Cheap 'n' Quirky Wedding

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Tea Towel Favors November 20, 2011

If you have a whole lot of time for crafting before your wedding, you might want to consider stamping tea towels as favors for your guests. You can pick up some inexpensive flour sack tea towels, a rubber stamp that fits your theme (every so often, Michaels has 40% off all of their stamps) and some fabric ink/dye. In the right colors for your wedding, they’ll look beautiful wrapped in a matching ribbon at each place setting. Plus they’re actually useful, your guests will use the tea towel long after the wedding and they’ll remember your special day every time they see it.

Here’s a blog from Jen Jafarzadeh, Redbook’s lifestyle editor, with more details on executing these reusable gifts.


DIY Music August 9, 2011

I’m planning a surprise 60th birthday party for my mother in about 2 weeks and we still haven’t thought about music. For my wedding, we found a reasonably priced DJ through a recommendation (I think the person who referred the company got a discount, if you’re trying to save, consider hawking your DJ’s services for a price cut.) For this cocktail party, it’s a lot more low-key so I’m going to go with DIY. But how?

I’ve heard a lot of people use their iPods in place of a DJ during their receptions. My mom reported that my second cousin did this at his wedding, actually. From what I’ve heard, this method works pretty well but it’s less polished than having a DJ: the songs don’t blend together smoothly so you may be left with a brief silence, it’s hard to jump in and save the situation if your pre-prepared playlists aren’t getting the crowd pumped up, and you’ll have to get a friend or relative to take on the unpaid position of MC. These aren’t really problems at a small family cocktail party, but it could be a bigger issue at a wedding. If you’re willing to risk it, it’s a great option. My one concern with this option is that it’s not free if you have to buy songs on iTunes (I can’t condone or promote piracy, but you know, it is out there.) You can always upload songs from your favorite CDs for free, but odds are that you’ll have to drop some money. Still a lot less than a DJ, but you do have to keep in mind that it won’t be totally free. Also, you’ll have to think about where you can plug your iPod in. Sound docks are great, but they may be on the tiny side in a large reception hall. Ask your venue what they have to offer in terms of A/V equipment to see if this plan is feasible.

For a very small wedding, or a cocktail party like my mom’s party, I’ve been considering a YouTube playlist. There are definite problems with this, like that you risk an ad being played, a video could be taken down which would result in a long break, there are long pauses between each video as the next loads, and the playlist may stop playing if the browser tab is no longer open. You’d also have to find a way for your computer to be hooked up to a sound system (or bring really fantastic speakers.) Plus side: it’s free. That’s a lot to contend with though.

You could always go a little old school and make your own mix CD, but it’s a lot of work, you have no MC, and you’re screwed if the crowd isn’t feeling your jams. But if you already have the mp3 files, it only costs as much as the blank CDs. Plus you’ll have keepsake CDs of all of the music played at your wedding.

Have you been to a wedding without a DJ? I’m dying to know how they turned out, whether the absence of a DJ was noticeable, and if you’re doing the same for your wedding. Please, please, please tell me! I’ve been thinking about this since I was wedding planning, these questions have been killing me for over a year now! Plus I need to hammer out my music plans for my mom’s party soon.


Things Learned: RSVP Cards March 23, 2011

I knew printing your own invitations could be a tad frustrating, but I didn’t expect to be swearing at my printer for 4 hours. I also never expected it to re-frustrate me two weeks before my wedding. Allow me to explain:

DIY invitations, whether made from scratch or from a store-bought kit, can save you a lot of money. It also allows your creative side to come out. When you’re making your own invitation, you’re free make it say anything you want. Any wording, any layout, anything. Actually, you might be too free. I was. I ran into trouble when I realized that I hadn’t actually read many invitations and RSVP cards and didn’t really know what they were supposed to say. Naturally, I googled wedding templates and I came out with a perfect invitation.

