15 June 2011

Wedding week, day three: DIY and design

If you had asked me two years ago if I liked doing crafty projects, the answer would have been a resounding NO. I did not frequent Hobby Lobby or Home Depot, I did not read design or shelter blogs, I did not craft in my spare time or think painting a room was at all enjoyable.

That all changed after I started planning our wedding. It was our wedding that made me the DIY-loving person I am today, and the reason I fell in love with DIY is because I am cheap. Weddings are such expensive events, and ours was no exception. But it was much less expensive than if we had paid other people to do what we did ourselves.

So for wedding week and in keeping with the “project” theme of the blog, I thought I’d share some of the DIY projects from our wedding. There were lots!

Let’s start where I left off yesterday: my attire. You’ll notice I did not mention buying a veil along with my dress. That’s because my mom and I made mine:


Do you know how much a bridal shop will charge for a veil? Like a million dollars! Ok, maybe not that much. But close! Especially if you want anything other than a short piece of plain tulle. But do you know how much tulle costs? About two dollars a yard, baby. And lace and combs are similarly priced. After my mom volunteered to try making my veil – if she couldn’t, the attempt would at least be a cheap mistake – I bought a few yards at the Lobby of Hobbies and sent her a few images of what I had in mind. It definitely took some time from both of us, but the result cost about twelve bucks, which included some leftover tulle and lace and an unused pattern (Mom just laid it out and eyeballed it). And the resulting veil was pretty excellent, if I do say so myself. Twelve dollars!


The fact that I didn’t pay a million dollars for my veil meant that I didn’t feel obligated to wear it the whole day to get my money’s worth. So for the reception, I switched out the long and easily-torn veil for a flower tucked in my hair. There are some gorgeous ones for sale at bridal shops and beautifully creative ones for sale on Etsy, but again. Million dollars. Does not work for a cheap bride.


I made my own by taking apart an ivory silk rose (from my BFF HobLob), sewing it back together with the petals more open, pinning my grandmother’s brooch in the middle, and attaching it to a leftover comb from the successful veil experiment. It also took a bit of time – the petals kept twisting so that they wouldn’t fan out, and I can’t sew anyway so it was more frustrating than I’d predicted. If I were to write a tutorial on how to make one, it would go like this: “Take apart petal pieces. Try to make them lay staggered. Start sewing together. Notice the petals twisting to line up so the flower looks fake and stupid. Doubt. Swear. Repeat all steps ten times.” But after a bit of effort and a mess of thread I succeeded.


In the above photo is another great parental DIY success, this one mostly thanks to my stepfather and his miter saw and scrap wood. He built our cake stand! I bet you can guess how much cake stands cost. That’s right. A MILLION DOLLARS. So we made our own.


It involved my mother and I deliberating in the crown molding section of Lowe’s for quite some time and with a little help from a nice Lowe’s employee that probably thought we were crazy. We all worked on the plans and my stepdad built it and my mom painted it. It was heavy and sturdy but lovely! And because of all my parents' help and on-hand supplies, it cost about twenty bucks out of pocket for the crown molding. The best part? We bartered it for a “side-cake” with our cake baker. She really wanted our cake stand for bridal shows and events because it was so pretty and unique, and we happily bartered it because it would continue to go to good use and we got an $80 side cake for trading it. Deal!

With my parents’ success building our cake stand, I tried building a cake-stand trio for our cheesecake “groom’s cake”. Mr. P had the idea to use glass cylinders, and I decided to turn them into lanterns with battery-operated votives. I used the same silhouette-monogram that we’d used on lots of our paper products and just printed the pieces on vellum paper and stuck them in some inexpensive canisters from my buddy Hobbity Lobbity. As a cake stand, though, this was... less successful.


I had to abandon the idea of balancing a cheesecake on each of them once I realized how not-sturdy they were. Clearly I still have a lot to learn from my stepdad on cake stand building. Fortunately we had an extra three-tired serving stand that we could use for the cheesecakes, though, and the lanterns were lovely decoration beside them.

Have you noticed yet that the last four photos have some gorgeous damask linens? Yeah. My mom made those too. Waverly Sun n’ Shade Essence Onyx fabric from here and black satin ribbon for edging. What can’t she do?


Total cost for sixteen table runners, three accent runners, and a big overlay for the cake table? About $120 and a redonkulous amount of my mother’s time. Thank goodness she is retired. Plus, after the wedding Mr. P and I sold all but one runner (gotta be a little sentimental, you know?) for a tidy profit. My mom wouldn’t accept any of the monetary profit so we are just being extra nice to her.

Just looking at the reception entrance table reminds me of so many other little DIY projects we did, but I’ve got to focus on the big ones. So onward to the centerpieces!


Yet another DIY project of my parents. Years ago, my mom purchased a bunch of shepherd’s hooks for, like, two dollars each. They had stakes at the bottom and were intended to be stuck into the ground, but we didn’t really have a use for them outside. Instead, because they were big and statement-making and oh right CHEAP we decided to make them work as centerpieces. This meant finagling a way to make them stay upright on a table, which they were certainly not designed to do. So my parents crafted boxes out of MDF (twelve of them!) and painted them with same leftover paint as the cake stand. I stuffed in some fake greenery (probably one of the tackiest parts of our wedding, but I sucked at arranging real greenery - I tried but it was a big fat fail) and ta-da, shepherd’s hooks centerpieces!


