While reading the October/November issue of Modern Bride magazine, I came across the story of the “Nearly Vendorless Bride”, Becca Sniderman. I was intrigued by the article, but felt there had to be more! I was able to contact Becca, and she was gracious enough to answer my questions.
Bride Craft: So tell us a little bit about yourself and your new husband!
Becca Sniderman: Let’s see… My husband, Will, and I live in New Hampshire with our three super adorable cats. I am a life insurance actuary, and he coaches high school soccer. We met on our first day of college at Boston University because we lived on the same floor – and although I apparently made a “snobby” first impression, we started dating a couple months later and have been together ever since.
BC: Your DIY wedding was recently featured in Modern Bride magazine! Congratulations on that. How did they hear about your hands on wedding?
Becca: Thanks! Actually, I was one of the bloggers on www.weddingbee.com, and Kara Corridan (who wrote the article) contacted me shortly after my wedding in response to a blog I had written about being a “vendorless bride” – after we talked about my DIY projects a bit, it took a little over a year before the article even ran!
BC: What parts of your wedding did you create yourselves? And how much did you save by going the DIY route?
Becca: Okay, bear with me, because I’m just going to start listing… a lot of this was mentioned in the Modern Bride article, but there were some other little things that didn’t make it.
Invitations – This included about 70 save-the-dates and 70 invitations, which consisted of DIY pocketfolds, pocketfold sashes, the main invitation, 4 inserts (RSVP card, directions/map, travel information, and a brunch invitation), RSVP envelopes, and outer envelopes. These were all printed on our home printer – and other than that, I just used an exacto knife, a yardstick, a bone folder, and lots of glue. I would guess we saved about $300 on invitations.
Photography – I don’t know how “DIY” this was, but we had a family member do our photography. We also handed our camera over to a friend for the night, put disposable cameras on the tables, and set up a pro Flickr account that we mentioned in the back of our programs so that guests could upload their photos of the wedding. I think we got about 1200 photos altogether! I also put together Blurb Book albums for our parents and wedding party – although a year and a half later, I still haven’t finished ours. We definitely saved a ton on photography – I am going to estimate we saved about $2,500, plus we got to keep all of the photos that were taken!
Flowers – I ordered the majority of our flowers from www.fiftyflowers.com – for 550 roses, 100 stems of hypericum berries, 20 baby green hydrangeas, and 18,000 rose petals (way, WAY too much). I also got some peonies from a local flower shop, and I ordered the boutonnieres and corsages from a local florist. These were all used for the bouts, corsages, bouquets, centerpieces, and random flower-petaling. I would say we saved about $1,500.
Music – Will put together the playlists for the entire night. He compiled all of our favorite songs (plus some not-so-favorites to keep everyone happy) and separated them into cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing. We rented a sound system (a gift from my parents), hooked up our laptop, and let it go! This was virtually expense-free, so I’ll say we saved about $1,000.
Cake – I am a bit embarrassed to say that I made the cake – but I have to say it was yummy (after all, I did about 3 rounds of taste tests)! It was 3 tiers and 2 flavors (strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting and pound cake with white chocolate ganache & raspberry filling), and it was covered in fondant with gum paste calla lilies as the topper. I wouldn’t say we saved a lot, but maybe about $300.
Escort cards – I made origami lilies and attached an escort tag to each. At the wedding, they were displayed in vases.
Guestbook – I did not bind the pages together. J However, I did use individual cards and paste them into a scrapbook so that each message had its own card. I also used some fabric from the bridesmaids dresses of Wills’ parents’ wedding for the cutout in the front of the book.
Programs – These were easy enough to make – I just used leftover paper from the invitations!
Favors – Because Will and I are true New Englanders, we gave out maple cookie favors. Everyone got a box that had a few maple sugar cookies (which I found myself baking on the Wednesday before the wedding), a cookie cutter shaped like a maple leaf, and a quick description of why (I’m from Massachusetts, he’s from Vermont, we live in New Hampshire, and got married in Maine = New England ).
Table numbers – Also easy and involved using leftover invitation paper! We had years for our table numbers, so each one had 2 sides with pictures of each of us from the corresponding year (apart before we knew each other but together once we’d met) and a third side with the menu. We thought this would get people to walk around to the different tables and mingle!
Out of town bags – The majority of our guests were coming from out of town, so we left out of town bags waiting for them at the hotel. These were canvas totes on which I stenciled a little bear holding a heart and saying “merci.” They included snacks, beverages, and a packet with an area map, area attractions, directions, and a crossword about us.
Table squares – I bought some really cheap fabric in one of my wedding colors (light sage) and sewed down the edges to make some table squares that we used to overlay the table cloths under the centerpieces.
Slipper basket – I did not sew the slippers, but I did put together a couple baskets of slippers for people to take for when their feet hurt from dancing.
Oh my goodness, I think that might be it! Altogether, I would say we saved somewhere in the $6,000-7,000 range, if not more. For some things, it’s hard to say if we “saved” money, since you may not really need them to begin with. But I definitely think we took out some serious costs.
BC: What was your favorite DIY project? Why did you like it so much?
Becca: I am going to cop out a bit and tell you 2 – escort cards and cake.
