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Say “I do” to do it yourself

Last weekend, I had the privilege of being involved in the most important day of my oldest brother’s life: his wedding.

I was a bridesmaid in Patrick and Angie’s ceremony. I wore the pretty dress, held the pretty flowers, and walked down the aisle in my pretty silver shoes. I stood in a line with the other bridesmaids, tears streaming down my smiling cheeks, and watched my new sister-in-law appear through the double-doors in the most gorgeous dress any of us had ever seen.

Unfortunately, I missed out on most of the bridesmaid’s usual duties. Because Angie is from western Pennsylvania and I from just north of Boston, it was hard to be involved with the process from such a distance. When I saw the decorations at both the bridal shower in July and the wedding this past weekend, I got even more upset – almost all of it was done in the spirit of DIY.

At the shower, Angie’s sister was responsible for most of the décor. Each place setting included a booklet she had made, which was full of shower-related games that we played after the meal. My favorite part of the place settings, though, was the candle. In front of each seat there was a candle – either blue or orange, the colors of the bridesmaid’s dresses and their flowers, respectively – and on top of each candle, a small photo of the happy couple, snipped down to size and placed in a small frame, with a magnet glued on its back. The magnet stuck to the top of the candle for easy removal. I got so excited about the little photos that I decided, against my earlier decision, to bring my mini-fridge to school this year, just so I could put that magnet on it.

Instead of having the event catered, they had a couple of Angie’s aunts and cousins bring large containers of homemade food. What made the food even more unique was that each of the esteemed chefs seemed to have a dish for which they were famous among the family. My favorite was a divine-tasting Polish dish called Haluski.

The family also used realistic fake flowers at the wedding as an alternative to dropping an unnecessary amount of money on one-time-use real ones. This also meant that the bridesmaids got to keep the ones they carried down the aisle as souvenirs. The flower girls’ flowers were pushed into a small block of heavy foam to weigh it down, which was then placed in a small, silver basket.

When we got to the reception, I noticed that most of the décor was handmade as well. The family must have put a tremendous amount of time and effort into it all; in front of each place setting at the reception was a small white box containing a little tissue paper and a few Hershey’s Kisses. They were each labeled with each guest’s name and the table at which they were to sit. Just thinking about the tediousness involved in making one of these boxes for each of the over 200 guests was enough to boggle the mind.

I may not have had much to do with the DIY ethic behind my brother’s wedding, but I did have my fair share of do-it-yourself almost-emergencies. In preparing for the rehearsal dinner, I found that the pair of pants I had packed – my “good pants” – suddenly didn’t fit properly. I managed to get a hold of a pair of pinstripe pants which already fit me properly around the waist and through the leg; the only problem was that they were about six or seven inches too long.

In the practice of making clothes, some corner-cutters like to use a sort of hem tape; you stick the double-sided tape between folds of your clothes and iron it to make it stick more permanently. I didn’t have the money to buy any, nor did I know of a place in Latrobe, Pennsylvania that sold it (though there must have been a store selling it; Latrobe consists primarily of malls), so I resorted to rolling a few pieces of masking tape (I had packed it just in case one of these situations arose) and used it in the same fashion, just without the ironing.

It took about five minutes to get the makeshift hem completely even and nobody noticed what I had done to the pants. I thought I was on the verge of a style crisis and would have to resort to looking terrible in those ill-fitting pants, but with just a little bit of tape and a couple of minutes I was saved.

Seeing what was done in preparation for Patrick and Angie’s wedding without spending very much was incredibly inspiring. They must have saved hundreds of dollars by doing a few things themselves using inexpensive alternatives to traditional decorations. So, next time you’re decorating for any kind of shindig, try doing things on the cheap. It will give your event a sort of kitschy aesthetic and your guests will appreciate the time you took.

Ellie Rulon-Miller can be reached at erulonmi@student.umass.edu.

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