was still really difficult for me to ask for help. I eventually came to terms with it by deciding to ask people to do, not what needed to get done most or what I didn’t want to do, but what I thought suited their talents and inclinations. I did really want everyone to enjoy being a guest as well as part of the event, to the point of setting up a just-in-case stand-in for one of our huppah bearers in case he needed to be with his baby. The exception was one friend who hates being a party guest but loves event management stuff, who volunteered to be our day-of manager. I later found out she didn’t even eat dinner, which appalled me but which she has reassured me several times that she didn’t mind… I guess it takes all types.

    I think the key with DIT is to thank everyone profusely and repeatedly, in as many ways as you can think of, and to feed them. Seriously, people will do a lot if they get a couple meals out of it. :) I’ve had friends ask me to do things where I worked my ass off and felt fantastic afterwards, and I’ve had friends ask me to do things where I worked my ass off and it almost ruined a friendship–the differences were in being thanked profusely and genuinely, and whether I got fed. :)

    • Liz

      if it makes you feel better, marina, i TOTALLY would’ve been that friend who didn’t eat and loved it anyway.

    • meg

      Me too!

    • Marina

      Another thought about DIT–I think part of DIT is accepting offers of help which you don’t necessarily want. Granted, this is a really fine line, and has to be taken instance by instance and person by person, and sometimes with a lot of soul searching, but… I think to really be about Doing It Together it has to really be about doing it TOGETHER. It requires accepting that you’re not the only person with a stake in your wedding, and that the things other people want may not be exactly what you had in mind, but might end up making it better after all. I know that as my wedding got closer I frequently had this gut reaction of “No! It’s my wedding! Stop taking it away! Stop telling me what to do!” And there were certainly lots of times when that really was the right reaction and I had to stand my ground. :) But there were other times when I had to take a deep breath and a step back and think, “This person wants to do this for me because they love me. Can I expand my mental image of my wedding to include that?”

      • Marina

        Oops, just realized a million other commenters already said the same thing. Oh well. :)

      • On a similar note, I think if you ask for help, you also have to prepare yourself to let go of the project/results, once it’s out of your hands. I went to a wedding over Labor Day weekend, and the bride asked anyone who wanted to, to help set up at 7am. I gladly went, because I’d received so much help for my wedding, and I wanted to pass that on.

        The bride gave me the supplies she bought, gave me a rough idea of what she was hoping for, and told me she’d love whatever I came up with (she wasn’t able to be too specific because they’d had a last minute change-of-venue due to flooding). It was a huge relief to be able to mess around with decorations and not worry that she was going to come back and bite my head off. if it wasn’t what she envisioned. She was laid-back and open to collaboration, and that made a big difference in my willingness to help.

  • Liz

    i’m sorta torn about the whole DIT thing. not that i don’t think it’s awesome and community-building and everything. but i DO feel weird about certain… demands… made by brides. not requests, demands.

    have you seen the episode of seinfeld where every time they go to this guy’s parties, he doles out chores and responsibilities? and elaine leaves the party saying, “nice workin with ya.” that’s sorta how it can be sometimes.

    i had planned to DIY. and then awesome people chipped in to make it all DIT. which was pretty cool- but unplanned, merely because i didn’t want my inability to spend extra to weigh on others. it was MY choice to save the cash, so i felt it was MY responsibility to fill in the gaps. i think we can get into some dangerous territory when we have certain expectations for our “guests.” i think dday may be onto something with the “know your friends” thing. i’m sure that’s a HUGE part of not stepping on toes.

    but what worked for me was just making it known what needed to be done. without calling specific people to do specific things. “hey, all. i’m making the cake, if anyone wants to come over” sorta thing. it panned out.

    • ddayporter

      ha! well Meg actually was the one who said know your audience, I just agreed. but yeah. :)

      also I think Marina really hit on another key: be genuinely thankful, and feed your helpers! I personally will help out with just about anything if there is free food involved. am I the only one who never grew out of that college-kid mentality?? I don’t know. but I found people more enthusiastic to help punch holes in bookmark programs when wine and homemade pizza was offered up.

      I also tried the “hey I’m doing this if anyone wants to help” and that often worked well too. Usually though I would add “and there will be wine and pizza.” haha.

      • Liz

        yes to food!

      • N

        Ooh I like this idea! There is a lot of talk about how to delegate tasks when asking for help, which I am sure is in fact very useful, but the idea of casually making wedding things WITH friends…and wine and pizza… is much more fun! And, actually, sort of an obvious option, but one I hadn’t thought of, so thank you!

  • Alison

    Photoshop. More brides and grooms should learn to use Photoshop. They should teach classes on Photoshop specifically for brides and grooms. This has been the single most useful tool for making my wedding happen. I know it’s not for everyone, but my love for Photoshop has grown over the last few months.

    • MNBride

      I feel the same way about InDesign, another part of the Creative Suite. I designed our save the dates, invitations, programs and various other paper stuff using it. That’s about as DIY as I get!

      • ddayporter


  • My best advice for engaged couples feeling the pressure to DIY is to make sure your engagement is long enough so that first, you can look at all of the pretty wedding blogs and dream up all of the long lists of DIY projects, and not get too far into it before reality sets in. Also, remember that all of those beautiful detail shots you see? They are DETAIL shots. Sometimes they make us feel like the whole wedding was picture perfect just because the photographer got pictures of the cute guestbook table and the mason jars with candles hanging from trees. Yeah, that wedding had those things but like Meg already mentioned, if you get a good photographer they can make a hot mess look beautiful!

  • Kristen

    Love this: “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.” It’s 100% true. About six months out from my wedding, I had a cousin claim organizing ownership of our pre-ceremony softball game. (What can I say – I’m from New England – our family events aren’t complete without some sort of sporting event.) I let him take the reigns, but it kind of stressed me out – he was SO into it and I was afraid that people might have other plans for the morning of the wedding and I didn’t want to disappoint. But let me tell you, that game was magic. My cousin showed up with custom-made Red Sox and Mets t-shirts (I’m from Boston, the husband is from NYC) complete with wedding patches with our name and the date on the sleeve. It was beyond touching and everyone in our circle of family and friends came together to play or cheer on the teams. The game totally set the tone for the day, and it’s something I didn’t have the time or desire to plan and almost squashed 100 times because the pressure was freaking me out. But I’m so glad that I got out of his way and just let the magic happen. If someone is that into doing something for you, you should let them. Lesson learned.

    • Marina

      “Exactly” isn’t enough for this. That sounds so amazing.

  • Margaret M.

    I love “crafts.” I love quilting, knitting, sewing, embroidering. The other day, I picked up embroidery floss and a needle and all the stitches came flooding back to me. Someone must have taught me lazy daisies as a child and my fingers knew what to do. I sew because it’s a way to be in touch with a part of my family that is dying out – a tremendously frugal, creative family that made toys for the kids out of scrap fabric because they couldn’t afford new ones. Those toys are more beautiful and cherished than anything that could have been bought new.

