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Handmade Weddings: It Takes a Village to Craft a Handmade Wedding

May 14, 2009

by eleen

Jimmy and I got married at our alma mater in Berkeley, California, in late January 2008. I cherish that day and the months leading up to it — not only because I got to marry my superstar sweetheart husband, but for a few other reasons as well. The first? Our wedding was an amazing and unforgettable collaboration of family and friends, which made it that much more special. Second, I really got to thinking that maybe the world of handmade could be the life — and a living — for me!

My last freelance gig as a web project manager ended in October 2007, and I spent the next three months plotting for what I came to see as the uber craft project challenge of a lifetime. Given free reign by Jimmy, I set out to DIY it all: from invites to thank you cards, bouquets to centerpieces, favors to photo booth…to wedding gown and veil!

Credit: Top Left: Jesse Leake Photography, Bottom Right: Nina Lao

Little did my then-fiance realize what this would mean for him: hours of paper punching, sticker adhering, flower assembling and other crafty tasks ahead. Soon I recruited even more unwitting victims — friends and family — to help along the way as well. No one was safe from crafty endeavors, for as I learned, it takes a village to craft a handmade wedding.

Credit: Bottom Right: Nina Lao

About 25 projects and minus ten pounds later (wedding planning is a great method for rapid weight loss), we had our very own DIY wedding! Bridesmaid Clara contributed the tastiest his-and-hers batches of homemade green tea (his) and double-chocolate (hers) cupcakes, topped with our initials.

Credit: Jesse Leake Photography

Big sister/matron-of-honor Christine and brother-in-law Don grew our delightful wheatgrass centerpieces, displayed in hand-stained wooden boxes and bringing bright happy splashes of green throughout our UC Berkeley Faculty Club venue.

Credit: Nina Lao

And the groom’s family labored over intricately designed centerpieces made of orchids and bamboo. These were one of the main elements of our wedding day, chosen for their symbolism of longevity, strength and grace.

Credit: Jesse Leake Photography

Bridesmaid Jenn masterminded our slideshow, which she transformed from the traditional photo-by-photo setup and turned into a real deal stop-motion animation film!

Something that still comes up in conversation with friends is our homemade lip balm wedding favors. This was one of my favorite projects, as Jimmy and I each concocted our own recipes (mine was Hot Chocolate Mint and his was Cool Cucumber Melon) and gave each guest a packaged tube of creamy lip balm marked “Please ask about our free lifetime refills.” (Make your own with this how-to!)

We couldn’t do it without a photo booth, so we rigged our own setup with PVC pipes, some free software, a borrowed DSLR camera and a remote control. We loved how creative our guests got with this, and we came home with boatloads of memorable shots.

Credit: Left: Jesse Leake Photography, Right: Don McKee

Then there was the gown, which was by far the biggest and most stressful project. I sketched out a look based off an assortment of gowns from ripped-out magazine pages and online bridal sites, then found an out-of-print sewing pattern that somewhat resembled my design. I was having the hardest time fitting it on myself, so Mom came up from Los Angeles and made me a wacky replica of myself via a duct tape dressform. (Here’s a how-to from the folks at Taunton publishers.) I spent an entire three months on my gown, veil and wrap, and ultimately considered it a relief and a success when nothing fell apart as I walked down the aisle or as Jimmy flung the veil from my face.

Credit: Nina Lao

Once we danced the Hustle for our first dance (which you can see a part of in this mini-commercial made by our dance instructors), we costume-changed into our traditional garb to round out the night: Jimmy in his traditional Filipino barong tagalog and me in my Taiwanese chi pao. Luckily Mom talked me out of making my own chi pao, and I found the perfect one online instead.

What are the lessons I learned from having a DIY wedding? One thing I’d say is that even if you CAN make it yourself, that doesn’t mean you should! In retrospect, there were plenty of projects I probably should have outsourced or de-prioritized. I can’t say I regretted any of them, but I probably could have saved myself a few moments of panic had I turned elsewhere — like all of the talented sellers on Etsy! — for them.

And two of the best pieces of advice I got? Not everything’s going to turn out the way it’s supposed to on your wedding day. When that happens, don’t even think about it! This is just one day in a lifetime of days ahead…and no one else is going to notice anyway. Also, accept help from other people! Don’t try to do everything on your own.

In the end, it was our perfect wedding. Handmade or not, we were together and surrounded by loving family and friends in a beautiful venue, and were even blessed with a bright sunny day in the heart of an otherwise rainy winter month. We couldn’t have been happier. And that’s our story!

