| Print Story | E-Mail Story | Font Size

The 411 on DIY Weddings

Your walk down the aisle doesn't have to lead you into debt. Take matters into your own hands and have a do-it-yourself wedding.

Weddings are a 43 billion dollar-plus per year industry. And with the average price of nuptial unions projected to average $20,000-$22,000 in 2010, it’s no wonder many brides are turning to their own resourcefulness to create their special day. From artistic bouquets to personalized music playlists and DIY invitations, it’s more than possible to enlist your own talents, as well as those of friends and family, to pull off a memorable and beautiful wedding.


Deciding where you want to have your wedding is the most important step because it sets the tone for the entire event. A church says traditional, while a backyard says casual, and a brewery (where I had my wedding) says fun. So decide what you want to say and pick a place that reflects that quality; the rest, then, gets easier.

To keep costs down, choose a place like a friend’s home or backyard that you’ve always admired, or a public park or beach. The good news is that, unlike the usual hotels and resorts, you probably won’t find any other wedding parties hosting their event on the same day. Here are a few of our favorite options.

1. Salt Creek Beach
Capacity: 500
Alcohol allowed with a permit
Miles of white sand and ocean views
Restrooms, barbecues and tables are available
949.923.2284 :: danapointchamber.com/wedding

2. Crystal Cove State Park
Non-refundable special event permit: $25
Catering services provided by Beachcomber Café
Get married on the sand (off-limits from Memorial Day to Labor Day)
949.494.3539 :: crystalcovestatepark.com

3. Santiago Oaks Regional Park
Capacity: 150
Located in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains
Two patios for garden receptions
Mountain arbor for the ceremony
Adjacent conference room with a fireplace and kitchen
Alcohol allowed with a permit
714.973.6620 :: ocparks.com

4. Old Orange County Courthouse
Capacity: 150
Fully restored to its 1901 condition
Reception in the museum gallery
Grand staircase perfect for a grand entrance
Alcohol with a permit
714.973.6605 :: ocparks.com

Two words: Paper Source in Costa Mesa (714.957.8555, paper-source.com). The vast selection of paper, envelopes and extras like fancy pens and wax letter sealers might make your head spin the first time you go to the lauded paper haven (it did mine), but once you get acquainted with terms like “vellum” and “serif,” the possibilities are endless. Lotka lotus cream or beaded oval embossed with silver leaves? Calligraphy scrolls or monograms? And then the problem becomes choosing just one design. But I digress.

Getting It Done: Start by looking through wedding invitation books at the store. Get inspired by professional designs by Vera Wang, William Arthur and Martha Stewart or choose one of the designs exclusive to Paper Source. Once you’ve got a motif and colors in mind, consult with one of the store’s many able (and creative) employees, who will guide you through the process of choosing the right card stock, enclosures, ribbons, sashes, envelope liners, and embellishments to make your invitations personal and unique.

Assistant Manager Laura Ruvalcava recommends using Paper Source stamps and images to coordinate wedding invitations with place cards, programs and napkins. (The more ambitious can design their own motif or have a friend do it for them.) Once you have the design and paper figured out, find a printer such as Kinko's or any commercial operation and voilà! You’ve made your own wedding invitations at half the price and double the ingenuity.

Make your own bouquet and the bridesmaids’ bouquets by following this checklist.

What You Need:
30-60 stems of a hardy flower (20-40 for each bridesmaid bouquet)
Paper towels
Ribbon (in a complementary color), one to two inches wide
Rubber bands or green waxed floral tape
Stem cutter or very sharp knife
Stem stripper
Straight pins or pearl-tipped corsage pins

1. Prepare the Flowers:

Use your hands or a stem stripper to remove excess foliage and thorns, and pull off damaged or unattractive outer petals.

Fill a sink or bucket with water. Holding the stems underwater, use the stem cutter or knife to cut the stems at an angle about two inches from the bottom.

Allow the flowers to drink for a few seconds with the stem ends underwater, then place the stems in a bucket filled halfway with cool water until you are ready to use them.

          Keep the stems long while you work with them and trim them to a shorter length when you’ve finished constructing the bouquet.

          2. Assemble the Flowers:

          Take one stem at a time with one hand and use your other hand to hold the flowers in place.

