Getting married in Australia isn’t cheap. Wedding spend has risen sharply in recent years, and the average Australian wedding now costs $36,000. Although couples are increasingly choosing to elope or have a legals-only ceremony (especially during the pandemic), many more are investing serious amounts of money into their big day. Perhaps money is no object when it comes to your wedding, and that’s fine, but if like most people you’re on some kind of budget a great way to keep costs down is to incorporate some DIY elements into your wedding. If you have the time and energy you might be surprised how many things you can do yourself or with a little help from your family and friends. In short, putting on a DIY wedding can save you lots of money. There’s also a sense of satisfaction and achievement you won’t get from paying a bunch of strangers to do it all for you. We’ve compiled an A to Z list of DIY wedding ideas to give you some inspiration.
A is for Accommodation
Accommodation can place a serious burden on the budget if your wedding is being held in a regional area and you don’t want your guests driving home or having to source their own accommodation. Although venues in more remote areas are generally good at providing accommodation on site – indeed it’s often their primary business – it all has to be paid for. For DIY weddings held at private properties we have seen guests encouraged to bring their tents and vans and camp on the property, with facilities like power and water provided, turning the wedding into a mini-holiday. Fun! One of the best DIY weddings we performed at was held at a school camp where there was plenty of dorm-style accommodation. It was nothing fancy, but after a long night and many drinks nobody cared.
B is for Borrow
Borrow borrow borrow. Put those feelers out early, whether it’s in person or on Facebook. People are usually only too happy to contribute in some way to your wedding, and often like to feel involved. Don’t be shy. Ring in a favour, or do one in return. Make it a subsitute for a wedding present. Weddings can be incredibly wasteful; for the eco-conscious borrowing is a sustainable alternative. Things you can borrow include furniture, props, decor, clothing, jars for vases, bottles for water, lighting, and cars for transport.
DIY ceremony with an interesting array of vintage chairs at The Estate, a 120-year-old B&B and DIY wedding venue in Trentham, Victoria.
C is for Catering
This is one of the areas where you might want to call the professionals in. That said, we’ve played at successful weddings where all they did was hire a spit and make hot roast beef sandwiches, served with salads whipped up by friends and family. If you don’t mind the extra work and the cleanup the next day this is a perfectly acceptable option. Increasingly we’ve been seeing the catering at cocktail-style weddings handled by food trucks. This gives your guests a variety of different cuisines to choose from, without the additional cost and bother of table service and settings. Or make it a team effort: hire a Spanish cook to knock out some paella, but do all the sides yourself. There are plenty of options depending on how DIY you want to get and how much help you have.
D is for Dress
We know how important this is, but also appreciate how much it can cost. Besides, many brides, particularly do-it-yourselfers, like to wear something more unique and meaningful than a stock new or hired dress. Secondhand, vintage, or borrowed dresses are a common sight at DIY weddings these days. If there’s a seamstress amongst your family or friends ask them if they would be willing to do alterations for that perfect fit – it will save you bundles.
E is for Entertainment
Okay, so we’re a bit biased on this point, but this is unlikely to be something you can do yourself, and asking an acquaintance to take care of the entertainment for your entire wedding is definitely stretching the friendship. However, we have seen many couples incorporate some of their talented loved ones into their weddings in smaller ways, with great success. It can be as simple as asking them to perform your procession or first dance song. Any musician who doesn’t do it for a living is usually only too happy to offer their talents in lieu of a wedding present. Perhaps you have a friend or family member who is a comedian or magician? See if they’d be interested in doing a short bit.
What you don’t want to do is cut corners with the music if you want a dance floor to happen later in the night. Sure, you could save money by hiring a speaker and plugging your phone or ipod into it. You could also get married at a rendering plant.
F is for Favours
Wedding favours are one of the most obvious places you can DIY. An incomplete list of wedding favours you can make yourself: homemade soaps, candles, preserves such as chutneys and jams, homemade sauces, bags of lollies for the kids, bags of premium coffee beans, bags of homemade cookies, boxed premium teas, honey, and mini potted succulents.
G is for Groomsmen
Pro tip: your groomsmen don’t have to be wearing identical outfits. In fact, it often looks better when they aren’t. Tie them together with something simple, like a matching floral arrangement pinned to the breast of their suits, or matching shoes (Chuck Taylors anyone?). Ask them to simply wear matching colours, ie: blue jacket, white shirt, brown pants. Hiring or buying a set of matching suits is one bit of fat that can easily be trimmed. Same goes for the bridesmaids by the way.
H is for Home
Your home is the most obvious choice of venue for a DIY wedding. It makes all kinds of sense (if you have a suitable space). Check out our article on backyard weddings for tips on how to do this.
I is for Invitations
People spend absurd amounts of money on printed wedding invitations, which usually only get thrown away in the end. If you’re crafty, making handmade wedding invitations might not seem like a chore at all. If you’re not, you can save money (and the environment) by emailing your invitations. Design them yourself (or ask someone with some design skills to help you) using a free template-based design tool like Canva.
