Charleston, with its historic charm and Southern allure, is a dream destination for weddings. The magic of saying “I do” against the backdrop of cobblestone streets and antebellum architecture is undeniable. While many couples turn to wedding planners to orchestrate their special day, some choose a different path — the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach. We sat down with local brides who took the reins of their own Charleston weddings, embracing the challenges, celebrating the triumphs and reveling in the unique advantages of planning their own nuptials.
Cost Savings: A Budget-Friendly Affair
For many couples, the decision to plan their own wedding in Charleston stemmed from financial considerations. The average cost of a wedding in this picturesque city can range from $25,000 to $50,000, making budgeting a crucial aspect of the planning process. One bride, Keri Coker, who got engaged during the challenging times of October 2020, when COVID cast its shadow over the wedding industry, decided to take control of the financial reins. With a budget of $10,000, Coker and her fiancé demonstrated that a DIY wedding in Charleston could be not only charming but also budget-friendly.
Choosing an “off-season” month provided immediate cost savings of around $1,000. The strategic decision to purchase alcohol in bulk from Total Wine and return unopened bottles for a refund contributed an additional $1,000 to their overall savings. These financial choices allowed the couple to allocate funds to other essential elements of their wedding while still creating a memorable and magical experience.
Thinking Outside of the (Retail) Box
In addition to the inspiring journey of planning a DIY wedding in Charleston, there’s a captivating tale of transforming an acre of land into a dream venue. A year and a half ago, Holly Thackston and her fiancé embarked on the ambitious task of clearing the land, unveiling a picturesque wedding setting. However, the real magic unfolded when the couple decided to craft their own long wooden tables, circumventing the hefty rental fees of $80 per table. These custom tables, accommodating 14 people each, became a labor of love over two months, alongside other handmade elements such as the dance floor, garbage can covers, altar, arch and a personalized bar. Remarkably, the only items rented were chairs, bathrooms and a generator, showcasing the couple’s dedication to creating a unique, cost-effective and truly personal wedding experience in the heart of Charleston.
Customizable Decor: A Touch of Personalized Elegance
One of the standout advantages of planning a DIY wedding in Charleston is the freedom to infuse the celebration with your unique style. Abby Walsh, sharing her experience, detailed how her venue handled fundamental aspects like tablecloths, place settings, chairs and basic decor setup. This allowed her to focus on the more personal and creative aspects of the wedding—the flowers, the DJ, the photographer and bringing in her own decor to set up at the venue.
Coker’s journey into DIY decor was a testament to creativity and resourcefulness. Opting for template signs from Etsy at a mere $10, she was able to add personalized touches to the wedding without breaking the bank. Printing these signs at home added an extra layer of convenience and cost-effectiveness. Crafting her own centerpieces and sourcing additional decor from a resale wedding page on Facebook not only showcased her creative flair but also contributed to significant savings. Moreover, the ability to resell these items after the wedding allowed her to recoup the initial investment, demonstrating the sustainability of a DIY approach.
Navigating Challenges: The Rollercoaster of Wedding Planning
While Coker expressed immense satisfaction with her DIY wedding, she also candidly noted the challenges faced along the way. The unpredictable nature of the wedding industry reared its head as a florist canceled for a larger event, and a hairstylist backed out at the last minute. These unforeseen hurdles serve as valuable lessons for future brides considering a similar path.
Reflecting on her experience, Coker emphasized the importance of having contracts in place to prevent last-minute cancellations. A crucial piece of advice for couples planning their own wedding is to secure agreements with vendors to ensure reliability and accountability. Additionally, the breakdown and cleanup process, undertaken by the couple themselves by midnight, added a layer of stress to the end of an otherwise perfect day. The hindsight recommendation was to hire professionals for this task, allowing the newlyweds to savor the final moments of their celebration without the burden of cleanup.
Conclusion: Crafting Everlasting Memories
In the heart of Charleston, where romance intertwines with history, DIY weddings offer a unique opportunity to craft a celebration that is not only budget-friendly but also deeply personal. The journeys recounted by Coker, Thackston and Walsh encapsulate the essence of this approach — the financial triumphs, the creative freedom and the resilience in the face of challenges.
Choosing a DIY wedding in Charleston may not be for everyone, but for those willing to invest time, effort and creativity, the rewards are abundant. The ability to shape every detail, from decor to vendor selection, allows couples to imprint their unique story on their special day. While challenges may arise, the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction derived from executing a dream wedding on your terms is unparalleled.
Ultimately, Coker’s sentiment echoed the sentiments of many who opt for the DIY route: “I’m happy with how everything looked on the day of because I’m the one who planned it and didn’t have to worry about something not turning out exactly the way I wanted it to look.” In the heart of Charleston, where love and history converge, DIY weddings shine as a beacon of creativity, resilience and the pure joy of crafting everlasting memories.
By Katie Finch