The spherical votives and candles cost less than fifty dollars for all the centerpieces and came from, where else? H-diddly-L. The candles were held in place in the votives by, believe it or not, split peas. Three 77-cent bags of them. Best vase-filler around. Mr. P and I also sold all the centerpieces for a profit but again, the true DIY engineers wouldn’t accept any cash. I guess we should take them out for dinner?

Two last little bits of reception d├ęcor. First of all, I wanted monogrammed napkins. Again, as with every single thing related to the Wedding Industrial Complex, ridiculously overpriced. Again, I made my own.


I made both cocktail (pictured, in a grainy Photobooth photo taken just to email my mom) and dinner napkins with ivory napkins from your friend and mine, Hob to the Liz-zob. I bought some stamps and a Stayz-On ink pad which one of my bridesmaids generously volunteered to test in advance by soaking a test-stamped napkin in various liquids (water, alcohol, grease) and then wiping on her face. Sure, she could have wiped it on her hands but a TRUE bridesmaid tests it with her FACE, duh. Since it worked I made several hundred each of cocktail and dinner napkins. Like ALL the DIY, it took awhile, but it was worth it to have super cheap, super custom napkins. And anyway, the Winter Olympics were on and hearing Apollo Anton Ohno's life story for the fifteenth time is really good background noise for Getting Stuff Done.

Another little reception detail was our favors. Favors are hard because you don’t want to spend a lot of money (you need at least one per guest, after all, and that adds up fast) but if you are too cheap your money can easily be wasted on crap people don’t want. We considered not giving out favors, but I had a ulterior motive you'll see below. So we went the fail-safe route with food.


My mom bought a few boxes of brownie mix and used her little brownie-cupcake tins to make gobs of brownies. We packaged them up in some Martha Stewart-brand favor boxes that my stepsister scored at Big Lots (for once, NOT Hobby Lobby) for about ten cents apiece. Tied to the box (and the reason for having favors) was a little note asking people to send us the photos they took at our wedding. The back of the card had the instructions and username and password. I designed the cards myself and ordered them from Vistaprint for about $15 for 500 business-sized cards. People, I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS ENOUGH. It took our photographer a few months to get us all our wedding photos, but we got to see tons of photos from our wedding the very next day, uploaded by some super thoughtful wedding guests. It was awesome. Move over, disposable cameras.

I have plenty more projects I could talk about – our out-of-town bags, our programs (SIXTEEN PAGES LONG, thank you nuptial mass with mostly non-Catholic attendees), our Nashville music CDs, our photo guestbook, our birdcage card box, our wedding website (the first joint labor-of-love project that Mr. P and I completed) – but this is already crazy long. So I’ll just finish up by telling you a little about our paper projects.

Invitations are, guess what? SO EXPENSIVE. They’re not super cheap even if you make your own, what with printer ink and postage costs. But we figured out the least expensive way to do them the way we wanted them. And one of the things we wanted was save-the-date cards, because many people would have to travel and by golly I wanted our magnet on their refrigerator to remind them.


We ordered the magnets (also from Vistaprint) and attached them to a card (which I’m not showing you because it further crosses the personal-details-on-the-internet boundary) that I printed out on our own inkjet printer. It took a bazillion years (is there a reverberating echo in here?) but I was happy with them. The cards and envelopes themselves were dirt cheap and I bet you can guess where I got them.

I printed our invitations as well, with cards and envelopes ordered from LCI paper. Mr. P and I both wanted simple but elegant, and we both liked the square design. I already showed you the invite from a suitable distance here:


I created a fantastic suite with a reply card and a map card and I’m really proud of them to this day. No, they were not engraved. No, we did not use fancy tissue paper squares (FREEZER PAPER INSTEAD. I KID YOU NOT). No, we did not hire a calligrapher to hand-address the envelopes.

I did all the calligraphy myself. (You had to see that coming.)


That would be just a part of how I spent my winter. Me and calligraphy and Olympic speed skating. I printed out all our guests’ addresses (and names, for the inner envelope) with a lovely font, cut the paper down to fit in our envelopes, stuck a lamp under my glass coffee table, and traced all those suckers with a fancy calligraphy fountain pen from my partner-in-crime Hizzob Lizzob.

Did anyone else care about the lovely calligraphy? Probably not. At least not as much as me. It was one of the most unnecessary details of our wedding but for some reason I HAD to do it. Our whole invitation suite was an inexplicable labor of love, so much that when it came time to set the invitations free into the world –


I made Mr. P hand-cancel them. But by then he was already used to my DIY craziness. And he married me anyway!

Believe it or not, we’re only halfway through wedding week – more to come!

2 comments:

Shanna said...

Sarah, I had absolutely no idea you were so doggone funny!!! And talented! I admire every detail, and yes, it truly is a labor of love to do all that stuff...but isn't that what weddings are about...love???

Shanna Cook

Tina said...

Hey, Sarah - it was parchment paper, NOT freezer paper used in the invitations... it looked just like the expensive vellum (well, it did to me... so much closer in appearance than the cost difference - a few dollars compared to over 30, if I remember correctly...) Loving the recollections - making this week special for all of us that were there, too! Even though you are spilling all our secrets... :-)