I recently took a long road trip back home for some hands-on wedding planning. One of the main reasons I took the trip was to work on constructing my pet wedding project — the driftwood arch for our beach wedding.
It was lots of fun going on driftwood collecting trips with my friends and putting it all together!
It became a lot more fun after I realized that the reason that the initial work had been so difficult was that my drill had gotten kicked into reverse before the project began — much smoother sailing after that little problem was fixed.
Lots of bumps and bruises (and a facial burn from a hot drill bit) later, here's what I came up with.
How I made a DIY driftwood arch
I drilled through the larger pieces that were going to be supporting the weight with the largest drill bit I had, and stuck ginormous 8 inch bolts through them. The stabilizing pieces across the bottom of the legs took out the wiggle and made it more sturdy. No concussions on the wedding day, please!
The smaller pieces on the finished arch that were used to balance the shape and make it look more intertwined were attached with wood screws, which were slightly, fabulously rusty – the rust made them blend into the color and grain of the wood much more than shiny new screws. I was also able to attach a few smaller pieces firmly by weaving them and using their tension against other pieces.
I borrowed the power tools, the driftwood was free, and the total cost for the project was $4.80. The bolts and some of the wood screws came from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in town, or were donated by Kathy.
There are ReStores in many cities, and they offer used or surplus construction materials at MUCH lower prices than you can find elsewhere. Plus, you're helping support a good cause, and you don't have to wander around a box store that's bigger than a small town!
How you can DIY your own driftwood arch:
- First make sure you check on your local regulations about what and how much you can take from public lands. In some cases, if you are only taking enough for personal use, removal of natural materials is permitted. When in doubt, ask. Use common sense, and don't disturb the ecosystem you are borrowing your natural materials from.
- Ask for help. Ask early. Ask often. Yes, this was “my” project, and I made most of the aesthetic decisions and drilled most of the holes, but it would have been totally impossible without the help of Kathy and my mom to brace things while I drilled, balance the two pieces together while I lined up the drill holes, offer suggestions, or pick some aloe from the yard and offer words of encouragement after the burn and other injuries. Weddings are about your support network and your partner's support network coming together to support both of you as a whole. You don't have to do it all alone.
- Go with the natural flow of the wood and the places they naturally wanted to support each other. At the top, for instance, those two structural pieces balanced against each other in the spot that I ended up drilling through. Which, I think, gives it an added structural support. And along some of the structural arch pieces at the top I made sure that I found the angle at which the two pieces of wood connected in the most places, while still maintaining the flow of the arch, and put a screw through each of those places.
It's really wonderful to work with the wood and figure out where each of the decorative pieces want to go — one part puzzle, one part art — so go for it! It's a lot of fun.
I am VERY happy that this project is done, and will not fall on our heads, and will serve as an altar for our Unitarian-Agnostic-Hindu-Nature-Loving ceremony. Hoorah!
Looking for DIY driftwood arch inspiration?
Or maybe you're looking at this DIY project and thinking “no freaking way, that looks like a pain in the butt!” We get it. DIY projects can be rough. That in mind, here are some gorgeous driftwood arches available on Etsy, if you don't want to DIY your own.