The Value of DIY: A Pre-Wedding Week in Phoenix

Friday the 22nd of April, I packed my bags and hit the road to Arizona. Phoenix to be exact. It's a drive I have made many times in the past couple of years. One of my very best friends moved there with her fiance, and I have been out to visit frequently in the years since. This drive however, was different. This one would lead to their wedding!

Why was I going out a week early? Because I could. I left my "day job" back in early February in order to pursue freelance makeup full time. I just wrapped a shoot earlier in April, and didn't have anything else booked until after this event. My days were open, and so I went, makeup kit in tow for the bride's big day, and able body and hands for the DIY week ahead.

See the rest of their engagement session here.

You see, Leanne and Nathan, the newlyweds-to-be, have been planning and DIY-ing every aspect of their nuptials. Leanne has incredible style and tastes, as does Nate, who happens to be a graphic designer. So it would be a near shame to not have their own hands in the design of their big day. As someone who follows wedding and design blogs, I have a big appetite for all things DIY. Folders of inspiration images, bookmarks of projects to one day tackle. Though I am not yet engaged, I have always just assumed I would want to do everything myself when the time came. And after spending the week with these two, lending my hands, mind, and sometimes blood and tears (thank you, glue gun), I am all the more sure of the value of DIY when it comes to your wedding.

Let's be totally honest, weddings are expensive! According to The Knot, the average wedding in 2010 cost close to $30,000! I work in the industry myself, and have been a part of many weddings over the years. I will be the first to tell you quality comes at a certain price. However, I think most couples can lose sight of what is really important. It is the love between two people who have decided to spend their lives together. And throw a party in honor of that love! But a $30,000 party? Hmm... 

Priorities can easily get lost in the shuffle, but I think deciding early on what your big ticket item(s) will be can save you a lot in the long run. Is it your dress? Is it the photographer? Is it the venue? Pick! Doing some things yourself, or delegating tasks to family members and friends with certain talents can go far. Everyone knows someone. You just have to get creative. This is not to say a wedding planner or event coordinator is not worth your money. Maybe that is your big priority. Great! Decide on that, and give them a budget to work with. DIY might not appeal to everyone, and frankly maybe some people just don't have the time or energy (it's not easy). But being honest about your expectations, and what you can afford, will make the whole process more enjoyable, doing it yourself or not. 

Leanne found her gorgeous vintage dress on Etsy, and had a friend alter and personalize it. The couple happened to know friends with a home nearby with an incredible backyard that became the perfect venue. It was complete with hanging twinkle lights, big leafy trees, and multiple gardens most people only dream about. Plus the most darling birds nest, found the morning of the wedding, above the arch where Leanne and Nate would soon be married.

An abundance of gorgeous flowers were ordered from a wholesale florist, ready for the bride and her ladies to arrange in centerpieces the morning of. Another friend made the most beautiful cake, complete with details only someone who knows you well could really accomplish. It just makes sense. Get your hands dirty, and ask your friends to do the same. It will not only become an incredible labor of love to celebrate love itself, but it will bring you all so much closer in the process.

And I think for me, as a close friend, getting to be a part of their day in such a special way really made the event that much more magical. I know not everyone has the time, but even as friends and family got into town throughout the week, everyone pitched in. It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was love.

What? You didn't want to see the rehearsal? But Leanne's Betsey Johnson dress was divine! Oooh, you wanted to see the actual wedding? That, you will have to wait patiently for. I really am eager to share that with you, but I think the work of Noa of Feather Love Photography will be worth the wait. Those of us lucky enough to be there can assure you, it was truly fantastic. It was a DIY dream.

All photos by me, unless otherwise specified, and may not be used without permission.