DIY or disaster: should you decorate your venue yourself?

07 Jun 2018

The third part of our DIY or disaster series looks at the pros and cons of decorating and styling your wedding venue yourself

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Should you DIY your wedding or employ professionals to do the work for you? In this series, we take a look at several aspects of wedding planning from the perspective of brides and professionals. Last time we looked at whether doing your own hair and make-up was worth the stress; for this edition, we’re discussing venue decoration and styling.

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Photo: Sam Race

Sam Race is a professional venue dresser based in Norfolk who specialises in decorating, uplighting and draping. “One reoccurring comment I hear at the weddings shows I attend is that the bride and her friends are going to dress the venue themselves,” she says. “While it is an exciting and fun idea, there are definitely elements of venue dressing that aren’t thought about in as much detail as they need to be.”

Jessica Sayer got married in September 2016 at Wood Farm Barn in Benacre, Suffolk. Jessica made and set up all of her own wedding decorations for the big day, transforming the small barn with a rainbow colour theme. “I chose to make my own decorations as I was inspired by so many magazines and Pinterest boards,” she explains. “I found lots of easy ideas such as paper flowers, pompoms and polka dot paper plates – as well as lots of incredibly difficult ones that I ended up beating myself up over as I couldn’t pull them off.”

diy-or-disaster-should-you-decorate-your-venue-yourself-5Photo: Sophie Cass Photography

And that is one of the key things to consider when deciding whether or not to decorate your venue yourself: are you actually able to do it? Sam says that more goes into venue decoration than you would expect. “Take for example one of my most popular services, hanging lanterns,” she begins. “Every single lantern has to be built and strung, and the venue has to be happy with the way the lanterns are secured to their fittings. It also requires a ladder, public liability insurance at many venues, a vehicle for transporting the lanterns – and somebody who doesn’t mind heights. It’s certainly not an easy task to do with a new set of nails ready for the wedding day.

“You’ll need to climb around 20 steps per lantern; imagine doing that for a canopy of 50 lanterns. Your legs are covered in ladder bruises, you’re dodging all the beautifully laid out tables and making sure your centrepieces don’t get knocked to the floor… it’s not quite the relaxing morning of pampering and champagne you were hoping for.”

Although Jessica was unable to complete the trickier DIY projects she had planned, she pulled off the more straightforward ones beautifully. “If you want to do it yourself, keep it simple,” she advises. “Do something your friends and family can get involved in, and have fun days where you and your husband-to-be can do crafts together.” Her main piece of advice, however, is to remember your budget. “Those perfect Pinterest weddings probably had thousands of pounds behind them, as well as lots of good lighting and photography.”

diy-or-disaster-should-you-decorate-your-venue-yourself-4Photo: Sophie Cass Photography

Budget is also something that Sam recommends you keep in mind. “A lot of brides-to-be choose to DIY it because they think it will save them money,” she explains. “My clients, however, are often very surprised when they hear how reasonably priced I actually am. So while I would never dissuade a bride from doing it herself, I would advise that she really has thought about everything thoroughly. This is the most exciting and memorable day of your life, and there are certainly some things you can do to put your own stamp on it – but leave some things to the experts. It’s what we do best.”

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Photo: Sam Race

In conclusion, deciding whether or not to decorate your own venue depends on various factors. Are you able to make all of the decorations you want or are some of them too difficult? Will you have enough time to set everything up? Does your venue require public liability insurance for you to set up decorations? Most of all – will you enjoy it, and how much will it impact your big day if something doesn’t work out? It took Jessica two days to set up her venue. “I think even if I’d had another week to set it up, I wouldn’t have got everything done that I wanted to,” she admits. “We still had the most perfect day, though, and not having time to make gold foiled napkin rings didn’t ruin it.”