Credit: Jesse Leake Photography

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125 comments

  • Mattamorphis

    Mattamorphis said 7 years ago

    Everything looks beautiful darling. -M

  • qwynwyn

    qwynwyn said 7 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your DIY wedding story! What a project! It's cool that you involved your family and friends too.

  • jeweledblossoms

    jeweledblossoms said 7 years ago

    What a cool story! It's so awesome that it all worked out for you guys. Congrats! :)

  • emmaray

    emmaray said 7 years ago

    So inspirational and cool!! Lovely stuff.

  • Faeriedtreasures

    Faeriedtreasures said 7 years ago

    Such a beautiful wedding, and such a beautiful couple! I really enjoyed reading your story, and your "village" did a wonderful job, and I love your wedding cake topper, too. :)

  • aimeesarmoire

    aimeesarmoire said 7 years ago

    Beautiful!

  • NinaReneeDesigns

    NinaReneeDesigns said 7 years ago

    Beautiful wedding...I looove the centerpieces! :-)

  • iheartnorwegianwood

    iheartnorwegianwood said 7 years ago

    I'm in the middle of planning a handmade wedding myself and LOVE these articles. I have until next June, so hopefully I can spread the craftiness out over the next year!

  • betsy3

    betsy3 said 7 years ago

    Lovely!

  • worksofwhimsy

    worksofwhimsy said 7 years ago

    What a lovely story. Thanks for sharing it. You're very lucky to have such a helpful (and crafty) family.

  • Vanessa Admin

    Vanessa said 7 years ago

    I'm in awe! You are so creative!

  • ShiStudio

    ShiStudio said 7 years ago

    Gorgeous wedding - I love the picture of the veil flying over your head - what a joyous image!

  • jenniferlynnstudio

    jenniferlynnstudio said 7 years ago

    What a Very Special Wedding!..Thanks for sharing..Loved all your detail of events..and all the pics..Makes it that much more special!

  • HighStrungBead

    HighStrungBead said 7 years ago

    Congrats! Love the centerpieces!!!

  • leandrageorge

    leandrageorge said 7 years ago

    Very pretty. Your dress looks beautiful. I did a handmade wedding too, including making my dress and bridesmaids. One thing I have to say is you really put your heart and soul into it when you've had a hand in the making of everything.

  • yumiyumi

    yumiyumi said 7 years ago

    Wow. Love the wheatgrass and orchid combination and lip balm favors.

  • maiziedesigns

    maiziedesigns said 7 years ago

    Such a great article. I love the color of the bridesmaid dresses.

  • ElegantSnobbery

    ElegantSnobbery said 7 years ago

    Great post and beautiful pictures!!

  • MGMart

    MGMart said 7 years ago

    Such a sweet story! Lovely photos and items! Thank you for sharing with us. Best Wishes, Marianna

  • EJPcreations

    EJPcreations said 7 years ago

    I love the grass idea!!

  • oyster

    oyster said 7 years ago

    Simple, elegant, and not saccharine! Cute-looking couple!

  • nanouke

    nanouke said 7 years ago

    Ooooohhhh, how sweet!! I love the grass center pieces and you look beautiful!

  • madebysam

    madebysam said 7 years ago

    so lovely!

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 7 years ago

    Very nice!

  • cottonbirddesigns

    cottonbirddesigns said 7 years ago

    Beautiful!

  • mavenhaven

    mavenhaven said 7 years ago

    The wheatgrass and the lip balm are amazing ideas. Consider them yoinked! Lovely work. And congratulations!!

  • dandelionland

    dandelionland said 7 years ago

    I love the wheatgrass centerpieces! Great idea! Beautiful...

  • anandi

    anandi said 7 years ago

    The color of your bridesmaids' dresses is stunning, and your dress is amazing!! What a cool article. Congratulations and best wishes for a happy lifetime together! Also, I *LOVE* the cake topper. We just chose to forgo the cake topper entirely because we couldn't find any that remotely looked like us :)

  • brooklit

    brooklit said 7 years ago

    Love all the items you picked here, and what a beautiful wedding! I especially love the make your own photo-booth!

  • shopgoodgrace

    shopgoodgrace said 7 years ago

    LOVELY! Beautiful job ... from the gorgeous dress to the lip balm favors! :)

  • loopdiloops

    loopdiloops said 7 years ago

    What a gorgeous wedding! I really love the cake and the lip balm, so original! Congratulations to you both!

