Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Do-It-Yourself Invitations - Design Process

In a previous post, I walked through the research process I underwent before deciding on the wording, font, and layout for our invitations. It was now time to design the darn things.

Prior to getting engaged, I had already started following the awesome wedding blog of Kate Miller (do-it-yourself bride extraordinaire!). (Fun fact: Since her wedding, Kate has become a full-time event planner in Northern California! Check out her site: These were her invitation sets:

Wow. Now that's some crazily impressive handy work! Inspired by her abilities (she learned as she went), Future Hubby and I downloaded a trial version of Photoshop and Illustrator, which ended up confusing us more than anything. (He did, however, figure out how to alter the Save-the-Date photo, which was useful considering my hair in that picture.) After the subscription for our trial version for Photoshop and Illustrator expired, I turned to PowerPoint just to see if I could even attempt to design an invitation. PowerPoint can be limited in spacing objects on the page, but with some persistence and the magic of cropping, I was able to design the invitation and inserts.

You may remember that I love toile patterns, but they are a little too feminine and flowery for Future Hubby's taste. So, I introduced him to damask.

Madison Damask

Waverly Damask

We finally agreed on dandy damask, which has just the right balance of floral and swirl without being too girly. It is bold, to match the Copperplate font we are using, but also delicate enough for a wedding and the Edwardian font we are also incorporating.

Dandy Damask

A graphic designer friend of Future Hubby's from college cleaned up the image for us so it prints super clean and crisp. Using several sources of inspiration and after many conversations with the Future Hubby, here is the final design of the invitations and inserts (a link to our wedding website for RSVP as well as a double-sided insert with map and directions).

Check out my next posting to read about where to find GREAT deals on high quality, recycled, and beautiful paper!

Do-It-Yourself Invitations - Research & Etiquette

As stated in a previous post, wedding invitations should represent your best foot forward as the first impression to your guests. The invitation informs the guests of your colors, theme, the atmosphere of the event, and a glimpse into you and your future hubby's personalities.

That's a tall order for a little piece of paper.

But once you have found the perfect match, it's love at first sight. This is my inspiration (from Wedding Paper Divas):

Alas, a bride on a budget can find herself in a quandary. How does one get a fabulous invite and still stay within budget? If you have ever priced wedding invitations, then you will understand. Each pretty little invite can run upwards of $5.00, which doesn't sound so bad until you consider quantity. We have 105 parties to invite, plus a couple extra invitations for the keepsake box. Without postage, thank you notes, or programs, we were looking at over $500. Hmmm. Looks like a job for the D.I.Y. Bride!

I began by researching various wording and layout options for the invitations. If you Google, "wedding invitation etiquette," you will find a host of useful websites, including Wedding Invitation Etiquette, Real Simple, and, of course, Martha Stewart. My parents are divorced and both have remarried. Future Hubby's father passed away a very long time ago, and so only his mother's name would appear. We are paying for most of the wedding ourselves (we aren't spring chickens and both have steady jobs), but our families are contributing. All of this needs to be taken into consideration when wording the invitation. We finally decided on, "Together with their parents," as the host line. It works quite nicely. You may find this to be a good solution for your invitations, too.

Depending on who you ask (and wow, there is a lot of information out there!), most traditional opinions say you should spell out every word on the invite, including numbers. For example:
The first of January two thousand and nine
January 1, 2009
01 January 2009
01. 01.09

five o'clock in the evening
half-past five o'clock in the evening
5:00 p.m.

But don't feel too constricted by tradition. Choose a style that fits the atmosphere of your event. We, for example, have decided to use numerals for our venue address and the date of our event. If yours is the church wedding with cathedral-length dress, you will most likely want to spell out the numbers.

Now that the wording was settled, I began researching patterns online. We found this lovely damask print online at Colour Lovers, where visitors can find and download tons of awesome, electronic color swatches and patterns. It's not the perfect pattern for us, but it's a start.

During my research, I discovered that nowadays many initiations are using a block, easy-to-read font called Copperplate, which I downloaded for free from Font Zone.

I wanted our names, however, to appear more formal, so I chose a traditional wedding script, Edwardian, from 2-Free.

Now that we have these decisions made, it's time to experiment in invitation design. Check back to read more about how we fumbled around with Photoshop and Illustrator before settling on PowerPoint and Excel to design our invitations and inserts.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wedding Invitations - Inspiration and All Things Good

Wedding invitations set the mood for your wedding. Besides the Save-the-Dates, which are sent months in advance, the invitation is the first glimpse into your wedding the guests will have. Ah, first impressions...

