The Other Side of a DIY Wedding

Well, I’m out the other side and with a big fat, absolutely cream-crackered smile on my face.

I didn’t stop for 13 hours straight, but the space looked unbelievably beautiful, the weather was dry and bright (if a tad chilly!), the dance floor rocked, everyone had a wonderful time, and I can now say that the first Utterly Wow wedding was a success. Woohoo!

I hope to be able to share in full once the professional shots are done, but in the meantime here’s a sneak peek of the venue all ready to go…

Wowee.

Wowee.

But what’s inspired me to write today isn’t about the pretty, creative or fun aspects of a DIY wedding (erm… go check out the last year of blog posts for that), but something that became abundantly clear to me as I was scraping food off gold charger plates, clearing away soiled tablecloths for the room turnaround and filling rubbish bags towards the end of the night…

… the aftermath.

And it's gonna be a lot worse than this, folks. Trust me.

And it’s gonna be a lot worse than this, folks. Trust me. (Image source)

It’s not something that we give much thought to, but with the exclusivity and creative freedom of a blank canvas venue comes an epic clear-up the next day. And with a hangover as well.  Granted, I’m sure we’ll all still be floating around in a bubble of giddy, post-wedding, ‘did-X-really-snog-Y??’  belly-laughing bliss, but still, I can think of other ways I’d rather spend my first day of married life.

So, as I jotted down notes on the train home from Cornwall, I started thinking about the extra preparations I should do for my own wedding to ensure the take-down is as quick and painless as possible. And because I know I have several readers planning their own DIY wedding, I thought I’d share them with you now. A blog post about cleaning up- The Utter Blog is so rock and roll.

Recycling & Bin Collections

First things first, whether your wedding is at home in the garden or at a hired venue, make sure you find out when the bins are collected and how they need to be disposed of. There might be a skip out back for glass bottles; you might have to pack up your car and take them to the recycling centre yourself. Ditto with rubbish bags. Either way you can’t make a plan until you know!

Employ A Crack Team

You will need help cleaning up. Some people might volunteer, others will put their fingers in their ears and scream ‘La la la!’ in the hope you don’t ask them. Choose a small but dedicated gang who love you and won’t be able to say No.  Your best man, ushers and bridesmaids are probably your best bet. (But be sure to get them a reeeeally lovely ‘thank you’ present!)

Bins At The Wedding

Now I know they ain’t pretty but they sure are useful, and in a blank canvas venue don’t just assume they will be there! I would seriously recommend having a couple of discrete ‘bin stations’ around the space, with a bag for empty cans and bottles (recyclables), and a bag for general waste at each.  They could be put out during dinner perhaps, to ensure they don’t spoil your guests’ first view of your reception space, or even hung with a cute sign/instruction, but when someone does knock over their glass of wine (pretty much guaranteed) you’ll be grateful they were able to chuck away their sodden napkin there and then, rather than finding it in a heap on the floor the following day.

More 'carnage'. (Image source)

More ‘carnage’.
(Image source)

Everything That Goes Up Must Come Down

Pompoms, fairy lights, paper lanterns, bunting, swags, photographs, ribbons, streamers, signs, paper cranes… if you’re having a DIY wedding, more than half of that list will most likely be making an appearance.  Some will be hired and need to go back in to the boxes they came in, some you may want to keep, some will be binned. Either way, keep the boxes and bags they came in close, together and intact, and- if you get a chance- make a note on them so you know which belongs to which.

The Post-Party Shopping List

Don’t assume your venue will have the following: a broom, a dustpan and brush, kitchen towel, cloths, washing-up detergent, tea towels, multi-purpose spray, toilet roll, bin bags (so, so important!). Don’t scrimp and don’t forget as you will need all of the above the following day, and if the venue does provide- bonus! You’ll get the job done in half the time.

A Moment On The Lips… Equals a Dirty Glass

This point doesn’t so much refer to the aftermath, but the massive clean-up operation that may have to be undertaken during the wedding. We’re a spoilt little nation who expect a new drink in a fresh glass, and if you’re throwing a DIY wedding this may not always be possible. You may think there are enough champagne flutes for everyone, but remember these flutes are most likely to be used twice- once for the post-ceremony drinks and then again during the speeches. Ask yourself (and whoever is running your bar) the necessary questions:

  • How many glasses are there?
  • Is there a dishwasher?
  • Is there someone to collect glasses/man the dishwasher?

My own caterers offer a ‘bar service’ for an extra fee which we are using- but if your caterers don’t offer this or have not done it before, I would thoroughly recommend hiring in a mobile bar company to make sure the evening festivities can run smoothly. Chances are they’ll provide their own glasses as well which means you don’t have to wash them up the following day!

Make Your Guests Aware

The problem with DIY weddings is that your guests may not realise just how ‘Do It Yourself’ they are.  We wouldn’t just jump behind the bar at a restaurant to get a glass of water, so your guests won’t voluntarily do that at your relaxed, informal wedding- even if you want them to.

If you want the formalities of a full-service wedding venue with a sit-down meal and an evening bar, make sure you have the staff and the facilities to replenish the water and wine, collect and clean glassware and keep the bar fully stocked. If you want a more informal vibe then make sure your guests know they are to help themselves. Make an announcement in your speeches. Provide a way of personalising glasses so that people know their glass is theirs for the whole evening. Make a polite request for people to utilise the bins. Appoint a member of the bridal party to make sure the drinks table is always full.

And if this all sounds too complicated, get a coordinator to do it for you 🙂

Ahhh, there you go. You'd never know Uncle Jerry was dancing wildly on top of that piano the night before, would you? (Image source)

Ahhh, there you go. You’d never know Uncle Jerry was dancing wildly on top of that piano the night before, would you? (Image source)

So folks, anyone have any cleaning up tips I haven’t thought about? Or would like to share their Wedding Aftermath stories??

I’m meeting my caterers at our venue tomorrow so will be thrashing out the finer details of the bar service they’ll be providing, as well as checking out the bin situation. It’s definitely the unglamorous side of wedding planning but it has to be done!

Have a lovely weekend all, and show those Mums some love!

Sama xxx

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6 thoughts on “The Other Side of a DIY Wedding

  1. Sama, what can I say – you did such an AMAZING job at our wedding on Saturday – we literally couldn’t have done it without you and so many guests (even married ones!) have said it’s been the best wedding they’ve ever been to! It looked beautiful beyond my wildest dreams and I can’t wait to see all the pics and videos… On the practical notes, I think your points above couldn’t be more spot on. I think the caterers didn’t know what they were letting themselves in for offering to run the bar, cut the cake etc. after doing the actual catering – and I think we probably would have been better off getting a mobile bar in… (hindsight’s a wonderful thing!) Think also we learnt that spirits on a DIY bar are pretty hazardous! (but won’t go into too much detail, LOL!)

    Your on-the-day-coordination meant that I could whole heartedly, 100% enjoy every minute of my wedding day and that is an invaluable (and probably unusual) thing!

    Thanks so much, I would recommend you to any Bride – and am so happy we took the journey together! x

  2. The Utter truth of assembling a DIY wedding! I really liked this post because it shows readers another side of the wedding process many don’t think about and that is the cleanup! Great informative insights

  3. Pingback: A Week in Weddings #31 | little love notes

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