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Thinking about styling your own wedding? Read this first...

Putting your own stamp on your wedding doesn't get any bigger than styling it yourself.
Do this and you'll have total creative control of your day, from the floral arrangements and centrepieces to the floor plan at your reception. Oh yeah, this is your chance to go wild, but there's a bit more to it than picking out pretty decorations. Self-styling your wedding means donning your project manager hat, because as well as cutlery and crockery, you'll have to take care of all the nitty-gritty details like permits, lighting, scaffolding and staff. Don't let that scare you off, though. Styling your wedding and seeing your vision come together can be seriously rewarding - you just need to know what's involved (hint: a lot of work). So, to shed light on the ins and outs of self-styling, we asked a wedding hire company, a professional stylist and a bride who's been there just what you can expect, as well as their tips on how to get started and those questions you shouldn't forget to ask. Prepare for some #realtalk.

Go your own way

Sure, you can make the decision to style your own wedding, but if we asked how much you're prepared to do, what would you say? To put it simply, there are two main ways of styling your own wedding: the true DIY experience, where you have to bring everything in yourselves (and we mean everything), or one where you work with a setting or venue that already has the basic facilities and you just need to make it your own. 

The total DIY
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise when we say that this option takes more work. The key to doing it well is all in your research and organisation; you'll have to be across both the practical and fun aspects of the styling process. To set up in a park, forest or private property, you might need to arrange for permits, generators, water supplies, kitchen facilities for caterers and even toilets (enter Portaloos). You’ll also have to take care of packing up, whether it’s done by you or an external company.

The blank canvas
With option two, you work with the bones of what’s already there, but different venues will have different facilities so what you do/don't need to provide will change depending on where you're getting hitched. Some venues have basic kit like chairs and tables, but if they don't fit with your overall vision, you'll probably have to arrange your own through a hire company. The decorations will be on you too, so cue the Mason jars, hanging floral installations and rose gold everything. 

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From the hire experts

For Sue from Oliver Hire, styling your own wedding is all about asking the right questions and organisation. That starts with your venue; not just finding a venue but finding the right venue. Your venue, along with your budget, will have a major influence on what you can do in the space and how you will be able to recreate your vision. “Make sure it’s accessible,” says Sue. “And when you’re going to see a venue, take photos of everything: the roof, chairs, tables, bar and inside the kitchen. Check to see if it’s windy on the balcony; how many stairs the venue has and how far you’ll have to walk to get into the venue.” It’s also important to ask the practical questions, including when you can bump in and bump out (that’s fancy industry speak for setting up and packing down), if you’ll have access to a storage area, and if you’ll be charged extra for having hire companies deliver and pick up your kit. “I always ask couples if they’re having a Saturday wedding, and if it’s possible to bump in to their venue on the Friday,” recommends Sue. “If so the delivery fees may be less, sometimes a quarter of the price.” 

Having your service on a beach or in a park? Great! This is your perfect chance to flex your styling muscles and save some dollars. “Ceremonies could cost $2000,” explains Sue. “And it’s easy to set up a ceremony yourself: hire 20 chairs and have guys from the hire company set up an arch. When the ceremony is over, put everything back in your car and drop it off at the hire company on Monday. Doing this would cost around $500.” Another of Sue’s tips is getting your caterers on board with the styling, especially the pack down. “Avoid a caterer who is messy, and try not to send them home early,” she says. “If you keep partying and leave the venue in a mess, you’ll be charged more by the hire company because their equipment is in three different spots or not even packed up. Venues are strict about this too.” 

From the professional stylist

Think of stylists like wedding fairy-godmothers, but instead of ball gowns, they have little black books brimming with contacts; wands are replaced with measuring tapes; and what they create in a venue doesn’t disappear at midnight. So really, when it comes to all things self-styling, they know what they’re talking about. Aleisha McNiece from Georgeous suggests couples thinking about decking out their own wedding start by doing one thing. “Put a night aside (and a bottle of vino) to brainstorm as a couple,” Aleisha recommends. “My fiancé and I did this independently and then swapped ideas. Hilarious! Go online together, have a look at other weddings and try to create a vision cohesively.” And while it’s nice to have dreams of your wedding looking like a Pinterest board, Aleisha says it’s important to keep your vision realistic because after all, your venue, kit and decorations won’t be the same. 

You also don’t have to take the term ‘self-styling’ too literally – there’s nothing wrong with roping in your friends and family to help find cool pieces, come up with styling ideas and (this is a big one) set up on the day. Remember that styling companies have entire teams working on weddings, so there’s no reason you can’t have one too. “Learn to delegate and outsource. People love to help!” says Aleisha. “Gather a stable of trusted people and look after them.” Having a group to lean on won’t just make the planning process less stressful, it will also mean you have people on-hand to do the final touches on the day. “The trickiest thing about self-styling will be finding your own style,” explains Aleisha. “Try not to overthink this, because your wedding should be an extension of your own styles and personalities. Stay true to yourselves and try not to worry about trends and what others are doing.”

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From someone who's been there, done that

For Erin McAllister from Eat Run Write, the decision to not use a professional stylist came from the very specific vision she had for her wedding. "We knew that no-one else could deliver what we were looking for," explains Erin. "I worked as an event planner for a year or two and put together a good number of weddings, so I knew my ideas would need to be built from scratch." Creating their 'Midsummer Night's Dream' look took more than a year of planning, which included liaising with the Department of Natural Resources and creating a risk analysis plan so the couple could get permission to have their ceremony in a pine forest in the Adelaide foothills. The theatre where the couple hosted their reception also took some work. "We had to provide all lighting and pay for electricity we used; we had to buy public liability insurance; we provided toilet paper for the bathroom and hired a cleaner to clean them the day after," Erin says. "We hired a sound system, tables, chairs and a bar. We also had to hire security to make sure we didn't have any unwanted guests wandering in to join the party."

Think that was all? Nope. The couple used drapes to section off areas of the cavernous theatre to create a more intimate atmosphere, suspended12 branch chandeliers and designed a central lighting feature over the d-floor. The complete set-up of the theatre took two-and-a-half days. "We poured our love and sweat into every single element and felt extremely satisfied after all the work was done," remembers Erin. "We also managed to save a fair bit of money. Before we decided to self-style, I created a spreadsheet comparing several all-inclusive packages at different weddings and set it against the budget I created for our wedding. We were able to do a lot more with our money, and had complete control over our budget and where our money went." 

From one bride to another

One of Erin's top pieces of advice to other brides thinking about styling their day is to give yourself plenty of preparation time. "And the most important thing to remember is that this is your wedding," she says. "If you want to go crazy and create something huge and dramatic and time-intensive, do it. If you want to go low-key and style a courthouse ceremony with a brunch reception, do that!" Erin's other tips are:

  • Remember that you don't have to make every single element yourself. 
  • Stick to your guns and don't second-guess yourself. It's fine to listen to other suggestions and ideas but don't let them tell you that what you're looking to do is too hard.
  • Both the best and hardest thing about self-styling is the autonomy: you'll have complete freedom to design what you want, but that also means you need to have confidence in what you're creating. 
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