My unclear RSVP card

I was equally pleased with the RSVP cards. I based it off of a template I found online and on the one I’d gotten for my coworker’s wedding. I figured that if multiple websites had it as a template and my coworker used it, it must be suitable. I’d found it clear when I filled it out for my coworker’s wedding. Here it is:


It was problematic on a few levels. Firstly, in how people filled it out. If it were filled out properly, it would read “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe, 2 will attend, 0 vegetarian.” Not everyone knows the blank spots are for numbers. Some people just put a check mark next to “will attend.” That seems like an appropriate response when you look at the RSVP card, but it’s quite problematic when the Doe family is responding and you need a concrete guest count (are they bringing all of their kids? Are their kids assuming they can bring dates? Yes, it happened to us.)

There were some cases where we didn’t know the names of distant relatives’ children or spouses (shameful, I know,) and this format didn’t allow us to get the names. I don’t know about all banquet halls, but our venue required a list of the names of all guests.

On a similar note, when couples/groups responded and listed one vegetarian, we had no idea who in the pair/group couldn’t eat a meat dish. Luckily we had a buffet so it wasn’t an issue, but if you had to tell your venue exactly who needed the vegetarian dish, it might be difficult. Hopefully they only need to know the number of vegetarians at each table; it might be worth asking your venue about.

The problems listed above are only problems when people respond. The biggest problem I found with this format was that guests didn’t respond at all. I expected everyone to respond, not just because I’d spent so much on stamps, but also because I thought it was common courtesy. Some people who couldn’t come responded with a card that said “0 attending” or wrote a little note on the card expressing their regrets, but many more figured that we were only expecting cards from those who were attending. In an ideal world, only attendees responding could work, but not all attendees sent their cards back. There were people who assumed we knew they were coming without them responding, or those uncles who never respond to anything but just show up, or those relatives who were waiting until the last minute to see if they could get the weekend off/how their great-aunt’s health would be/if they felt like going, etc. No really, that all happened to us. On our deadline, we had received about half of the cards back. We had to follow up with all of the rest! Our deadline was a week before the venue’s deadline for our final guest list, but I never imagined that entire week would be spent tracking people down.

Remember my post on over-explaining your tosser? Same idea. Make the response card so simple that no one can make a mistake, not even that young single person who has never attended a wedding. I’d only recommend the last template on this list of templates. Remember that you should have a place to check yes or no (so the non-attendees know they have to respond too) and a place to list the number of guests. If you’re giving food options (choice of entree, vegetarian options,) you can present the choices with a blank spot and hopefully your guests will fill it out clearly.

In the end, there’s always going to be people who don’t respond, fill it out wrong, or say they need more time. There’s nothing you can do, it can’t be perfect. Just make sure that you put the deadline on the card at least a week before your venue’s deadline and try to make the card as clear as possible. And if all else fails, whoever wanted the non-responders on the guest list should be stuck with tracking them down (my parents and in-laws had a busy week of tracking people down, our friends responded.) Remember to delegate, especially since they should know the best way to get a hold of these people, especially if you don’t know them at all.

Good luck!


Paper Carnations December 9, 2010

I love carnations and I love paper flowers. Combine the two and you clearly get paper carnations. These can make great decor at your wedding; you could carry a paper flower bouquet, put paper wreaths up on walls or hanging off of chairs/pews along the aisle. Not only can you prepare these as far in advance as you like, they’ll last much longer than fresh flowers as a memento of your big day.

Martha Stewart's cupcake liner wreath

I was watching Martha Stewart this morning and she made this wreath out of coffee filters or cupcake liners (personally, I liked the larger, softer folds of the coffee filter version, but the photo shows one made with cupcake liners.) While they didn’t mention it, I found that it bore a striking resemblance to carnations. This is not only gorgeous hanging on a door, but it would be adorable hanging with a long ribbon in your wedding colors along your aisle.

You can also create these adorable tissue paper carnations from Folding Trees. These would be super cute in a bunch as a centerpiece or even held as a bouquet.

My wedding flowers were all carnations so I want to make these paper flowers as a sweet reminder of my wedding and as a nice piece of decor. I’ll let you know how it goes. Have you tried either of these crafts or have another way to make paper carnations? Let me know in the comments!


