Most ‘Wedding Checklists’ contain items like “call the caterer” or “book the venue”. But what if your wedding is truly DIY, and you are the caterer? This list breaks down the major items to tackle before your wedding and gives you real DIY tips.
- Choose your date. Don’t forget to take into account any other important dates (holidays, relatives’ birthdays and anniversaries, etc).
- Consider your wedding budget. How much can you afford to spend on your wedding?
- Build your guest list. Keep your budget in mind and calculate food costs.
- Choose your wedding party and notify them of your date.
- Venue. If you have a small budget or timeline, you might look at local parks or friends’ homes. Keep in mind where your guests will park, and don’t forget to consider any elderly or disabled guests’ needs. Can they walk through the park without assistance? Assign strong friends to assist anyone who may need help getting to your location if you don’t have another option. If you’re having your wedding outdoors, you might need to rent a tent in case of bad weather, or simply for comfort during the reception. For an indoor wedding, you’d be surprised that guests don’t mind standing during a short ceremony. If you are in a private home, there may not be a need for a large place for people to sit.
- Book your officiant. Who’s going to perform the ceremony? If you’re having a close friend become ordained for your wedding, give them plenty of time to obtain their credentials. Otherwise, be sure your officiant is available on your date.
- Photographer. If you’re hiring a photographer, now is the time to book them! Ask to see previous wedding portfolios to see if your styles mesh. If you’re having a friend take your photos, show them examples of the kinds of photos you want for your wedding. Have your friend take some pictures as an engagement session to give them some practice.
- Out of town guests. If you have a lot of people coming in from out of town, it’s a good idea to get in touch with some local hotels and see if you can hold some rooms for your guests. If this isn’t an option, talk to friends that might have guest rooms for some of your out of town visitors.
- Purchase or order your rings. If you need to order them, it could take time, so check with your jeweler to see how long it takes to get special orders in, and then add a few weeks “just in case.”
- Food. Decide on your reception menu. If you’re having family or friends help out, get yourself on their calendars right away! Meet with them a month or two before the wedding to hammer down the details. Schedule plenty of time in the day or two before to do any prep work. Perhaps you want a mix of homemade and catered food. Many restaurants will prepare a large batch of your favorite dish and let you pick it up. This way those chicken enchiladas from the restaurant on Main Street can live happily on a plate with your mother’s famous fruit salad.
- Décor is a big part of your wedding. You need to choose colors and start making your decorations as soon as possible so you’ll have plenty of time to finish them all. Assemble a group of friends to help you mass-produce anything you’re making by yourself.
- Schedule an appointment with a dress or tux shop to choose your look. If you want to surprise your bride or groom, you might need two appointments, but many stores have separate areas where you can’t see each other. If you’re foregoing the “fancy” entirely, then simply choose the color scheme you like.
- Choose your wedding party’s ensemble. If you’re keeping costs low, this can be as easy as giving them some pieces of fabric and letting them choose based on those colors.
- Choose a style and kind of cake you want. If you’re making your own, you’ll need to purchase any décor pieces that will adorn the cake. Check with friends to see if they know someone who is great at baking or decorating. Be unique: Cheesecakes or other specialty cakes from a local fine food vendor are a great substitute for the traditional wedding cake.
- Entertainment. Are you hiring a musician or do you have some talented friends. Talk with your soon-to-be spouse about music preferences. Then get together with your performers and relay your ideas. Will your playlist be the DJ? Test out the speakers you will be using to make sure they can be heard by everyone.
- Create your invitations. This should be done after everything and everyone has been booked. If any of the other things can’t be done on your date, you might need to change the date, and you definitely don’t want to have to re-print whole new batch of invitations. Search online for invitation making programs if you aren’t too savvy with graphic design.
- Flowers! If you’re using flowers, now is the time to decide if you want to hire a florist or make the displays yourself. If you live in a large city, you likely have a flower market where you can buy the flowers, and then assemble the bouquets yourself. Look online for local florists and see if they deliver. If you’re having fresh flowers, you may need an empty fridge to keep them in if they’re delivered the day before.
- Do you need someone to do your hair or makeup? Grab a talented friend, or check with a local salon. Is there a cosmetology school in your area? Students will often charge less for services than an already licensed professional.
- Buy or make your wedding party gifts. It’s also a good time to think about wedding favors for all of your guests. You’ll find a lot of great ideas for every budget. Consider making a donation to your favorite local charity in place of wedding party gifts.
- Music. Choose any music you want to play during the ceremony or reception. If you’re not putting anyone else in charge of this, make a playlist on your MP3 player. Chances are, you or a friend also has speakers that will project the music louder.
- Transportation. Does the wedding or reception venue have adequate parking? If not, consider having friends transport guests from another parking area. If parking is very limited, save the closest parking spaces for elderly or disabled guests.
- Reception prep. How big is your reception area? If you’re having it at someone’s home, you may need to rent some tables and chairs. Don’t forget tablecloths, dish-ware, cutlery, glasses, and napkins.
- Write your vows if you’re planning to write your own. This process can take longer for some people, so start sooner if you need to.
- Obtain your marriage license! Check locally to see how far in advance your license needs to be purchased.
- Plan your rehearsal dinner. Perhaps you’re having an intimate dinner at a friend’s home, or a back yard barbecue. Take into account the size of the wedding party plus any family members that will be in attendance. Take note of dietary restrictions among your guests. Do they have food allergies? Vegetarian or vegan diets? Don’t go overboard, but make sure to offer something that everyone can eat. Perhaps a “make your own salad bar” can go a long way.
- Enlist your wedding party to help you set up and decorate the venue(s) the day before your wedding. This can be followed up by the rehearsal and dinner.
- Check that your arriving flowers have a location to live in before the ceremony. If you are assembling them at one location, how are they getting to the ceremony site?
- Meet with the family or friends that are helping with food. Check that your venue has the required utensils and trash receptacles.
A DIY wedding is a lot of work. Don’t let it be too stressful, ask family and friends to help you with the pieces of the process. With enough time, helpful friends, and careful planning, Your wedding will be everything that you and your partner dream of.