A DIY Wedding: Total Control

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One of the reasons we decided to have an outdoor wedding at my parents’ house was not only because their property is gorgeous but because doing so would give us control over everything – from who catered to where we bought our booze, from the layout of the event space to the decorations.

I’m also a bit of a control freak. 🙂

One thing I wanted to do was create a “brand” for our wedding, a look-and-feel that would span across the entire experience from our invitations to the reception. After some initial discussing (and convincing of the man), we settled on a theme – casual handwritten chalkboard purple. LOL It made sense to us. And I saw it all coming together in my head.

Below I’ll detail many of our decisions, DIY crafts, and show the final products so you can see how it all came together.


Save the Date

We did not send out physical save the dates. We told most people verbally, we set up this website with all the pertinent information and we sent out an email I’d designed with one of our engagement photos and a fun little design I made. Our engagement photos were also very  DIY. We decided to skip out on the engagement session with our wedding photographer in favor of having a second shooter on the day-of. We’d just bought a new camera so we had a friend go downtown with us and take a series of “engagement style” type photos. It was fun, easy and didn’t cost us anything. The save the dates were also free since we did them through email. All it cost was the time I’d spent to design them.

Save the Date! 



To be honest, I’d started designing invitations months before we even got engaged. There were just too many good ideas out there and I get itchy for fun, creative projects outside of work.  I’d put together half a dozen different styles (including the one above for the save the date) that we considered before settling on the chalkboard theme.

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SO as you can see, I’d been thinking about this for a long time and had plenty of options for us to work with. We decided on the chalkboard theme for everything since I really wanted to use chalkboards at the wedding. And we started tweaking the design and layout, going through five or six versions before we landed on a final version, which I looooooove.

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RSVP Cards




(One note about the back of the RSVP card — I didn’t think about this but the place for the NAME and NUMBER ATTENDING are in the EXACT SPOTS where the Post Office stamps information so we had a hard time reading who they were from and how many were coming.)


Leftover Day – we decided to have a special day for out of town guests the day after the wedding so we could actually spend time with the folks who had traveled a long distance to be there. You don’t really get to talk to people at the wedding so leftover day was a lot of fun.



We got everything printed at Vistaprint, which I use for EVERYTHING all the time. They have consistently good quality and coupons out the wazoo. But let me tell you what I ended up doing to get everything printed even cheaper than usual.  Instead of going through their wedding invitation section for this set – because they were going to include envelopes for the RSVPs and charge me more, when I didn’t need that. I ordered the 2 sided invite (6 x 9) with envelopes. Then for both the RSVP and Leftover day cards, I just ordered Postcards. The postcard option, for businesses, ended up being cheaper, even though I had to order 200 of them (when I only need like 150). It was still cheaper than if I had set everything up through the invitation section. I went through the shopping cart twice – both ways – to figure it out, but don’t always think you have to do things the way a website has it labeled. Pull back and think about things logistically. Yes, they are RSVP cards, but what are they really? They’re just postcards. So think outside the box and save yourself some moolah!



Chalkboard Signs

One of my summer craft projects was creating “chalkboards” that we could us as signs at the wedding. I scoured all the Goodwills in the area for the coolest looking frames (usually surrounding the ugliest pieces of art lol), and bought a ton of spray paint in my wedding colors (shades of purple and silver), as well as a few cans of chalkboard spray paint.


Taking the frames apart was actually the trickiest part to get the glass out of them and I ended up shattering a few pieces of glass. But have no fear! I just kept a piece of cardboard from whatever was in the frame and spraypainted that. I didnt need these to last forever. They just had one purpose to serve.

I ended up with 13 frames and one giant piece of wood (see below). Out of the 13 frames, I think 8 of them still have  glass in them, so I can reuse those as signs at future parties.


One of my amazing bridesmaids had great handwriting and loves lettering things so I handed her the Liquid Chalk pens I’d bought and a list of the signs I wanted and let her go to town!

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This one is my favorite 🙂 I’m trying to figure out how to use it somewhere at home because I don’t want to get rid of it.



