Wedding memories and an alternative guestbook: handmade wedding #6

Wedding memories, photos and pinata

My Mum and Dad have a beautiful photo of my Nana and Grandad’s 1940s wedding which provided a little bit of inspiration for my own wedding, especially my bouquet and the shape of my dress (large and slim fitting, respectively). So I was keen to have it on display at the reception along with our parents’ 70s wedding photographs. I also wanted to include some photos of us as children so I made a little display with an old tree branch with childhood photos hanging above the old wedding photos in frames. With hindsight I would have glued the childhood photos of us back to back so they couldn’t turn round to the blank side. But overall I still liked the effect and I always enjoy laughing at baby photos at a wedding so thought it was only fair to give our guests the opportunity!

Wedding childhood and family memories photo display

The display of photos provided a good focal point on the table next to our alternative wedding ‘guestbook’ – a handmade piñata. This was definitely the best idea-found-on-Pinterest I incorporated into our wedding. I always struggle to know what to write in guestbooks at weddings, I always write the thoughtful message in the card, when I have time to think about it. I tend to panic under pressure when writing a guestbook message and end up with something insipid and impersonal.

Alternative Wedding guestbook, a pinata to open on first anniversary

So I was keen on an something different and when I found this easy piñata DIY I decided this was the perfect alternative as an entertaining way to collect our guests’ good wishes. When I realised that the first wedding anniversary is represented by paper it seemed even more perfect to seal up the piñata then smash it open on a year later on our anniversary. We actually did have a regular guestbook as well, but no one signed that at all so I think our guests preferred our piñata too!

Smashing the piñata provided a lovely focus for our first anniversary (when I was heavily pregnant so other forms of celebration were limited) and it was like reliving the day again. We had everything from very drunken messages, anonymous jokey messages, a baby announcement (we weren’t going to open it for a year after all) to really sweet well wishes for our future together. It wouldn’t have been half as special if we’d stuck with a guestbook – not least we’d have read the messages right away when there are lots of other exciting things going on like cards, presents and honeymoon. The wedding day flew by so quickly it was so wonderful to save a little bit of it to savour at leisure a year on!

The rest of this series on our handmade wedding can be found here.

All photographs in this post were  taken by our wedding photographer Stephen Bunn.

Handmade wedding part 5: table design, favours and seating plan 

Finally another post in my handmade wedding series. I should get these finished by our second anniversary at this rate!

The little details was where I went properly craft crazy for our wedding. You know the little bits that just make everything a little bit nicer even if they are really not essential? They were also some of my favourite elements of the day (aside from the people of course!). The little touches and details are definitely the fun part of wedding planning and DIY-ing. I’ve actually had to split this post into three, which might indicate the amount of craft excess that went on.

Wildlife and nature themed wedding table design

Table design
The vague theme of our day was wildlife and nature, and the table design had this in mind.

Bird nest wedding favour

The favours were by far the most time consuming detail as we (I had a lot of help from friends!) made over 80 of these little knitted nests. I filled them with the traditional sugared almonds to look like eggs. We then wrapped them up with organza and used brown luggage labels so they could also act as name place cards.

I went a bit crazy with the rubber stamps, including the ones I used for our save the dates, invitations and orders of service, to decorate the back of the luggage labels. I made matching menus for each table too.

Beaded bee on the table centre decorations

I also thought our table centres of pots of lavender needed a little extra something. So I beaded lots of these tiny little bees to look like they were buzzing round the plant. At almost every wedding I’ve ever been to the table centres get given away to guests the next day and ours went complete with bees – which I’m pleased to report are now buzzing round the house plants of a few of our guests!

The seating plan 

I know people have mixed feelings about table plans but my controlling streak was actually quite excited about matching up where our loved ones should sit, so we had one.

Table names

Will and I have incredibly different taste in books – and pretty much the only book we both adore is My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I’m not sure if my guests would agree but once I’d had the idea that we should name our table ‘the Family’ and all the guest tables after the other animals mentioned in the book, there was no stopping me. We thought this would be a bit random without any explanation so included a quote about each animal on the table name sign.