  • locallibrary

    locallibrary said 7 years ago

    so beautiful - the wedding and the couple!

  • dragonhouseofyuen

    dragonhouseofyuen said 7 years ago

    how touching and beautiful Jimmy and Eleen - I have tears in my eyes from your dance video :) ~ I'm a little emotional at times :) ~ this is such a super story - thanks etsy for letting two very special people share it with everyone!

  • eleen

    eleen said 7 years ago

    Thanks everyone, and thanks so much to Etsy for letting me share my story!

  • pennyspug

    pennyspug said 7 years ago

    lovely

  • MyJunkyTrunk

    MyJunkyTrunk said 7 years ago

    Wow! What a gorgeous couple, and some really lovely pics! Thanks for sharing!

  • mpaperarts

    mpaperarts said 7 years ago

    Happiness all around! Gorgeous. Make me want to get married again...same guy.

  • muyinmolly

    muyinmolly said 7 years ago

    This is just amazing!I wish my fiance would let me do the same thing too!he's not that into handmade, but I really hope he can make our wedding rings. BTW,I don't think you can make your own chi pao!

  • StitchCraftShop

    StitchCraftShop said 7 years ago

    great article!!! eleen's the best!

  • BeautifulSoaps

    BeautifulSoaps said 7 years ago

    I love the photo of you being unveiled, and your maid of honor looks so happy too!

  • WindowsOfAgate

    WindowsOfAgate said 7 years ago

    I love this article! I took at look at your dance video - it was so sweet! It makes me wish that my husband and I had taken dance lessons as well. You guys looked great and so happy! Congratulations to you both.

  • VintageJamie

    VintageJamie said 7 years ago

    Wow, green wedding.. So beautiful!

  • jewelrybyallison

    jewelrybyallison said 7 years ago

    Simply stunning, congratulations!

  • LabyrinthLeather

    LabyrinthLeather said 7 years ago

    So beautiful =:)

  • norakaren

    norakaren said 7 years ago

    lovely pictures,I just created this shoes for a wedding!

  • TianaCHE

    TianaCHE said 7 years ago

    Absolutely gourgeos wedding! So sweet and lovely! Congradulations!

  • bunnylove4

    bunnylove4 said 7 years ago

    All the more special-- the two of you looked absolutely so happy!! Congratulations!!!!

  • bellasparty

    bellasparty said 7 years ago

    Great article! Everything looks so beautiful!

  • silvercrush

    silvercrush said 7 years ago

    great!

  • truLuxe

    truLuxe said 7 years ago

    Wow... those centerpieces are beyond spectacular! All of it is lovely... Best wishes to you both. xx

  • patchylover

    patchylover said 7 years ago

    Beautiful! Great job and I'm so happy how wonderfully it all worked out for you! What an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your remarkable day with us! :)

  • xtinavox

    xtinavox said 7 years ago

    Had my wedding reception in the exact same place and---though this was years ago, long before I knew about etsy or was singing the praises of handmade ("homemade" my Jim likes to say)----my dress and hat were, yes, all made by hand. thanks for sharing your lovely day!

  • littlepinkpebble

    littlepinkpebble said 7 years ago

    Bravo~!!

  • paperinstyle

    paperinstyle said 7 years ago

    BEAUTIFUL!!!

  • FashionTouch

    FashionTouch said 7 years ago

    beautiful wedding!

  • lorijaclynsjewels

    lorijaclynsjewels said 7 years ago

    SO amazing :D I love weddings, and your's looked perfect <3

  • JeweledAmbrosia

    JeweledAmbrosia said 7 years ago

    How wonderful that everyone came together to help! It looked beautiful :)

  • AndrosCreations

    AndrosCreations said 7 years ago

    Very nice photos! I like the ring pillows.

  • sweetbabylove

    sweetbabylove said 7 years ago

    I'm so glad I read your article, as I had always planned to do just as you mentioned.. everything handmade, myself, and or with friends and family. Thanks so much for the advice to relinquish control as I'm not sure I would have taken that advice from anyone other than someone who had done it herself! However, I do LOVE your bridesmaids rings, and would love it if you would be willing to share that idea? if so, will you message me with it? Thanks so much! Stacey

  • amadalebel

    amadalebel said 7 years ago

    What a fabulous final shot, just stunning! Congratulations, Amada

  • raghousenternational

    raghousenternational said 7 years ago

    I am definitely sold on the handmade wedding.

  • BluCille

    BluCille said 7 years ago

    Looks very nice.

