Wedding DIY set up – ‘morning of’ catch 22!?

by DIY wedding planner on December 8, 2011

We creative/money saving types love the DIY wedding movement. (Create your own beautiful decorations with the help of wedding blogs and craft sites!)

Those sites help you to hone in on a vision that suits you. (I could look at those blogs for hours, picturing exactly how I’d arrange things!)

The problem?
Many of us do DIY to save money. But when it comes to setting it all up on the morning of, how do you do it?

Unless your venue lets you come in 24 hours in advance to decorate (many don’t), you’ll either:

1. Be up late the night before arranging things (instead of spending that time relaxing with your sweetie, friends and family).

2. Expect friends and family to do all the work on the morning of, running them ragged instead of letting them enjoy the day (and get ready themselves!).

3. Make it truly DIY– get in there and do it yourself with some willing helpers on the morning of (this could take hours, leaving you minimal time to get ready). If I could clone 5 on the morning of, that would be perfect. Ha!

4. Hire a stylist/decorator who will make the most of your pretty DIY decorations with their creativity (yay!), but will drain your budget at the same time (effectively counteracting the whole point of DIY decorations).


I am hoping to hire a couple creative souls on Craigslist to help, but then there’s the issue of not knowing if they’ll actually show up, etc. …another point for a professional stylist/decorator who would be accountable. See where I’m going with this?

WHAT TO DO? — What would YOU do? — How did your DIY wedding unfold?

p.s. Don’t get me wrong: I love the idea of gathering some friends and family and letting them help (if they want to) – it can be a fun bonding experience while the families get to know each other. But I do not like the idea of *expecting* all of your guests to help you, especially if they had plans the morning of, or simply want to take it easy. I want my guests to enjoy themselves, not resent me for squeezing as much as I can out of them.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

nova_queen_28 December 8, 2011 at 5:12 am

1 – speak to your venue to determine if you can get in the day before or not.
2 – speak to your venue about what they can do for you.

My venue lets you in as early as possible so long as nobody else books that room. (ex: if wedding is Saturday & nobody books it for Friday, you can get in on Friday).
I got very lucky & was able to get into my reception room Thurdsday AND Friday (wedding was Saturday). So I did 99.9% of the stuff Thursday and scrambled Friday to finish the couple things I had forgotten — I did this all by myself.
My venue was willing to turn on my floralytes & light the candles for me just before the reception started. So, I saved!

some places are very willing to help you out with little things that you can’t possibly do beforehand – just don’t be afraid to ask.


Messykatt December 8, 2011 at 5:12 am

There might be yet one more option for you! Most larger companies, especially corporate ones like law firms, banking institutions, manufacturers, real estate, etc…have people who do this sort of thing as part of their job. They set up board and other meetings, put together holiday parties etc. I’d guess in many cases they’re like executive assistants, etc. Or, another option, trade associations (American Heart, etc) always have meeting planners on staff. These folks are all dependable, they’re detail-oriented, etc. Could you send a shout-out to a bunch of your friends and guests, asking if they know of someone at their place of work they can recommend? You can tell them you’ll meet with the person and decide if it will work, so they don’t feel pressure on this, but I’d think you’d get several names that way.

A lot of people would like an opportunity to do something like this, and it shouldn’t be a budget breaker. Maybe $30-$40 an hour for a few hours of work. I’d think the setup would be of more concern than the breakdown, where a few friends could get it done.


Mrs?B December 8, 2011 at 5:14 am

I chose a venue that was Beautiful already and kept the decorations to a minimum. The ceremony was outdoors and my FIL built us a gorgeous trellis/arch that I did not feel the need to decorate. I didn’t want anything to take away from the pretty setting and the wedding trellis, so we didn’t decorate anything for the ceremony.

For the reception, It was a big white tent set in the same field as the ceremony. The venue already had white twinkle lights around the perimeter, and hanging candle lanterns from the “ceiling.” I did all the flowers and centerpieces and the staff at the venue put them all on the tables exactly how I told them. Those were pretty much the only decorations we had. We wanted to keep it clean and simple. I did all the flowers the morning of the wedding, you just need to plan your time accordingly. I had plenty of time to get ready (I’m pretty low maintenance) so I actually had more time then I really needed to get everything done.


