The DIY Bride's Guide to Planning A Chic Destination Wedding (on a budget, of course)
I can’t say I’ve been to a bad wedding. Give me an open bar and food and I will never complain. If we’re going to nitpick, however, my most memorable weddings were all about the DETAILS – the little, thoughtful things that made me feel welcome, special, appreciated and loved (too far?). That’s exactly the feeling I wanted to give all the guests journeying from as far as NYC and LA for my destination wedding in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
As cofounder of Planfully, I've spent years personally planning events for others, so I know firsthand the high prices associated with any event, ESPECIALLY weddings. I quickly realized my carefully curated Pinterest dream wedding was just not going to be possible without at least 6 more zeros in my bank account. Still determined to create a modern day tropical fairytale, I decided to DIY. I conceptualized, planned meticulously, researched for hours, experimented and finalized. And I'm here to give you the inside scoop and save you tons of money. My top advice, tips, and tricks yet are all right below.
My Top 4 Tips
Brand your wedding: Pick an image or theme and be consistent with the look and feel of all your communication – save the dates, invites, website, and stationary. Your written and online communication evokes a feeling and tells your guests what to expect. See how below.
DIY doesn't have to look homemade: To achieve a lot of the details that would've cost me a fortune to get custom-made, I designed, printed, cut, glued, stamped, fused, and ironed to my little hands delight, lol. A little bit of research, trial + error, and patience can really go a long way. A few of my favorite DIY projects are below.
Prioritize your projects: I must admit - I was pretty bad at this. My brain gets going, and I want to do it all. Then I found myself finishing up the seating chart sign at 3AM the morning of our flight. No bueno.
Start early: If you're DIY'ing anything, start early. Everything takes 3x longer than you think to perfect and replicate. Be patient and take your time to make sure that line is straight and you've glued the edges.
DIY Doesn't Have to Look Homemade
Your invitations set the tone for the entire wedding, so be mindful of quality. But you can save quite a bit of money here with minimal effort. Minted or custom printed invites can easily be close to $10 per invitation.
Solution? Look for designs you can download and print through a printery of your choice. Etsy is a great place to look for unique designs. If you're adventurous, design your own or hire a designer thorugh Fiverrr or 99designs. Vistaprint premium quality is also surprisingly decent and they're constantly running 50% promotions. Request a wedding packet to get a feel for their premium products.
There are a ton of free options out there for wedding websites, but if you're as obsessive about branding as I am, design your own. I used Squarespace – beautifully designed website templates and super intuitive to use.
WELCOME + Beach BAG
By far, this was my favorite detail of the wedding. I splurged just a teeny bit on a burlap bag that could double as a beach bag. To avoid spending major bucks on custom printing, I used fabric transfer paper to iron a pineapple print onto each bag. By now, I was also knee-deep in my DIY research and found a way to print our logo directly onto fabric. I cut up some old totes, printed and fused the fabric pieces to the bag. Also, don't forget a thoughtful welcome note and itinerary. I opted for hand written notes to the detriment of my poor right hand, but guests did take note of the thoughtfulness.
Include goodies that your guests will actually need/find useful during the weekend – local snacks, Advil, mints, sunscreen, heel protectors for lawn weddings, and we couldn't forget the Appleton rum!
CAKE BOXES + PLACE SETTING
We boxed traditional Jamaican wedding cake (fruit cake) as a take-home favor for our guests. However, like any detail-crazed bride, I designed the box to match our theme. Simply, print the design on cardstock, cut, glue the cardstock to ribbon, and glue both to the box.
I kept the place setting simple with a few out-of-the ordinary deets. Instead of the typical paper name card, I got each name lasercut out of wood. Green ribbon and a pineapple wax stamp enclosed the menu and carried the theme.
This was definitely a result of too much time spent on Pinterest, but they turned out to be so cute. I fell in love with the on-theme matchbooks, which were just rectangular pieces of cardstock glued to a black matchbook. Take extra care with the cutting and gluing, because a DIY project can quickly look "homemade" if lacking precision.
After smuggling both the matchbooks and sparklers in our checked luggage, they made their debut on the most humid day I've ever experienced. FYI, sparklers may not light in humid climates. Be sure to keep them indoors until it's time to use.
Money-Saving Tricks + Tips
Charger alternative: Who knew that glass chargers were so expensive?! I bought a placemat alternative I found at Target that was cheap, easily transportable, and actually decent looking.
Flowers: I opted for leafy centerpieces. It fit the theme and was by far more budget-friendly than even the cheapest flowers.
Save-the-dates: On the advice of a friend, we decided against sending save-the-dates. Not only do you save money on stationary, but you can make last minute cuts to headcount, which can be a budget lifesaver. Just be sure to send the invites far in advance of the wedding.
Headcount: Reducing your headcount can be your biggest money saver, but also (possibly) the biggest point of contention between you and the soon-to-be hubs. Set up rules for plus-1's, family members, etc that you both agree on, but be flexible when necessary. Send invitations in batches so you can track RSVPs as you go. Location of the wedding also plays into this, so choose your city wisely.
Liquor: While my husband decided to splurge on a premium open bar, I recommend a couple signature drinks that reflect your favorite drinks paired with beer + wine open bar. Be sure to have large easy-to-read signage at each bar. Your guests will be happy and tipsy in no time.
Food: We opted for a buffet service primarily due to a lack of local cuisine options for individually-plated meals at our venue (no clue why). I was hesitant at first, but I'm actually so glad we did. Not only will buffet or family-style service run you ~$10 less per guest, but we didn't have to worry about keeping track of dietary restrictions and choosing the best entree options. Guests could get second servings and there were plenty of food options.
Planfully: The idea for Planfully sprouted while planning my own DIY wedding and hearing from so many other brides-to-be about the high costs associated with their weddings. Our goal was to make comparing prices super simple so you know you're getting the best bang-for-buck. Say goodbye to countless hours of research and spreadsheets. Sign up for our beta launching soon...
Welp, that’s all I got. After months of planning, I loved seeing it all come together and spending quality time with friends and family!
Any questions? Contact us - always happy to help a bride-to-be on her wedding journey!