To DIY or not to DIY?

Your wedding is the perfect time to show off your talents and create a unique celebration – but don’t be tempted to bite off more than you can chew. We help you decide when to DIY and when it’s best to enlist the pros.

    When you're a culinary goddess

    What to do

    Design a dessert table that would do Nigella proud. Choose a selection of your favourite sweet treats and divide the task of making them between you and a few trusted family members – pay special attention to presentation, and remember that a dessert table’s looks can make just as big an impact as its taste. ‘When it’s beautifully styled, a dessert table can stay in peoples’ minds for quite some time,’ says Sondra Vicelich of Sweet Bites Cakes.

    Match your sweets to the occasion – if it’s a cocktail party, opt for bite-sized, easy to-devour treats – and add visual impact by making them in harmonious colour combinations. For extra effect, display the offerings at varying heights: multi-tiered cupcake stands, stacked tree-stump slices, or in cardboard boxes wrapped in a matte paper that matches your colour theme. Beautifully shaped vessels also add dimension to the table – think apothecary jars, bright-coloured glassware and a suite of vintage milk bottles. 

    Why DIY
    Many desserts can be made at least a day in advance, do not have to be served warm and are easy to transport, so you can finish preparations well before ‘I do’.

    When to go pro
    Banish from your mind the idea of making any major part of the menu that can’t be at least partially prepped well ahead of time. ‘What people forget is that the final 48 hours ahead of your wedding can be a stressful time, and catering for a large party is a labour-intensive undertaking,’ says Sue Fleischl from The Great Catering Company. ‘The week before your wedding will be filled with people arriving from overseas, rehearsal dinners, people wanting to catch up for coffee – it’s best to keep your diary as free as possible.’ 

    Set up a meeting with your caterer to discuss your vision and preferences well in advance, and work with the chef to design a menu that includes your favourite cuisines. No matter how many successful dinner parties you’ve thrown, there’s a big difference between cooking for 20 and 200. ‘Professionals have the people power, the resources and the experience to cater for large groups,’ says Sue. ‘We can control quality on a large scale and have perfected recipes through testing them multiple times.’

    When you're a sewing machine

    What to do
    Choose a selection of fabrics that echo your theme, and sew tablecloths and serviettes that, when thrown accross tables, will make your reception visually striking.
    Most brides are restricted to choosing from the fabrics and tablecloth sizes that shops offer, but when choosing to make your own, the options become endless.

    If you’ve already got your table settings sussed, consider trying your hand at accessories instead – tie mismatched bridesmaid dresses together by embellishing them with sashes in a uniform fabric, and link the look to the groomsmen’s ensemble by whipping up a set of pocket squares too.

    In keeping with her summery, floral theme Auckland bride Sera Lilly’s three bridesmaids wore floor-length dresses in varying floral prints. ‘We tied their look together with the rest of the celebration by finding lengths of floral fabric in delicious shades of pink and purple, then running these along banquet tables,’ she says.

    Why DIY
    Tables take up a significant portion of the reception space, so it makes sense to link their appearance to the overall motif. Vibrant cloths also mean your centrepieces can be more subtle and therefore budget-friendly, plus the cloths themselves can be used again and again at future parties and events or even day-to-day.

    When to go Pro
    Avoid making your own dress, especially if you don’t have extensive experience or you want a highly complex design. Regardless of how specific the idea you have in mind may be, remember the creation of a wedding gown is a time-intensive and emotional undertaking that, more
    often than not, is best left to a pro.
    ‘Wedding gowns, particularly those with  embellishments or a highly structured fit, require a lot of technical know-how,’ says Anita Turner-Williams of Vinka Design. ‘We’ve had experienced dressmakers come into our store, look at our gowns and say “Nope. Wouldn’t even try to do that.”’

    Spend time finding a designer or dressmaker you trust and who is open to your ideas. Communicate your vision via sketches and photo examples so there’s no roomfor misinterpretation. 

    When you're a computer whizz with a designer's eye

    What to do
    Design your own invitations using a computer program such as InDesign. Choose typography and imagery that tie into your theme – scour magazines and blogs for inspiration – and visit a quality stationer to select a top-grade paper.

    ‘A heavyweight, high-quality paper sets the scene for a quality event,’ says Graeme Harris, managing director of art and graphics shop Gordon Harris ( ‘Even the simplest designs look spectacular when the final product feels substantial and appears polished.’

    Why DIY
    Invitations are the first impression your guests get of your celebration – a personalised design is a unique way to kick things off. 

    When to go pro
    Complex design elements – think laser cut
    or 3D components – might be all the rage, but they’re a time-consuming undertaking if you’re going it alone.

