I can’t say I’ve been to a bad wedding. Give me an open bar and food and I will never complain. If we’re going to nitpick, however, my most memorable weddings were all about the DETAILS – the little, thoughtful things that made me feel welcome, special, appreciated and loved (too far?). That’s exactly the feeling I wanted to give all the guests journeying from as far as NYC and LA for my destination wedding in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
As cofounder of GroupOut, I've spent years personally planning GroupOuts (or events) for others, so I know firsthand the high prices associated with any event, ESPECIALLY weddings. I quickly realized my carefully curated Pinterest dream wedding was just not going to be possible without at least 6 more zeros in my bank account. Still determined to create a modern day tropical fairytale, I decided to DIY. I conceptualized, planned meticulously, researched for hours, experimented and finalized. And I'm here to give you the inside scoop and save you tons of money. My top advice, tips, and tricks from our ultimate GroupOut yet are all right below.
My Top 3 Tips
- Brand your wedding: Pick an image or theme and be consistent with the look and feel of all your communication – save the dates, invites, website, and stationary. Your written and online communication evokes a feeling and tells your guests what to expect. See how below.
- There’s usually a cheaper alternative: A lot of details in my wedding were DIY’d to give it a lux customized look without the price tag. Most of my DIY projects are below.
- Prioritize your projects: I must admit - I was pretty bad at this. My brain gets going, and I want to do it all. Then I found myself finishing up the seating chart sign at 3AM the morning of our flight. No bueno.
The DIY Projects
We put a lot of thought into the invitations since it set the tone for the entire wedding. After finding the perfect design on Etsy, we realized it was way too expensive.
Solution? We googled the image they used, found it on Shutterstock, designed our own using Illustrator, and printed with Vistaprint. All for less than half the cost of the Etsy invites. If you lack design skills, it’s pretty easy nowadays to find someone on Fiverr, 99designs, Peopleperhour, Upwork, etc.
There are a ton of free options out there for wedding websites, but usually they’re bad. And by bad, I mean I can't control every single detail. I used Squarespace – beautifully designed website templates and super intuitive to use.
I knew I wanted a customized welcome bag that carried our theme, of course. To avoid spending major bucks on printing, I used fabric transfer paper to iron on a pineapple print to each burlap bag. But there’s more! By now, I was also knee-deep in my DIY research and found a method of printing onto fabric using an inkjet printer and freezer paper. I cut up some old totes and went to work incorporating our logo and adhering to the bags with fusible webbing. This was, by far, my favorite detail of them all.
Don’t forget to include goodies that your guests will actually need/find useful during the weekend – local snacks, Advil, sunscreen, heel protectors for lawn weddings, and we couldn't forget the Appleton rum!
This was definitely a result of too much time on Pinterest, but they turned out to be adorable. I fell in love with the on-theme matchbooks, which were just rectangular pieces of cardstock glued to a black matchbook. Take extra care with the cutting and gluing, because a DIY project can quickly look "homemade" if lacking precision.
Hopefully, I'm not on a TSA most wanted list, because we definitely smuggled both the matchbooks and sparklers in our checked luggage. Another thing to keep in mind, sparklers may not light in humid climates. Be sure to keep them indoors until time to use.
I designed and printed alllll of the wedding stationary including (but not limited to) the welcome note, itinerary, menu, bridal brunch invite, rehearsal dinner invite, emergency kit tag, hand fan tag, thank you tag on rum bottles in welcome bag, heel protector tag, name tags. Yeah… it was a lot.
We boxed traditional Jamaican wedding cake (fruit cake) as a take-home favor for our guests. However, like any detail-crazed bride, I designed the box to match our theme. Simply, print the design on cardstock, cut, glue the cardstock to ribbon, and glue both to the box.
Seating Chart Sign
Another Pinterest brain child. I bought a 24x24 sheet of acrylic from Walmart for $11 and got it cut it down to 18x24 at a glass cutting shop (for free!) so I could transport it in my suitcase. After printing the lettering onto several sheets of paper, I traced the letters onto the acrylic with a fine tip white sharpie paint pen. Voila!
Then I realized the paint pen could easily be wiped off with Windex. Great for mistakes, bad for travel. So I sprayed lightly with a clear matte spray paint. It made the sign slightly cloudy, but gave me much-needed peace of mind.
- Charger alternative: Who knew that glass chargers were so expensive?! I bought a placemat alternative I found at Target that was cheap, easily transportable, and actually decent looking.
- Flowers: I opted for leafy centerpieces. It fit the theme and was by far more budget-friendly than even the cheapest flowers. Plus, greenery is the Pantone color of the year!
- Laser-cut name cards: Getting these shipped from overseas is cheapest. I found a vendor on Etsy that was great! Account for shipping time, but try to do this as close to the wedding as possible because your guest list will likely change several times leading up to the big day.
Welp, that’s all I got. After months of planning, I loved seeing it all come together! To save you even more time, I’ll be selling all of my stationary on Etsy very soon.
Any questions? Comment below. Happy planning!
P.S. Your guests will still have a blast even without matching matchbooks. Don't stress!