DIY Weddings: A Graphic Designer’s Take on the Big Day
When Vanessa and Calvin set out to create their wedding, their main goal was to show guests thanks for all the love and support they’d given them throughout their relationship. They did that with three full days of games, food and togetherness at a summer camp-esque hideaway, set below towering redwoods next to the banks of the Russian River and just a 20 minute drive to the Pacific Ocean in Northern California.
Their magical summer camp getaway is called Dawn Ranch, and it acted as the perfect backdrop for their event. They had the entire place to themselves and their guests for three full days. No one had to drive anywhere and if you needed a nap, that could easily be arranged. But chances were you didn’t want to miss a moment of this shindig. Calvin and Vanessa brought in tons of games like bocce, ping pong and badminton for guests to play during their stay.
Vanessa showed her guests her best by creating light-hearted and cheerful invites that set the vibe for the fun weekend. The invitation was a folded poster. The first thing you saw was a photo of the couple (bottom middle), on the back was a map of the wedding location (middle right), when you unfolded it once, the details reveled themselves (middle left) and when you unfolded it all the way, what you were left with was a poster of a Ball mason jar filled with hearts (middle). Melting.
Guests arrived to their cabins and were greeted by one serious welcome bag. Inside of it, they found a glassine bag full of alpaca-shaped chocolates as well as alpaca socks. If you’re wondering where the alpaca theme comes into play, Vanessa’s parents raise alpacas, and the socks were gifts from them to all guests. The socks sported cute little tags (designed by Vanessa, of course) that read “Nobody’s Gettin’ Cold Feet.”
Also inside the welcome bags were beer coozies for guests “to have and to hold” all weekend long. If you can’t tell by now, Vanessa and Calvin have a thing for word play.
The game theme continued throughout the weekend, including the ceremony. The couple’s program, labeled “Get With the Program,” was way more than a program. It included activities and a pencil in case the ceremony started late… because that happens at weddings. If you’re digging this idea, you can fill your own program with custom word games by grabbing a few from sites like Discovery Education.
And you know how those alpaca socks kept all the guests from getting cold feet? Well the couple also provided fans at the ceremony to keep everyone cool.
Our favorite money-saving moment lies with the florals. If you’re currenly planning a wedding, you already know those bouquets can get spendy. Vanessa went with inexpensive baby’s breath and made it look elegant by bunching it tightly together and adding some dusty miller and a few bright coral-colored roses. You can do the same by heading to a floral market, grabbing bunches of baby’s breath, tightly binding tons of stems together, tying them off with floral wire and covering the wire with some pretty fabric.
The bride made all the hair accessories for herself and for the bridesmaids with wire and crystals. The pieces were then simply tucked into their updos.
We’re all about family taking ownership of certain DIY elements, and Vanessa’s dad jumped right in and created directional signs for the weekend. Calvin and Vanessa then finished them off with their own pro paint job. Copycat the hack with a tutorial over at Upcycled Treasures.
Calvin and Vanessa busted out the power tools as well. They made all of the flower boxes which were used at both the ceremony and at the reception as centerpieces. You might want to follow suit if you own a patio or deck. You can take them home afterward… instant container garden! Make your own out of pallets as shown on Migonis Home.
Rather than using a traditional guest book, Vanessa’s brother (also a graphic designer) gifted them with a giant word-search poster which was attached to a big magnetic board. Guests would circle their names next to the bride and groom’s.
On the other side of the magnet board were cute little buttons that acted as escort cards. Vanessa told us, “I loved looking out and seeing all the people from all our little micro circles having a great time together.” So the buttons served dual purpose. They led guests to their tables, but also acted as name tags to help people get to know each other throughout the day. If you’re digging this idea as much as we are, get a button maker, some card stock, a tag paper punch and some number stamps and ink. DIY done.
For dinner, long farmhouse tables were adorned with menus designed by Vanessa, the wooden flower boxes the couple made, a few games and table runners made of vintage fabric by the bride and groom. The meal was designed by a friend and had a Southern Italian focus to pay tribute to Vanessa’s family heritage. One of the biggest takeaway tips from Vanessa and Calvin’s wedding is to focus on packing in personal details — from the personal graphics to the family’s alpaca farm and Italian heritage, they kept everything real, which is what makes the day memorable for your friends, your family and, most importantly, the two of you.
Undoubtedly, the weekend was one massive labor of love, but as Vanessa and Calvin put it, “It feels good and makes all the time and money worth it when people still talk about what a great time they had.” Three cheers to that.
If you have a creative DIY wedding you’d like to share, we want to know. Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a message in the comments below.