What a heartfelt story! Thanks so much for a fabulous entry, Megan.

A few weeks before our daughter was born, my fiancé uncovered an old notebook from college buried in a long-forgotten box. The notebook was nothing special, just a plain old notebook, probably purchased in a back-to-school sale at Walmart days before fall semester. But inside it held something special – a relic from a boring Sociology class we took together – a hastily-drawn heart with girlish bubble letters spelling out “Aaron Anthony Loves Megan Anne.” Within days, it was framed and hung above our nursery rocking chair, waiting for Lea’s arrival.

When we got engaged and began talking about wedding plans, we quickly agreed that with our family already started, a lavish, expensive wedding just wasn’t what we wanted. There are so many better uses for that kind of money – savings for emergencies, college tuition, even Lea’s eventual wedding. And so our wedding became a DIY extravaganza.

My tips for a successful, budget-savvy DIY wedding:

1. Play to your strengths and know your weaknesses: Thanks to a background in design, I knew I would be able to design and print our invitations and other paper projects myself and save us a lot of cash while still getting the look we wanted.

But I’m terrible at cutting in a straight line. I don’t want to ruin our beautiful invitations with my wobbly cuts so we’ll be paying the extra cost to have them cut by a printer.

2. Recognize the talents of your friends and family members: My mother-in-law is an avid gardener and will be helping us choose the flowers that we will be arranging for bouquets and centerpieces. My fiancé’s musically-talented brother will play our ceremony music and offered to assemble a band for our reception. We’re getting expert help for our music and our flowers for very little cost because we’re fortunate enough to be loved by such talented people.

3. Set your priorities: If there is something you don’t care about, don’t bother with it. It’s not worth the time, effort and money if it isn’t important to you and your fiancé.

Figure out what matters to you and put your money and resources there. For us, it’s making sure all our guests have a great time. So we’re focusing our resources on great food and having the reception at a restaurant instead of the original plan of a backyard wedding so all our guests can enjoy themselves without anyone stressing about setting and cleaning up.

4. If it’s important to you, it’s worth it. I know a lot of brides are okay with fake flowers or opt for non-floral centerpieces. I’m not crazy about the cost but I love flowers – the smell, the colors, the textures, everything – and I can’t imagine a wedding without them. So we’re doing flowers and lots of them but we’re doing them ourselves to cut the costs.

5. Give yourself plenty of time: We’re still eight months from our wedding but already have many of our stationery designs finalized and all the paper is in our living room. It gives us plenty of time to practice our projects to make sure they are exactly what we want and to complete the project (I don’t know about you but addressing all those envelopes in one weekend is NOT my idea of fun! But two or three a night for a month? That I can handle). If you’re rushing, you are more likely to make mistakes and come up with something you don’t love.

Plus knowing your plans ahead of time gives you a chance to shop around and take advantage of sales. We got all our paper half off by ordering when we did, which ended up being a huge saving in our budget.

On days when I’m frustrated with my DIY wedding projects, convinced they aren’t good enough or worried I wouldn’t have time to finish it all.  It’s imperfect, incredibly cheap and easily my favorite part of the room. Like all my favorite parts of Lea’s room – the handmade blankets from her great aunt, a beautiful trio of paintings from my friend, the letters of her name we painted while I was on bedrest – it embodies love and family, so it’s beautiful. Just like our DIY wedding will be.

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