    But one thing I’ve noticed is that Crafts have become just one more way for an industry to part us from our money. I am susceptible to this, which I am ashamed to admit — if I enter a craft store it’s like hooking up a vacuum cleaner to my wallet. And online the options are totally entrancing and SO EXPENSIVE. Give me a good Mennonite fabric store over $9 a yard designer fabric any day.

    My wedding cost a shit ton of money (not my money, not my doing) but on the other side nothing got me more distressed than people saying things like “Weddings are expensive, I can’t afford a wedding and even though I want one, I have to elope!” Weddings are not, by definition, expensive. Weddings are weddings and weddings are (well, can be) MAGICAL THINGS totally divorced from all the expensive, material things.

  • Pamela

    It’s really weird – I would classify myself as a “crafty” person – I knit, I sew, I bake, I do embroidery, etc. But is my wedding DIY at all? No. No cranes, no tissue paper poufs, no hand made napkins. For me, the joy of crafting is the lack of pressure – I knit to relax! So, for me, even though I love the look of the stuff I mentioned, it would be counter-productive to craft stuff for the wedding, because it would turn me into a big stressball. Seriously, the direction cards I printed to go with our wedding invitations (that I purchased from an awesome person on Etsy) nearly made me want to yank my hair out. And the only “crafting” that was required was printing the directions and cutting straight lines. Apparently I failed kindergarden because I couldn’t cut a straight line to save my life. Eventually I gave up and (so far) no one’s criticized our slightly wonky direction cards…

    Well, I guess I am DIYing a bit – I am doing our flowers. But just bouquets, bouts and corsages – and that’s out of economic necessity. I’ve done a test run, and it turned out quite well, I think!

    Also, I have a hard time with the DIT thing, mostly because the community I grew up in was really good at taking things but not so good at giving them back. For example, a slightly-older friend got married when I was 18. I was in college at the time, taking a summer school class, and she asked if I could come to the church the Thursday before the wedding to roll silverware. I said, yes, I’d be happy to come, and I would come over right after my class. The start time for the silverware rolling party was 11am, which was the time my class ended, so I said I’d be there by 11:30. The bride’s mother snapped at me “why did you take a class this summer, you knew she was getting married” as if I was supposed to put my life on hold for her wedding (I should mention that I wasn’t even a bridesmaid for this girl – just a friend). Also, for that same wedding, the bride asked my mom to set up the reception. For some reason, that translated into my mom missing the entire ceremony, and for her efforts, the bride gave her a wilted gardenia corsage. No thank you note, nothing. Clearly, that left a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe those are petty examples, but when my parents needed help with stuff, these people never lifted a finger. So DIT is great – if it goes both ways.

    • Liz

      your last paragraph is hysterical. seriously. i would LOVE to meet this bride’s mom.

      • Pamela

        Oh, she’s something. My sister and I can tell a lot of “Mrs. R” stories. Now that I’m older, I can see the humor, but back then, it was just insulting.

  • For us I think the way we defined it was if it was going to add stress we were going to pay to have a professional handle it. If it was going to add joy or meaning to have us have a hand in it, then we had a hand in it.

    Two weeks before our wedding there were still several things on my list of things I wanted to do. And they all got scrapped at that point and never happened. And nobody knows they didn’t happen except me. And I’m perfectly fine with it.

  • Emily

    I’m torn on this subject. Because what Meg is describing is beautiful — friends and family coming together to help a couple start a family. But I think sometimes it’s more complicated than that, and I think all of us (as guests, as brides, as family members) have to keep in mind that there is no one way to do things, and that no one should feel compelled to “work” a wedding (unless you’re a vendor, it’s your job, and you’re getting paid).

    I come from a big family, and we are definitely not rich. We DIT every wedding. I spent two days helping my sister make her invitations. I volunteered amateur photography for my sister-in-laws “getting ready” hours, helped seat guests at my brother’s wedding, and poured champagne at my other brother’s wedding. I’ve helped park cars at weddings. I’ve spoken to the caterer on behalf of the mother of the bride so she could have a moment with her daughter. I believe in DIT. I believe in being helpful. I believe in being kind.


    Sometimes I just can’t. Sometimes I literally can’t, because I’m being asked to do something I don’t know how to do, like make chili for 200 or throw a bridal shower from the opposite side of the country. And sometimes, by “can’t”, I mean I really don’t want to. That sounds selfish, but hear me out.

    There have been times in my life when I had a lot of time and energy to give. And there have been times when I’ve barely had enough time and energy to get myself through the day. When I’m running on surplus, I try to spread it around. But when I’m running on empty, I don’t have a problem telling a friend “no”, I cannot help with your floral arrangements the day before the wedding or “no”, I don’t feel comfortable being the person who greets your great aunt at the airport. There have been times when I recently lost my job, or went through a terrible break up, or was dealing with a sick parent, when I didn’t have it in me to help. And a part of me maybe even resented the expectation that my life, and its non-wedding events, had to take a backseat to a friend’s Wedding. And yes, I resented that the very friend who maybe was too busy (understandably so) with wedding plans to help me with my non-wedding event, expected me to ignore my own life to help with the Wedding.

    Weddings are important. But they aren’t the only important things that ever happen to anyone, and it’s okay to say, “I’d love to, but I can’t.” It’s okay to go deal with the important things in your own life and to offer only love and support on the wedding day. That doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad wedding guest.

    I think what we have to remember is that when someone doesn’t pitch in for DIT, or when someone comes right out and says “no” when you ask for her help, this is not the same as saying “I do not support your marriage, I do not stand behind you in solidarity as you start this family.” That’s not what it means at all. Sometimes it just means, I can’t. Sometimes it just means that although I love you and support you in this, I have some stuff of my own to take care of.

    The other thing I think we have to remember is that while weddings can be hard, they are only one day. And throughout our lives and our marriages, different people will step forward at different times to provide the love and support we need. The wedding day shouldn’t be a test of loyalty or allegiance. The friend who holds your hand after a miscarriage is not always the friend who held your hand before your wedding ceremony. People’s lives change over time and sometimes people have a lot to give, and sometimes they don’t. It should be possible to offer love and support even if you aren’t also offering to bake the cake or compose the iPod playlist.

    • Michele

      So absolutely true, on all fronts.

    • Sarah

      “Exactly” doesn’t seem quite right, but I wanted to say thanks, Emily, for writing out your thoughts – very perceptive, and important, and I appreciated hearing them.

    • meg

      Well yes. I think reminding people that helping out is a GOOD thing, and a way to show your love is not mutually exclusive of saying no when you need to. I kind of assumed we all are very good at saying no when we need to, probably just because I am. But there is a difference between saying, “I’d love to but I can’t,” or what I normally say, “I can’t help with that, but is there something else/ something smaller that I can do?” than saying, “F*cking brides, man, why are they always asking for d*mn help?” Because, well, they are asking for help because they need it. We’ve sort of lost the idea of community as a culture, and that makes me sad. I’m reminding us that it’s important. But saying No when you need to is so important I forgot to mention it. Thought it was a given ;)

      • Emily

        Appreciated. My comment wasn’t so much a criticism as a clarification. There are so many expectations associated with weddings, not just for brides, but for everyone. Especially women. Too often I hear (and have been the subject of) the old, “Oh she’s just jealous because its not HER day” trope just because a woman doesn’t bend over backwards to accommodate the wedding.