          Assemble four flowers at an even height in a square shape – these will be at the center of the dome.

                      Arrange the other flowers one by one around the center flowers to create a dome shape.

                      3. Secure the Bouquet:

                      Use a rubber band or floral tape to bind the stems at the spot where they naturally join (about three to four inches below the flower heads).

                      Repeat the binding toward the end of the stems, leaving about two inches of excess stem beneath the bind to trim later.

                      Either place the stems in water and wrap them later or continue to next step.

                      4. Finish the Handle:

                      Cut the stem ends so they are all the same length, about seven to eight inches long.

                      Dry off the stems with a paper towel.

                      Cut a length of ribbon about three times as long as the length of the stems.

                      Tuck the end of the ribbon inside the top bind and start wrapping in a spiral down the length of the stem.

                      When you reach the bottom, wrap in a spiral back up the stem.

                                  At the top, tuck the cut end of the ribbon underneath and secure with a couple of pins pushed through the ribbon and into the stems. If you’d like a bow, cut a separate length of ribbon and tie it just beneath the flower heads.

                                  5. Preserve the Bouquet.

                                  Wrap the bouquet in tissue.

                                      Store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to leave for the ceremony.


                                      Sure, you’ve baked a cake before. Who hasn’t? But let us assure you: Making a wedding cake is no easy feat. That’s why Sara Heslington, cake stylist for The Resort at Pelican Hill, doesn’t recommend tearing out that picture of a four-tiered Alice-in-Wonderland-inspired cake and trying to recreate it in your kitchen the day before your wedding. Instead, Heslington recommends keeping it simple, and offers up a few tips for those ambitious baker-types who insist on the real deal.

                                      1. Try cupcakes instead of a cake. “Cupcakes are a lot simpler [to make] than tiered cakes, and you can find a beautiful tiered display or cake stand to give the feeling of a wedding cake,” says Heslington. “Then, put a small blossom on each cupcake to make it look even more wedding-like.”

                                      2. If you must bake a cake, make sure to use buttercream frosting (as opposed to fondant, which is hard to work with) to decorate – and not just any buttercream. “Buttercream that is made from butter and a French or Swiss meringue is a lot easier to work with than the typical buttercream bakeries use, which is usually made from butter or shortening with powdered sugar and milk,” says Heslington. “The ingredients are more expensive but you can get a nice, smooth finish.” The trick to working with buttercream is to use a metal bench scraper that has been heated with hot water to smooth the sides of the cake.

                                      3. If your cake will have tiers, it’s not enough to just stack the layers – you will need an internal support structure. Heslington recommends using drinking straws, which can be cut to the exact height of each tier. “You just need to make sure you use enough to hold the weight of the cake,” says Heslington. Build the cake on a cardboard cake round that can be purchased at any craft store to avoid any transportation disasters.

                                      4. Stick to the basics when decorating. “Piping a simple row of buttercream pearls at the base of the each tier would be the safest,” says Heslington. “A nice floral cascade down the front of the cake is easy to do and it looks dramatic.”

                                      Everyone has been to a wedding with a cheesy wedding band playing covers. And guess what? That band probably cost a lot of money. I can say from personal experience that, while my husband and I hired a very good jazz band to play at our wedding, nobody danced until we hooked up the iPod and put on some familiar dance tunes. So get an iPod, program all your favorite songs into a playlist, hook it into a stereo system and let it go for hours of entertainment. While this idea is fairly fool-proof, we still recommend having a designated friend in charge of the system in case anything goes wrong, and to turn down the volume when people are making speeches or to cue special songs when needed.

                                      Obviously, you can’t take pictures of your own wedding, but if there is one thing at a wedding, it’s guests, and most of them are wielding cameras of their own. For budget-conscious brides looking for those truly candid moments of their wedding, it might be an option to forego the pose-y, staged photos in favor of the images caught by your guests throughout the evening. Let your guests know ahead of time that you want them to take a lot of shots throughout the ceremony and reception, and you’ll surely come up with a few winners.

                                      If that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, you could always hire a photographer just to take the formal shots and then leave it up to the guests to snap away during the reception. That way, you’ll be sure to get a few professional shots if the candid experiment doesn’t work out.

                                      See archived 'Features' stories »

                                      What is this?

                                      Save & Share this Article