Wedding 101: To DIY or NOT to DIY – Make the Decision and Stick to It

weddOh yes, it’s all the rage to DIY (Do-It-Yourself) everything nowadays. That trend has carried over into wedding planning, with Pinterest-inspired brides and grooms deciding they don’t need professional wedding vendors in order to execute the most important day of their lives.

Planning a DIY wedding can be a LOT of fun for the two of you as a couple if you enjoy working together on crafty projects and you’re able to make decisions as a team.  It’s definitely more affordable than hiring professionals to provide all of your services, but there’s also no rule that say you must DIY every aspect of your wedding.

Some couples skip hiring a wedding planner but still contract with professional florists, caterers, and professional photographers and videographers, to make sure that everything looks perfect, tastes perfect, and is forever memorialized in the manner they’ve chosen. But they research and choose their vendors, negotiate their own contracts, and are in charge of coordinating the activities on their wedding day.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, for some of us wedding planners), there’s another whole group of wanna-be-DIY destination brides and grooms out there who realized they do not actually have time to DIY their wedding, but they want their wedding to appear to be very trendy and personalized as if they had spent hours and hours tying little bows and making nifty signs. What do those couples do to achieve their goal? They hire a wedding planner to plan the wedding and then insist on ordering everything they can find on Instagram from craft stores, and dump literally hours of project assembly time on their wedding planners. That isn’t DIY anything. That’s called shopping online while you wait for a taxi, buying little things to torture your wedding planning staff.

That’s it, I’m saying no. From here on out, I am going to tell my wedding clients that if they’ve made the decision to DIY something, they need to actually DIY the damned things themselves. No more mailing me fifty parts to assemble into some ridiculous piece of décor that nobody notices anyway and expecting our staff to do all the handiwork ourselves so that you can stand there and take the kudos from your wedding guests. That’s not what we signed up for, that’s not what your contract says, and frankly, it’s just not our job.

If you want to hand out little packages containing the accoutrements to S’mores for your beach party fire pit, you’re going to have to pay my staff to sort it all out, stuff it all into little packages, and tie bows with little personalized messages onto each of them. Oh you had plenty of time to have the tags printed, which by the way you never mentioned to us when you told us you had shipped all the contents to us, but you clearly are wayyy too busy to assemble the little goodies yourselves.

If you find it’s cheaper to buy votives online and send them down to us than renting what we have available, and you send us a zillion little rhinestone stripes to put on them, we’re going to keep track of the time it takes to create them and bill you for it. If you mail us personalized labels to put on your water bottles, that doesn’t cost you anything because, obviously, we’re buying the cases of water down. But things are meant to be DIY projects have to be done by the brides and grooms and not by me or my staff.

Don’t worry – I’m not going to surprise any of my clients who already have all these insane little DIY projects in the works. We’ll finish those up with a smile. But I’m going to put everybody else on notice – if you ship something to me for your destination wedding that was supposed by DIY’d, you’d better actually Do-It-Yourself before you package it up in a box to send to me.

The trendiest décor has a lot of little personalized touches – really an insane amount – demonstrating little bitty labels and framed personal messages and special signage. I think it’s all fabulous. In fact, I encourage my clients to buy those things, already assembled, from other vendors who make them (think Etsy), and send them on down to the island. We’re happy to package it all back up for no extra fee, and ship it back to you afterwards on your dime. Or you can leave it behind for another bride and we won’t charge any rental fee the first time we use it. Sort of a bridal paying-it-forward concept that has worked for years and made former brides smile when they see parts of their own specially-created centerpieces popping up in other bride’s pictures.

But do not ship me more than 100 little succulent plants and cacti, and a hundred little vases you’ve painted neon colors in front of the TV one night, and expect me to get potting soil and actually plant those suckers for free. You cannot even imagine the freakin’ mess it made. They were really cool and they looked great but we spent an insane number of man hours actually putting them together and dealing with the mess. And then watering them and taking care of them up until the wedding. Afterwards, they gifted a large number of them back to us. None of the plants survived. I think two of the neon vases remain – one in Casa de Intern and one holding bobby pins in my bathroom office.