Ceremony Program

Instead of wasting paper and printing something that 99% of the people would throw out, we opted to just one giant chalkboard as our program. It was just an extra piece of plywood we had in our shed. We spraypainted it with the chalkboard paint and handed it to the bridesmaid who was in charge of signs and told her to have at it 🙂 I love how it turned out.



Handmade Paper Flowers

I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to spend money on flowers. But what to do instead? Thank goodness for Pinterest! That’s where I found tons of ideas for flower alternatives including balloons (more on that later!) and paper flowers. But what kind of paper? Why, how about pages from my all time favorite books? I used pages from Harry Potter (books 3 and 6, obviously…. because 3 is when Ron and Hermione start their love affair and book 6 is full of all the love!)

I tried three or four tutorials before I found one that I didn’t completely mess up. This is the one I used. The first time it took about 10+ minutes to make one flower but you can get into a groove and move faster. Or set up an assembly line to do each section, which is what we did. Then I bribed a dozen of my friends and family members with mimosas to spend a day helping me craft (mostly spray painting frames and bottles, and making these damn flowers).

First we ripped all the pages out of the books (oh, blasphemy!) and then dusted each page with a quick spritz of spray paint outside. They dry SUPER quick – like thirty seconds – so this part is easy. Then we stacked them up in random color order and followed the tutorial linked above.

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The flowers took forever and even with all their help, we only got about 60 done. Total I needed about 80 so I’d have enough for the bouquet and in case we wanted to decorate the arch we bought (at Aldi – for $35. Seriously. The tent place wanted to charge me $100 just to rent one.) So a few weeks later, two of our friends came over to help me and Justin finish making flowers. Watching the boys hot glue flowers to stems was pretty entertaining 🙂



The Bride’s Bouquet

In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what I would carry, but after I found this video, I knew I needed a bouquet so I could put a camera in it. But everything makes me sneeze so real flowers were out. Paper flowers it was!

Our friend Ben (pictured above lol) agreed to loan me his GoPro (something borrowed!), so I bought a GoPro gooseneck mount, some satin ribbon and purple duct tape. All of the paper flowers had been hot glued to green stem wire, so I wrapped the wires around the GoPro mount, taping them down with scotch tape. Once I had them all sort of positioned the way I wanted them, I wrapped it in purple duct tape, to make sure none of the stems would budge. I also wrapped the parts of the green stems that you could see in purple duct tape just to disguise them a little bit. Once I put his GoPro in, we played with repositioning some of the flowers out of the way but I wanted some of the petals in the view just cause it gives it context and is kind of cool looking.


This is the front, before I wrapped the ribbon around the base.




This is the back. It almost looks like a regular bouquet!

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I had to give him his GoPro back since he uses it for work but then on the wedding day, I snapped it into place and turned it on and got some of the best footage ever. Putting a camera in my bouquet was the BEST decision I made. Screw having real flowers. I have 2 hours of video from MY perspective which is not something most brides have. I’m so happy I did this because there is no other way I would have been able to capture this side of the experience without a GoPro in my bouquet. I can not recommend this enough! Forgo the “usual” way of doing things and get yourself some amazing memories!

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It took a few weeks for us to figure out what to do about centerpieces and then one night sitting at a local sports bar, I reached for the bottle of ketchup that they kept in the plastic six pack holder in the middle of the table and it hit me. SIX PACK HOLDERS. lol. Justin drinks a ton of beer, so it would be really appropriate and would go along with our casual outdoor cookout theme.

We bought 40 plain white six pack holders. And I designed labels to go on either side. We decided to string helium balloons from the center and to weight the cardboard down, we’d spraypaint beer bottles shades of purple. (Underneath, we fanned out the photo scav hunts – see below.)



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PhotoScav Hunt

I used to go to a conference every year that had this epic Scavenger Hunt contest that asked for photographic evidence of the most ridiculous things. Since we were going to be crowdsourcing photos at this wedding, I wanted to give people some inspiration. So I took the Scav Hunt idea and just made it wedding themed. I only put a couple crazy things on here 🙂 I didn’t see any Human Ball and Chain pix but we did end up with some human pyramids. 🙂

PhotoScav Hunt

We used the free app WedPics to help people give us their photos and it was a raging success. While we also tracked down photos using our hashtag on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, WedPics made the whole sharing photos thing a cinch. Highly recommend it.



