Chapter 13: Handmade Weddings versus Packaged Parties

The past weeks has been extremely hectic for me because of an ongoing transition into a place of greater professional responsibility–not to mention the stress-related diseases that came with it–so for today at least, I’ve decided not to blog about something more complex than event planning for a wedding. Well, I haven’t actually started on any real wedding planning yet–as in conducting occulars and quoting suppliers. Nineteen months is still more than enough time for me but then again I have a history of being a procrastinator.

However, at this point I’ve been exploring what’s currently out there, from venues to chair rentals to photographers–window shopping if you may and this initial exploration has been partly spurred by my mom and brothers prodding me on about my supplier choices. 

Some of these suppliers were hotels offering all-in-one packages. It is something I didn’t consider at the beginning of the engagement because hotels are a popular choice for Filipino wedding receptions so I never took time to look at what they offered. Now, I admit that they can be pretty practical, everything is included from the food to the wedding cake, the hotel room to the centerpieces. Moreover, hotel food almost always pleases guests. As far as my current research goes, the cheapest package I found at a fairly good business hotel in the Ortigas CBD was at P140,000 for 150 people–all in! That’s roughly $3,100 at today’s exchange rate of P44-P46. I’ve actually attended a party at one of the modern function rooms of this particular venue and I did like the food (I particularly remember the carrot and ginger soup best) and the view. In the 5 to 7 -star hotel range, the cheapest offer I found was at P188,000 for 150 guests as well. 

A Hotel wedding comes complete with a can-do staff, leaving you lesser things to do.

Not bad, I thought. This whole packaged deal makes DIY seem a little less attractive. I initially wanted to do a combination of DIY and supplied services but the trade off is almost every detail has to be paid additional attention to. However on the other hand, the thought of a hotel reception felt so boring to me. It’s the party equivalent of an overproduced album or an excessively Photoshopped picture. We lose some of that rawness that gives a personal event character.

So I’ve decided to come up with this list of the pros and cons of putting the party together by hand versus packaging your wedding:

Labor of Love: The DIY route.

The Pros

A DIY wedding requires some craftiness and an extra dose of creativity. Once handmade items are involved, the maker places some level of artistic pride on his or her creation. This not only gives the wedding greater personal value because of the specially-customized pieces but it also gives it a greater level of uniqueness. As a result, the party will stand out more, guests will remember those extra-special details and most importantly, a sense of community is established by the collective efforts put together by friends and family, which is always a great way to begin one’s married life.

DIY Weddings provide opportunities for two families to work together and bond in the process.


DIY can also help bring wedding costs down by significant amounts. Naturally, a traditional wedding supplier, especially bigger, more established companies, will charge more because of their credibility and overhead  (their office is in Makati not Divisoria). By creating your own items such as a  handmade veil or a hand-packed candy jar souvenir, you save on thousands of pesos that can go instead to longer-term investments such as the downpayment for your first house or the maternity costs for your first baby.

The Cons

DIY takes time and yes…talent. If someone with a false sense of artistry attempts to come up with a hand-tied bridal bouquet and ends up creating just a tied-up bunch of messy blooms, it will be harder to be upfront with your in-house supplier and both of you might just end up with hurt feelings.

Extremely busy individuals in particularly high-stress work environments might feel hassled by doing the DIY route. Between your 16-hour shoot and the next 16-hour shoot, when do you find time to buy 20  individual flower vases in different  yet complementary designs while following your red and aqua palette and budget of P100 and below? I know that weddings happen once but life and work doesn’t stop during the planning process.


* Assign DIY tasks to natural talents in your bridal party or family. Lucky you if you have  a sister who’s great with makeup to do you big day look or a cousin who’s an art director to design your invitations. If someone insists on creating your paper mobiles and you know for a fact that this individual can’t create paper boats to save his or her life, then ask the decorating committee head to gently guide your eager beaver and to assign simpler tasks to him or her such as painting the wire wreaths white for the mobiles. I personally believe that managing situations like these are better than completely shunning relatives. 

* If you can’t do a 100% handmade wedding–don’t force it. We don’t want to be purists here so be honest with yourself and think about which aspects you would rather assign to a professional supplier. For me this would be the harder-to-manage details such as a buffet for 150 and the centerpieces. For other people it may be the photography or the entertainment. 