        In a way, we’re saying the same thing. When you get overwhelmed, and you need help, you should be allowed to ask for help. Often the WIC and the DIY ethos makes brides feel like it’s not okay. And that’s ridiculous. But the WIC can also make non-brides feel like their lives must be subsumed to the Wedding, and that’s ridiculous too. So I guess what I’m saying is that no one should feel like a wedding trumps having his or her immediate needs met, and that while it should be a community event, no one should feel like doing less will result in the reproach of that community.

    • Marina

      This is beautifully written. And thank you for the reminder that the friend who helps during a wedding may not be the same friend who helps during another major life event–I find it way too easy to lose sight of that sometimes.

    • Carolyn

      Just wanted to say “exactly” a little louder.

  • Thank you for this post. You summed up far more eloquently and far more succinctly the major reason we are DIY/DITing almost everything for our wedding: b/c we can’t afford to do it any other way, and we come from the school of getting it done (beautifully) without money. Sometimes it feels like there is so much judgement across the spectrum of the bridal blogosphere- too traditional, too DIY, too, too, too…. And I’ve often felt the need to defend our decision to DIY so many aspects of our wedding (for various reasons), but DUH, the major reason we are doing it ourselves is because we can’t afford not too. And we like arts/crafts too- so it’s not like it’s torture. :) But I’m with you- I draw the line at basket weaving. Or anything else that is gonna make us crazy. Because with less than two weeks to go all I wanna feel is JOY! :)

  • Thank you because I was really having a moment about not having the type of support around me to DIY/T anything. And I would have really loved to but I mean, who has the time? Not me.

  • Class of 1980

    A lot of people go through life not realizing that they live in a microcosm until they bump up against a different microcosm. I moved to the mountains almost 10 years ago, and the locals who were born here don’t grasp that their way of life stands apart from the rest of America. They were isolated for decades. Since tons of outsiders are retiring here, the clash of civilizations is raging.

    Weddings are like that too.

    Not only might you have to navigate a culture clash just by bringing your two families together, you might have many cultures coming together if your guests consist of a lot of people traveling from different areas.

    In my own family microcosm, there were no community weddings. If it were not for the internet, I wouldn’t even know such a thing existed. LOL. The only “community” brides had access to in my world, was their family members.

    My family was very religious and back in 1978-1980, a lot of my church friends got married at age 20 and 21. Those weddings were large and only cake, punch, and maybe a few canapes were served. There was very little DIY and paying for one of those weddings wasn’t the financial quagmire you have today. The parents paid the lion’s share because the bride and groom were YOUNG and weddings were affordable. The closest thing to “community” was asking a a couple of friends to pour the punch, which was considered an honor in the South. Hardly anyone had to travel to attend.

    Then there were the non-church friends who married later in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Those weddings were more upscale, but even the ultra-extravagant ones were still within the couple’s (and parents) ability to hire professionals. Still no DIY. No one even thought of giving out favors. You didn’t see a million details because wedding planning concentrated on the large items you couldn’t miss. Travel for guests became more common since the couple was older and had far flung friends everywhere.

    The blog weddings with a million tiny crafted details is very new. Wedding weekends with multiple events are new, but partly exist because of guests traveling such long distances.

    There was a book (A Groom Of One’s Own) that came out in the 1980’s that comically detailed how weddings were different according to what region of the country you lived in. You had cookie-cutter sit down dinners in banquet halls in the northeast, cake and punch in the south, unless your parents were wealthy – then it was a huge blowout. The midwest had buffets in VFW halls, and the west coast had lots of hippie weddings. All generalizations, but hilarious.

    From the American history I’ve read, DIY was common for the tiny at home weddings of early America. It was the smallness of those weddings that made DIY easy and the lack of a wedding industry that made it a necessity. The mother and female relatives arranged garden flowers and baked a cake and made all the food. Guests consisted of family members and a few friends.

    Bringing in professionals happened later when weddings started being held in churches and more people were invited. It became too difficult for everything to be DIY.

    Nowadays, most brides plan to serve an elegant sit-down dinner to a large amount of people. It’s almost expected, but it used to be considered extravagant. The bar was set a lot higher during the economic bubble we had.

    And yet DIY has become more popular. I think part of it is that wedding inspiration has exploded on the internet and raised the level of artistry in everything. The other part is that people are spending more on food and drink to entertain guests that are coming from farther away, and DIY has become more necessary to afford it all.

    It has always been a big job to plan a wedding, but brides are under a lot more stress today because they are planning more complicated weddings AND trying to do more of it themselves.

    As far as enlisting help, the whole “Do It Together” thing is dependent upon the views of your social circle. It’s impossible to lay down strict rules of what is right or wrong without knowing what is expected in your own social circle.

    Sometimes I think etiquette books need to talk about that instead of laying down one set of rules. I do think everything is going to scale back down in this economy and the changes are going to last.

    Sorry to have written a book. ;)

    • Katelyn

      “The midwest had buffets in VFW halls”

      Chuckles. Growing up in central Illinois, I went to a lot of VFW venue weddings :)

    • Aine

      That change in scale is a huge part of what makes it so hard. I would love to have a backyard, DIY/DIT wedding, and I have a huge community of friends and family who are already offering help and support- but my fiance and I are from different countries, with big, close families. We’re having around 200 people, and that’s because there are so many that I couldn’t not invite, or who I couldn’t bear not to have at my wedding. And they’re coming from Ireland, so its not like we can even have a cake and punch event- if you bring people that far away, you have to feed them, ideally twice.

      That said, its not totally a new thing. There were 200 people at my grandmother’s wedding, they just all lived in Brooklyn.

      • Class of 1980

        Yes, there were always big weddings. They just didn’t involve as much travel, so the food could be less substantial.

        That said, the northeast was always been the land of the catered sit-down dinner. They’ve been that way for decades because they pioneered the catering hall.

      • Margaret M.

        I respectfully disagree. People will want to come all the way from Ireland to SEE YOU GET MARRIED — not eat catered food. They are not doing this for the free meal, and it is not impolite not to serve a meal regardless of from how far away the guests are coming. (Although I would say it is impolite to host a wedding at mealtimes and not serve a meal, but at 2 in the afternoon followed by cake – you’re golden!)

        • meg

          I think Margaret is correct! Not that you can’t feed them, but that is not why they are there, at all. And in the grand scheme of traveling, the price of one more meal is negligible. Mostly they want time to see you, and each other, food be dammed.

          • Class of 1980

            It’s true that the guests mostly wants to see you get married. I think it’s the couple and their families who feel the pressure to provide more.