J is for Jars
Jars rule. They come in all shapes and sizes. You can put flowers in them, you can put wine in them, you can put water in them, you can even use them as glasses. They’re environmentally friendly. They’re perfect for a rustic or vintage themed wedding. And best of all they’re free. Use them.
K is for Kids
DIY weddings are kid-friendly weddings. Hide the ipads and get them to pitch in. There are many little tasks kids can help with.
L is for Lighting
Rather than hiring professional lighting, see if you can borrow some. Whether it’s Christmas lights, fairy lights, uplighting, or candles, many people have spare lighting from past events. It’s amazing what a difference to the ambience of a space a bit of carefully selected and placed lighting can make.
M is for MC
Few couples hire a professional MC these days, instead asking an outgoing friend or family member to do the honours on the night. Choose carefully. Some of the best MCs we’ve seen have been complete amateurs, but also some of the worst.
N is for Numbers
DIY is by its nature better suited to smaller weddings, but it does depend how DIY you’re going, especially when it comes to catering. On the other hand, with DIY weddings budget isn’t such an obstacle to the size of your guest list; a few more heads won’t be a dealbreaker if you’re making lots of savings elsewhere.
Old window repurposed as a seating chart. Clever.
O is for Originality
Most weddings are pretty stock standard. That doesn’t mean they’re not fun, but there’s no good reason in this day and age that you should have to conform to some arbitrary standard for what a wedding should be. Life is too short to be boring, and original weddings are memorable weddings. So dare to be different. DIY weddings give you way more flexiblity to do this.
Loved these DIY ceremony props at a wedding we performed at in Ventnor, Phillip Island.
P is for Photography
Don’t cut corners here. The cake gets eaten, and the invitations thrown away, but your wedding photos are forever. If you have a friend or family member who is a professional photographer they may be able to offer you a discount, but don’t use them just because you know them – if you don’t like their work you’ll never be happy with your photos. So take the time to do your research, and choose wisely. Same goes for videographers, however for most couples stills are the more essential item.
R is for Rudiments
Get the basics right and everything else will follow. A common mistake we see, particularly in DIY weddings where a professional is not managing the event, is too much time and energy spent on unimportant or superficial things, and too little attention paid to the things that really make or break a wedding. These are, in no particular order: food, drinks, music/entertainment, photos, comfort (heating/cooling/shelter), a structured but flexible schedule, and someone in charge to keep things running to schedule. A bride and groom helps too.
S is for Surprise
Surprise weddings are the best. They have a fantastic energy that kicks off when the engagement party gets unveiled as a wedding. An obstacle for DIY weddings: if you’ve got a lot of people helping out you’ll need to be careful not to let too many of them in on the secret. Cost is the obvious pro, as you’re rolling two events into one, and DIY weddings are all about manageable budgets.
Our band played at this surprise DIY wedding at a private house in Mt Eliza. The jungle theme was a perfect excuse to dress up an otherwise uninspiring concrete garage with loads of foliage.
T is for Theme
A theme is a great way to give your wedding a particular feel and ambience. This is where your skills with aesthetics can really shine. The themes best suited to DIY are rustic, vintage, and boho chic. A beach theme is a no-brainer for a seaside wedding. Or you can go completely off the wall with something different, that is meaningful to your relationship (one couple we played for had a Pearl Jam themed wedding – clearly fans). More theme ideas here. For all of these themes op shops are your friend. Often the best effects are achieved with the simplest and least expensive components. Be prepared to put some time and energy in, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from anyone with decorating experience or a knack for aesthetics.
Antique bridal table chairs at a vintage-themed wedding at Tindarra Resort in Moama, NSW.
U is for Undercover
Don’t underestimate the potential of the weather to destroy your DIY wedding plans. If you’re planning an outdoor wedding, always, always, have a backup indoor plan ready to go – especially if you’re getting married in a place like Melbourne.
V is for Venue
DIY wedding venues have become very popular, and we totally get why. There is no shortage of amazing places you can hire as the setting for your DIY wedding, from B&B cottages in small towns to historic shearing sheds out in the bush.
Our acoustic trio playing at Warrawong Estate in Eynesbury, about 40 minutes west of Melbourne. An historic venue on a large estate, it’s a blank (rough) canvas perfect for a large rustic-themed DIY wedding.
W is for Work
Sorry to break it to you, but if you want to organise your own wedding there’s no way around it: you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves. That’s the D in DIY.
X is for Xenia
In Ancient Greece, Xenia was the principle of guest friendship – hospitality basically. We reckon there’s something warmer and friendlier about DIY weddings. Everyone is pitching in to make the event happen, working as a village, and your guests feel more welcome because they’re integral to the event.
Y is for Yours
DIY gives you the opportunity to really make your wedding YOURS. If you have an individualistic or creative streak, put your stamp on your wedding and make it unique to you and your relationship. That above all is what will make your wedding memorable, not how much you spent on the cake.
Z is for Zany
Some of the best ideas we’ve seen at DIY weddings have also been the zaniest. Get your guests’ attention with something surprising or unusual, whether it’s DIY decor, a unique theme, a prop, unusual entertainment (acrobat or a ventriloquist anyone?), or by involving your pets.