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33 Years Later

February 24, 20237 min read

 As I sit to write this blog, it is our 33rd Wedding Anniversary. Hard to believe that it’s been that long, yet it seems like a recent memory.

We were a DIY couple for a few reasons. First was money. We didn’t have a huge budget for our wedding. My dad had been recently diagnosed with cancer, and my fiancé was in the military. Honestly, I wanted to elope, but he wanted the big wedding.

So, big wedding it was. We worked diligently within the timeframe we set (5 months from engagement to “I do”) to put it all together, so I thought I’d share some of the funny, difficult and heartwarming stories about what we did along with the successes and failures.

First and foremost- five months to plan a large wedding was not a lot of time. Thank goodness that my step-mom is organized or we’d have failed all over the place. She set up a timeline and due dates. Having structure to work within is imperative for any successful plan.

We made a list of our DIY projects. From there, we made supply lists for each project. I made my gown. This was not my first sewing project, I studied Fashion Design so it was also my design. This project, however, took longer than I expected, and took me away from all of the fun activities that a young 20 something enjoys. It was for the most part a solo endeavor. However, because I wanted all of the sparkle I could muster in 1990, every one of my family members took some lace and hand sewed sequins and pearls to it. So, in reality, we made my gown. Most of those family members are no longer with us. It is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

We tackled the flowers. We were married in winter, so most of our flowers were fake. Back then, fake flowers were easier to spot. These were not. We invested into the best quality, and used whatever sales we could find. Recall the project supply list I mentioned above? We used that and were able to divide and conquer. By doing that as a team, we purchased everything we needed.

Creating the bouquets was a different story. Remember, this was years before anything like Pinterest or YouTube, so we had to use the old fashioned “trial and error” method. You know who came up with the best bouquet? Yep. My fiancé. We followed his lead and everything turned out exactly as envisioned.

Speaking of flowers, about 6 months after our wedding, one of the bridesmaids came over to visit our home where I had a bouquet of red roses in the foyer. She bent in to smell them and complimented me on how lovely they were. They were flowers from the wedding. The same flowers she carried down the aisle. Quality matters.

We had a late evening wedding, which back in the day meant it was a formal wedding. Very traditional because we didn’t know any better. We did this to save money on food.

Because my dad was still in chemo, my parents friends gathered and decided to make desserts for the reception. Their efforts were a huge blessing to my family and my wedding, and we were so grateful! Two of my step-mom’s friends handled all of the “catering” efforts, and plated/served everything beautifully using serving dishes from my grandmothers. Everything was elegant and beautiful. Each of my grandmothers could host a party for 50 with their dinnerware, so we had plenty of dishes. They were Old-School, and I was grateful they hosted lavish parties!

We hand addressed every invitation. All 500 of them, plus the 200 sent to his family for the reception to follow in his home town. That’s a daunting task when you add it to everything else. Remember, this was before printers were in every house. In order to tackle this task, we had a luncheon with all of the bridal party, grandmothers, aunties and friends. We had a wonderful time together and were able to conquer this in an afternoon-assembly line style. There was a job for everyone! Whoever had beautiful handwriting-addressed, everyone else organized, sealed and stamped the invitations.

A friend of my family married us in a church that was local, so the cost to us was only a tip and a donation. The church allowed us to use some of their supplies, so décor was at a minimum as well. The one thing about the church was they had a red carpet.

My colors were peach and gray.

Because the church was free to us, I changed the colors accordingly. You can see in the pictures, everyone wore black, which was unheard of at the time. But oh, so elegant! I designed a sheath dress with a blouse overlay in lace that could be removed because I truly wanted the dress to be used again. I also may have rebelled a bit because of the red carpet. 😊

My aunt was in charge of the reception, and we were able to decorate the night before. Tables were dressed and we had to be creative with the venue because it was a gym. In order to “hide” the basketball hoops, she came up with an idea to have balloons draping like grapes. It worked well enough, and to bring balance, she filled helium balloons in the same colors and weighted them down to put onto the dance floor. It was quite pretty, actually.

My step-mom’s best friends took over the Coordinator position, making sure that everything went according to plan and that I was protected from anything that didn’t.

We were fortunate in that we had a group of my parents’ friends who stepped up to help create our dream wedding. It was stunning. A day I’ll remember for the rest of my life. The gift of their support is what led me to supporting friends and family through their weddings, and to starting my own company.

So why do I share this with you?

I’m glad you asked. There a few lessons to be learned:

·         Create your vision and stick to it-but be willing to be flexible if it supports your dream

·         Create a timeline

o   Use deadlines

·         Create a project list

o   Use the project list to keep yourself organized.

o   Keep an account of what you’ve purchased and for what project

o   Pro tip: separate your projects in large plastic bins, clearly marked with an inventory list. Check off what’s been purchased and keep a copy with you (or whoever else will make purchases)

o   Pro tip: divide and conquer when buying from a store brand with coupons or sales. Get your team to help with the purchasing!

·         Set up your budget and stick to it

·         If you have experience with a sewing machine, consider making your gown. If not, this is probably not the project you want to learn on.

·         Name your team. Ask them early and keep them in the loop. Choose people you trust to support your dream wedding.

·         If you have an overwhelming task to conquer, invite people to participate and provide food. Make it a party or fun event, and everyone will leave feeling like they’ve helped support you and they’ve had fun doing it.

·         Who do you know that can marry you? What venues can you think of that are free/inexpensive/inclusive to save you some money?

·         Be flexible where you can, stick to the plan when it’s important to you.

·         What family member or friend can take charge for you?

o   My aunt wanted to help and is great at creating atmosphere. She had little to work with, but worked a miracle at the reception.

o   The family friend was someone who saw my vision, believed in it with me, and no one questioned along the way. She had complete authority while being gracious and kind, but she protected me throughout the process. To this day, I have zero idea if anything went wrong.

To wrap this up, I want to just say that my wedding day was perfect. It was more than I hoped for (remember, I wanted to elope), and looking back, I have very fond memories of that time. I have very stressful memories as well, but by far, the good outweighs the bad.

I’ll share the story of our vow renewal at a different time. It’s completely not what I would do, but it was so sweet and we laughed a lot. Again, something I thought I never wanted-until the idea hit me. No regrets!

Happy Planning!


DIY WeddingDIY BrideDIY Wedding Coach

Corri Lewis

Corri has been planning weddings and events for over 3 decades and has authored 4 books (keep an eye open for book #5!) She loves everything about weddings--and, as her husband says, 'can squeeze a dollar out of every nickel'! She is a DIY'er at heart, and loves to create beauty on a budget!

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