You might be thinking ‘weddings are cancelled at the moment because of the pandemic, why write about them?’ and at first, I thought that too. My husband, however, reminded me how stressful I found trying to make things in time for our own wedding – and that was back in “normal” times and with us both working! Countless people who have been furloughed from work or now work from home have suddenly been confronted with additional time on their hands – whether it be a commute that has gone from a hour or two each way to less than a minute, or (if furloughed) all the time in the world – and this time can be well spent working on projects for your wedding. After all, wedding plans take time to perfect and many things you might wish to make also take a lot of time!
If you’ve had to change plans because your wedding was cancelled or if you’re engaged and just aren’t sure what to do for your wedding, there’s lots of ways you can add a handmade touch. If you’re really crafty, you can make a lot of things, but please take my advice and draft in a few other crafty folk to help! Trying to manage everything yourself can be extremely stressful and you run the risk of not finishing things in time. It’s worth planning to have everything you want to make for your wedding finished at least one month before your wedding – that last month is likely to be filled with last minute talks with suppliers and finalising everything, so the last thing you need to worry about is when you’re going to finish making things!
Arguably the most impactful item to make for your wedding is what you’ll be wearing. Everyone should be looking at you on your wedding day and so this is a wonderful way to put your own stamp on the day – no one else will have the same dress, suit or waistcoat as you do since it’ll be one of a kind. The first piece of clothing I ever made was my wedding dress – I was lucky that my mother-in-law is an experienced dressmaker and my own mother is an accomplished sewist in her own right, so I had a lot of support. My mother-in-law also made my husband’s waistcoat from fabric he chose.
If you’re not an experienced sewist, dressmaker or quite so lucky to have similar support as I did, there are plenty of sewing classes in which you can learn to make clothes. Many of these have turned to online spaces and run them either via pre recorded videos or through video conferencing software, so even though “traditional” classes aren’t operating now and probably won’t be for some time, you can still learn from others over the internet. You could also join an online sewing community such as The Fold Line or one of the many sewing groups on Facebook – there are people of all abilities in these communities so you’re sure to find the support you need. If you do know some folk who sew, perhaps ask them to teach you – most of us don’t mind if we’re asked for help and would be happy to talk you through reading your pattern or what you need to do to complete a step you might be finding particularly difficult.
Making your own wedding clothes gives you an unparalleled freedom to make your wedding truly reflective of who you both are as people. You choose the styles, the patterns, the colours, the fabric. Don’t want to wear a white dress? Not a problem. Fancy wearing shorts and a smart shirt to a summer wedding rather than a full three piece suit? Great, there’s plenty of good patterns for you to choose from. I personally have always liked the style of 1950s clothing and was also inspired by one of my favourite dresses I bought several years ago. With those two starting points, I searched through patterns until I found the one for me, which was a reprint of a Vogue pattern from the 1950s. I wasn’t especially bothered about having a white dress, it just happened that the fabric I liked the most was cream with a line drawn pattern in black.
As these are going to be some of the most important clothes you make, it is worth dedicating a good amount of time to them, including testing your pattern with what’s known as a toile or muslin; this is effectively a test piece made of basic plain material like calico or muslin and you’ll use it to check the fit and if you need to make any alterations. You might not need to make a full toile – I only had to make the bodice part of my dress, but it’s good that I did as we went through four or five rounds of alterations before we found what fitted me best. I would have been heartbroken to cut out fabric only to not be able to use it if I hadn’t tested the pattern first. I don’t always make toiles, but when it’s a piece of clothing for something really important (like your wedding), it’s definitely a must.
In terms of time you should dedicate to making wedding clothes, this depends entirely on what you’re making. If you’re making your dress, or perhaps a full suit, you’ll need several months to work on it. If you choose to make a shirt or a waistcoat, you ought to give yourself at least a month. The more time you can give yourself, the better really, then you can take your time to get things right – plus it’s always a great feeling to finish before you expected to and have some extra time to do something else.
If you’re able to rope in some help from others in your household, you may well need this for finishing touches like marking or pinning your bottom hems for dresses and trousers. If you’re asking young children to help, it’s best to ask them to mark it with chalk or a vanishing pen rather than pins, so they don’t accidentally hurt themselves – or you!
Remember to wear the underwear and shoes you plan on wearing on the day when you’re trying your clothes on – knickers and pants aren’t so much a big deal, but bras are as they change the shape of your bust and you may need to ensure straps are removed or altered. It would also be upsetting to sew the hem of your dress based on your height without shoes and then realise you’d forgotten to add several inches for the height of your heels, so make sure to wear them (it’s also a good idea to wear them in a little so they don’t rub you on the day). If you’re planning on wearing a suit, you should also be aware of wearing shoes when pinning bottom hems for trousers, as you’ll need to ensure that they are long enough without being able to stand on them by accident.
