Sunday, September 23, 2012

I've Got a Favor

Wedding Favors. You have seen them all: bubbles, Hershey Kisses, donations to charity. When it came to our favors, a Pinterest tag (per usual) gave me the answer. Check out the middle bottom photo.
Luggage Tags fit our mini travel theme - spelled out in this post and already seen in the table numbers and card box. By using the blank side of the luggage tag we could double the use of these favors by also make them our escort cards, as I have seen done successfully with coasters at a couple weddings.

Although luggage tags are easily found on favor websites, they usually scream "this is from a wedding!" with the clip art used or the engraving option being "Lydia & Bob: August 25, 2012" No one needs our names on their luggage.

I started searching for travel quotes and quickly came upon this one, attributed to Mark Twain:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the things that you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Loved it. Before creating an image of the quote, we needed to know how much space we would have to work with so I used my on-the-job promo products knowledge from ordering speaker gifts on a regular basis to find the best online deal.

I liked this tag, especially that it was a hard plastic and made of 100% corn. But the imprint size to fit the logo was a little too small.

Enter This luggage tag only had a minimum order of 100 (some sites advertised 250), we could order them in blue and they would fall at less than $1 each. Add in a $40 setup fee and shipping and we got 125 favors for $158.
The imprint size for the quote is 2 1/4 inches x 1 3/4 inches. I inputted that info into a trial version of Adobe Illustrator and started playing around with the quote in our wedding font (Peignot Demi). I quickly realized the entire quote was way too long to be readable, so I chopped it in half.
After submitting the job to AnyPromo, I received an online proof in just a couple days and the entire order was shipped to me in just over a week. It was a happy surprise that the white color for the text looks almost silvery gray against the blue - our wedding colors.
The type of luggage tag we went with can not really stand up on its own, so something like the following would not work for our purposes. I didn't think we would have a big enough table to lay them all flat so we would have to go vertical.
I bought 4 sheets of 20x30 inch foamcore at Michaels and made two 40x60 inch display boards by taping 2 together. I considered ways to make sure they stayed upright and didn't fold down on themselves - at one point taping these appetizer skewers to the back as a brace. In the end, I bought 4 more foamcore pieces to double the depth of the boards and that seemed to work just fine.
Using the rest of my thrift store atlas (torn to shreds already for our table numbers and card box), I modpodged map paper to cover the boards.
Clear pushpins were glued across the two boards as even as I could get them. I glued them on so that people wouldn't pull the pins out if they grabbed their tag with a bit too much gusto. Could get dangerous with push pins about the dancefloor.
Illustrator was used again to make the escort cards. We reused the stripes from our invitations to add a bit of design. The outlines helped us cut straight and then we stuffed them in their tags.
The extra tags were housed in a mini-suitcase that previously held a puzzle, in case anyone wanted to take an extra. I made a sign out of canvas and stickers that titled the display boards, "Where in the World am I Sitting?" To help the catering team out, I arranged everything the way I wanted it on the escort card/guestbook/card box table at home and included a photo along with set up instructions. As you can see, this table was jam packed.
And here's a shot with the hanging tags, in alphabetical order at the Loft:
The tags have already gotten some use as they accompanied our bags on the honeymoon. They seemed to hold up well and I hope they will for our guests for many trips to come!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An Altar-native Backdrop