  • ireneagh

    ireneagh said 7 years ago

    Beautiful!!!!!!!! <3<3<3

  • ilovehearts

    ilovehearts said 7 years ago

    Absolutely wonderful! x

  • vilte

    vilte said 7 years ago

    wonderful photos

  • gloriouscrochet

    gloriouscrochet said 7 years ago

    Incredible!

  • missbatch

    missbatch said 7 years ago

    What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing.

  • mythunderstood

    mythunderstood said 7 years ago

    Inspiring story and collection.

  • zeropumpkin

    zeropumpkin said 7 years ago

    awww every things is so sweet! :D

  • DeborahVoizin

    DeborahVoizin said 7 years ago

    Great Ideas!

  • AliBaliJewellery

    AliBaliJewellery said 7 years ago

    what a lovely story and a gorgeous couple!

  • carolinabean

    carolinabean said 7 years ago

    Really amazing story, loved the pictures.

  • hobocampcrafts

    hobocampcrafts said 7 years ago

    gorgeous is all I can say! Congratulations- how beautiful!

  • miraculousmosquito

    miraculousmosquito said 7 years ago

    those green dresses were very beautiful!

  • thetroubleandstrife

    thetroubleandstrife said 7 years ago

    This is so lovely! I was so excited to read your story since I too am using Etsy and my own crafty ways to make my upcoming wedding a DIY event. Cheers to you for doing so much of the amazing work yourself. BEAUTIFUL!

  • toughandtwisted

    toughandtwisted said 7 years ago

    As a husband who helped a bit in my own DIY kinda wedding almost 6 years ago to date, my wife did most the work, but I know what it takes bravo!! It looks great how hard you must of worked!

  • pinpinn

    pinpinn said 7 years ago

    Lovely wedding! I'm doing alot myself, but am glad to let the professionals do their thing at the same time ^_~ Good advice~!

  • mykonos

    mykonos said 7 years ago

    sooo sweet!!

  • BargainHeadbands

    BargainHeadbands said 7 years ago

    wow! this is soooo cool! One of my favorite handmade wedding stories ever! Thanks for sharing and inspiring!

  • Piggy

    Piggy said 7 years ago

    Great articles & ideas! Beautiful wedding :D

  • exousia

    exousia said 7 years ago

    Congratulations! What a heart warming story and a wholesome down to earth process!

  • CutieDynamite

    CutieDynamite said 7 years ago

    Gorgeous! What a fantastic story!

  • SundraSandrusi

    SundraSandrusi said 7 years ago

    beautiful !! Thanks for sharing!

  • nfall2rt

    nfall2rt said 7 years ago

    beautiful story! What a large undertaking in just three months too!

  • SusanKJewelry

    SusanKJewelry said 7 years ago

    WOW Such a beautiful story . Loved it!

  • IceCreamCandy

    IceCreamCandy said 7 years ago

    very beautiful wedding story!! love it!

  • asundrynotion

    asundrynotion said 7 years ago

    Ditto: Beautiful!

  • eleen

    eleen said 7 years ago

    Thanks so much for all the new comments! Gotta love the Etsy community -- always so supportive and full of kindness! anandi - Our cake toppers were custom-made by a seller to look like us, right down to his barong and goatee and my chi pao. :] She no longers sells on Etsy, but I know there are other custom cake-topper makers out there! sweetbabylove - I'll message you this weekend with details!

  • TheNebulousKingdom

    TheNebulousKingdom said 7 years ago

    so beautiful story and very sweet couple!

  • MegnificentCo

    MegnificentCo said 7 years ago

    I love this! My 5 year anniversary is in October, and I wish I had handcrafted more aspects of my wedding. It just makes it so much more meaningful. I also loved the idea of the cupcakes and the lip balm as favors. Fantastic!

  • bedouin

    bedouin said 7 years ago

    Loved the top story ~ a little inspration goes a long ~ fellow bezerklian

  • LoveAppleBoutique

    LoveAppleBoutique said 7 years ago

    So beautiful. Wishing a life time of happiness.

  • jurgitahandmade

    jurgitahandmade said 7 years ago

    Such a beautiful ideas!!! Perfect! Wants to marry again! :)

  • florigander

    florigander said 7 years ago

    Those. Weatgrass boxes. Are killer.

  • BGBJewelry

    BGBJewelry said 7 years ago

    Just Lovely and so amazing!