          • Meg, I’ve heard you express this opinion before. And I think it’s a matter of culture, again. If I came from a background of cake and punch or potluck dinners, I’d say that it would be okay for your relatives and friends to just get cake and punch if you invite them from across the country. They’d understand. They’d be getting what they would expect from a local wedding, had they lived local.

            But in my family, which is from the northeast, dinners are the standard. And catered dinners are far more common then not. I’m like the poorest person in my family.

            I can’t imagine being able to enjoy myself knowing that people have spent hundreds, perhaps thousands traveling (and my family is SCATTERED across the country, so are my friends, and my guy is from another country) and I can’t even feed them. My gut screams UNACCEPTABLE!!!!!!!

            Now, I wouldn’t judge another bride who did do this. I love weddings and I’d just be happy to be invited, honestly, but I also know that’s just not DONE in my crowd. And I thought I’d throw this out so if someone else is in the same boat with me, they will realize it’s also a cultural thing, and they’re not alone and it’s okay to feel and act that way. Cause your voice carries a lot of weight, since it is your blog, Meg. :)

          • Liz

            i fed my travelers, and i’m pretty glad i did.

            people are grown-ups who can decide if a booked flight and hotel room are “worth it to them.” as far as what people are “expecting”- that’s what the invite is for, isn’t it? to let them know what’s up. we flat out said “WE’RE ONLY GIVING YOU CAKE” (in, uh, different words) so that people could decide for themselves if it would be “worth” the hike/gift.

            but. i like demonstrating appreciation for people. and i felt such overwhelming happiness and gratitude that uncles i’d never met and aunts i hadn’t seen since i was young would gleefully take a few days off of work and generously give and help set-up and spend a load of cash… for my wedding? crazy.

            as much as i think we should lesson the “shoulds” and “need tos” in wedding planning… i’m definitely glad i went with my gut and fed the weary travelers.

          • meg

            I think what I’m saying is that you can buck culture and appeal to people’s better natures if you need to, and if you do it with style. I understand seated dinners being the norm, I lived in the Northeast for a decade, and they are the norm for Jewish weddings too. We did a sit down meal, but it meant we cut just about everything else to the bone, and we limited the guest list more than people wanted. We all have to make compromises in wedding land, that was mine. But I’m not going to back down from saying h*ll YES you can make cake and punch work if you need to, cultural norms aside. Think of our grandmothers generation. They spent a lifetime making less look like more and less look like chic. You can to, if you need to, do the same.

          • Liz

            ps- i’m a nor’easter who served cake and punch, despite expectation.

            (and yes, i like comparing myself to a type of storm)

  • Sara

    ” 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. ”

    This is to me the essence of the post that all to-be-brides should absorb into their core. I planned our wedding in our alumni town that was flying distance away from where we lived so it really cut down on what I could do at home for DIY since I couldn’t get it there easily (or at all). I could not just invite friends over to help since they were half the country away and each time we were in town, it was already wedding intense without adding wedding crafts to be done. The logistics is what kept me from doing too much DIY…or at least planning ahead on it.

    Also, isn’t part of the origin of DIY that you are trying to save money (not always of course, but often)? Well, for some reason, I became delusional that I could coordinate the wedding/setup and I didn’t need a day-of wedding planner. I’m sure it would have been worth the money, and when the day came, I was overwhelmed trying to get all the details set up at the site. My friends and family had seen how much I hadn’t quite thought things through and helped me out last-minute. Even then there were ideas that were half-baked in my head and there wasn’t time to really finish those thoughts that morning, so they were discarded morning of. In fact, there are some items that were just hanging out off to the side with no real purpose during the whole wedding/reception. The point is, I should have hired a day of wedding planner, but really the guests could not give a rip about what was or was not there. We still had a lot going on and if I looked back and only had the projects that did get done on my list, I would have thought it was going to look boring or plain. I don’t plan on ever having another wedding, so I can’t use what I learned on that, but I can use it toward future parties/events. Meg’s words will be my mantra when parent’s 50th anniversaries come, baby showers, reunions, even vacations come around.

  • I’m actually having the opposite problem where everyone wants to help and a lot of time I don’t have anything for them to do. People seem almost upset if you don’t give them a job, and sometimes I feel like I have to dole out random tasks just to make people happy. But I realize that it’s a good thing if people want to help, and maybe I need to let go of some of my control freak-ness and embrace the community aspect of the wedding.

    • Eat Broccoli

      I actually made up an extra project for the mothers to do! Cause i could tell they need/wanted to help/do something. They are both making a photobook of memories. Get a friend to research something and let you know what they found. Someone doesn’t have to make something to help you ( although thats what I did with the mothers).

  • lana

    My wedding had a lot of DIY and DIT because of a couple of reasons. Firstly because of financial reasons. A lot of the pretty details I wanted were bloody expensive and some of the details my family insisted on like buttoniers I just wasn’t willing to spend a lot of money on. Secondly because of the rarity of weddings in Holland people were very exited and also insulted when I did not ask them to do things. I had to divide the DIT workload evenly between mother and mother in law because of jealousy issues.

    That being said I am a very crafty person and molding 200 rubber duckies out of marzipan to go on my cupcakes was like meditation for me. It actually helped me to stay grounded. I could not start to list all the DIY sh*t we did because it was so much but I can tell you one thing. I bought the flower girl basket for €2,-. Making things like that yourself, well if you want to because it makes you happy, go ahead and enjoy it but I think it is a waste of time

    The one thing I regret doing myself was the wedding cake. I am a very experienced baker. The 400 decorated cupcakes were no problem at all (yes I am insane to do so many) but the cake was not up to my standards. If I could do it again I would not do it myself.

  • april

    I always get warm fuzzies when I see and/or read about weddings that were hand-crafted, or where family & friends pitched in. I love the spirit of it.

    But there is a flip-side: I’m the friend who’s been asked to assist with other friends’ wedding stuff but doesn’t really want to. It’s difficult to explain but I’ll try: I’ve had a few friends ask me for help planning their weddings. They’ve asked me to call vendors I know to get them discounts. They’ve asked me to act as their day-of coordinator, and I have politely declined. I work in the event industry, manage events every day and I work damn hard. And I get PAID to work damn hard. Being asked to provide event services for friends as a freebie when their mind-set is “hey you do this as your job you must be great and I can use you so I don’t have to pay for this service” really hurts my feelings. It’s not flattering at all to be asked, guilted or even expected to help just because since it’s my day-job, it must be as natural to me as breathing and I should just want to offer those services for free to all my friends.

    Currently, a friend who invited me to her wedding this Fall, then asked me to be coordinator (I declined) is quite upset with me and has now said if I’m not willing to help, I shouldn’t bother coming at all which is very upsetting for me. I offered to help hand out programs or tie ribbons on things, but honestly – a day playing her stage manager for 6 hours is beyond what I’m willing to do as a guest.

    So, for those couples who are going the DIY / DIT route, please remember to be gentle with those that may not wish to participate as much in the wedding process or get their hands dirty, so to speak.

    • peanut

      I have a bunch of friends in the creative fields, and they are complain about this too .. as in, their friends or even acquaintances sort of assume that they can easily do ______ for free because it’s their day job, and many times are insulted when their requests are politely turned down.

