Our DIY Wedding

{For a full list of links to wedding projects and stories, scroll to the bottom of this post}

Like so many crafty, creative brides planning their weddings, I chose to go the DIY route – In other words, most if not all of the decor was created by hand by myself and willing friends and family. It was truly a labor of love, but there is nothing quite so satisfying as walking into the reception venue on your wedding day, looking around with tears in your eyes at all of the beautiful handmade touches that you were so much a part of. One of the things we heard most often from our guests (besides how delicious the cupcakes were) was how very personal and “us” the event seemed – And it was…

We decided to get married in our hometown, Lynchburg, Virginia. We chose a private ceremony under a huge tree with our immediate families in a lovely local park, just steps away from our reception venue where the rest of our family and friends would gather for the party.

The reception was held in a historic building called the Aviary at Miller Park. The price was outrageously affordable and the space was just gorgeous – Souring ceilings, windows on every wall and skylights above to let the setting sun and, later, the stars shine through. The building, which was built in 1903,  is a unique one, round with arched windows and surrounded in lush greenery. Inside, there is a second story balcony that curves along the outer walls to give guests a bird’s-eye view of the antique hardwood dance floor.

Speaking of birds…Although unplanned, the general theme of the reception decor ended up being centered on birds as well as the idea of a casual garden. Small ceramic bird-shaped candle holders perched on cocktail tables while tree trunk slices that my father made sat on the main-floor tables beneath thrift store vases full of wildflowers. Instead of constricting ourselves to official “wedding colors” we let the in-season colorful blooms do all the talking. In order to keep the variety of colors going, friends and family helped me make dozens of handmade paper medallions from scrapbook paper, dowel rods and over-sized buttons.

The favors and guest book table was pretty much the heart of my work up until wedding day. This is where I really spent my time dreaming – I wanted the effect and look to be unique and personal to us.

Instead of the traditional guest book, I picked up an old suitcase from a thrift store, cleaned it up and slipped a new tag into the handle with our last name printed on it. Beside it, we set out a wicker basket full of blank postcards that I had been collecting every time I visited an art museum. I had been buying them for years, having no idea that they would be used on my wedding day, but I couldn’t have picked a better purpose for them. Guests were invited to write messages to us on the postcards and toss them into the suitcase for us to read after the wedding.

My goal for the favors was to create something that people would actually want to use, so I filled glass test tubes topped with natural cork stoppers with three different fillers – M&M’s, wildflower seeds and homemade lavender bath salts. Spray painted thrift store frames acted as signs to direct, while photos, DIY paper bunting flags and framed quotes from our home hung on the wall behind the table.

Oh the food…For locals, we had the Farm Basket cater our event and couldn’t have been happier. A framed chalkboard menu explained the items up for grabs and, in lieu of standard white rental plates, we scoured thrift stores for months collecting mismatched, colorful china to serve on. As for a wedding cake, we had a very dear family friend (who happens to be an excellent, talented baker) create dozens and dozens of mini cupcakes in three different flavors – Snickers, classic vanilla and red velvet. Although I didn’t have much time to eat (a sentiment I heard from brides over and over before the wedding, but now realize is so true), I heard that it was delicious. It certainly LOOKED delicious. I’ll let the photos do all the talking…

But no wedding is complete without the people. This event was the perfect personification of me and John’s relationship, and I can’t thank enough the people who helped make it possible and who came to celebrate with us. I couldn’t fit everyone in the photos below, but know that I appreciate each and every one of you. And for my readers who don’t recognize these faces, I’m sure you can still read the emotion – It was a fabulous evening…

For the send off, we opted for sparklers – It was a late night wedding, so things like bird seed or confetti would have been lost in the dark. The glow from the hand-held fireworks was the perfect way to celebrate and to end the evening.

All image credits: Katie Stoops Photography

DIY Wedding Project List:

Postcard/Suitcase guest book

Test tube wedding favors (Part 1 and Part 2)

The cupcakes

Birdcage veil (which I didn’t end up wearing…)


Vintage plate collection

Reclaimed wood wedding sign

Thrift store frame signs

DIY chalkboard menu (Part 1 and Part 2)

Paper bunting flag

Our thrifted wedding memories album

The Stories:

Our engagement

Engagement photos

My bridal shower

Wedding photos



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