One of the things that made our wedding as special and memorable as it was, is that there were so many caring hands that went into bringing it to life. This wasn’t only practical for us (because it cut costs where we needed them cut so that we could give a little more to the areas of our budget that we had prioritized financially), but it was also a way to make so many of the details meaningful — they weren’t just pretty things we rented, or bought, or saw pinned on Pinterest…they were made by people we loved who loved us and wanted to gift us their time and energy.
So here are some of our favorite Wedding DIY’s
Save-the-Dates and Invitations | At the time when these needed to be designed, I think I fancied myself a graphic designer (I’m not), so I basically taught myself a few Photoshop skills, said a quick prayer, and tried my best! And you know what? They turned out to be exactly what we wanted: simple, fun, and way less expensive than they would have been had we gone through one of the usual print shops. We printed the exact amount we needed through VistaPrint, bought some leather chord and a hole punch from Michaels down the street, assembled, stamped and sent those babies out!
If you’re feeling creative, and if you have the time and patience, then this is definitely something I would recommend doing to lower your costs. Just be sure you’re not looking for something too fancy like printing white lettering, or hand-cutting, because come on.
Florals and Centerpieces | There were quite a few hands that went into making our centerpieces. For the months leading up to our wedding, Nate and I drank a lot of milk since our grocery store carries Straus Family Creamery brand and those were the bottles I wanted to use as our vases. (Pro tip: check to see if your grocery store will take the bottles back for your glass deposit. Ours does!) My mom and stepdad also turned old wooden crates that they found into little square risers by cutting them down to about 10×10 and nailing them together (this wasn’t the only wood working they did either. They also made dessert table risers out of a tree trunk!).
For the florals (which were all based around this photo I found on Pinterest), I knew I wanted to cut back on costs by ordering loose bunches of flowers instead of full arrangements. I found an awesome and affordable local florist I absolutely loved who was happy to provide us with all the loose flowers and greenery we needed for the centerpieces (these were the same types of flowers she used when creating our bridal bouquets, boutonnieres, flower crowns, and hanging garlands), and I also sourced some extra protea and greenery from a local protea farmer. Then our amazingly talented and generous friends spent the rainy morning of our wedding tucked under the reception pavilion making floral arrangements!
Lavender to toss | If you take look through some of the photos in my first wedding post, you might notice pretty little specks in the ones where Nate and I are walking back down the aisle after the ceremony. I wish you could smell as well as see, because if you could it would smell lovely.
My mom had the idea of tossing fresh Maui lavender after the ceremony instead of the typical rice (which wouldn’t be the best for the birds) or anything that would cause trash, like confetti (because, outdoors). So somehow between making a million desserts (see below), she ordered a bunch of lavender, and mobilized a tiny army to make 100 little vintage paper pockets in which to hold it all. These pockets were placed on each seat during the ceremony, and Nate and I got a fragrant rain fall of flowers as we walked down the aisle.
I have a great photo of my sister picking lavender buds out of my hair right after the ceremony, and I found some that had fallen down my dress later that night. Probably why I smelled so good.
Favors | My mom and little sister/bridesmaid took the lead on creating our adorable favors, and I love the way they turned out! Somewhere along the planning process, the idea was tossed around to give away coffee and tea as favors to our guests. Seemed like a no-brainer, really: I’m a coffee drinker from an island that grows some of the best coffee in the world, and Nate is a tea drinker whose dad’s side of the family comes from a region in southern China that grows delicious teas.
From there, my mom and sister helped to choose some great Big Island coffee to give away, and Nate parted with some of his favorite mini blocks of tea he brought back from his last trip. They divided them out so that our guests had a choice of one or the other (it always seems more fun when you have a choice of goodies), vacuumed sealed them, and stuffed them into little muslin pouches with tags that noted our wedding date. Then they found these great wire baskets to hold them in. Nate penned the sign (which now hangs above our kitchen sink), and our favors were fun, beautiful and ready to go!
Yard Games | One of the many reasons we chose Puakea Ranch as our venue was that it was as far from glass skyscrapers and hot asphalt as we could get. Instead, we had old plantation cottages, gardens, pools, and nicely sized lawns. And we definitely wanted to take advantage of them. Since I couldn’t figure out how to manage giving folks the option of going for a swim during our ceremony or reception (but wouldn’t you want to be at that wedding?), we settled on providing yard games and picnic blankets to really help us create the feel that this was a casual, intimate event. Nothing formal or stuffy to be found.