    • Liz

      i feel that if your friend is a wedding vendor, either invite them to the wedding or hire them. don’t expect them to come as a guest and then work “for fun.”

      we hired friends to do the photography. and paid them full price. because they work for a living and are worth every penny.

      • april

        EXACTLY, Liz! I’ve literally scores of wedding industry / hospitality industry contacts that I probably could’ve called upon for free favors and such… but it didn’t feel right to me. Their services, time and effort are valuable. A couple of my friends that I hired graciously offered their services at a discount for my wedding (totally wasn’t expecting that – it was lovely and sweet of them). And then there were other vendors we absolutely adored, had to have and paid top dollar for (photographers – OH-SO-WORTH-IT!!!).

      • meg

        Mmmm. OF COURSE. This is another “oh I thought it was obvious and didn’t mention it.” Oops! If people do something FOR A LIVING, you don’t ask them to do it for you for free, ever, pretty much. That’s not really DIT, that’s more stealing, I think.

  • The thing I love most about DIT (if you have friends who are inclined to be that Team, etc etc) is how many lovely little surprises it can add to the wedding. I am usually strenuously Type A, but I had friends who volunteered to take up different preparations (baking cheesecakes for dessert, all the flowers, day-of-coordination) who did it with such joy, enthusiasm, and confidence that I felt perfectly safe in their hands – maybe more so than I did with some of our professional vendors. So I literally had no idea how our bouquets would look (short of which flowers would be in them) or what our cheesecakes would taste like… and that was rad! On the day of, when I looked at the flowers, I didn’t wish we’d gone with a professional (whom we would not have been able to afford), I saw how much my friend loved me. Same with the cakes. And the haphazardly set-up-at-the-last-minute by friends in wedding finery reception tables. It was more beautiful than I could’ve hoped for because it was done with love.

    • Liz

      yeah. as a type-A, pain in the ass perfectionist, i had trouble accepting that there would be “surprises”- that the centerpieces may be arranged differently, etc. but it ended up being so awesome and loving and gorgeous that i would never have wanted it any other way.

    • Marina

      “On the day of, when I looked at the flowers, I didn’t wish we’d gone with a professional (whom we would not have been able to afford), I saw how much my friend loved me.”


      • Sarah

        One of my favorite memories from my wedding was showing off my bouquet. We made them … and not only did we get exactly what we wanted (even more, I think, than if we’d gone with a florist), you could look at them and see the love.

        I walked around all day saying “Look what my best friend made me!”


  • Sarah

    I grew up (and Grew Up) in a community like this. It’s something I’ve never questioned … there’s a party? Ok, what do you need me to bring? Do you need help setting up? Tearing down? What else can I do?

    Everyone I knew back home in California was like this. Nothing was expected, but then again, it always happened. We just did it, unasked, to make whatever event was happening perfect for the people who were throwing it. At our wedding, 10 people unexpectedly pitched in to help with our flowers. My sister’s boyfriend got to the ceremony location 3 hours early to help set up and put the speakers in, unasked. A friend randomly showed up at the hotel with breakfast for the wedding party. Little acts of kindness and generosity were all over the place.

    Moving to DC has been a sobering experience. I’ve been here for a year now, and there are very few (that I’ve met) who even consider offering help. And, sadly, even fewer who will help if asked. Oh, they’ll say they’ll help, but never make good on the promise. I offered to bring something to a dinner party once, and found out later the host was offended that I “thought she couldn’t do it on her own.”

    I’m not sure if it’s a cultural difference, or I’m just repeatedly running into people who just can’t grasp the concept. All the same, as we set out to plan for a reception for those who were unable to make it to California, it’s disheartening to realize we’re doing it totally on our own, in all ways. I understand that not everyone can pitch in, but someone offering to let everyone in so I can get ready? Totally welcome. And even more, enthusiasm. To feel that someone we know was excited for us would totally boost our enjoyment of it all. ::sighs::

    Wow, what a downer. Sorry about that, guys!

    • Lauren

      I totally feel you on being someone who will gladly offer help and really want to help make the whole day a good experience for the person throwing the party/wedding/show/whatever. I do it naturally, and most of the events my family has are very potluck, DIT things. But somehow, when I go outside of family, or the event is thrown by my family, but not only for us, I get the same attitude that you do– it’s an insult to offer? I’m not sure. My mother acts like we can’t let other people know we might appreciate help, even when we would gladly accept it from a family member. As a result, my wedding was much less DIT than I expected because there were going to be OTHER PEOPLE involved. It’s kind of heartbreaking, that presenting an image of ourselves as self-sufficient seems to be more important than forming a real community.

    • Class of 1980

      In my circle, it’s understood that if you are invited to a dinner party, the hosts are providing everything. The guests show up with small gifts, like a bottle of wine. Guests usually reciprocate by inviting the hosts to a dinner party at their home at a later date.

      But if we are invited to a pot luck party, then we are expected to bring a dish.

      Maybe you’ve run up against the same expectation that these are two different events?

      (Although I agree that the hostess shouldn’t have felt insulted. That’s an over-the-top reaction.)

      • Sarah

        It’s possible, though I’m not sure.

        When she invited me I said “I’d love to come! Is there anything I can contribute?” I expected one of three answers. Either “It would be great if you could bring ______.”, “No thanks, I’ve got everything covered.”, or “I’ve got it taken care of, but feel free to bring something to add if you’d like.” Her reaction totally caught me off guard.

        • Class of 1980

          She’s a touchy over-reactor! ;)

        • Liz

          as an east-coaster, can i just agree with 1980 about her sounding a wee bit touchy.

          totally NOT typical of DC-ers in general.

    • TNM

      I’m from DC and this sounds about right – for better or worse. (Though the insulted hostess you describe is a tad over-the-top!) The general expectation is just not DIT though. Of course, there are hundreds of exceptions – potlucks, neighborhood events, student life, etc – and the expectations change radically if you are talking about family and very close friends. But I’d say for a dinner party or catered event, most would just bring a bottle of wine or some flowers and think their “community” duty done.

  • Amanda

    Our wedding is this Saturday , and this post is just right . I actually wanted to write about all this “DIY” pressure that you feel and see all around. Because yeah, it would be great to throw a backyard / garden wedding if we even had a backyard that big, but this is not our case, we do not have a backyard at all so we had to find a restaurant that could fit us all . I love to cook and bake and would have liked to have that kind of party where you prepare everything for 2 days before, but this was just not possible as in we did not have a place to set the whole thing up.It just made things simpler to find a place, it is not like we had a choice. Even so for me wedding’s have always been family things where everybody helps, my mom is very crafty and made the rings cushion , and also decorated some baskets for the flowers. We are also going to do the favors, that is put cookies in bags and decorate them with colored string. We wanted to DIY the flowers, but it was not so simple since then we had to transport everything, and we are doing pots of flowers, not centerpieces so everything would fall, it woud be a big clumsy watery mess. And people are coming so the day before we have to pick up family members, friends…. That day we also have to decorate the place ourselves and make everything ready.
    Anyway, it has been said before but the whole DIY – vintage thing is not as cheap as it looks or as it seems they want us to believe it to be. For instance we tried to collect jars and old cans and vases to use them as flower pots….until we saw how expensive it was at the thrift and antique stores and even at flea markets, at least in my experience ! On the contrary…. we ended up using some glass bottles from the dollar shop .
    I guess what I want to say is that you do not have to Do everything, but you have to make things simple, and not make things more complicated than they can be. And as for the rest of the things (readings, setting things up… choosing the ceremony) where I grew up it has always been the way things are done.