My family and other animals seating plan

Actually designing the seating plan board/display thing was something I left to the last minute and it worked out more by luck than judgement. It was very simple with just a few classic illustrations of animals featured in the book cut out and added via photoshop. This got we got printed on a high quality printer, and it was framed for display by the venue.

I really liked how our tables looked in the end and they didn’t take too long to set up. Beyond the DIY elements I would really recommend potted plants as table centres. They generally work out a quite a bit cheaper than a flower arrangement, and also will last longer if you give them out to guests after the wedding.

All photos aside from the bird’s nest favours and the bee were taken by our brilliant wedding photographer Stephen Bunn. The nest and the bee were taken by my friends and wedding guests Emma and Vikki respectively. 

Handmade wedding part 4:  Order of Service 

After a long break here is another installment about our handmade wedding.

Order of Service
One of the things I find most interesting about weddings are choices people make about the actual marriage ceremony/service/celebration. It’s often the most personal part of the day and what all the rest of the celebrating, booze, food and dancing is all about. People also seem to be having such a wonderfully diverse range of different types of ceremony. So I thought I would share some details about the design and content of our Order of Service.

Out of all the DIY stationary bits I did for our wedding I think these were the simplest, quickest and most effective. Isn’t that always the way?! We went for a vaguely rustic looking brown paper cover with a few simple rubber stamps, including reusing our personalised stamp I had made for our Save the Dates. We formatted the inserts ourselves in quite a plain style and had them printed and stapled.  Then finalised it all off by attaching the covers and inserts with  a very basic sewn binding using ribbons. So easy and simple.

Choosing the wedding readings was something I started thinking about really early on, although a lot of our favourites were actually too short to use for a traditional stand up reading.  I was very pleased when I thought of the compromise of including some of these quotes and sayings about marriage at the beginning and end of the Order of Service. Two of my favourite novelists (George Eliot and Thomas Hardy) could be included in the day after all!

The selections we went for were:

“Let wild birds call the banns
merlins from the hillside
sanderlings from the waves
whimbrels with seven notes
nightingales from the wood
from the treetops rooks
from your own back garden
blue tit, robin, wren.”

From For a Wedding by Michael Longley

“What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen each other in all labour, to minister to each other in all sorrow, to share with each other in all gladness, to be one with each other in the silent unspoken memories.”

From Adam Bede by George Eliot

“Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?”

From Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman

“At home by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be — and whenever I look up there will be you.”

From Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

I found a lot of the so called ‘best readings’ for weddings list tended to repeat the same ones over and over again, so it was a very pleasant change when I came across this selection of wedding poetry from contemporary poets in the Guardian. We loved the Wendy Cope poem and this was read out in full by Will’s sister. It will always be special to us now.

Do let me know details of your wedding ceremonies or celebrations – I’m always keen to hear about them! 

Handmade wedding part 3: the dress

Wedding Confetti Stephen BunnAfter a long delay here is the next part of my handmade wedding series, looking at: my dress!

I was lucky enough to have my wedding dress handmade for me by the hugely talented mother of the groom, who offered to sew the dress when Will first proposed. I can honestly say that the finished dress was so much lovelier than any of the wedding dresses I tried on in bridal shops.
First DanceI know a few people whose wedding dresses were either made by clever family members or who paid a dressmaker to make something. I don’t think it’s considered that often but really is a brilliant way to get a dress that is totally unique and perfect for you, and cuts down costs considerably, which is always a positive with weddings if we’re honest isn’t it?