Instead, guests were encouraged to grab one of the colorful blankets I begged, borrowed and stole, cop a squat poolside or under the mango tree, and choose which game to play to entertain themselves (and their kids!) with during pupu/cocktail hour. We offered croquet, corn-hole, bocce ball, and a giant tic-tac-toe. (Okay, I didn’t steal the blankets. I had a bunch, borrowed some more, and also bought a few which I gave away to family as a thank you for all their help with the wedding.)
All the games were either built by family members or were borrowed from them for the wedding. What I love most is that my niece and nephews helped to make a lot of them — including painting that awesome wave and surfer on the corn-hole box that my stepdad built!
Signage | Never let it be said that I didn’t marry a talented guy. During the week leading up to the wedding, while I sorted flowers fresh from the farm, and organized baskets and supplies with my niece, Nate spent his time elbow deep in paint, hand-lettering signs. Between my mom, sisters, and my stepdad-the-builder, we had all the materials we needed for a directional sign pointing to Oakland (where Nate’s from), Honomu (where I’m from), the ceremony, the reception, the food, and the bathroom (in several different languages), the games sign, the bar sign, and little tiny dessert signs to go on the dessert bar.
I think it added a really fun and homegrown element to the day. Among so many other things I love about him, Nate’s an artist. And it was great to be able to incorporate his touch in all sorts of different places on our wedding.
Pupu’s (appetizers) + Dessert Bar | I wish I had photos of our appetizers and desserts and I don’t because we were obviously too busy stuffing our faces with all the deliciousness. Seriously, one of the most frequent comments we get about our wedding to this day remains how good the food was, how amazing the appetizers were, how many desserts everyone had to choose from. The secret? Stick to your favorite foods, especially if it’s family cooking, and always listen to your mother.
We did sort of a mix of both for our wedding. For the pupu’s, we asked my brother-in-law if he could make smoked meat (pork), which I grew up eating, will die eating, and maintain that over steamed rice there may not be a whole lot that’s better in the world. We also served our favorite poke (raw fish salad) like shoyu ahi poke, spicy poke, and mussels poke, picked up fresh from Foodland — because when you know, you know. Then we had our amazing caterer who did all of our dinner items provide a few extra appetizers as well, just to round it out. All I can remember about the apps is having our day-of coordinator hand me a plate stacked high with poke, soy beans, smoked meat and lemongrass chicken skewers right after we finished taking photos, and me, shoveling them in. Maybe whoever said you won’t get a chance to eat at your own wedding wasn’t super excited about their menu?
And it’s hard to even begin to talk about the desserts and all the love and heart and everythinggoodyoucouldpossiblythinkofintheworld that went into them. My mom made almost all of our desserts. All nine of them. For nearly a hundred guests. After months of testing recipes on my family, and spending the entire pre-wedding week baking up a confectioners storm, this is what she served for our dessert bar:
Hummingbird Cake (our wedding cake)
Lemon Lavender Bars
Cardamom Cake with Coffee Glaze
Orange Blossom Cake
Lilikoi Cream Cheese Bars
Bacardi Rum Cake
Bibinka (Filipino Coconut Rice Dessert)
Banana Bread with Chocolate and Nuts
And probably because who could say no to more goodness, one of my best friends also made red velvet cupcakes with butter cream frosting, and double chocolate brownies.
Wedding food, my friends. It can and should be spectacular.
Bar | We decided on a self-serve open bar because that’s Nate’s (and everyones?) favorite kind at a wedding. To make it happen, we enlisted the help of my mother and sister (who sourced beautiful vintage-looking beverage dispensers and found vintage wooden crates for risers), our caterer (who provided the non-alcoholic drinks like lilikoi lemonade), my dad (who hauled a truckload of ice from the harbor up to the ranch), and our friends (who concocted our signature drink). Those cute marquee letters of our initials came from the bookshelf in our apartment, and before that, Target circa 3 years ago. My favorite cousin — and any friends or members of my family who found themselves near the bar when supplies were getting low — played the crucial role of ensuring that the tin of cold beer, sodas and ice, as well as the dispensers of our signature drink stayed well stocked.
Given how it was surrounded at all moments, I’m pretty sure the bar was a huge hit. Even though we over-bought the booze. By like, a lot. I mean, we still have some left over…
At the end of the day, a wedding is not only what you make it, but it’s who you involve in it. It’s a celebration of your love, and it’s also a celebration of everything that brought you together, that made you the people you are today so that you could stand in front of one another and your community and make your promises.
For Nate and I, that foundation came from our families and friends. And there was just no having a wedding without them playing such an important role. We truly would not be where we are today without them, and we definitely wouldn’t have had the wedding we had without them either.
For vendor and photography information, see my first wedding post.