Our wedding venue for both ceremony and reception was a brick-walled loft space in downtown Chicago. The large open room was divided in half by drapery for the ceremony, which was then removed for the reception while folks were enjoying cocktail hour (and a half) in the next room over. Typically, the venue coordinators said, brides and grooms were wed with the drapery as the backdrop. Here's a photo from Loft on Lake's website (this isn't us):
We wanted to focus on the brick wall as our backdrop and opted to arrange the chairs 90 degrees from the curtain. However, a brick wall can only say so much and doesn't provide much of an anchor for the ceremony. Pinterest strikes again.
Bob and I would love to put a sliding barn door in our house - best option is to replace the coat closet doors, and our thought for a bit was to find our dream door, use it in the ceremony first and then always have the reminder in our house. However, when my parents offered up a pair of antique french doors that were hanging out in their basement with nowhere to go we quickly snapped them up.
Just a bit of manuevering to get them home in the Escape!
That same trip up north to grab the doors also gave us our side piece. I had a vision of spending only $50 on our altarpiece, but after weeks of empty handed craigslist searches I had almost given up hope. Then we wandered into a little antique shop in my hometown. A sad looking commode was in the back room - missing a drawer and dinged up. But, it was the perfect size and the sign "$75 - what could you make out of me?" was quite tempting. We only had $34 in cash that day between Bob, my mom and me so we made our offer. Accepted!
I chose to ignore the fact that the piece of furniture was actually a commode (where the chamber pot may have been kept) and continued to call it a dresser. We got the pieces home and gave them a little love. First up, how to get the doors to stand up on their own? Bob's wheels starting turning and suddenly our garage space was turned into a makeshift workshop.
A few pieces of scrap wood adding up to about $14 starting creating this:
The door would wedge in between the front piece and a stable back. I had my doubts, but we let them stand up in our garage up until the wedding and they never wavered thanks to lots of nails and screws (only in the base, the doors remained intact and completely removable).
We dragged the dresser out to my sister's house one weekend to sand and paint him. We decided to keep the inside unpainted as opposed to covering the whole thing in blue. Our paint color was more grayish blue than navy blue, and until it fully dried we were nervous it was too muted, but once dry it fit our needs perfectly.
We picked up a few new drawer pulls from The Home Depot and sanded/re-drilled the drawers, with touch up paint added.

The door bases got the same color treatment and afterwards the "styling" began! I played around with some tabletop decor before coming up with the following elements:
- one of our lanterns in the open bottom shelf to echo our centerpieces. This one held a block candle.
- a framed photo from our engagement session
- a hurricane filled with yellow rocks and a candle
- a few of our navy blue votive candles
- a small stand I made out of a plate and a candlestick, holding dried flowers from the bouquets Bob got me on the day he proposed. (for a run down of how I made the plate/candlestick stand, check out this post)
The missing drawer proved a bit of a challenge with how to use the left hand side space. We decided to stick a bouquet of flowers through the opening so they would look like they would be growing out of the dresser. I had a shriveling bunch of flowers ready to be thrown out, but they did their job as stand-in well that day.
In the end, we tweaked a couple elements: the hurricane with yellow rocks was replaced with the much simpler white vase and 3 billy balls (flowers we used heavily in our bouquets and boutonnieres). We loved the look once they got set up in the space! I was glad I kept the top rather empty because it ended up holding our readings and Bob's journal that contained his vows. After the ceremony, the caterers moved the doors to flank the cake table which was a great use of them during the reception.

I had thought about putting lights across the back of the doors to shine through or to decorate it with flowers, but simplicity won out and they were kept as plain ol' doors.
You can see the doors and dresser acting as our backdrop in this action shot.
photo by GReyes Photography
The best part? We decided to use the dresser as a bar in our library area, which will soon be home to 2 new armchairs on order from Crate and Barrel! It looks insanely full right now because of all the extra liquor we have leftover from the wedding (anyone need a handle of vodka? Cuz we have 5...).  We will plan on adding a shelf in the space of the missing drawer to make that space usable to hold a few glasses and the artwork leaning against the sides will be up on the wall soon - I promise!
Here's how things are shaping up in our library, with a sneak peek of my fall mantle, established 9.16.12.
What ideas have you been seeing on Pinterest for backdrop ideas? There are certainly a lot of creative ideas out there for the non-traditional wedding location. Here are a couple favorites that I only wished I could have put together:

From (not positive the original source): I read this is receipt paper spooled out!

From Style Me Pretty:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The New Superfood on the Block

Move over avocado, I have a new favorite superfood! Enter quinoa, the grain-like crop reminiscint of white rice or couscous in preparation and meals.

I hinted at a couple Real Simple recipes we were planning on trying out this week and was so glad we did: consider both of these added to the regular rotation.

First up, Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes and Kale.

