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Set yourself up for DIY wedding planning success

Before arriving on the big day, make sure you have created a timeline. This will help you lay out the plan for the entire day and help you stay on track. Talk to everyone who’s in the wedding and make sure they know when to get there and what is happening. All of this should be completed and communicated before “go time” 

The reception Space needs to be set up right the first time

When you arrive, compare the floor plan to what was decided when the space was booked. Are the correct number of tables and chairs in the right place? Moving tables with linens, centerpieces, and glassware is near impossible. Since tables and chairs are often set up the night before, it’s best to get this checked early to avoid stress and confusion later on.

How to DIY Your Wedding if You Can’t Afford a Wedding Planner

Checking in on the Bride and Groom

After confirming that the event space is set up correctly, it’s time to check on the bride and groom. Hair and makeup vendors will most likely arrive early to begin their services. Your goal is to make sure the bride and groom are comfortable and have space to hang out with their people. Keeping the space private and relaxed will help ensure both the bride and groom are enjoying themselves.

Timing and Communication is Key

Keeping track of the arrival of your vendors will be a key factor in ensuring this wedding will start on time. A tip is to set a timer for vendor arrivals on your phone. This will alert you when vendors should be arriving and allow you the time to follow up in case they are not there. Traffic and other issues will come up so it’s helpful to stay on top of what’s happening and adjust accordingly. 

Don’t just assume that vendors will show up at the correct time. Make sure to communicate with them. When one vendor is late it can set off a chain reaction of setting back the wedding timeline. A good example is hair and makeup. If they are late; then it will take longer for them to get the bride ready. This can bump into the photographer’s time for photos with the bride and groom.

How to DIY Your Wedding if You Can’t Afford a Wedding Planner
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Photography tips for your big day

If your photographer isn’t expected to arrive until after the bridal party has finished getting ready, have a friend, family member, or maid of honor take photos of those special moments. Designating one person to capture the more candid moments while getting ready makes for some great keepsakes. 

About 2 hours before the ceremony is when it starts to get real. If you are planning a first look this should be done in an area where guests cannot see you. Most of the time if photographers have shot the venue before, they might already have a spot. If not, make sure to look over the venue for an area that will be out of view. 

Keep in mind guests may arrive about 1 hour before the ceremony.

Setting up your Ceremony & Reception Space

Setting up will look a bit messy but it is all part of the process. Between the cake table, sweetheart table, sign-in table, and dessert display there are a lot of moving pieces. Keep in mind that all these pieces need to be set up before the ceremony begins. So give yourself plenty of time to get this set up to avoid unnecessary stress.


Bins are a great tool to help keep you organized. Set up bins with your supplies and label them to find what you need easily. For example, place all the items that go on the sign-in table in one bin and then label it, “sign-in table.” Once the table is set up the bin can be stored underneath the table or somewhere else out of sight. This will help keep you, and whoever is helping you, stay sane.

How to DIY Your Wedding if You Can’t Afford a Wedding Planner
Photo by Yomex Owo on Unsplash

What to do during the Rehearsal & Ceremony

At the rehearsal make sure the bridal party knows who they can go to if they have any questions. Whoever is planning the wedding is who should run the rehearsal and take questions. This will allow the bride to enjoy her day and not feel obligated to pitch in. 

About 20 minutes before the ceremony starts everyone in the bridal party will be lined up and ready to go. This will allow for any last-minute restroom breaks or forgetting of items before the procession.

How to DIY Your Wedding if You Can’t Afford a Wedding Planner
Photo by Nevels Media on Unsplash

Before the ceremony begins, figure out who is going to make an announcement about cell phones. Oftentimes it is either the officiant or the DJ who asks the crowd to silence their phones. Keep in mind you can add something called the “social media minute”. 

This allows the crowd to take photos before the ceremony begins and the photographer to get nice shots without someone leaning into the aisle, trying to snap a quick pic.  

Make sure the officiant has the words “please be seated” in their notes. Officiants that are ordained for the day are often nervous and forget to tell the guests when they can be seated. Without that direction, guests get confused on whether or not they are supposed to keep standing or if they should sit, which can be really distracting from the ceremony.

Running late and crowd management

If it’s time for the ceremony to start and there are some late arriving guests, should you start without them or wait for them to get seated? 

Take a look at your crowd and decide if these really are last-minute stragglers or if you are missing half of your guest count? This will help you decide on whether or not you should wait or go ahead and continue. Keep in mind that a five-minute delay can quickly turn into twenty. So time management is a crucial part of the day.

How to DIY Your Wedding if You Can’t Afford a Wedding Planner
Photo by Oliver Pan on Unsplash

Also, be sure that the front rows are filled. Oftentimes guests will sit in the back which will not look good in photos. Have your ushers move guests to the front which will fill the crowd and look better during the ceremony.

Cocktail & Dinner Party

Before the reception starts, gather up your wedding party and verify how to pronounce everyone’s name. This is important for the bridal party introductions. 

Once introductions are complete it’s time for dinner. Controlling the flow of releasing tables to the buffet is crucial to avoid overflow in the kitchen. Have a plan for when and how each table will be released and then monitor it so that it doesn’t turn into a free for all. 

Pro tip: Ask your DJ to make an announcement for guests to remain at their seats until their table has been released and who will be doing that. 

After dinner, there are often dances and toasts. Make sure the mother of the groom and the father of the bride are ready for their dance and know where they need to be for the start. 

For anyone making a toast, review microphone etiquette and prepare them to speak in front of a crowd. If they do have notes, help them come up with something simple to say to end the toast. This quick review will allow them time to make any adjustments before they begin.

Planning for the whole day might seem overwhelming. So we recommend focusing on 30 minutes increments at a time. This will help you stay focused and on track! 

Don’t know how to create a wedding timeline? Check out our sample timeline here!

Happy wedding planning!

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