Things Learned: Over-Explain Your Tosser! October 29, 2010

Filed under: crafts,diy — clln @ 7:25 pm
Tags: , ,

As I proudly blogged, I made 100 ribbon wands with pieces of ribbon, wooden dowels, and hot glue. It took ages but I kept my spirits up by imagining how beautiful all of the wands would look as they were waved to cheer us back down the aisle. Sadly, I never got the photos of our tightly-packed guests all waving ribbons at the same time. Due to rain, the ceremony was moved indoors to the reception area and the guests were seated at their assigned tables as we were married on the dance floor. The crowd wasn’t arranged properly to get a good shot of everyone waving them but that wasn’t even the true cause of the problem. Very few people waved them. I don’t even have a photo for this blog post. We forgot to ask the officiant to explain that they should be waved as we exited; our guests didn’t realize what they were supposed to do with them. So I learned the lesson for this “things learned” post.

While the wands’ purpose seems obvious to you as you’re gluing them together (and losing your mind,) it may not be obvious to those who haven’t spent months reading wedding blogs. This goes for all confetti alternatives including yarn pom-poms, birdseed (you never know when a guest will assume it’s a snack,) seeds, and even bubbles.

You have different options when it comes to spreading the instructions for your tosser:

  • A simple and free option is to ask your officiant to instruct the crowd on what to do. Your officiant has probably announced something like this before and will be able to figure out an appropriate way to word it.
  • If you have programs (something we nixed) you can make a note in the schedule, something like “Recessional – Shake your ribbon wands!”
  • If you have children in your bridal party, they can announce that it’s time to shake, throw, or blow with a sign similar to this one on slide one. Most energetic kids would love the opportunity to run across the altar with a sign. The sign could read “Throw your pom-poms!”
  • These two options work if you’ll have the guests pick up the tosser as they walk in: you can have someone hand out the tosser to guests as they arrive and explain that they should be thrown/shaken/blown at the end or if you display the tossers on a table at the entrance, you can include a sign that says “Please take one and throw it as we exit.”

Don’t assume your guests know everything. In fact, assume they know nothing. If you’re reading this, it means you have an acute, temporary condition known as wedding brain. You think about weddings, you read about weddings, you watch TV shows about weddings, your world revolves around weddings because wedding planning has temporarily replaced your life’s purpose. When you see a ribbon wand, birdseed, or pom-poms, you’ll instantly think about the recessional and the adorable photos these tossers will result in. Put yourself in Uncle Frank’s shoes now. Think he’s exited about tossers? You’d better over-explain it.


Something Old Becomes New: The Recycled Hanky August 14, 2010

I was reading a book in which the author had an epiphany. I, in turn, had my own epiphany. Spoiler alert: I will reveal something that happens in the book Sleeping Naked Is Green, but it’s more of a great idea than a plot twist. While I’m getting warnings out of the way, here’s my full disclosure. I used to work for the publisher of the book. Now back to the fun stuff.

In Sleeping Naked Is Green, author Vanessa Farquharson tries to make one green change each day for a year. One of her changes is not to use disposable facial tissues; she switches to reusable cloth hankies instead. Needing more hankies while suffering from a cold, Farquharson takes a pair of scissors to an old set of bed sheets that were too worn for use and creates many hankies. Brilliant, no?

This is where my epiphany came about. I’d been trying to figure out what my something old would be and was having some trouble. Most brides carry some sort of hanky with them and I had the perfect set of sheets for this. My hoarding mother kept my childhood bed sheets with tiny pink and green flowers, my favorite colors when I was young. They’re nearly threadbare in the middle of the fitted sheet and the pillowcase is discolored so they haven’t been used in years. Here’s their chance to have new life! These sheets have great sentimental value since I slept on them nearly every night for my entire childhood; one’s bed is a place of comfort and security, things people look for when feeling stressed (uh, wedding planning) or overcome with emotion. Plus it’s eco-friendly! I’m recycling the material, it saves all of the packaging on buying a new hanky, and I even hand-sewed it so I didn’t use any electricity from a sewing machine. The top sheet was still the original color and was suitable for using (as the fitted sheet looked like it could rip if you breathed on it.)

My recycled bed sheet hanky.