The quinoa was prepared according to package directions, absorbed by water on the stovetop after about 15 minutes of simmering. For reference, finding the box in the grocery was a bit of a chore. I assumed it would be by the rice but came up empty. Eventually I found it in the organics aisle by the gluten free foods.
After peeling and dicing 2 large-ish sweet potatoes, they were added to a pot of 1/2 cup heated olive oil. I let these cook, covered, for about 8 minutes or so and then added red onion, stirring regularly. I chopped up a bunch of kale and added half at a time to the mix until it wilted down enough to mix in. I think this might be one of the first times I have really used kale in a recipe. I'm a fan. A little bit of salt and a little bit of pepper later, and things were smelling pretty wonderful.
I dished out the quinoa and added the sweet potato mixture on top. The recipe then calls for pesto and walnuts to be added. When making this meal I was on a bit of a time crunch, so even though I had bought basil at the store for the pesto, I decided against getting the food processor out and taking that step. I stuck with just adding a few walnuts and it worked out just fine.
The theme of the Real Simple article was about building a new meal the next night out of leftovers. So I was excited to try the second quinoa recipe: Crispy Quinoa and Bean Patties. Especially since the first recipe made a ton and we had a huge container of cooked quinoa hanging out in our fridge.

We started with a can of kidney beans that has been taking up space in our cupboard for quite some time. Using our new potato masher from our Crate and Barrel registry, the beans were mashed in a bowl. To that I added 2 eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 3/4 cup parmesan, 2 cups cooked quinoa and the leftover sweet potato mixture, chopping the pieces up into smaller bits.

Mixing everything together, the egg and parmesan helped it take on a meatball-like consistency. Perfect to make into patties. I didn't have as much sweet potato mixture leftover as the recipe called for, so I cut everything down a bit. However, I still got 11 patties out of it, when the recipe said to make 12. So I have to wonder how large I was supposed to make them!
I got out the cast iron skillet and added about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Heating that up, I added three patties to the pan and let them cook on each side for a few minutes.
The sweet potatoes and beans made each bite soft and a bit creamy, while the outside was nice and crunchy from the skillet and oil.
Winners both! And we still have some leftover quinoa, looks like I need to find another recipe soon!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

At the Center of It All

What wins the award for most time consuming wedding project? That would be the centerpieces. However, I am proud to say that while these were the most time consuming, they were also one of the most cost effective parts of the planning. Pinterest is teeming with photos of beautiful floral arrangements and dramatic candles playing their part as reception table centerpieces. The idea of a $100+ set up multiplied by a dozen or more tables had me turning a shade paler than I normally am (and that's pale!).

I set out looking for ideas to create the $20 centerpiece. I'm not a big floral person so we ruled that out early on. At one point I considered low, open bowls filled with decorative balls. I had just created the thumbtack balls as a Pinterest Project and realized that there were a lot more ideas out there for styrofoam decor.
What about different types for different tables? Fabric covered, thumbtack, yarn....then the worrier in me reared her head. I pictured our wedding guests - shall we say, a bit tipsy - grabbing them out of their bowls and starting a "decorative ball fight." It could happen! (images below from and
So I shifted to finding a way to contain the balls. By the way, if you are wondering if my family and friends had endless fun with my continuous ball-talk, you would be correct.

I don't recall exactly how I found the lantern idea, probably my best friend Google Search, but once I found a few photos including this one I pinned, I only had eyes for the $8 IKEA BORRBY Lantern.
Based on our invite list, we decided to start planning for 14 tables. To be on the safe side and to avoid another trip to IKEA, we bought 16. Why not grab the whole pallet and make it easy, we said.
I loved the look of the pinned photo above and figured we could recreate the look to a certain degree. First up, the boxes. The added dimension and height was key, but those wooden boxes looked like they would knock my $20 budget out of the water. Enter the paper maiche box. Actually, enter 14 of them. I trolled Michaels every week - more like stalked - waiting for additional shipments to come in as I cleared them out of the 7.5" boxes. I considered ordering them but did not find a better price online and did not want to pay shipping if I could help it. With 40% off coupons, I rarely paid more than $2.50 a box.
With some navy blue paint, the boxes took on new life and, along with the silver lanterns, our color scheme was starting to take shape.