The escort cards were my favorite because I just think they turned out so pretty. And still to this day, I will go to a friend’s house and see their origami lily on display! Not to mention I made about 20 extra flowers that I have as decoration in my living room.
The cake was my favorite because it was the biggest challenge. I really knew nothing about cake-decorating when I began this endeavor (and that’s not to say that I am, by any means, particularly adept at it now). But I had always wanted to learn, so I made this my opportunity. Plus, taste tests meant we got to eat a LOT of cake!
BC: What would you say was your least favorite DIY pieces?
Becca: I think the flowers were the one project that I felt could have gone better – specifically for the centerpieces. My main issue was with the color of the roses – and in retrospect, I would have gone in a very different direction. I had pictured very white roses with pops of red hypericum berries. Because the roses were more on the off-white to yellow side, I always thought they could have turned out better.
BC: In the Modern Bride article, I found your comments about your flowers to be very interesting. You created your own floral arrangements and came across several set backs that I feel many brides experience when assembling their own arrangements. Can you tell us about those set backs?
Becca: You bet – the first setback, as I mentioned, was the color of the roses. Our wedding colors were light sage, red, and white. When the boxes of flowers arrived on the Thursday before the wedding, the white roses I had ordered looked quite yellow – which, at the time, was devastating (your life perspective is slightly distorted when you’re days away from your wedding). However, when they opened up, they did lighten up quite a bit, and I used them as they were for the centerpieces. For my bouquet, however, I ended up buying some beautiful white peonies the day before the wedding to supplement the roses and lighten up my bouquet.
Another major setback was dethorning. I am not exactly sure why it didn’t occur to me that the roses would have thorns, but needless to say, it was super time-consuming to get rid of them. My mother-in-law, Will, and I spent about 5 hours that day dethorning roses.
My mother-in-law and I then put the centerpieces and bouquets together on the Friday before the wedding – at that point, I learned that I needed far fewer flowers than I thought I would for my centerpieces. The research I had done beforehand led me to order 25 roses per centerpiece – which was WAY too many. Had I tried it out beforehand, I would have realized I only needed 15 each, and that could have significantly cut my costs.
BC: What advice would you give to brides who are planning on creating their own floral pieces?
Becca: 1. Practice! I spent so much time practicing my cake that I never really got around to practicing my flowers – by practice, I mean – try putting together the exact arrangement you want sometime before you order your flowers. That way you’ll have a better idea of how many you need and how the colors will work together.
2. If you can, take some time off before the wedding. You will be saving a bunch of money by doing your own flowers, so make sure you leave yourself enough time to do all the work while maintaining your sanity – because it takes a Lot. Of. Time.
3. Invest in floral wire and large buckets. You’ll want buckets to store the flowers in while they open (and you don’t want to stuff them together – they need room to open up), and floral wire can help keep your bouquets/arrangements in place.
BC: You also took on another huge task – your cake! How did it come out? And what is you advice for other brides who are thinking about baking their own wedding cake or embellishing upon a plainer one?
Becca: I mean, it’s not perfect, but I am really glad I did it. I think it came out pretty great, and I think it really finished off the personal feel of our wedding. My advice for other brides considering doing their own cake – practice. What I keep saying is, unless it means a lot to you (it meant a lot to me), don’t do it unless you already have either equipment or experience, because both equipment and experience can get expensive.
But if you really want to do it, then I’ll just say that fondant and gum paste are fun.
BC: After everything was said and done, how did you feel about your DIY wedding?
Becca: Wonderful. It’s not just about saving money (although it was largely motivated by saving money). It’s also about adding personal touches to a very personal day. I never felt like my ideas weren’t being heard (since I was the one hearing them), and it calmed me a bit to have that kind of control.
BC: And what did your guests think? Did they know how much of your wedding you took into your own hands?
Becca: I think our guests were blown away and really noticed and appreciated all the personal touches. They kept telling us how surprised they were about all of the details that we’d done ourselves. We even got a thank you note from one of our guests saying how taken care of she felt at the wedding!
BC: Do you have any other pearls of wisdom for DIYing weddings today that might make other couples’ lives easier as they tackle their weddings?
Becca: I think the most important thing is to make a budget and prioritize. When I first started looking at our budget, I googled “wedding budget breakdowns” – and saw some budget distributions that looked pretty unrealistic to me. For example, a lot will recommend spending 30-40% of your budget on your reception. Well, for me, that meant we could maybe eat at Applebee’s – when what I really wanted was a Saturday night in May at a beautiful venue with a plated meal. And what THAT meant for me is that I had to cut costs elsewhere – hence the DIY adventures. I think there are a lot of things you can do yourself if you put your mind to it, so figure out what it is you need to cut from the budget, and learn how to do it.
Also, the internet will be your best friend. Not only are there a wealth of websites full of advice, but you can also buy a lot of bulk supplies wholesale if you order online.
Finally, spreadsheets. Make lots of lists and timelines and keep yourself organized. When you take on a lot of projects, this will also mean you’ll be responsible for coordinating their arrival/setup on the day of the wedding. Enlist help from friends and family to make this happen. It will help if you can find a venue that only has one wedding per day – this will give you more time to pull it all together.
BC: Thanks Becca, for sharing your experience with Bride Craft readers!
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