Friday, 11 July 2014

An honest guide to wedding planning: Part 2: Making stuff | Budget Wedding Blog

Jess is back on the blog today with part 2 of her guide to wedding planning (read part 1 here) today it's all about making stuff and her 2 fabulously unconventional wedding dresses...

Giant Bear and I organised a two-day wedding, hen party, stag do and honeymoon in less than four months, for just under £6k. And it was so much fun! Here’s how we did it: i. prioritising; ii. making stuff; iii. letting people help. In this post, I’m going to talk about making stuff.

Think about what will ‘show’ Table decorations will be right in front of every guest all night, so they’re worth spending time on, but there are lots of other things that your guests will see for a few fleeting moments and probably won’t remember. For example, we got married in Holy Week and so were only allowed to have decorations in church for the few hours we were in the building. Moreover, the church roof was in the process of being replaced and the building was covered in scaffolding (and the organ swathed in crime scene plastic). There was no point in trying to decorate very much, so we asked our guests to wear bright colours and borrowed some brightly-coloured bunting to just decorate the main aisle and the choir stalls (i.e. the bits everybody is actually looking at).  

Make stuff yourself Make stuff! Make all the stuff! 

This is only a good idea if you actually know what you’re doing. For example, for wedding favours I made four different kinds of marmalade (seventy-two jars and labels from the Jam Jar Shop, £60; fruit and sugar from my local grocer, £30). I love making marmalade and already own a jam pan, so this was quick and fun, and the end results both pretty and delicious. 

If I hadn’t known what I was doing, however, it would have been a sticky orange-based nightmare. My point is that there are lots of things you can really enjoy making yourselves, and that will save you lots of money – but choose carefully! 

For example, I made ties for all the men at the civil ceremony. I found an online tutorial that helped me cut the shapes accurately, and then I personalised each one with a different linings.

 With the help of Giant Bear’s mother each one only took a couple of hours. This was a simple project that anyone could do. 

If you want to make something you’ve never attempted before, that’s great and I applaud you, but do your homework (and/or get someone to help you). 

Having stuff made just for you

You wouldn’t think this would save money, but it does. For example, our jeweller made five rings as a stacking set for me (two engagement rings, three wedding rings) and a matching single ring for Giant Bear, £110 including tax and postage from the US). 

We also had handmade cufflinks made for our best man and my friend, who gave me away, (£22 per pair). If you buy something really personal that shows a lot of thought and time has gone into it, nobody cares how much you have spent. 

Making your own wedding dress 

If you’ve made a dress before, this is the golden ticket when it comes to saving money and getting *exactly* what you want. I had two dresses (one for each day!). I used the same pattern for both, using a pattern I’ve made before a couple of times

I changed small details to make them feel different, like the collar shape and the buttons. My civil ceremony dress had tiny heart-shaped buttons down the side and a pointed collar.  

I wore it with a fascinator which cost me £21, made just for me and trimmed to match my dress; Mary-Janes that I already owned (charity shop, £4); and a second-hand jacket (Ebay, £3). I did my hair and makeup myself. 

Including the thread, fabric, pattern (a vintage one, bought on Ebay for £7), petticoat (Ebay, £15) and all the accessories, the total cost of this outfit was £82. My church dress had giant buttons down the back so that the congregation had something to look at during the ceremony; I also changed the straps and made the collar round (I drew a sketch first).  

The main feature was a deep border hem, which I originally cut from a Japanese print with giraffes on it (I know. It seemed like a good idea at the time). 

This was completely hideous when I sewed it up and it took me a couple of days to figure out what to do. In the end I used a polka-dot print on the back of the dress (I sewed a bead into the centre of every single dot!) and birds and flowers on the front, also heavily beaded. The beading made the hem heavy, which helped the dress hang better and made it really lovely to wear. Once I finished the hem, I trimmed the hell out of the whole dress. 

I bought a bolero (Etsy, £20, made just for me) and some second-hand shoes (Ebay, £35), which my mother-in-law decorated with beads to match my dress.  

My usual hairdresser did my hair (£12) and I bought a pair of vintage earrings to match my wedding rings (Etsy, £16). All in, this outfit cost just over £140. 

Even if you have never made a dress before, if you have a sewing machine and a simple pattern in mind, just give it a go. Making a simple practice dress is the quickest way to find out if you’re going to be able to make something you’ll be happy to wear on your wedding day. You’ll discover your limitations as a seamstress, too. I, for example, suck at zips. I’ve made lots of dresses and skirts, and only one of them has a zip because zips hate me. I just do buttons and rouleaux loops (I also suck at blind buttonholes) and that works fine. It’s useful to know this kind of thing so that you can make sensible choices about patterns and so forth. 

You can find dressmaking inspiration and tutorials online from places like Julia Bobbin and most modern patterns such as Colette and Sewaholic come with detailed instructions. Village Haberdashery has a great selection or there is always Ebay if you’re feeling more adventurous. Cut out the pattern (a size too big if you’re anxious) and make it up in a fabric you like. Don’t choose a cheap fabric (even if you make the dress perfectly, it will look like crap) and make sure to line your dress (it will hang better and last longer), even if the pattern doesn’t tell you to (it should). 

The first time you put it on, it will look appalling – they always do! Put it on inside out and get a friend to help you pin the necessary darts and other alterations. Pretty soon you’ll have something that fits you better than anything else you’ve ever worn, that cost a tenth of what you could have spent, and that *you* made, by yourself, for yourself. 
Good enough for your wedding day, I’d say.


  1. Hi, Love this series! This is the kind of wedding we are planning. No bridesmaids, or bouquet, or big honeymoon. We plan on having the first wedding night in a nice hotel, and leave our apartment to our guests that are to tired to drive home. Still so much to figure out, but this helps!

  2. Jess here! So glad you found it useful. I confess that I *did* have a bouquet, but I made it myself out of fabric scraps and plastic knitting needles (you can see it in the picture of me in my blue dress a bit further up this page). Cost me nothing and now sits looking spiffy in my office for all time.

    We found that our friends and family really respected our decision to do exactly what we wanted. Everyone was very supportive (esp. when they were given something to do, to make them feel involved) and it really took the focus off all the logistics, and put it on what it should be about: celebrating with the people you love. I wouldn't change a single thing!