The hems are differing widths because I used a corner piece (so I wouldn’t have to hem as much) and the side hem and bottom hem of the top sheet were different, so I tried to match those.

This project is simple: cut a square of material and hem it. I suggest folding the edges twice before hemming so that the raw edge is never exposed. You don’t necessarily have to use a sheet, you could use an old dress, curtains, a blouse, a baby blanket, or even new fabric. If it’s a fabric that you can cut, sew, and dab your tears of joy with, it’ll work. If you’ve got the gift of embroidery skills, you could embroidered your wedding date, your names, or a little message onto it or even make a nice little edging for it. Since we’re all busy brides, planning our brains out, just a quick hem might be the extent. That’s just fine; it’s cute, ridiculously quick, and can be done in front of the television.

So thank you, Vanessa Farquharson. You unknowingly gave me my something old and you gave my old bed sheets a new life.


Ribbon, Ribbon, Ribbon, Part 3: Ribbon Wands August 12, 2010

Filed under: crafts,diy — clln @ 6:19 pm
Tags: ,

Everyone has that image of the bride and groom leaving the church, being showered with confetti. The confetti gives this beautiful, magical, snow-like effect and looks lovely in photos. Of course, it also creates litter that is difficult to clean, so difficult that many venues will not allow you to use it (or face a fine if you do.) So how can you have a confetti-like effect, sans confetti?

Ribbon wands! Your guests can each shake a ribbon wand in the air as you exit your ceremony, creating the image of many streamers flying through the air.

These are super easy to make, it just requires a dowel, some ribbon, and hot glue. I took a very thin, 36″ long dowel (available in the craft section of Walmart) and cut it into three equal pieces of 12″ each. They can be cut with a saw, or even worn down with an Exacto knife or a strong pair of scissors. Take a 24″ (or whatever length you prefer) piece of ribbon, apply hot glue (or double-sided tape if you don’t do glue) to the end of the ribbon and wrap it around the dowel until the end of the ribbon is covered. And you’re done! Another variation involves tying the ribbon around the dowel, although I fear that it would fall off as your guests wave them.

You may also want to hold the end of the ribbon over a candle or use a ribbon-finishing glue to prevent the edge from fraying.

I used wide ribbons in sage green and ivory, and thin ribbons in moss green and ivory. I think the variety of colors will add to the confetti feel. Here is a photo of all of the variations I made for the wedding:

Ribbon wand variations

Other variations you can make include painting the dowel, attaching rhinestones to the ribbon or to the top of the dowel, or anything else your heart desires.

There are a few lessons I learned through this project that I should share (or warn you about.) You will go through TONS of ribbon. Even if you think you bought enough, buy more. I started out doing lots of wands with one wide ribbon and two thin ones per dowel, but my ribbon consumption was way too high, so most of them are just one wide ribbon or 2-3 thin ribbons per dowel. The more ribbons per dowel, the more stunning it is and the bigger effect it has. It’s a trade-off, you have to budget how much you’re willing to spend on ribbon. I’d seen some photos where the ribbon wands in a crowd looked sparse, but I’m also tired of making trips to Walmart to buy more ribbon. This leads me to my next lesson: stores don’t stock that much ribbon. We’ve bought every inch of sage green ribbon from our local Walmart and Michaels. We’ve also cleared Walmart out of the moss green and most of their ivory. Finding ribbon is now becoming a challenge. If you want to do this, do it early and stock up on ribbon! I found out the hard way that our local Walmart doesn’t replenish their ribbon section often.

Now I have to figure out how to present them to the guests. Left on each chair with a note to shake them at the end? Handed out with greetings and a quick word of instruction from the ushers? Left in a pretty vase? I’m concerned that people won’t grab one if they’re in a vase, and I want to make sure they’re all waving in the wind as I’m walking away from the altar. Have you tried this or seen it at another wedding? Share your presentation tips or variation ideas in the comments!