  • Eat Broccoli

    These are all very interesting perspectives. I am not particularly crafty myself, both my mother and mother in law-to-be have a habit of starting crafty projects like making blankets and quilts and leaving them 1/2 done. All the ladies in my family have the skills we all know how to knit and sew but we tend to use these skills for “practical” things blankets to keep you warm, curtains for your house, or fixing holes in clothing not decorations, and “stuff” to be used once at a wedding and the gotten rid of or put in a box in the closet. I am all for DIT/DIY to save money. But is all this “stuff” people are making necessary for a wedding, wouldn’t people save even more money if you didn’t need to buy crafting supplies for your “must have” pew bows or isle runners(which my Aunt seems obsessed with)? The question my fiance and I have started asking each other about elements is, “will this matter in 10 years?” do we remember about what so and so did for their wedding? The answer is usually no. So it becomes one less thing we have to either pay a vendor for or DIY/DIT.
    So instead of saying a certain item or element is DIY/DIT, the whole wedding is DIY/DIT, it takes a whole family/community to make a wedding happen. Between learning family traditions to going shopping for dresses together or picking up certain items from the rental shop. You don’t have to be sitting down being crafty to be DIT/DIY.
    I am finding people are more then happy to help out with things they can do on their own time and that they can see will really help you out rather then making 100 jordan almond packages (and there is nothing wrong with jordan almonds!). I had one of my team members complete the search for a hair stylist at our destination wedding who would be willing to come to our hotel room. Another team member did some research for me about the cost of a certain item at various stores. They are helping, on their own time in a very specific way.

    • Class of 1980

      Amen. I think you get more impact with a few pieces executed beautifully than a million projects strewn all over the place. There are so many extraneous items that don’t actually contribute much in the way of beauty.

      • Class of 1980

        You will save money by putting everything to the test. Is the item meaningful to you or essential to the comfort of your guests? If not, feel free to eliminate it.

        I’ve never understood the allure of aisle runners, but lots of people absolutely love them. On the other hand, I’ve heard countless people say they don’t care about flowers, but they are my favorite thing.

        None of us is wrong.

    • meg

      I was just talking to another (wonderful) wedding blogger this weekend, who writes one of the very pretty wedding blogs that I’m quite fond of. Anyway, we were discussing this issue, and she said something like, “I didn’t save money on DIY, because I DID those things. If I hadn’t DIYed them, I probably wouldn’t have had them, and that’s how you really save money. I did them because I *wanted* to.” Which? Exactly.

      As for the 10 years rule, it’s always really hard to tell what things will have impact (though things you don’t do you won’t remember in 10 years, so don’t worry about that). Of the stuff we DIYed, our flowers didn’t end up mattering much. Our invitations mattered some, enough that I’ll still think of them in 10 years. Our huppah mattered HUGELY. One of the poles will probably still be on our wall in 10 years, and if not on the wall, than in our hearts.

      And my dress mattered. But we didn’t DIY that… exactly.

      • Eat Broccoli

        And everyone has those things that matter, for my aunt it pew bows??? My mom is still choked up about her bridal bouquet that she was super excited about and was far from what she ordered 30 years later! Do what matters to you the best you can! I am so glad I found APW so early in the planning process

  • Beth

    I love this site because it reminds me that it’s ok to do what we want, traditional or not, DIY/DIT or not. You do what you can with what you have because of who you are.

  • Michele

    As I’m reading all of the comments, I keep coming back to the idea of the “project triangle.” When it comes to 99% of all projects – knitting a scarf, painting a room, planning a party, buying a house, hiring an employee, and beyond – there are THREE things that people typically take into consideration: Cost, Quality, and Speed. And more to the point, people usually want things to be Fast, Good and Cheap. But the reality is that one can almost never have all three of those things. You can usually have two, but rarely three. Fast and Cheap? Sure, but you’re going to sacrifice quality. Fast and Good? OK, but it’s going to cost you. Cheap and Good? Yeah, that’s going to take some time. Fast, Cheap AND Good? Good luck.

    And weddings, as we all know, are projects. Big, expensive, time-consuming projects that we WANT to be good. Eventually, most of us figure out that SOMETHING has got to give, be it the budget (up the ante), the time line (allow more time to plan and save), or the “quality,” (subjective though it may be, but usually this refers to the aesthetics of the wedding). DIY/DIT at least gives us the opportunity to subvert the laws of the project triangle, although most who endeavor to DIY/DIT quickly learn that it’s often not much of a penny-saver, it can be quite time-consuming, and/or the reality of what we create doesn’t always match the vision we conjured up.

    All that to say that one of my girlfriends is currently struggling with the idea that SOMETHING has to to give, and is holding fast to the hope that she can plan a wedding that is big, fancy AND (relatively) cheap. She keeps asking me if I think it’s possible, and I keep telling her that she can absolutely plan a big wedding on her budget, but it likely won’t match the mental image she’s been cultivating for 30 years. Or, she can absolutely plan the wedding she envisions (in terms of aesthetics) on her budget, but that she probably won’t be able to invite everyone on their 275 person guest list. Or, she can absolutely host all 275 guests and have the elegant, classy affair with the four course meal and top-shelf bar she so very much wants, but she’ll probably have to come up with a heck of a lot more money.

    • Katelyn

      LOVE this.

      I tend to favor Good and Cheap :)

    • meg

      Yup. I live by this rule. It’s always used in theatre projects.

      That said, I don’t think you can subvert this with DIY, and I think you’ll get yourself in a world of trouble if you try. DIY means you get it good and cheap…. but it takes a huge amount of time/energy. People think, “Oh if I DIY I can get it good, cheap, and quick.” Yeah. About that. That’s when you end up trying to pour cement the day before the ceremony and realizing it’s the wrong kind of cement, and the decorations you bought to glue on look wacky, or that the cake didn’t turn out and you should have practiced, and, and, and. If you’re going to DIY, for goodness sakes give yourself enough TIME.

      That said, we totally opted for good and quick on some of our wedding elements and thank GOD.

  • Melissa

    Ugh – I’ve got a closet full of crafty shit I ordered online and am not using. I am NOT crafty. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

  • I don’t know how this is going to play out with me. Personally, I love that kind of community. It’s what I want in my life. I had it in college, and I orient to friends who share a love of community like that.

