Cliff-Top NuptialsThe Couple: Amanda and Jon Hebert
The Location: Chimney Rock Park, Chimney Rock, N.C.
Amanda's Story: "We wanted our wedding to reflect our personalities as much as possible. My husband is a graphic artist/web designer and I am a geologist. We love the mountains; we are creative, and we love things that are non-traditional. We took all of those aspects and designed our wedding around them. Our wedding took place on the top of a solid rock cliff. There was no room for chairs and the terrain was uneven. I decided to take advantage of the natural landscape by making the rocks themselves the seating area. I scoured garage sales for inexpensive chair cushions. I created covers for them and made bows that matched my wedding colors to tie the end of the cushions shut. Comfortable and stylish, they were a big hit!"
Be confident that you can do it yourself: "I single handedly made all the decorations for the wedding and reception, as well as my headpiece, all the bouquets and boutonnieres, and the cushions for everyone to sit on during the ceremony. I had no previous experience, but I decided to attempt it anyway. There is a wealth of knowledge on the internet for making your own wedding decorations. It's so much easier than you think!"
Keep it simple: "Otherwise, you will overwhelm yourself with things that other people will never notice anyway. My husband put it a perfectly when he said 'Do you remember the colors from that wedding we attended two weeks ago?' I thought about it for a few moments and answered, 'No, I don't.' He said, 'Well, no one is going to remember the tiny details of ours either. So, stop stressing out about the little things and focus on the overall mood or environment that you want to get across.' Just one of the many reasons I married him!"
Organization is crucial: "Because no matter how organized you are, something will go awry. I had list after list for myself and I emailed lists of duties to each person involved in the planning. We still left some of the crucial items at our cabin. However, the thing to remember is that there is always a way to improvise. We found a few items in the park gift shop about three minutes before the wedding began that worked out perfectly."
DIY Planning PerfectedThe Couple: Sara Sartarelli & Tony Hudson
The Location: The Chapel on Fir Hill, Akron, Ohio
Sara's Story: "I'm pretty much a perfectionist, so having complete control over the wedding outcome was important to me. For my wedding, we made almost everything — the bridal gown, flower girl and bridesmaids' dresses. We also made all the flower arrangements and bouquets. One of my bridesmaids did everyone's makeup and my best friend's sister did everyone's hair. It was a huge undertaking. I would advise other brides to allow six months to a year for planning in order to keep stress levels to a minimum."
DIY only if you dare: "If you don't have really talented people offering to help, don't do-it-yourself! Also, don't feel obligated to accept peoples' offers of help if they aren't qualified. Having something done incorrectly or halfway will stress you out even more than paying to have it done professionally."
Keep the day in perspective: "My maid of honor helped me keep the day in perspective. She reminded me that it was only a one-day event and that in the grand scheme of things, many small decisions were not as huge as I was making them out to be!"
Don't forget to plan the perfect honeymoon: "One of the most important parts of planning a wedding is fully researching your honeymoon. We ensured that our destination would be exactly what we wanted. I have too many friends who ended up with less than beautiful resorts and stressful honeymoons."
Completely Customized CeremonyThe Couple: Jaci and Brian Bonanno
The Location: Hightstown, N. J.
Jaci's Story: : "My advice is that no matter who is paying for the wedding, who will be attending, or how much money you have; make your wedding about the two of you. Because you and your husband are the ones who will best remember the day. And most importantly YOU, the bride, will be the ONLY one who notices what is wrong, so try not to over think everything and just have fun! To customize my wedding and save money, I did everything myself. From the sash I wore to the cupcakes, to the centerpieces, to the invitations — everything!"
Leave room for happy accidents: "I knew I wanted a sash as part of my dress, but I couldn't find the right fabric no matter where I looked. I finally found it on another dress, but it had a cummerbund look to it, so I just turned it inside-out. To my surprise it perfectly matched the bridesmaids' dresses, a detail that I didn't realize until the day of the wedding."
Add your own personal touch: "I made my veil because I couldn't find the perfect one in any stores. I also made the cupcake stand myself; I covered it with fabric and wound butterfly garland around it — butterflies are my favorite! I chose cupcakes instead of a traditional cake, because that is what I wanted and not what was 'supposed' to be."
Save money wherever you can: "My invitations and programs for 200 people cost a total of $80.00 because I did them myself, and none of our guests could believe that. Honestly, people throw them away so why spend thousands or even hundreds on them? Also, I didn't want elaborate centerpieces for the reception tables, so I put together little flower pots with bows, they looked great and doubled as a favor as well."
DIY Couple Does It AllThe Couple: Lura & Shon Roti
The Location: The Old Coliseum in Sioux Falls, S. D.