Ribbon, Ribbon, Ribbon Part 2: Favor Boxes August 11, 2010

Filed under: decor,diy,etc,paper things,Uncategorized — clln @ 6:23 pm

Have you ever thought of your guest favors as decor? You should start. Let them be the gift that keeps on giving. Depending on your favor, there are many ways in which to display the items, but this project works with items that are boxed. This DIY project is super simple, incorporates the ribbon theme I’ve been going with, and can be customized to any color and many degrees of detail.

Let me give you a little background on this as this project came out of necessity. My future mother-in-law told us she could get 200 crystal butterfly ornaments for free. We don’t like them, we wanted to make a charitable donation in lieu of favors, frankly we’re kind of embarrassed to give these out and FMIL wouldn’t take the hint, so long story short, we’re concealing them in their boxes. Well, they’re going to be at the wedding, so why not make them pretty? The original plan was to wrap them in sage green wrapping paper so that it could add to our green theme, but sadly we couldn’t find any sage green wrapping paper. That’s when my amazing future sister-in-law came up with the idea to wrap them in ribbon!

Super-easy ribboned guest favor.

If you also have a boxed favor, you can achieve this incredibly easily and it will look great placed on everyone’s plates at the reception. Wrap the boxes in paper in one of your wedding colors (or even patterned would look amazing), then cut a piece of ribbon in another one of your wedding colors long enough to wrap around the box (in whichever direction covers more of the tape from wrapping,) then use a glue gun on either end of the ribbon, wrap it around the box, and affix the glued portions of the ribbon to the bottom of the box. By not tying it, you save a lot of time for yourself and make it harder to unwrap, hopefully keeping the boxes wrapped during the reception so that there isn’t crumpled wrapping paper littering the floor.

You can add a little bit more detail by making a bow and gluing it to the top of the box (although it will be harder to transport all of the boxes to the venue as they won’t stack as nicely.)

Just remember, you can add a little but of ribbon in a lot of places to jazz up anything. Stay tuned for another ribbon craft.


Ribbon, Ribbon, Ribbon, Part 1: Money Box August 9, 2010

If you love white satin, lace, beads, tassles, quilt batting, and treasure chests, then you can easily find the money box of your dreams for your wedding. However, if you’re like me, you’re looking for something simpler that allows for customizable colors, feast your eyes on my DIY money box:

My DIY ribbon money box

Not only do I think it’s prettier than the money boxes I’ve seen in stores, it was cheap! The box was $14.99, and the ribbon was $1.99 and $0.47 for the rolls of the wide and thin ribbon, respectively. Approximately $17.50 definitely beats the $44 for which the puffy white treasure chests are going.

This is the first of my many DIY ribbon projects that I’ve been doing for this wedding, the photos of the others will follow soon. Ribbon is practically our wedding theme now. It’s pretty, it can be reasonably inexpensive, and it comes in a plethora of colors (so you can match it to your wedding color palette.)

Here’s how I did it (and how you can do it too!) I used one cardboard craft box (tips on choosing one can be found below,) two styles of ribbon (one thick and one thin, in different shades of green), a hot glue gun, and an Exacto knife.

I got an oval-shaped cardboard box from Michaels. They have a wide variety of shapes and sizes and they typically come in ivory or the traditional cardboard brown color. Make sure it’s a big box because one ill-placed card can take up a lot of space (they don’t all fall in perfect formation, unfortunately.) I went with ivory so that I wouldn’t have to decoupage or paint it, but these are options. Tissue paper could be torn into pieces, coated with hodge-podge glue, and attached to the box to give it any color you wish.

Once the box is the color you like, you must make a hole in the lid that can accommodate standard card envelopes. Use a few of your engagement and bridal shower cards, as well as a standard letter envelope, to test the size. Make sure the hole will be wide enough to accept a fat envelope (have you seen some of those cards in the card store with all kinds of pretty things attached to the front? Those envelopes aren’t thin.) Mark your desired hole size with a pencil, then take an Exacto knife and cut it out. Push your knife in from the top of the box lid instead of the bottom. In case the paper covering the outside of the box rips, it will be hidden on the inside of the box.