    I’m hoping and wishing and praying for a budget of 5K. It’ll probably be 3K, but I’m hoping. I’ll probably have a self catered, VFW hall buffet. And I’m okay with that. But it’s ALL pretty much going to be DIY/DIT. And I’m crafty, so that’s okay. But while I plan on buying my dress, I doubt it’ll be from a salon. I’m capping my budget at $300, which in the south is actually totally doable (my mom and I watch Say Yes to the Dress where the cheapest dress goes for 1K… when my sister got engaged we took her to a salon just to see what she liked, so we didn’t look at the prices… but she did. She tried on 10 dresses. The most expensive was $800. Way out of my price range, but still nice to know). I’m thinking of figuring out a meal that freezes well, like lasagna, then giving people who offer to help the recipe and having them freeze the meal. That way, with a uniform recipe, it is potluck without the ‘thrown together’ look (though I’m sure it’ll appear homemade.) Then I’m thinking I’ll hire a few people, not through a catering company, for $85 for the day, to heat up the food, put it out there, man the cake table, etc.

    I am planning on making my own invitations (totally fun), programs, flowers, centerpieces, Ipod list, and whatever else seems doable. And I will, and it will be fine…
    Actually, the only vendor I plan on paying for is a photographer. Well, I might have to use a rental company for some stuff. I don’t know what my venue will be and what they will have.

    But I will want help. And I don’t know what help I can get. My friends are totally the type to chip in… but they live all over the place. And my family?

    My family is odd to me. They’re from another culture, really. That might sound odd, but my entire family is from NJ, until my generation. My parents and aunts and uncles all moved away (some moved back though) and so the cousins grew up all over the country, and without each other. And my parents seem to have this idea of ‘how things are done’ that I really don’t instinctively understand but they do, and which is completely different from how things are done a) now b) here.

    So I don’t know how it’ll play out. But I admit I am sort of petrified of asking for help. B/c there is nothing, I mean nothing, I hate more then obligating people to help me. And I’m scared it’ll happen, and they’ll resent me. :(

    • Marina

      Ohhhhhh I hear ya. I was petrified of asking my family to help. And yes, there were some of them who did not help at all. But there were so, so many who did, months before or minutes before or just keeping things running during. I’m sure half the help I got I STILL don’t know about. (Who brought the chairs from the ceremony spot to the reception spot??? I don’t have a clue.)

      But here’s what I did: I called up various relatives and friends and said something along the lines of, “You are an important part of my life. I’d love to have you involved in my wedding in some way. What kind of thing do you think you might enjoy?” They will then hem and haw and freak out and have no idea how to respond, so tell them to think about it and that they should let you know if they think of anything.

      Then this next part is the difficult part. A month later when they tentatively suggest something they maybe, might possibly be interested in doing, you say, “Oh my gosh that sounds FANTASTIC!!! Thank you SO MUCH!!!” Even if what they suggest wasn’t the thing you were hoping they’d do. Even if the thing they suggest wasn’t even on your to-do list in the first place. If the thing they suggest is firmly on your “Oh hell no” list… you still have to say, “Wow, thank you SO MUCH for offering!!!” before you say anything else. Then you can say, “I’m not sure if we’ll be having giant bows on all the chairs for you to tie/we actually have a professional photographer lined up already/I promised my mother that she would be the one to do that thing, but would you be interested in this other somewhat similar thing?”

      Wow, this got longer than I thought it would. I guess it’s one of those things I wish I’d learned earlier in my own wedding process. :)

  • I haaaaaate crafting. Hate hate hate it. I thought about DIYing my invites to “save money,” but just the thought of assembling invites made me want to throw my printer out of my second story apartment window! Then, when I priced it out (nice paper, ink, my sanity, etc.) it was SO not cheaper to do DIY invites.

    However, I am somewhat regretful I didn’t take more advantage of my DIT community. My FH’s aunt LOOOOVES to craft. She made me a veil-pin for my hair, and got very upset with me when I was talking about how our centerpieces are an afterthought (FH came up with a cool idea that requires little-to-no crafting and was inexpensive and quirky, but I was worried for a bit … or, rather, I WASN’T, because I don’t care about centerpieces, but … you know what I mean!) and we still needed to figure out our card box situation. At that point, it was too late (this was a week and a half ago, and our wedding is a week and a half from now), and she was vocally upset that I didn’t come to her sooner to make us some centerpieces.

    My mother – who threw my shower – was overwhelmed with the generosity of her close girlfriends (who have been like aunts to me for the past 15 or so years), who insisted on doing EVERYTHING for the shower, even though my mother intended to cover the cost (she didn’t want my bridesmaids to “worry” about paying for a shower).

    However, you do need to know your audience. Some will beat down your door to help help help, and your cup will runneth over with how much people want to make your day special. Others, no matter how much you want them to care and how much you may need their help – even if you don’t “need” it, your soul needs it. My one bridesmaid, who happens to live nearby our wedding site (we are 3 1/2 hours away from it) was not even willing to host us at her apartment for the two weekends we needed to be out there to speak to vendors, and we had to improvise (and the dates were flexible); and couldn’t even be bothered to stay an extra half hour at my shower to have a piece of cake with me. It was painful to have her let me down that way, especially after I consoled her about not being asked to be in another friend’s wedding. I know it isn’t personal – it’s just how she is, which I’ve known for some time and have accepted that I love her despite it (for a laundry list of very GOOD reasons and for all of her GOOD qualities, as she has so many) – but it still hurt. I thought maybe – just maybe – it would be different.

    But, people aren’t going to change just for your wedding. Some may surprise you and rise to the occasion, but I think it just becomes magnified when you get married – people who are doers and givers do and give even more, and people’s faults and humanity are magnified as well.

  • I feel like this is very applicable to all aspects of life:

    “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.”

    Why does everything have to be a production, with hired help, and perfection? I feel like our booming times of success have really driven a wedge between the people and community, with money being the prominent wedge. Even when you have money to hire people to do things… do you always have to? Is there some rule?

    Thank you for posting this, because I think you are preaching on a subject that really isn’t *only* about weddings, but about the world as a whole.

  • Eliza

    I just wanted to raise the idea, because it wasn’t in the comments already and occurred to me only recently – skills swapping between brides. There are things I don’t have in my immediate ‘community’ of extended family and close friends, but that I don’t really want to hire a professional to do – I would love to DIY/T them, but I know I don’t really have the skill.

    Example: one of my best friends was talking about another friend of hers getting married, and some of the things it sounded like she needed. From the details, I realised it was a perfect match – this friend, who I don’t know that well, but have met a few times, is a graphic designer, and needs someone to be a day of co-ordinator. I would love personally designed invitations but I’m not sure I can do them myself; I am, however, very good at running things and making sure things are working how they should. Idea! I haven’t fully figured this out yet, but it’s good conceptually, yes?

    • I think two brides making plans together like this to help each other in the ways they enjoy and are talented sounds like a fabulous idea! :)

  • Another great post. Not sure I can add much to all that’s already been said here, but here is my experience from my wedding last month (almost to the day!)