I won’t even discuss the labor involved in using live fish in décor – there’s a $1,500 nuisance fee attached. Period. But that’s a whole other blog. And every kid on my street has pet fish to prove what a nightmare it was for us even after the wedding was over.

When you hire a wedding planner, at home or in a destination, you didn’t hire a DIY slave to do all your dirty work while you sit back and reap the benefits of spending less on your wedding. You hired a professional consultant to book your vendors, execute your wedding plans and make sure your day goes perfectly. She never agreed to stay up all night hot-glue gunning your seashell DIY bouquet back together after you made it cheaply, packed it badly, and we received it in 35 pieces. Broach bouquets will lose all their stones if they’re badly packed and shipped – imagine the time with the crazy glue and the tweezers putting it all back together.

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I’m not saying that wedding planners don’t do some of the décor creative work because we do, quite a lot of it actually. My interns leave here having tied literally thousands of ribbons into bows on hundreds of napkins, favor packages, special gifts for wedding party, and welcome bags for guests. We tied lace and ribbon on things, and deal with tulle on a weekly basis. Although we hate burlap with a passion (and it stinks), we’ve got a tight relationship with it and have learned to tie some slammin’ bows. Poofing out those popular pompon lanterns takes hours too, and it’s part of our job. But creating pretty tags for your individualized welcome bags (when they were all supposed to be the same), building structures out of pieces in boxes without sufficient directions, and gluing on anything that involves glitter or rhinestones is going to cost you by the hour.

You see, if you pick DIY projects off wedding websites on the Internet but you have no plan to actually assemble them, you’re NOT doing it yourself. In which case, you either have to buy the item fully assembled and have it properly shipped (when things come from vendors, they’re usually fully intact and well-packaged), or you have to DIY that stuff at your own home, package it up properly, and mail it to your destination. I suggest you include a few extra of whatever you’re mailing too, just in case there’s breakage along the way. Half the boxes we receive in Puerto Rico from clients look like a fat man rode on top of them all the way here. Not kidding.

If you’re going to DIY part of your wedding, commit to it.  Actually create a plan, buy the supplies, and make the cutesy little stuff. We don’t have a full-time craft department of wedding elves just sitting around here dying to bust our glue Glocks (thank you to a hilarious client who taught me that expression). When I got married, I was the original DIY bride and I shipped 32 boxes of stuff to the Caribbean ahead of my arrival because I didn’t have a wedding planner to count on. Every hand-painted Christmas ornament favor was carefully boxed in tissue, tied with a ribbon, and then individually bubble wrapped. The bags of goodies for the kids at the wedding were pre-assembled and ready to go. Yes, I actually did it myself!

It’s not that we don’t want to help you, we do. It’s that wedding planning services contracts don’t call for us to become a personal crafting team for each set of clients we service. If it did, we’d charge a lot more money for the work we do. I doubt you’d expect a planner in your hometown to do your DIY projects for you, so why would you expect that to be the responsibility of your destination wedding planner. Trust me, we already spend plenty of time reformatting the spreadsheets you couldn’t follow directions for and repairing what you did mail that arrived broken.

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Remember, we’re supposed to spend our time planning, coordinating vendors, executing the perfect wedding day for you and your fiancé, not finishing the DIY projects that looked so “dear” on Pinterest but took hours so you dumped them on us. If we have to spend time doing that because you didn’t have your act together, you’re going to have to pay for our time to do it for you. A better idea: If you don’t have the time to DIY, DON’T TRY!

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Sandy Malone Weddings & Events!

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Sandy Malone is the star of TLC’s reality show “Wedding Island” and a regular blogger for the Huffington Post and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a successful Caribbean destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island just off the coast of Puerto Rico. She also owns Weddings in Culebra, Flowers on Vieques and Boutiques in Vieques. Please follow her on Twitter!

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