Photobooths are pretty much my favorite thing at any event, ever. So I’ve known for literal years that when we got married, we would have a DIY photo booth. It costs so much to rent them or to add on the service to a wedding photography package, and we have done them at every Halloween party we’ve thrown, so we knew we could do it easily. Having just bought a nice new DSLR this year, we knew we’d get good shots no matter what. And we hired a friend’s teen daughter to be charge of it all night. Another friend, my mom and I have been collecting props over two years (from all of our other themed parties and fun events we go to – you’d be surprised how much random stuff you can accumulate just from holidays) and my mother-in-law made super cute photobooth props with her fancy die-cutting machine – lots of cute signs for people to hold up, mustaches, lips, eye glasses, etc. Everyone LOVED the photobooth. It was a raging success and SO easy to DIY.

We used this tutorial to build our photobooth, which was super easy. We had Home Depot cut the PVC and my aunt made sewed together the fabric for the backdrop. And now we have a portable photobooth for every party we throw, forever.

We set up a table next to the photobooth where we laid out several of the props, and left the box of bigger props.


  Some of the awesome props my MIL made.

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Seriously. We had SO much fun with the photobooth. To see all 384 photos, check out our Flickr album.

(This picture is from our Leftover day, but is one of the only shots that shows just how tall this photobooth is — you don’t quite realize how tall seven feet is until you put it together. It’s BIG but light weight and easy to transport, take apart and put back together. When we had it outside, we did use bags of lawn fertilizer to weigh it down to keep the wind from knocking it over. And we strung some light around the frame of it but they ended up not being in the photos, the way we had them framed.)



Guest Book

Instead of a traditional guest book, we took an idea our friends did at their wedding – madlibs! I wanted to take the idea a little further and  designed a page that included not only madlibs but a couple questions and a place for guests to draw their own portraits. The results are HILARIOUS and we have a binder filled with some pretty excellent advice (even if some of it is a little raunchy! Will have to hide this from future kiddos… lol)



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We read through all of the pages on our minimoon, the Mon/Tues following the wedding. And when we got home, I put them all in a binder. These are some of our favorites. Some people got really creative.



Homemade Dessert Bar

We could not make up our minds about cakes for the longest time. Justin doesn’t even really like sweets (he can deny it all he wants, but I never see him eat sweet), and as much as I like cake, I didn’t like the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on one. Especially when all of the wedding cakes I’ve ever had have just tasted like regular cake. Nothing all that special.

We tossed around the idea of having a funny cake – half Hogwarts, half football. Or all cat. Something that represented the two of us coming together. But nothing really wowed us.

Then I saw something on Pinterest (of course!) that I looooved. It took a little convincing but Justin finally agreed it would be the best option: a homemade dessert bar! Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a cake that half the people wouldn’t eat and that could end up being dry, why not have a wide variety of delicious sweets baked by people who love us?! We have some seriously talented friends and family members so I knew it would all be delicious. And the idea of variety really appealed to me. Cookies, cakes, pies, brownies, cake pops, baklava, rice krispie treats, gluten free treats, vegan friendly sweets, we could have everything and something for everyone! People loved the idea.

It turned out AMAZING. There were SO many things I didn’t even see them all. I tried a little bit of half a dozen desserts and they were all superb!! I highly recommend this idea. It makes your guests feel more involved, it brings in a little personal touch to the whole day, and you will have dessert coming out of your ears for days. Plus, it made everyone happy – our vegan friends, our gluten free friends, our chocolate lovers, people who hate cake, etc. It was one of the best decisions we made.

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The Livestream

So this was an idea my dad had and that I loved. In the end, it didn’t really pan out the way we had hoped but ultimately it didn’t matter that much. We still captured a ton of video, which was the ultimate goal of the exercise.