    I am ‘half-ass’ crafty, meaning I’ll do anything that comes easily to me – which generally is anything that has to do with designing and printing things (on a home printer, nothing fancy) I’m not good, and have no intentions of getting good at sewing things, knitting things, doing too much gluing and detailed cutting etc. I also have a low threshold for stress and a husband who knows to challenge my sometimes overly ambitious and fanciful plans.

    I thought I was going to do a zillion of the crafty projects I saw on blogs, but as the wedding approached and I felt my stress levels rise, I said ‘F*ck it’ to a lot of things that were just too damn complicated or hard or ran the risk of turning me into a total bi-yatchy bride. In the end it didn’t matter, nobody missed the paper flower garlands, etc. and everyone kept commenting on how relaxed I seemed. Don’t get me wrong – we did do a lot of cool stuff, but again, only stuff that came easily to us.

    As for DIT, I asked my aunties to pitch in for cookies for a cookie bar, my cousin to officiate and my sisters to sing and help with flowers. I think, like anything in life it’s all about how you ask. We bent over backwards to give everyone an out – mentioning that none of it was obligatory, if they couldn’t do it we could easily find another solution, etc. etc. Everyone was more than happy to pitch in and I felt that it helped a lot of people feel more a part of the wedding. In fact most of my aunts/mother figures were angling to be part of the cookie brigade, and confessed that they would have been offended/saddened if I hadn’t asked for help.

    Amazingly, there was a lot of ‘spontaneous pitching-in’ that we neither asked for or expected. The day before the wedding we had a BBQ at a local park. Somehow everyone seemed to know when it was time to wrap up and just started packing stuff up and helping us clean up. We were done in no time. Same thing for the day after. We had everyone drop by for leftovers, mimosas and debriefing (the wedding was at my parent’s place) and at some point in the late afternoon everyone just started helping us take the flowers off the tables, pack up the outdoor heaters and throw stuff away – the party mood kept going throughout and everyone seemed glad to do it.

    I don’t know if I can say exactly why this happened, aside from the fact that we have really wonderful family and friends. It may have been because our wedding was part of a long weekend of low key events that made everyone feel relaxed and a part of the festivities, rather than polite guests attending a staged event.

  • Another fabulous post, Meg!

    I think that learning to build/shape your community in the wedding process (if you haven’t before) is a really great step for the future of your baby family, as is contributing to the shape of your community by helping others.

    I have trouble with this–I offer to help all of the time and genuinely mean it, in all areas, not just weddings.. Sometimes I feel a teensy bit sad if someone doesn’t take me up on it. But then I remember that I struggle horribly to believe that other people mean it and actually want to help me. I can do it myself, usually.

    So thanks for the everyday lesson I can take from this!

  • emmyjane

    omg love this post. I DITed a lot and loved pretty much every minute of it but sometimes feel very self conscious about it. My DIY comes from my big family who doesn’t have a lot of money. When one aunt was engaged, they bought fabric for 6 bridesmaid dresses and when the engagement fell apart, my entire family wore shirts, skirts, etc. from the fabric because you can’t let that stuff go to waste!
    The Pittsburgh/SE Ohio region also has the tradition of the cookie table where relatives and friends bring cookies to supplement the dessert selection. Asking people if they want to voluntarily participate in that (I hope) does not make me a crazy demanding person. I really just wanted to honor their talents and abilities and (to echo Jolynn above) I want to be a person who is secure enough to accept help.

  • Jackie

    I’m not very crafty, but I am planning to DIY/DIT some aspects of my wedding to save money (just like many of you here on APW). I’m doing my own flowers (bouquets, bountinneres, centerpieces, etc.), built my own cupcake stand, and have asked a friend to calligraphy my escort and place cards.

    One of the most HILARIOUS moments of wedding planning occurred one day when I was meeting with my caterer. He asked me who was doing my flowers, and I said “Oh I’m just going to DIY them.” He gave me a completely blank look. He had no idea what DIY meant. Apparently, here in DC, there are so many brides that can afford to spend several thousand of dollars on flowers that my caterer had NEVER heard of someone doing it yourself.

  • Jess

    I was actually shocked by how much our family pitched in. I thought it was nice that his uncle was officiating the ceremony, and his cousin was our reception DJ and we had other family in other typically “vendor” roles (but we definitely didn’t treat them as such) which made it feel much more intimate even though there were tons of people.

    I was so surprised, though, when more and more people came out of the woodwork in the days leading up to it to take things off my (and my family’s) plate – preparing the cookie tables, baking cookies, dropping things off and running errands, etc…. People kept commenting how I was the calmest bride ever, but I felt I had nothing to worry about thanks to all the family and friends helping out.

  • In my “past life” as a freelance makeup artist I went to many weddings, and I will never forget one where the groom came up to me a few minutes before the bridal party arrived from the salon and said, “Today I’m getting married, one of the most intimate moments of my life, and I don’t know any of the people around me.” He was referring to the coordinators, the caterers, and probably even me! That comment scared the hell out of me, and solidified my inclination to have a intimate, community centered affair. I am getting married on 10-10-10 and my (already legally married) husband and I have branded our wedding a DIT affair for many reasons: cost/ necessity, because we are already technically married so we view our wedding as a event to bring our “community” together, and because if I don’t know anything else I know how I want that day to FEEL, and that involves me, my husband, and our friends and family working to create something that doesn’t exist otherwise. It has been a wonderful experience, getting to dream up this day and create little details, but on the other hand it has been sobering and disappointing as underlying issues of our relationships with some folks have been catalyzed by the wedding: people not calling back or responding to emails for weeks, not excited about certain aspects, not really caring in general. It is something I’m struggling with every day and trying not to get bitter about. It has helped me really learn, however, that nothing is perfect and I must just do the best I can…a reality check whether it applies to relationships or DIY/DIT projects

  • So, last night, at about 1am while I’m making CDs and FH was waving fake ivy into our wicker cardbox, he started talking about how doing some of this stuff was a pain (the CDs, the centerpieces, the cardbox, etc.), but he likes that the end result is that we put it together ourselves. I love that he’s been as into this as I have. :)

    I still hate crafting; apparently, FH hates it less. :)

  • Kaitlin

    DIT is a wonderful thing. On the whole, I’ve found that no matter what the event is, people are excited to feel included and important. You pitch in a little or a lot depending on what works for you, although you can also reserve the right to say “no, I’m not able to handle that right now.” Usually when you’ve got a lot of friends and family pitching in at once, the work day actually feels like a party on its own. That being said, if it’s really so terribly repulsive to have a friend or family member ask for help that one feels the need to swear that strongly about it, maybe you should reevaluate your relationship with the happy couple and whether it’s really worth your while to attend the wedding of two people you can’t even swap favors with. Weddings are joyful events. Find a little joy, or politely decline.

  • A Different Take on DIY (and DIT) « A Practical Wedding: Ideas for Unique, DIY, and Budget Wedding Planning

  • A Different Take on DIY (and DIT) « A Practical Wedding: Ideas for Unique, DIY, and Budget Wedding Planning

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