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"Don't It Yourself" ... or "Tales of a Do-It-Yourself Wedding"

October 5, 2010 - Phyllis Sigal
There's something to be said for a "do-it-yourself" wedding. But much of it can't be shared on a family blog site!

As I was trying to iron the creases out of the table clothes I purchased online, I was wishing I was independently wealthy and could afford the expensive, luxurious, perfectly steamed ones.

On my third trip to the craft store, I was wishing that I let Sam from Masterpieces take care of the centerpieces. And did we really save any money by the time we bought the baskets, the cork, the grapes, the candles, the wine glasses to hold more candles? I'm not so sure. Probably some, but maybe not a lot.

As I stressed about my husband having time to get all the pork tenderloin etc. cooked for the rehearsal dinner, I wished we had As You Like It cater that ... too. But, Amanda did want her friends to experience her dad's delicious food.

Luckily, we had talked F.O.B. Bruce into letting As You Like It take care of the reception — with the exception of one big pot of red sauce for the pasta and the herbed shrimp that rested on the Venetian gondola ice sculpture. And we picked up the bread at our favorite bread shop in Pittsburgh.

Can you imagine the father of the bride actually preparing all of the food? "Sorry, I can't walk the bride down the aisle, I've got to go check on the food ..."

The thought of that gave me nightmares in the weeks prior to us finally talking him out of the crazy responsibility. And still, I was stressing the day of the wedding when he was chopping basil around noon and hadn't gotten the pot of sauce to the reception site early enough for me. I pictured it spilled all over the car or his tuxedo. (That didn't happen, luckily!)

With two event planners in the family, the bride and the F.O.B., we did have a bit of an advantage. Plus, Bruce served as "wedding orchestrator" and I was his "assistant" for one of my best friend's daughter's wedding a few months ago. We sure learned a lot that week! (Thanks, Lisa!)

So, for Amanda and Chris' wedding, Bruce took care of all the music and the sound system and selected and ordered the wine and beer. Amanda designed and printed her own invitations, as well as the programs and the after-party invitations. She pretty much made all of the major decisions. And I just made lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of phone calls and arrangements — plates, chairs, tables, venue rental, cake, flowers, ice sculpture, ice sculpture storage, ice sculpture delivery. The list goes on. List after list after list kept me sane for the weeks preceding the event.

I can see how wedding planners earn their money, that's for sure.

But, all that said, I'd do it again the do-it-yourself way in a heartbeat.

When you sit back and look at the results, and can say, "Wow. We did all that. We made it look this way, ourselves, with our creativity and our own hands." Well, it's just very rewarding. And, just think of the money we saved!

So, here are some of my DIY tips .... if you still want to do it yourself ...


• Hire a caterer! It doesn't matter how talented a chef you are, a caterer has staff to arrange the food on the tables and pass hor d'ouvres and replenish the chafing dishes and make the coffee and cut the cake and clear and wash the dishes etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

• Use the talents of your friends. A bridesmaid and a friend of the couple sang during the ceremony. The bridesmaid and the brother of the bride sang special songs during the reception. Another friend — very accomplished pianist Nathan Strasser — donated his piano talents as his wedding gift to the couple. One of my friends made all of the jewelry for the bride, bridesmaids and for me! Several of my bookclub friends tended bar for the evening.

• Plan, plan, plan. And as early as possible. Amanda and Chris' engagement was only five months and 22 days. Not a lot of time. It's best to get the big decisions out of the way early, so that you can concentrate on the details. As Amanda put it, "I've got the large stones in place. I just have to fill in the little pebbles." And the least you save for the week of the event, the better. It's amazing how easy it is to run out of time.

• Do compare prices. Check out buying linens instead of renting. I found it amazing that I could purchase linens for less money than renting at some places.

• Remember the adage "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue"? The BORROWED part sure comes in handy and saves money! We borrowed a friend's cake server so as not to have to purchase one just for the day.

• Have plenty of friends around especially on the day before and day of the wedding — for extra hands as well as for emotional support. And delegate! Don't be setting up chairs four hours before the ceremony when you still have basil to chop and a sauce to finish and the bar to set up and a shower to take and a tux to put on. (Oh, OK, OK. F.O.B. was ready in plenty of time, despite my worrying.)

• Have a timeline of the wedding day printed out and give copies to all involved. It saves lots of stress! Everybody knows where they need to be and who should be doing what when.

• Have a list ready of all the photos you want to be taken between the ceremony and reception. It makes the process go much more quickly. And you get to the reception to visit with your guests.

• Double-check EVERYTHING the week before the wedding. Confirm times for delivery of flowers, cake, tables and chairs, and of caterer's arrival.


• Don't leave anything to chance. Don't assume anything.

• Don't panic.

• Don't do EVERYTHING yourself. Did I mention, hire a caterer?

And a couple more Dos:

• Do have fun, do enjoy the day and do take it all in. Because when it's all said and done, that's what's important — that the parents, the guests and ESPECIALLY the couple have a great day.


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Blog Photos

There's Bruce working on the pork tenderloin for the rehearsal dinner. Close to 40 guests enjoyed his cooking.