Finding a pattern was the biggest challenge of the whole thing, well for me it was, I think making the dress was a little bit harder for Will’s Mum! For this actually trying on wedding dresses was useful, as I ruled out a number of styles. The only thing I was really sure of before we started was that I didn’t want strapless, didn’t want anything too big, but did want a floor length dress. After lots of Pinterest searching and looking at my everyday dresses that I love the shape and style of, I started to get a clearer picture. I also quickly realised that I didn’t have to buy a specific wedding dress pattern, but many evening gowns would look bridal when made in white or ivory and suitable fabric.
Simplicity 2442This is how we ended up with the Simplicity 2442 I actually really don’t like the look of the dress on the front, but could see that the shape was pretty much perfect. Will’s Mum suggested she make up a short version of the dress in some old silk, both to see how the dress fitted and also to make sure it suited me. It was a bit more than a toile as it was a fully finished and ready to wear dress, and it did confirm that this was the right pattern. I couldn’t wear it initially of course, as Will might have had suspicions, but I am looking forward to wearing it this summer as it is a little like getting to wear my wedding dress again!

Wedding dress Simplicity 2442 patternWe found the fabric  really easily in the end. I know a few people who have gone to specific bridal fabric shops, but we wandered into John Lewis in Cambridge and managed to find fabric I really liked – a satin type fabric that wasn’t too shiny and was the right weight. I had a bit of an obsession about not having a shiny wedding dress! I also fell in love with some daisy patterned lace, so much so that Will’s Mum started thinking about how we could incorporate it into the dress.

Jacket wedding dress Simplicity 2442After lots of discussion between myself, my Mum and Will’s Mum (in the middle of the haberdashery department of course), we eventually got the idea that we could cover the straps and middle sections of the dress with this lace, to add a bit of detail. I also feel the cold, so thought the matching jacket that came with the pattern might be a good idea, especially after it was suggested the sleeves could be made up in this lace, incorporating the pretty scalloped edging of the material into the ends of the sleeves. I did get chilly on the day, so was really pleased I had it to slip on at various points.
Butterick B5705By buying it from John Lewis, we could also get fabric in a different weight to match, for my little flower girls’ dresses. Did I mention Will’s Mum was making them as well?! Well yes, she did! We used the sleeveless version of Butterick B5705 for them, with a light green ribbon (rather than making the sash which was in the pattern) round the middle to match the older bridesmaid’s dress.

Bridesmaids - Simplicity 2442 and Butterick B5705Needless to say, Will’s Mum got so much thanks for contributing to our wedding in such a special way. It’s also made me want to learn to make my own clothes even more than ever!

Did you have a handmade wedding dress, or are you thinking about it? I would love to hear your experiences!

All the photos of our wedding in this post were taken by our wonderful official photographer Stephen Bunn.

Handmade wedding part 2: grow your own invitations

Wedding invite

After making all the save the dates cards, the invitations were scaling up a little bit, I ended up making just over a hundred I think (you start to lose count after a while). There is some gorgeous wedding stationery out there, but at £1 or £2 per card it tends to come with quite a hefty price tag if you’re making lots, so there was a definite money-saving element to doing it ourselves.

By the time I started thinking about the invitations we had decided that wildlife and the natural world was going to be a big theme throughout the day, and wanted to reflect this in the invites. After discovering paper that grows because it is embedded with seeds, I immediately wanted to make it part of our invitations. You can get some absolutely wonderful pre-designed invitations made out of seeded paper, but these were a bit out of our price range. After a lot of googling though I came across Growing Greetings, who offer great value packs of seeded shapes, little flowers and butterflies. They also use seeds of wildlife friendly flowers which was even better!

I knew I would have to incorporate them – it was just a question of how! I experimented a bit with both the flower shapes and the blue butterfly designs, but we decided on the butterflies in different sizes as they would fill the card more. We stuck them on with removable sticky dots, so our guests could take them off to plant later, and put instructions of how to grow the butterflies in the invitation.

I bought a set of wedding stamps on eBay, and used both the ‘Wedding Invitation’ and ‘Evening Invitation’ for the cards. To finish I got some pretty ribbon and stuck that on with roller adhesive (washi tape would also work though).

