Mon, May 12, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Your hand in marriage

Do-it-yourself fever rages in America’s US$52 billion wedding industry as couples find unique ways to tie the knot and entertain their guests

By JULIE LASKY  /  NY Times News Service

A wedding cake for same-sex couples at a wedding celebration at The Abbey in West Hollywood, California last year.

Photo: AFP

When Lisa Bayne married the first time, her friends baked a wedding cake topped with bride-and-groom cookies. This being 1976, in Berkeley, California, the cookie couple was nude, though the same could not be said of Bayne and her then-husband, who wore his-and-hers tunics that the bride had sewed by hand from vintage fabrics.

Today, Bayne, 61, has two grown children and is the chief executive of Artful Home, an online art gallery based in Madison, Wisconsin. But her allergy to traditional weddings is more or less the same.

For her marriage to Andy Astor, 57, in October, she created banners and flags from handmade paper to mark the site of their ceremony on a windy mountain road in Sonoma, California. Her bouquet combined dahlias and calla lilies with herbs plucked from her garden.

After taking lessons from an artisanal preserves maker in Berkeley, the couple produced several varieties of jam, which they distributed to their 46 guests. Astor, the managing director of a technology services company and a novice glass blower, planned to contribute glassware for the occasion, but managed to complete only 20 pieces by the time it rolled around. Instead, the couple assembled a motley thrift-store collection.


“We wanted the wedding to feel like the life we live in Northern California,” Bayne said, speaking on the phone recently from her home in San Francisco. Still, she added, “I don’t think it was the ultimate DIY wedding.”

In few areas has the do-it-yourself fever raged as intensely as in the US$52 billion wedding industry. DIY flourishes on blogs like Practical Wedding and Offbeat Bride, and is a dutiful component of mainstream magazines like Brides and The Knot. A tour of Pinterest or Etsy will turn up almost every hand-wrought artifact you can possibly imagine that is eaten, worn, tied around a napkin, suspended from a rafter or carried off by guests in a little bag.

Of course, fluffy-white, off-the-shelf weddings remain an option, but the tools for tailoring an event to fit the contours of your idiosyncratic being are as abundant as the inspirations.

“You can have ribbons customized in a hundred different colors,” said Darcy Miller, editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings. “You can have flags put on straws. There are tissue-paper pompom kits.”

So how do brides and grooms cope with such a profusion of ways to be special?


The first thing to recognize is that there really is no such thing as a DIY wedding. Only people with Leonardo-like skill sets and an aversion to sleep are capable of personally customizing every detail. Even the craftiest among us need assistance.

For example, when Jessica Hische, 30, a graphic designer and lettering artist, and Russ Maschmeyer, 31, a product designer for Facebook, planned their wedding last summer, they asked 15 of their artist friends to create artworks as gifts. These were assembled into an online narrative about the couple’s courtship that also served as an invitation.

To economize, the couple offered to barter services or give promotional support to vendors, including Sugar and Fluff, event planners that hung tinsel-y decorations from the Green Building’s ceiling and created what looked like a giant color-blind test with the couple’s initials, as a backdrop for the photo booth.

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