* Don’t be overwhelmed by Bridal magazines. Magazines will flood you with various looks, color schemes, wedding themes and supplier advertisements. Don’t feel overwhelmed or compelled to immediately book 80% of them. Read these magazines to gain inspiration and to know your supplier options but at the same time, be aware of what you want aesthetically and budget-wise, otherwise you might get too excited and end up over-spending when you don’t need to. Secondly, don’t depend on bridal magazines, which tend to be pricier as with anything that has the word bridal attached to it (include any white dress in a bridal line and watch the prices go up). As far as I’m concerned, bridal magazines are best for researching gown styles, which is also the reason why I am guilty of having a large stack beside me to feed my fashion fixation. There are other alternative sources such as that gift wrap with the cool blue and red paisley print, a butterfly with vibrant shades of lavender and yellow, the coral colors of a sunset sky or even that sparkly bottle of glittery nail polish! The next step is to write down the colors, motifs, even the films and artworks that you and your fiancee like. Moreover, magazines–and i’ll throw in bridal fairs as well–are not the only source of advice for planning a wedding. Seek advice and recommendations from organizers, married friends and the internet for wedding blogs. Do your research based on actual experiences and this will make the DIY process less stressful.

Do your research: Bridal Magazines are more concerned with selling you a product. Instead, seek further advice and gather tips from organizers, married friends and even on online forums and blogs.


For more online DIY inspiration, I recommend visiting the blog, 2000 dollar budget wedding

For ideas on creative wedding themes, head to Rock N’ Roll Bride.

For reviews on Philippine wedding venues, visit, a particularly helpful site by a local events organizer. 

Finally, look through Etsy, an online store for unique handmade designs (I recommend the wedding accessories page) that you can probably reproduce yourself on a smaller budget.

Polished to Perfection: The Packaged Wedding

The Pros

A packaged wedding is the polar opposite of the 100% DIY wedding. Whether you get a venue with an in-house caterer or a hotel, you won’t have to worry much about putting together the individual details such as renting chairs and tents from a separate source or getting your cake from another baker. That means your planning will involve less grind work, less travel expenses and less headaches. In my personal experience of working with a luxury hotel for an event three years ago, I was absolutely impressed by how accommodating the staff was even in high pressure situations.

The Cons

On the aesthetic level, if you’re as anal as me in terms of trying to organize an alternative wedding, then I think one based on a template package won’t be as helpful in achieving this. For one, you will be using the same space, chairs and tables that other couples have used. Hence, you will need to make an extra effort at customizing your celebration and working closely with your venue coordinator to achieving this. 


* Know your priorities and determine your weaknesses. Depending on whether you or your fiancee will be on top of the wedding planning, I recommend going the packaged route if one of you has: 1. a highly-stressful day job, 2. night shift work, 3. little patience with details. Maybe you’re saying, we only get married once! We should make this a priority despite how busy we are! Yes, I do agree with you however I personally believe that planning a party that will last a couple of hours is really just one aspect of your married life. I would like to think that there are practical, economically-related matters matters such as working and saving for the beginning of your life together, that need to be taken care of as well in the months (or in my case, years) leading to your betrothal. I also recognize that not everybody is in the business of event organizing and would have little patience for the tasks involved. As with running a business, if a particular area is not your expertise, get someone to fill in those gaps. Whether you want to hire a coordinator or designate a family member who is accustomed to throwing parties, by all means, do so.

* Don’t get too comfortable. Sure, the hotel is taking care of everything but don’t forget to involve yourself. The couple still has to be on top of things. This will help you prevent any unpleasant surprises on the big day. At the same time, you must be able to assert what you desire because at the end of the day, a wedding is still a personal occasion.

* Note your guest list. In my opinion, packaging it is more practical in the context of large weddings involving 200 guests or more. In the Filipino culture, family ties are so close and the families themselves so large that it’s fairly difficult to keep one’s guest list to a minimum. In fact 150 guests is considered a small wedding in this country whereas in the West, it’s more common to have celebrations with less than a hundred. If I could have just 50 guests at my own, I would by all means, completely prepare it myself with my friends and family. 

Consider how many guests you're expecting when deciding on how to implement your wedding.


Whether you choose to go completely DIY or to package everything, everything boils down to this: Know what you want, be aware of your limitations and don’t feel compelled to follow everything that you read or hear about.

Extremist individuals from both the DIY camp and the professionally-supplied camp tend to put down the other side with a passion. For example, one local photography ad had copy that encouraged couples to hire a pro or regret bad images for the rest of your life. On the other hand, the DIY group frowns upon the commercialism of the wedding industry. I don’t completely agree with neither side because practically, I would like to have the uniqueness and community-building of the former and the convenience and physical quality of the latter.

Most importantly, I believe that what matters most is getting ready to take the next step of living your days after the party ends and the responsibilities and challenges of marriage takes over. Amidst all the fuss about planning for one big day, a wedding is really just the beginning of something greater.

Published in: on May 23, 2010 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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