If you’re having a spring, autumn or winter wedding, it may well be worth having a shawl or shrug to go over your dress and keep you warm as it gets cooler. There hundreds of crochet and knitting patterns out there for shawls and shrugs, for beginners all the way up to very advanced makers, so you’re sure to find a pattern out there for you. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a loom or know someone who weaves, you could also weave your own shawl. If this sounds like something you’d like to try, you can also get basic loom kits from many craft and knitting stores and there’s plenty of tutorials online.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could even have a go at making your wedding shoes – there are quite a few places now where you can learn to do this. I Can Make Shoes is a good place to start as it’s an online resource of courses to make shoes of all kinds, from simple sandals to beautiful heels and brogues. These shoes will fit you like no other, since you make them exactly to fit your feet!
If you’re having a bouquet, this is another item you can make – and it’ll last far longer than one from a florist. There’s lots of options here depending on what you like best; some don’t involve sewing, knitting or crocheting at all, so it’s also something you could delegate to a trusted crafty person or perhaps something you could do together with your bridesmaids or groomsmen via video calling, perhaps on a virtual hen or stag do. This is also something that grooms could make for their brides, or if you both wish to have one you could make each other’s bouquet.
One thing you will need for almost all options is some floristry wire – you’ll need this to arrange and shape your bouquet. It’s reasonably easy to get hold of – I bought mine from Amazon – and it comes in different thicknesses. If you’re following a pattern or set of instructions that clearly states what gauge of floristry wire you need, then follow that, but if not you’ll need to choose a gauge which you can still bend with relative ease when you’re arranging your bouquet. As you might expect, the thinner the gauge, the more flexible the wire is, so it’s also worth bearing in mind what it is you’re intending on making your bouquet from to see if the wire will hold the weight of it in the right shape once arranged. It’s also worth doing a bit of research online about the different shapes of bouquet and deciding which one you like, as this might affect what you choose to make. You may also need some floristry tape to cover or bind the wire, though be aware that this is by nature quite sticky and waxy. If you use it to bind your bouquet together when you’re happy with your arrangement, then also be sure to cover it with a finishing material like jute twine or ribbon. That way your hands will stay clean on your wedding day!
If you want to throw your bouquet at some point during the day, it would be worth bearing this in mind when designing it – you don’t want it to be too heavy that it might hurt people! Alternatively, a smaller bouquet which is specifically for throwing is probably better – it’s quite common to throw individual flowers instead of a full bouquet. This way you’re not likely to hurt people with a heavy bouquet, plus you get to keep your bouquet after putting all the time and effort into making it!
Button bouquets have become popular in recent years and they can look really wonderful, particularly if you use the size, shape, texture and even material of the button to your advantage when arranging the bouquet. There’s also the benefit that they have holes and shanks built into them, thereby providing an easy method of attaching them to your floristry wire. You can of course buy buttons from many places, or (like me) you may have some you’ve inadvertently collected over the years which were spares that came with clothes you bought. A good place to look for buttons is Totally Buttons; not only do they sell a whole range of buttons in different sizes and materials, but they can also manufacture bespoke buttons and you can buy mixed gift bags of coconut or shell buttons. They even sell chocolate buttons, which might be a nice gift for the person who makes your bouquet if you’re not doing it yourself.
Paper bouquets are also popular and you can use papercraft to make flowers, leaves, butterflies and a multitude of other items if you choose. You can also use the templates for paper flowers to make glued or hand sewn flowers if you choose to – just remember to give yourself enough seam allowance for sewing or glueing the raw edges together.
If you’re interested in crocheting, there’s an incredible amount of patterns out there that you can look at for flowers. Designers including Moara Crochet also have video tutorials with their patterns, so you can watch Roseanna talk you through all the steps to create your flowers. She regularly releases new flower patterns, so there’s already quite a few to choose from including lilies, daffodils, cherry blossoms and more. Likewise, there are plenty of crochet patterns out there for butterflies, other animals and even stars and rockets if you really want.
Kanzashi flowers are another way you can completely customise your bouquet – you can make the same pattern of flower look different just by changing the central button, adding another layer or changing the colour of fabric. There’s also a few different methods of making the petals and leaves, so even if you use the same colour or print of fabric you can make the flowers look different. These flowers originate from traditional Japanese crafts and were typically made by Geisha to adorn their hair. There are a variety of patterns available to make different flowers from and the technique can also be used to make butterflies, rabbits, fleur de lis and several other designs. You can either sew or glue the designs together and you can make them from fabric or ribbons, with buttons or beads depending on what you like best.