Now comes the hard part. Instead of different types of covered styrofoam balls, I focused in on yarn in our wedding colors. For the thumbtack balls I used Smoothfoam instead of regular styrofoam and knew this would be the best route to go this time around, considering I would be using a lot of hot glue and styrofoam can crumble in the heat.
Those Michaels trips also wiped out their supply of Smoothfoam balls. I had determined that each lantern could hold 11 balls - 6 small, 3 medium and 2 large. I had been trying to save money by using the 40% off coupons and not paying shipping, but in the end it was worth it to order all the rest I needed instead of making my twice a week treks to the craft store. By buying them in bulk as opposed to one off bags, I evened out what I would have spent with my Michaels coupons. In the end, I would say I averaged $5 per centerpiece for the smoothfoam and yarn.

To lighten up the dark boxes and lanterns, I made a high percentage of the balls yellow and the rest would be navy blue and gray. Here was my process:
1. dab hot glue on the top of the ball to get started and poke the end of the string through the hole at the top.
2. start wrapping the string around the ball, attaching it to the hot glue.
3. keeping the lines tight together, wrap the yarn around the ball, dabbing the ball with hot glue regularly to keep it together. The first half winds together very easily, but the yarn tended to not stay as tight for the second half so I found myself going a lot slower and using a lot of the glue.
4. At the very end, make sure all of the ball is covered and cut the yarn.
After trying out a few, I realized it was inevitable for a bit of the white ball to show through so I began painting each one the color of the yarn to make them look better. Toothpicks and a piece of packaging? The perfect base for drying!
I'm not going to lie. To make these 150 balls I spent a lot of evening and weekends in our second bedroom and was very thankful for our craft table! Each took an average of 10-15 minutes, as I got a lot faster towards the end. But that is still a lotta Law & Order: SVU episodes on the iPad, let me tell you.
We planned on having 8 foot rectangular tables at the reception. Knowing the lanterns would not take up a lot of room, and looking for a little ambience, we started budgeting out votive candles. I mentioned my fear of lit candles, so for a time considered flameless candles. I know some reception venues only allow this kind, but we did not have that limitation. I bought a pack at Michaels to try out, but the flicker just looked too "fake", too "orange", too "something". So we decided to keep it real.

Add our table numbers and this tableau was starting to come together.
On I was pleased to find that you could order navy blue votives! Assuming 6 for each table, 3 on each side of the centerpiece, I ordered enough votives and clear glass holders for 14 tables. Using a coupon code I found by googling saved a few more dollars, keeping the candlelight to about $4 a table.
photo by GReyes Photography.
All of the table number easels were painted the same navy blue as the boxes to finish them off.
Filled lanterns? Check! Instead of a random pattern, I had a specific way we filled each one that I thought maximized the color variations and not kept any hidden from view (otherwise why did I take the time to make them?). The end mix:
Yellow: 3 small, 1 medium,1 large
Blue: 1 small, 1 medium, 1 large
Gray: 2 small, 1 medium
The centerpieces were up to $19. After hemming and hawing on ways to create the floral addition shown in this pin, I just gave up. Fake flowers just looked too....fake. The quote our florist gave us to add a little flair to the boxes would have doubled each table's budget. The idea of buying and arranging real flowers the day of the wedding was not something that sounded fun to me. So we left it as is and I don't think flowers were missed.
On silvery gray runners and white tablecloths, the centerpieces ended up being everything we wanted - simple, personal, not too over-the top, but not too chintzy looking.
photo by GReyes Photography
We ended up with 11 tables so the extras were used for the escort card table and 2 were placed on the double sized bridal party table. And no one opened the lanterns to start a ball fight. Love!
photo by GReyes Photography
What to use as aisle runners was a question that plagued me for months. I didn't want petals or an actual fabric runner (the tripping! My God, the tripping!), but did like the idea of vases or something lining the aisle alongside the chairs.
photo by GReyes Photography
In the last couple weeks of planning, we decided to double the use of our lanterns by placing them alongside the chairs on each side of the aisle. You can see one in this photo, they really did help anchor the aisle. Hey! There's me and my dad!
Now the wedding is over and I find myself with 84 votive candle holders, 14 boxes, 16 lanterns and 150 yarn balls taking up space in the second bedroom. When I was searching for centerpiece options I perused craigslist a few times to see if anyone was selling the lanterns I wanted by chance, but never ended up coming up with anything. I might try my hand at selling the lanterns and candle holders here, but will have to come up with something crafty for the boxes and yarn balls....