Re-run: DIY Weddings–Flowers

June 30th, 2014

I’m re-running my entire series on DIY weddings from a couple of years ago.  I hope you find it interesting and useful.  This is the second post in a series on the beauties and pitfalls of DIY.

Perhaps because her livelihood is on the line, a florist friend of mine refers to DIY wedding flowers as “f— it up yourself” flowers.  And because I don’t want to anger all my florist colleagues, I am going to agree with her–up to a point.

This is a professionally designed and created floral display.  Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

This is a professionally designed and created floral display. Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

The reason you hire a professional floral designer is because they have specialized knowledge.  It’s true that you can send someone to the farmer’s market on the morning of your wedding to pick up flowers.  But will the buds all be open?  Florists know how to time the opening of flowers so your wedding flowers look picture-perfect.  They also ensure that the flowers stay fresh until they are needed.  And do you really want to be tying bouquets on the morning of your wedding?

There is nothing wrong with this bridesmaid's bouquet that the bride made.

There is nothing wrong with this bridesmaid's bouquet that the bride made.

On the other hand, I have seen DIY flowers that are perfectly nice.  It all depends on the look you are going for.  If you want a home-made look or a casual feel, your flowers might end up the way you want them if you do them yourself.  If you have special training in art, design, or floral arrangement, you’re probably ahead of the curve.  But this is one area where I would recommend to most people to hire a professional, especially if the flowers are important to you.

Re-run: DIY Weddings–Potlucks

June 23rd, 2014

When I wrote a new post about DIY weddings last week, it reminded me that I should re-run the entire series on DIY weddings.  Here is the first entry:

Do-It-Yourself is all the rage.  And there are lots of things you can do yourself for your own wedding (or a friend’s). But I have also heard some DIY ideas that might need a little more thought before implementation.  This is the first post in a series on the beauties and pitfalls of DIY.

This is NOT a potluck, DIY place setting.  Photo by Carasco Photography.

This is NOT a potluck, DIY place setting. Photo by Carasco Photography.

I have been to two potluck wedding receptions, and both of them worked out very well.  They were very different from one another and offer some interesting lessons on how to make this idea work.

One was in a church hall with no caterer or serving staff.  The other was in a rented hall that required a certified kitchen staff.

If you have no hired kitchen staff, the question is who will set up the food and–more importantly–who will clean up.  At the first potluck, the bride asked some of her friends (including me) to take charge of scraping and packing the rented dishes at the end of the day.  Other friends helped to set up the tables and the buffet.  Fortunately, this couple have a lot of responsible (and sober) friends who helped them cheerfully.  It was also a daytime wedding, meaning no one had to stay until 1:00 a.m. scraping dishes.

The second potluck had a professional kitchen staff, which increased the cost but meant that the guests were not involved in running the kitchen.  If you are thinking of having a potluck buffet, this might be a better idea, unless you both have a hall that will allow you not to have hired staff and have friends who are sufficiently responsible.  Hired professionals also reduce the risks of food contamination, which can happen at a potluck.

There are other pitfalls to be avoided at a potluck.  The biggest one is not knowing whether you will have enough food, enough good food, or enough variety.  You can overcome this by asking your guests to tell you what they are bringing and making sure the best cooks bring large quantities.  That requires extra organization and extra time on your part.

And there is one more pitfall to a potluck wedding reception:  One of your relatives will be scandalized.  But if you can live with that, if you want an informal reception, and if you can figure out how to do everything that needs to get done, it’s not impossible.   But I would not recommend it for everyone.  Be sure you think it through before you commit to doing it yourself.

DIY Weddings: Cake

June 16th, 2014

It has been a while since I wrote about DIY (do-it-yourself) weddings.  Here’s a topic I haven’t covered before:  wedding cake.

Considering how expensive wedding cakes can be, maybe you want to try your hand at baking your own.  There is certainly a lot of information on the internet about how to bake a wedding cake.  Some of the sites even say it is “easy.”  I won’t pass judgment on that, since I’ve never tried it. What I have seen is the results.

Before I tell you about the home-made cakes I’ve seen, I have to point out that sometimes professional bakers have cake disasters.  (See this rather funny story as an example.)  So, amateurs should be aware of the pitfalls.

My experience is that home-made cakes are likely to be a little more rustic than cakes made by professionals.  This may suit your aesthetics exactly, in which case feel free to ignore anything else I say.

Here is a cake baked by the bride’s sister.

Image by

Image by

It is a perfectly lovely cake after its own fashion and suited their country-themed outdoor wedding reception.  It might have been out of place at an ultra-formal downtown reception, though.

And here is one baked by the groom’s family.

Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

The bride and groom wanted to use the family recipe for carrot cake for their wedding cake.  This was a highly informal wedding and reception, and the cake fit right in.  Again, it might have been out of place elsewhere.

Here is one more example that is slightly different:

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

The bride and groom at this wedding both had tremendous food allergies.  Instead of asking a professional baker to work around their allergies (wheat, sugar, dairy, etc.) and try to come up with a recipe that would be delicious, the groom’s mother made a number of cakes from a recipe they already knew would work for them.  They didn’t insist on a tiered cake but enjoyed them as regular cakes.  This was a case where DIY made a lot of practical sense.

My short recommendation would be that DIY wedding cake is not impossible.  The important thing to keep in mind is that the visual results may be different from what you would expect from a professional.  It is probably also wise to learn some of the tricks of stabilizing and transporting tiered cakes to prevent disasters.  You might also have to make more than one, in order to try out your skills.  (Bonus: extra cake!)  If you’re willing to take these risks, go ahead and make your own cake.  If not, there are a lot of really good bakers who will be happy to do the job for you.

Re-Run: Eco-Friendly Transport Ideas

June 9th, 2014
Charter a trolley to get your guests from ceremony to reception.   Image by

Charter a trolley to get your guests from ceremony to reception. Image by

I never get tired of eco-friendly tips.  These are my thoughts about event and wedding transportation:

Probably the largest environmental impact from any kind of celebration is from the transportation involved. Guests from other places and in-town transport cause inevitable carbon emissions and pollution. To reduce the environmental impact, you might encourage your guests to arrive by rail, by bus, or to carpool. Of course, if you have your event where public transportation is an option, you can help your guests to get around by local transit. If possible, reserve hotel rooms for your guests within walking distance of the party. If they will have to travel some distance, charter a bus for them. Or, try a pedicab.

Carbon offsets are one way to mitigate the environmental consequences of travel. Although there are some who question their effectiveness, you might know of a program you feel comfortable with. You could ask your guests to pay for carbon offsets instead of bringing gifts. Or it can be your gift to them in place of favors.

For an eco-friendly honeymoon, try these ideas: honeymoon close to home; honeymoon at home (turn off the phone and tell everyone you’ve gone away); honeymoon by bicycle; or, most romantic of all, honeymoon by rail. (As my sister says, “Anyone who says romance is dead hasn’t been on a train lately.”)