Felt bouquets are popular as they are reasonably easy to make – you can glue them or sew them and you can also add decorative stitches if you wish. Thicker felt will hold it’s shape a bit better, but you can also carefully thread some thin floristry wire into the felt pieces to give the felt some structure. There’s lots of options for patterns and you can also use papercraft patterns to make felt flowers. For 100% woollen felt, check out the Wool Felt Company – you can buy your felt in squares or by the metre, depending on how much you need.
Last but not least is the “traditional” floral bouquet, though rather than going to a florist you can use dried flowers or perhaps collect some. These could be flowers from your garden, your parents or friend’s garden, or you could even collect some wildflowers (wherever possible do get the landowner’s permission before cutting flowers). Obviously for this option you don’t need the floristry wire, but you do need to ensure you’re choosing flowers which aren’t poisonous or cause you (or any of the wedding party) too many allergies. If you’re collecting fresh flowers from a garden, you’ll need to do this in the last few days before your wedding and keep the flowers in water so they don’t die before you get married. Also be sure to have a vase of water on your table to place them in during the day! You’ll therefore need to spend time planning your bouquet based on which plants flower in the days leading up to your wedding – and have some backup choices incase they flower too early, too late or not at all.
Buttonholes, ties and accessories
You can make buttonholes using the same techniques as described above – plus you can do this with brooches and hair accessories too. These can match your bouquet if you choose, or you might decide to make them completely different, it’s entirely your choice.
For those wearing suits, you’ll also likely be looking at ties, pocket squares and cufflinks. All of these are reasonably easy to make if you choose to do so – you can buy cufflink pieces from eBay and Amazon or some bead and jewellery suppliers have DIY kits. If you choose a kit which includes glass fronts, you could use fabric from your dress, or perhaps have them match your tie and pocket square – the glass front will protect whatever you decide to put into your cufflinks. If you choose not to have a glass front, you could make your cufflinks from wood, glass or metal, depending on what you like.
There are plenty of good patterns for ties out there if you have a look – though you’ll need to choose between a bow tie, necktie, cravat or neckerchief. Check out See Kate Sew for a bowtie or Sew Guide for a necktie pattern and advice on how to make them. When choosing fabric to make your ties from, be aware that neckties need to be cut on the bias (that is, at a 45º angle from the grain of the fabric) in order to ensure they keep their shape. This makes it difficult to have patterns, as your pattern will have to be on the diagonal.
Pocket squares are fairly straightforward to make – they’re squares of fabric with simple hems around the outside which are folded into different shapes to fit into your pocket. They tend to be a similar size to a small handkerchief and typically these are made from the same fabric as your tie, though you could make them from your dress fabric or any other fabric you wish. Fat quarters of fabric are ideal for pocket squares as they can make quite a few, depending on what size you choose.
Venue decorations and favours
Many venues will allow you to use whatever decorations you choose, though some do come with decorations already. For our wedding, we decorated the venue mostly with coloured lights, though I also made hundreds of little origami stars to decorate the tables with. It was actually quite relaxing to make these stars while watching television at night – once you get the method down, they’re quite quick to make. Origami is a popular choice for wedding decorations since there are hundreds of designs for all sorts of creatures and items out there, though be aware that it can take a lot of time if you choose complicated designs!
You can also make decorations such as bunting quite easily – these could be made from felt, sewn from a variety of fabrics, or you can even crochet and knit bunting! There’s also plenty of options for making letters and numbers, so you could perhaps spell out your names or the date of your wedding. You could also employ some of the same techniques described in the bouquet section – kanzashi table decorations look fantastic, or you could make curtains of felt flowers attached to some simple jute twine to go around the venue walls.
Favours can be a tricky one – do you choose something that is the same for everyone so no one could be disappointed, or do you try and personalise them? It is entirely up to you whether you choose to keep everything the same or try and personalise the favours, though whatever you choose to do I would recommend having something that reflects who you are as people. For example, if you love cooking and making sweets, you could make a batch of handmade fudge for everyone; if you love gardening, perhaps a box of seeds gathered from your garden is more appropriate. At a friends wedding, all the women received kazanshi flower brooches as favours, each one a different colour – this way everyone was receiving the same favour but as no two were identical, everyone received something a little different at the same time.
Don't put too much pressure on yourself
Whatever you choose to make for your wedding, be it one special piece of your day or as much as possible, plan ahead and give yourself as much time as you can – weddings are stressful enough without adding more stress about finishing projects on top! Try looking for some inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram before you decide on anything, as you might spot something you really like that you might not have thought about otherwise.
If you need help with anything, don’t be afraid or too proud to ask your friends and family – most people will be more than happy to help you. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I like to get my things exactly how I want them, so asking for help when I needed it was the hardest thing for me to do. Last but not least, don’t forget to enjoy yourself while making your projects!