Lura's Story: "Shon and I met at a small downtown pub and quickly became friends. We learned that we have so many similarities — we both love antiques, old houses, and are do-it-yourselfers. Our goal was to have a fun but elegant wedding within our budget; we spent about $9,500 on our wedding including the reception for about 250 guests. Shon I did everything ourselves except cater the meal."
Design the dresses yourself: "I designed and made my own wedding dress; it is dupioni silk and only cost about $250 to make. My bridesmaid dresses were sleeveless blue sundresses and all were either sewn by my bridesmaids themselves or by a local seamstress. Our colors were robin's-egg blue and chocolate brown, so to coordinate the bridesmaids' dresses; I added brown sashes to each. My flower girls' dresses were purchased white dresses to which I added a blue sash made of the same fabric as my bridesmaid dresses. My advice is that if you or someone else is going to make your dress, try on a similar one in a store so you'll know that style will look good on you. Also, don’t think you are going to lose those extra pounds before the wedding, make sure the dress looks good on you as you are. Remember, that’s who he fell in love with in the first place. I also recommend that if you are new to sewing make a practice dress — I made several."
Be your own florist: "I also created all the floral arrangements for my wedding: my bouquet, the boutonnieres and the bridesmaids' flowers. To ensure they would be fresh for the big day, I put them together the night before the wedding. I worked with a local wholesaler and used 300 white long-stem roses. Don’t be afraid to ask the florist for tips, even if they are not making your bouquets for you. I had never worked with flowers before, so I asked for a few tips and they were more than helpful."
Design a central theme: "Shon designed our monogram which we incorporated in several aspects of our wedding; this really helped us tie everything together visually. Not only did we use it to seal our invitations, we also included it in our programs and on the reception tables. For the ceremony, we designed a 6 x 6 foot version of our monogram for the area in front of the altar, which my little brother covered with rose petals the day before our wedding."
Second Time's the CharmThe Couple: Lisa and Jack Femrite
The Location of the wedding and reception: The Femrite's new home in Charlotte, N.C.
Lisa's Story: "Both Jack and I had been married before, so we decided to have a small wedding at our new home. We had not yet filled it up with furniture so we decided to rent tables and chairs, which worked out nicely."
Recruit help: "We planned to invite only immediate family to the ceremony and extended family and friends to the reception, but we soon had 40 people attending the ceremony at 11:00am with the reception following at 2:00pm at the same location! What to do with them while we transformed the ceremony space from rows of chairs to a reception space with skirted tables and chairs complete with centerpieces and set up the food and drinks? I put them to work! Those who were already in 'party mode,' I sent outside to the deck with a cocktail."
Know when to hire a caterer: "Make sure you have a lot of hired help for set-up, service and clean up. I thought I had secured help three times only to have them cancel on me. My friends all agreed to pitch in but I still ended up taking the overflowing trash bag out — in my wedding dress! Luckily I love to entertain; I planned all the food and drinks and made a lot of the food myself. Unless, you're really confident in your cooking skills, don't do that. Can you say caterer?!"
Let your family play a part: "I have two children from a former marriage, my son gave me away and my daughter was my maid of honor. My husband's father was his best man and my new niece was the flower girl. I especially advise that if this is a second wedding, involve your family. I could not have wanted anyone more than my children to stand there beside me."
A Fashion Designer Designs-It-HerselfThe Couple: Mariana Leung and Adam Weinstein
The Location: Casa Loma in Toronto, Ontario
Mariana's Story: "I am a designer in the fashion industry. While I was on a limited budget, I was not willing to compromise on style. The things that cost the most in the wedding industry are custom-made, or that's what we are told. I wanted everything custom, but it ended up costing less because I designed it or made it myself. I think anyone with a creative mind, and lots of helpful friends and family can do this."
Be your own fashion designer: "For my gown, I designed a simple dress with an embroidered detail which was sewn by a friend. For my bridesmaids' gowns, I knew I HAD to go custom because each of them have wildly different body types and no manufacturer could produce a dress that suited all of them. Even if I did find something in a store that would work for all of them, tailoring each dress to suit each bridesmaid would be expensive."
Show vendors your designs: "I knew exactly what I wanted for my wedding cake, so I drew it to scale, showed my design to several pastry chefs and asked them to bid for the job. I did the same thing with florists; I showed them a photo of an arrangement my husband made, got multiple bids and got exactly what I wanted for a price that fit my budget."
Create your own invitations: My husband and I printed our own invitations. You really don't have to be a professional designer to do this; you just need a good home printer and a sense of color. I went to the most expensive stationers with a sketchpad and noted everything I liked, then I went home and put together what I wanted. Add elements with high-impact, like ribbon and three-dimensional items. The paper-punches that you can buy at any craft store are great for this. Even a toddler can use them, but once you glue the punched design on paper, you instantly add a graphic, hand-made look.