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Dos and Don'ts for Saving Money on a DIY Wedding

Find smart DIY choices that will help save money on your wedding.

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Handmade food items like this bottle of olive oil make great DIY wedding favors.
Photo courtesy of Heather Waraksa Photography

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Handling some wedding tasks yourself can be a great way to personalize your event and save money. But don't go too far, says wedding expert Annie Lee, principal planner for event planning firm Daughter of Design. Her rule of thumb? "If you can do it months in advance while you're watching TV, go for it," she says. "If it's time-sensitive, don’t risk it. And whatever you do, don't bake."

The final days before your wedding will be hectic: last-minute errands, family in town, seating charts to finalize, rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, packing for the honeymoon and more. There's no room for anything unnecessary.

Smart DIY Choices

Invitations and other paper items. If you're crafty — or you have a friend who's a nifty graphic designer — DIY invitations can be a highly personalized touch that won't cost you a fortune. "You can even cut your own envelope liners from wallpaper to dress them up," Annie says. "I also had a client make a rubber stamp of her menu, which she inked and applied to paper doilies. You could get a calligrapher or do it yourself on the computer."

Courtesy of Susan Stripling Photography

Decor items, such as centerpieces and other reception focal points. "One of my brides is trying to fold a thousand paper cranes for her December wedding," Annie says.

Fashion accessories. These aren't easy for everybody, but if you have the knack, handmade earrings, necklaces and belts can be fantastic wedding party gifts. You can even custom-dye your bridesmaids' dresses if that skill is something you're known for, and it will be meaningful to your friends to wear something made with love.

Favors. This is one place where DIY food items can be really special, as long as they can be prepared well in advance. "If there's a meaningful family tradition, all the better," Annie says. "The father of one of my clients made jam, for example, and it was a big hit."

Courtesy of Jean Spencer for Craig Paulson Photography

Music. "I'm not opposed to reception music coming from an MP3 player," Annie says, "as long as there's a person whose dedicated responsibility it is to monitor it, turn it down during speeches and so on. Creating your own playlist can actually be really nice. But the exception would be classical music — when you can see that the musicians aren't there, it feels really fake."

Leave These to the Experts

Food. "The last week before your wedding is so stressful," Annie says. "Don't give yourself the added chore of baking 150 pies — unless you own a bakery. Well, not even then."

Flowers. Because flowers are by nature a last-minute item, doing your own arrangements is a bad idea even if you're a talented decorator. It's much more hassle than you realize. "For one simple wedding we did, we had what sounded like a very minimal job: just an order of hydrangeas to snip and put in vases, and candles to line up on the tables," Annie says. "But it took forever to unpack everything, remove price stickers on vases, clean and dry them, fill them with water, arrange all the tables, haul out the garbage and sweep the floors. My assistants and I were exhausted — and that was just setup." If you do all of your own reception decor, you'll have to break it down yourself afterward, which is probably not how you envisioned spending your wedding night.

Photos. Although you aren't likely to take your own photos, you might have a friend you're thinking of asking, but don't. "I’d rather have someone skip flowers and food than skip a good professional photographer," Annie says. "There is nothing worse than seeing a bride and groom disappointed in the outcome of the photos. It's your wedding. You can't hit rewind."

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