"My mom always jokes, 'You have it so hard planning your wedding. When I was getting married, all I had to decide was the color of our candied almonds,'" says Caitlin Frauton over the phone from Waterbury, VT. She’s the founder of DIY Wedding Mentor, a two-and-a-half-year-old business that helps soon-to-be-married couples organize and manage their wedding planning, especially if it involves an unconventional location like a working dairy farm, a restored Victorian home or in the case of Frauton’s special day in 2012, a sleepaway summer camp.
For Frauton, the idea of DIY can mean opting out of matrimony norms for venues and vendors that wouldn’t usually consider a wedding as a regular gig. In 2014, The Knot’s Real Weddings Study showed that 40 percent of couples preferred to book their wedding at an unusual venue of their liking. Mostly, though, DIY weddings often involve getting crafty, no matter how big or small the task may be. In a similar study by The Knot in 2009, DIY was popular for ceremony programs, wedding favors and escort cards.
It’s accessible online resources like The Knot, Pinterest and Etsy that have helped build and shape today’s DIY bride. "One thing that we noticed early on is that Pinners are planners. Pinterest is all about helping people plan their futures. Weddings, of course, are a big part of that," says Larkin Brown, a user researcher and stylist at Pinterest, which has been facilitating inspiration boards since 2010. "Brides look for and collect ideas they love, but also find ideas that they can take offline and try themselves. It's that intersection where DIY wedding ideas have become really popular."
Etsy, which has been supporting creative small businesses for the past 11 years, discovered that 72 percent of people believe that providing at least one DIY element for their wedding is a way to make it more personal. "That's the way of weddings these days," says Etsy’s Wedding Trend Expert Dayna Isom Johnson. "They're not cookie cutter. Everyone wants their own twists on things."
The DIY bride holds no clear-cut definition — and each have their own reasons for taking on a project or two or more. For some, it’s an opportunity to channel their inner maker. For others, it’s a way to keep things within their respective budgets. (Though, that’s not always the outcome.) No matter the reason, DIY weddings are almost always highly personalized, reflecting the story behind the couple, their tastes and their relationship. Call it rustic, vintage-inspired or boho: What usually comes to mind are such tropes as a barn or backyard with chalkboard artistry, decorated mason jars, something made from old wine corks and signs written with a filigree-style font.
And while these ideas are still popular today, the DIY bride’s aesthetic has become much more elevated — almost to the point where the DIY details might deem unrecognizable among the professional photos that flood your Facebook feed. Jen Carreiro of Something Turquoise, a wedding blog dedicated to the DIY bride, says it’s her type favorite of wedding — "the ones you that you don’t know it was DIY." When Carreiro was planning her own wedding nearly a decade ago, she used issues of Martha Stewart Weddings for DIY inspiration. (Although Etsy had just launched at the time, Pinterest and Instagram weren’t around yet.) "I was a big maker back then and I couldn't wait for that opportunity to make my favors and table numbers," she says.
According to Martha Stewart Weddings Special Projects Editor Anthony Luscia, DIY has been a part of the Martha Stewart brand for decades, and he’s been able to witness firsthand how it’s evolved within the bridal market. Luscia recalls relating DIY to a mother making her daughter’s wedding dress, or a grandmother baking the cake. "They were very homespun, but not very glamorous," he says. "DIY has gone into a much more sophisticated mode." Brides Magazine Wedding Style Senior Editor Kate Donovan agrees, noting that social media has allowed brides to focus more on the tiny details of a wedding and become heavily inspired by the work of others. "People have taken [DIY] to a whole other level," she says. "While it's more challenging, it definitely has improved the DIY look in general. It's becoming more modern."
Luscia also points out that the retail market has responded to this movement as well, providing new products specifically for DIY ideas. "I’m going to cut paper into strips myself no matter what," he says. "So they’ll design a scissor to make it easier. The market has had to acknowledge this or else they’ll lose business." (After all, the crafting industry is worth $29 billion.) Another example is the Cricut Explore, a precise cutting machine that was usually found at major printers or stationers. In 2014, the industry staple became a readily available (and somewhat affordable) product for people to have at home.
"You can cut paper, and leather and even thin pieces of metal and tin with custom artwork," explains Luscia. "You’re doing DIY with that technology and suddenly it looks like a professional has done it." Donovan finds this juxtaposition interesting: relying on online resources or new tech pieces to make the do-it-yourself experience more seamless (similar to the theme explored at The Met’s “Manus x Machine” exhibition).
Kasia Wisniewski, a Brooklyn-based designer, took advantage of DIY and tech for her own wedding last year, which included printed-and-sewn confetti envelopes and paper flower displays, to name a few. Notebook wedding favors, pop-up invitations and place cards were customized with a laser cutter. Having studied at Pratt with stints at a number of luxury womenswear and bridal designers, her biggest project involved designing and constructing her wedding and bridesmaid dresses. "I’ve been drawn to [bridal] for a long time," says Wisniewski. "It was one of the last areas of fashion where you could live out these fantasies that were also commercial and buyable." She documented her entire DIY process — "nutsy and hard and things sucked a lot" — on her blog Veiled Threat.
Of course, in the end, it was worth it. "I think a wedding is so unique, especially for people interested in design and making," she says, "It’s that opportunity you have to make stuff that you usually have a hard time justifying to make. That’s how I got to where I am now." After her wedding, Wisniewski launched her own line, called Collected Edition, inspired by a set of 3-D printed floral headpieces she wanted to make for her bridesmaids. Due to time constraints, the project never panned out in time for her wedding day. (Despite the mishap, she still believes that 3-D printing is well-tailored to weddings because of its easy ability to customize.)
Her 3-D printed poppies and daisies, created from sketches that are fine-tuned on a computer and then printed from nylon, continue to inspire a DIY aspect among brides. A perfect addition to a bride's bouquet, brides sometimes contact Wisniewski and ask how paint takes to them. "There’s so much incredible creativity that people have when they are faced with a big event like this," she says. "And I think there’s something to be said for what feels DIY and intensely personal, but you don’t have your hands all over it. DIY is about ownership but it doesn’t mean you have to devote every Saturday cutting confetti. It’s more of a DIY community effort. Modern DIY is not the DIY of five or 10 years ago; it’s very design-oriented."