Now to the bow. For this, I cut one piece each of the two styles of ribbon I wanted to use in the same length as the circumference of the lid. I used hot glue to place a few beads of glue on the wider piece of ribbon, then placed it around the lid, trying to center it. I recommend placing the ends of the ribbon on what will be the back of your box (so that no one will see it.) Once that was glued down, I did the same thing with the thinner piece of ribbon but glued it on top of the wider ribbon that had been previously glued down.

The bow is optional; the box looks pretty sleek without it, but the bow is the way to go if you want cute and sweet for your decor. I cut a piece of ribbon from each of the ribbon styles I wanted to use (the length will depend on how big you want the bow to be, you can figure it out before cutting by tying a bow with ribbon that is still attached to the spool.) Place the thinner ribbon in the center of the thicker ribbon, then carefully tie a bow. You can ensure that the thinner ribbon will stay centered by gluing it in place in the middle of the thicker ribbon before tying the bow. When your bow is done, glue the bow in the center of the ribbon that encircles the box.

There you go, there’s the money box. If you have any questions or any suggestions for variations/improvements to this, share them in the comments. Stay tuned for more ribbon wedding crafts in the very near future!


Christmas Came Early July 16, 2010

I’ve relocated to New England and I’ve discovered Christmas Tree Shops. I thought they sold Christmas decorations year-round, but I was pleasantly surprised to find tons and tons of items for wedding decor. My FH and I went in for tissue paper and came out with tons of affordable decor ideas. It takes a creative mind to start putting everything together, but definitely worth it. We’re talking cheaper-than-Ikea-centerpieces here.

We were feeling pretty challenged by the centerpieces because our venue doesn’t allow any open flames and we aren’t willing to pay for floral arrangements. FH and I agreed not to pay anything extra for colored linens, so the centerpiece must follow our green color theme. Then we found this:

Our Christmas Tree Shop lantern centerpiece

Yep, that looks like a candle, but it’s actually a battery-powered candle. It even flickers to give the illusion that there is a real flame. Here it is “lit”:

Our centerpiece with the candle on

The best part is the price. The lantern is $3.99, the candle is $1.99, and a bag of sea glass (of which we only used half) is $1. That brings our total cost per centerpiece to $6.98 (if we use the entire bag of sea glass on each one by spreading the remaining glass around the table, or $6.48 per centerpiece if we only use one bag of sea glass for every two centerpieces.) Another option for filler in place of the sea glass was green sand with thick grains, which is also $1 per bag. There were signs around the store that said if you need a bulk amount of everything, you should speak to the service desk at the store. I don’t know if this is just so they can get you a box out of the back room, but I’m hoping it’s so that they can offer an extra discount. I’ll update on this.

They also had bags of sea shells and starfish that we might get to spread around the tables since each lantern is kind of small (they had other sizes of lanterns, but we preferred the small one, at least for our sample.) We didn’t have a theme until we went into the store and saw the sea glass; now we’re trying for a green, minimalist beach. We’ll see how this plays out and if we actually stick with it.

With the extra sea glass from Christmas Tree Shop and a small candle holder and battery-powered tea lights from Dollar Tree, I made this little arrangement:

Sea glass and tea light centerpiece arrangement

I think these could go on the head table between the bridesmaid bouquets, along the bar, or on the guestbook or escort card tables. I created them by putting the tea light at the bottom of the candle holder (turned on, of course,) and then piling sea glass on top. It looks like glowing rocks, so I’m still undecided on whether to use this. I feel like a more blue-ish LED light would be better suited to this project to maintain the green tones in the sea glass.

Our last decor element that I’m working on right now is white versions of the paper spider mum flowers that I started in my last blog post. I’m thinking that we could put them in green paper cones hung over the last chair in each aisle at the ceremony site, or they could be in a vase at the reception… Ah, decisions, decisions.

White paper spider mums

Yes, they’re in a Tostitos salsa jar right now, I’m just storing them in there for now. Don’t worry, they won’t be in that vessel at the wedding.

We’re going to the venue for a meeting to hammer out the menu and everything this afternoon, so we’ll figure out exactly what needs decorating. I think that will really help us to figure out exactly what we’re going to use. It’s getting close, we need to get on this. Wish me luck.