Jenny Lynne December 8, 2011 at 6:12 am

If venue will not let you in on Thursday and Friday, would hire someone. May be family members but offer to pay them up front and do not make them feel obligated. For me personally, I would be a nervous wreck and my day would be ruined. You do not need to be there on Saturday at all, this is your special day and you should enjoy it to the fullest as it is the only one you will have. If family members do not want to do it, and I would not blame them, second thought, might would not ask them even for pay, they may feel guilty at having to help you pay or not. They themselves will want to enjoy this day. Would check around and ask florists, bridal shops if they know someone that does this on the side. I have learned the hard way, not to mix business and family. A big no, no. If something goes wrong, they will feel bad and you will be upset. If you can’t afford someone, then just have finger foods. And I would definetly not hire anyone off Craig’s list, if necessary, run an ad in local paper for someone and ask for references. Good luck.


Rebecca December 8, 2011 at 6:36 am

My sister had a DIY wedding and the whole family was put to work. I wasn’t able to enjoy anything cause i was running around getting things ready. I looked like a mess in most the pictures, but the bride looked good, and thats whats important :P I like the idea of DIY for things like invites, but leave the day of stuff to professionals.


Butterfly ???????? December 8, 2011 at 7:21 am

My sister-in-law and a good friend are doing the decorating for the church and reception. Including the flowers and candles centerpieces and all the favors. I’m not sure yet who will be picking up the flowers. My sis-in-law will set up the buffet table and my friend who is my hair stylist will be doing our hair and makeup at the church.

If I end up doing DIY wedding invitations my mom and sis will help me. We’re doing a DIY finger food buffet with veggie trays, meat and cheese trays, crackers etc. and my mom and sis will be helping with that too a couple of days before the wedding. We may end up ordering finger food meats from the supermarket and either my brother-in-law or step dad will pick them up and deliver to the reception site the day of the wedding.

The only thing I’m really splurging on is the cake because of the flavors I want and they’ll deliver and set up.

So everything is going to be done 2 to 3 days prior to the wedding, except for the cake and hot buffet foods.


Neena December 8, 2011 at 8:13 am

My place will allow me to decorate up to a week ahead of time..but I know that it is unusual. I’m also planning to hire my 13 yr. old cousin to help me out. He will be happy for the cash :-) …. My plan hasn’t “unfolded” yet. I think it will work. It will be fun!


juvegirl, B2B 2010 December 8, 2011 at 8:17 am

This is the snag we hit with our original wedding plans. I didn’t want friends or family working on my wedding day and although I tried to find decent help, it just wasn’t possible in the city we were having the wedding in. I mean, I’m sure there were people, but try as I might, I couldn’t find them.

The venue wouldn’t let us do anything in advance, and in fact, when we discussed what we were planning to do for decorations (an idea we got from photos they showed us) they told us we couldn’t do it.

Consider that university students are usually pretty competent and in need of money. If one of your guests is in that age group, ask if they have a few friends that would be willing to pitch in the day of in return for a free meal and some drinks at the bar. If that’s not really enough, sweeten the deal with $20-$40/each and see if that fixes it.

We changed the whole thing around in the end so it became a non-issue for us.

Butterfly: how the heck are you having a church wedding? You’re already married to your husband and he’s Muslim. Honestly is this all daydream stuff or what?


Madison December 8, 2011 at 8:18 am

Most venues don’t allow setting up the night before because they have an event or because they will not take responsibility should something happen to the items you bring in.

You have a couple more options: Ask the venue if they allow their servers to set up for you at a small fee or hire a Day Of Coordinator to do it all for you including making sure you and the bridal party are where they are suppose to be all day. Most planners charge $300-$500 if you don’t have too much, but if you wait too last minute you will be paying an arm and a leg.

You don’t say what location your ceremony or reception is in and may find that helpful when asking here a Yahoo Answers and on Craigslist.


crazy_ari_girl December 8, 2011 at 8:49 am

We weren’t able to get into the room until about 3 hours before the wedding (though we could drop things off a few days in advance). I asked a few friends and family to help set up, and a few different people to help tear down.You might consider asking one or two people to be in charge of setup, and hire others on craigslist to follow orders and do most of the work. That way there’s someone there that you trust and who knows what needs to be done, but you don’t need to ask your friends and family to help much.

I will agree that it’s a major Catch-22, and one that most people manage by just asking friends and family to help. I felt kind of bad about asking, but I had no other choice, and I made sure that I extensively thanked those who helped (and I’ll be happy to help them in the future if they need it).


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