Invites

We printed the actual detail of the invitation using Word, it was fairly basic but was so much better for us in our wedding planning. We were very pushed for space at the venue so we send out one lot of invites for day guests then a second round once we’d got the first lot of RSVPs. Printing off a few at a time allowed us to be totally flexible in our RSVP dates for different people, it would have been much more stressful having to organise a reprint with a card printer, and we might not have been able to allow more time for people travelling from abroad etc. as we did with our handmade ones.

The invites were a big hit with our guests, we got so many comments about them, and there was something lovely about the idea of part of our invitations living on long after the wedding was over.

Handmade wedding part 1: save-the-date cards

Honeybee

This is most definitely not a wedding blog, but for the last year most of the craft and handmade things I have been doing were for our recent wedding. So for now, until I’ve made enough non-wedding things to blog about, I’m going to write a series of all the different handmade elements that went into our wedding. Some of these ideas would work for lots of different occasions, not just weddings, although maybe not what I’m going to start with: our save-the-dates.

Save the dates were the most tricky DIY I had to work out for our wedding as I wanted them to be as cost effective as possible, and we hadn’t really any idea how our wedding was going to look/feel at that stage (probably a terrible thing for a blogger to confess). We did know we wanted to incorporate wildlife, as this is an important part of our lives, I work in a natural history library and that was how Will and I met, and Will is fairly obsessed with wildlife generally.

I really liked the idea of magnet, as a guest I like having the reminder out and visible the year before the wedding. I’d also heard of people using vintage postcards of where they were getting married, which I thought was a lovely idea. Our wedding location was in a completely untouristy area though, so postcard potential was limited.

The two things came together neatly though when I came across the Ladybird Book postcard set in a bookshop. There is something so wonderful about the Ladybird books, they are some of the earliest memories I have of books, and the covers are evocative, wonderfully vintage and some are unintentionally funny if you have a childish sense of humour like me. Also lots have wildlife/nature themed titles, which made me think I’d like to incorporate them somehow. I’d seen these postcard save the dates from Martha Stewart. But they required quite a lot of neat handwriting, which I’m terrible at. They also didn’t incorporate a magnet, but I didn’t see why I couldn’t make the card that goes into the mini-envelope a magnet. So that’s what I did!

Moth card and magnet

I bought some ready cut blank business cards on eBay, although if I’d have had time I could have easily cut some myself. I liked the round corners of the ones I’d bought though. I found a stamp which could be personalised with our names and wedding date from the English Stamp Company, I notice they now have bespoke save the date stamps too, which would make it look very swish! We did reuse our stamp for the order of services and favours though, so I think I would still have gone for the basic one as I didn’t want to stretch the budget to two different stamps. I initially thought I would buy some magnetic sticky tape, but found ready cut slimline adhesive magnets for a very reasonable price, so went for them instead. Stamping the business cards and then attaching the magnet was easy, and is a wonderfully simple save the date.

Magnet

I couldn’t find any ready made mini envelopes that would fit on a postcard that wouldn’t have worked out as quite expensive, due to the amount of save-the-dates I was making (around 50), so I just made my own with this template. I would have used slightly nicer card for the envelope if I could go back, I think plain white would look simpler and more effective (maybe with a pattern inside?) but there was quite a bit of time pressure to get them out before the Christmas postal service rush so they weren’t planned for long!

Mini envelope

I added ladybird stickers in the position of a stamp, to link with ladybird books. We then wrote a note on each one, asking people to save the date, I liked the space to write something a little personal rather than just sending out everything absolutely identical. We also had great fun assigning all the different postcards to different people, there weren’t enough wildlife ones to go round everyone, but a surprising amount were incredibly applicable for our guests. So my friend who is a nurse got the Florence Nightingale postcard, my godfather, who my Dad met at Scouts when they were boys got the Scouting one etc. I’m sure they didn’t notice but it pleased my detail loving side!

Ladybirds

You could use lots of different types of postcard too, obviously vintage postcards if you can get them, but there are a huge range of different sets of postcards out there, so the possibilities are endless!

The next handmade wedding post will look how I made the invitations.