    Additionally, don’t spend hours ahead of the big day organising a photographic or video montage unless you’re certain your venue has a reliable AV system. Even if you’re known for your ability to breathe life into the most archaic machinery, your wedding day isn’t the time to be tinkering with IT.

    Put extra effort into your ceremony programs – your guests will spend a decent length of time reading over them while they wait for the proceedings to begin, so it pays to make them extra special. Fill the back of the programme with a collage of photos, a meaningful poem, a tribute to loved ones who have passed away or a timeline of landmark moments in your relationship.

    If you're a beauty guru

    What to do Spend the weeks ahead of your wedding practising and perfecting your bridal look, and top up your kit with a few special big-day products. Be sure to test the style in many different lights, and consider ways you can take your look from day to night – think a different shade of lipstick or a scattering of shimmer.

    ‘When you’re practising, get someone to take a picture so you can see what it will look like in a photo, and whether you’ll need to change anything or add anything more,’ says makeup artist Charlene Burslem.

    Why DIY When you know the looks you love and you’ve got the skills and tools to achieve them, doing your own makeup will ensure you look exactly how you want.

    When to go pro Leave your ‘maids in someone else’s capable hands – many beauty houses such as Bobbi Brown or MAC offer instructional services – and set aside at least an hour to do your own makeup. No matter how much you’ve practised ahead of time, nerves have a way of shaking even the steadiest hand, and applying your face on one of the most-photographed days of your life calls for all your attention. 

    When you’re a talented muso

    What to do
    Surprise your new spouse with a rendition of a song that means a lot to both of you. Practise often in the lead-up to the day and, if using your venue’s sound system, familiarise yourself with it ahead of time.

    Why DIY
    Music can be a deeply personal form of self-expression, and when done well, it’s a moving tribute to such a monumental moment.

    ‘When my then-boyfriend Ben proposed to me, he didn’t get down on one knee,’ says Auckland bride Daniella Roberts. ‘During our vows, he made up for it by kneeling down and playing one of my favourite songs on the guitar. That moment remains one of the most memorable ones from our day – the song, combined with the significance of the event, still sends shivers down my spine.’

    When to go pro
    Hiring a band or DJ for the reception will create the type of ambience that an iPod playlist will struggle to evoke.

    Inform your band or DJ of the genres and artists you like most, and be sure to mention any no-go songs (those that might upset your grandparents, for example).

    Avoid choosing little-known music that no-one else will know for the party portion of the reception – it may be artistic and evocative, but it’ll empty the dance floor in record time. ‘Your wedding is not the place to prove to your friends that you have the most eclectic music tastes,’ says DJ Nick Logan. ‘It may sound obvious, but stick to what is well known by the majority of your guests. It’s tempting to think your wedding is “too cool” for Top 40 music, but the simple fact is if your guests don’t know the music, it won’t work.’

    Except for moments where particular music is crucial, be careful not to micro-manage your DJ or band regarding which songs you’d like played when. They’re well versed in the art of sensing a celebration’s vibe and selecting the music to suit – your only job is to let
    loose and enjoy.

    If they’re not setting up until later in the evening, enjoy compiling songs for a dinner playlist – this might be the time to let a few of your favourite, lesser-known tracks slip in.

    When you're an aspiring florist

    What to do
    In the weeks leading up to your wedding, scope out the local flower markets and decide which blooms will work best for your venue. Buy them as close to the celebration as possible – ideally, on the morning – but if it has to be earlier, sit them in fresh water and store them in a cool place (such as an air-conditioned room or a fridge). Arrange the blooms in a collection of vessels, then display them around your venue for pops of colour. Be realistic about your abilities, however, and think twice before attempting any intricate arrangements on your own.

    Why DIY
    Whether they’re dotted up the aisle, or propped in the corner of the bathroom,  there’s practically nowhere that a container bursting with blooms doesn’t look lovely. What’s more, there are no rules: put chrysanthemums in jars, gather gypsophila into a champagne bucket or cluster roses into a vintage teacup.

    When to go pro
    Leave your bridal bouquet, or other complex arrangements, to the pros, says Orlando Flowers’ Sue Christensen.

    ‘A experienced florists’ treatment and wiring of flowers will mean the arrangements stay looking their best throughout the day,’ she says. ‘That’s the difference between a professional and a DIY job – with a professionally made bouquet, you don’t run the risk of it falling to pieces halfway through the portrait session.’

    Show your florist pictures of bouquets you love, and provide them with colour swatches to make sure you’re on the same page. Then sit back and wait to see what they come up with, says Sue.

    ‘Florists have access to best-quality, premium flowers that the public cannot get hold of – it means when your arrangements arrive, they won’t be anything less than jaw-dropping.”


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