  • voleurdebijoux

    voleurdebijoux said 7 years ago

    lovelove....truly sweet and inspiring. :)

  • GraciLou

    GraciLou said 7 years ago

    Love all of it!!! Makes me want another wedding! :)

  • berrymorin

    berrymorin said 7 years ago

    I loved how the family was recruited into the projects. Everyone will have a great story to tell.

  • meraldesigns

    meraldesigns said 7 years ago

    a job well done....

  • jmeyer814

    jmeyer814 said 7 years ago

    Your pictures are beautiful! I can't believe how much work you put into it. It definitely paid off in the end. Simply fabulous!

  • sirenedelmare

    sirenedelmare said 7 years ago

    Finally some beautiful bridesmaid dresses! Fantastic wedding! Can't believe you did all that..... You're a ROCK STAR!!!!!

  • Lunatiger

    Lunatiger said 7 years ago

    That's such a cool wedding! ^_^ I love creative fun!

  • Beadz2Pleaz

    Beadz2Pleaz said 7 years ago

    Inspiring and beautiful. Thanks for sharing :)

  • capecodfoto

    capecodfoto said 7 years ago

    I am glad to see that you let a real pro handle the photography as that is what will bring back the day for you from now on. As a professional photographer, I have heard too many sad stories of scrimping on the photography and ending up with poor photos or none!

  • cellascreations

    cellascreations said 7 years ago

    Beautiful story! Thank you so much for sharing.

  • giveapenny

    giveapenny said 7 years ago

    What a talent! Thanks for sharing :)

  • simplysophia

    simplysophia said 7 years ago

    Everything is gorgeous! YOu did a fantastic job! Also, congrats on getting married!

  • angelene

    angelene said 7 years ago

    what a beautiful article - and a gorgeous wedding - congratulations and thanks for sharing!

  • sandali

    sandali said 7 years ago

    What an amazingly beautiful DIY wedding !! It honestly just adds that personal touch -- not only is it for the fun of it but mainly for the idea that it's yours, created by you & your loved ones and most importantly that it's exactly what you wanted on your special day -- LOVE it !!!

  • TessaKim

    TessaKim said 7 years ago

    wonderful!

  • rosycloudfairyland

    rosycloudfairyland said 7 years ago

    It takes a village to craft a handmade wedding. Unforgetable experience. And you have an good individual view of such DIY wedding.

  • animalartista

    animalartista said 7 years ago

    I did my own wedding too, it is so much fun and one of a kind when you do that! So many great ideas out there!

  • patysclay

    patysclay said 7 years ago

    hurray for the handmade world and for every artist that work long hours to get a fine product.. nothing better than handmade items Patty

  • JessKayDesigns

    JessKayDesigns said 7 years ago

    Everything looks beautiful and you'll always have all those memories leading up to the wedding as well! I did the same DIY wedding and loved all the time I got to spend with friends and family as they volunteered to help create everything with me :)

  • daniellexo

    daniellexo said 7 years ago

    How gorgeous are you and your new husband? Thanks so much for sharing your special day – all those details are perfect.

  • BeadsInTheBelfry

    BeadsInTheBelfry said 7 years ago

    Just wonderful!!! Everything was gorgeous and congratulations!

  • noelclover

    noelclover said 7 years ago

    Wow, that photo booth idea would come in handy in so many instances, can you provide more detail about that? I would really appreciate it! Or maybe just some links to the software and any other materials you may have used? Thanks!

  • connie4u

    connie4u said 7 years ago

    great

  • PreschoolDoll

    PreschoolDoll said 7 years ago

    How funny. My fiance and are using the color green in our wedding and adding a lot of vintage pieces and handmade projects! We too are doing all the invites, placecards, programs, favors, etc! It's been fun but stressful. Our table has been surrounded by family and friends, deep in concentration and deep into the night too. I hope it's all done by August 8th! Thanks for the story and beautiful pictures. I'm glad to see there's other women who have taken on this challenge, and one with similar taste to my own! What wonderful memories in the "making".

  • HazelMay

    HazelMay said 7 years ago

    Now that team work! I am amazed that everyone is smiling through the crafting process. How amazing, and memorable. Those are memories you truly will remember and cherish the rest of your life.

  • weddingdresses

    weddingdresses said 6 years ago

    Pretty photos! And the bride in the wedding dress is so sweet!The column style wedding dress is quite well fitting and is more suitable for the slimmer lady. It is not the most forgiving so if you have body areas that are perhaps a little larger than you are happy with, this dress will not do well to hid it.Best wishes to the couple!

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