Needless to say, the pressure is on. I don't know how professionals in the fine paper field do it. I wouldn't be able to make up my mind surrounded by so many options! Here are some fabulous producers of paper: Wedding Paper Divas, Dauphine Press, Albertine Press, Hello Lucky, Freshly Skweezed, Bella Figura, Kiriena Paper, Papeterie Store, The American Wedding. Do you see how difficult this decision was going to be?

Do we want something simple and sweet like this from Papeterie:

Or something floral like this from Bella Figura:

Or fun swirls and birds like this from Hello Lucky:

I have always loved toile, and so I Googled, "toile invitations," and found this magnificence from Wedding Paper Divas:

It's official: I'm in love! The blue is too dark, but this invitation design is fabuous! I am definitely going to save this one to the files for inspiration.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Handmade Guest Book

The wedding guest book. Guests sign it (if they rememeber) and then it disappears into a box never to be seen again. But that doesn't mean it can't be cute!
When searching for a guest book for our wedding, I was astonished at how expensive these little books could be - especially when one realizes just how much alike they all look! To add to this frustration, each time I sent a link of a possible guest book to the future hubby, he would say, "It's so wedding-y." Hmmm.
I would have made my own guest book, but I have no idea how to work with paper or book bindings. Well, there's only one place to go when looking for a unique take on the traditional: If you are not familiar with Etsy (and everyone really ought to be!), it is a website for people to buy and sell handmade items. It rocks. You have no idea how creative people can be until you have looked through this site.

After a couple hours of searching, I found this treasure:

The flower design resembles hydrangeas (perfect!), it's affordable, and the binding just screams, "I am handmade, beautiful, and awesome!" It was made by Etsy seller MadeByMatchGirl, whose books are professionally made, unique, and whimsical. The book's 108 pages are perfectly blank, allowing each party attending our wedding to sign on one whole page. I am going to buy several pens in varying dark colors so that guests can not only sign their names, but also doodle a little something special to make their messages to us more personal.

Here are some other lovely guest books from Etsy that caught my eye, although they are a little more expensive.

This one is by Etsy seller lilyelle. (The fabric pattern is called Dandy Damask.)

This one is by Etsy seller CreativeBridal.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monogram Banners Part II: Decoration

In my last post, I showed how to sew the banners and paint the dowels. Now comes the fun part: creating the initials and decorating the banners on a budget!

I began by printing out our initials on the computer. This required a trial and error period during which I messed around with fonts and sizes. I wanted a simple font in order to allow for easy decorating and readability.

Martha's banner showed the letters spelled out in silk flowers. Considering I had ten mini and three large banners to make, silk flowers were going to be way too expensive. What could I use that would be inexpensive, and yet provide a three-dimensional aspect to add interest? Ah-ha! Buttons! And what better place to find buttons than that virtual superstore eBay? I purchased 575 half-inch (13 mm), plain white, two-hole buttons for the mini banners from eBay seller good*folk from Mason, NC, for $13.20 (including s/h). I then purchased 120 one-inch (25 mm), plain white, four-hole jacket buttons from eBay seller sweeting_hk for $33.20 (including s/h). (Fun fact: sweeting_hk is from Hong Kong!) I then arranged the buttons to determine the pattern and number.

I glued the buttons on one at a time using hot glue. And because I'm slightly particular, I made sure the holes on the small buttons lined up in the direction of the lines on the letters.

Once all the buttons had been glued on (and seriously, this took a while - I listened to many movies in the background), I realized the banners looked a little too plain. Future hubby suggested flowers. Martha's banner had little flowers in each corner. Considering scale would be an important factor to balance the letters, I decided on larger flowers or clumps of flowers. Michaels, here I come!

After an hour of perusing aisles of silk flowers and debating colors and styles, I decided on some ecru and light yellow flowers and some green plant (I'm such the botanist, aren't I?). As I was walking to the register, I noticed flowers in the scrapbooking aisle that came in fantastic colors with bejeweled centers. Also, they would be easy to glue onto the banners - perfect! I quickly dropped my silk flower "bouquet" and snatched up several packages of scrapbooking flowers in various shades of white, pale yellow, and vibrant green.

Making Memories Jumbo Blossoms White Daisy w/ Crystal Brad

Prima Daisy Doodles in Apple Green

Making Memories Blossoms Spotlight Daisy w/ Yellow Brads

Making Memories Mini Blossoms White w/ Silver Brads

When I arrived at home, I spread out a mini and a large banner on the floor and began experimenting with various possibilities. There weren't even numbers of each type of flower, so I designed some options that provided balance while allowing for slight variation among the banners. Once I had determined the patterns I liked, I arranged the flowers into groups to later be glued on each banner. It was like a garden in my apartment!

I used hot glue to attach each flower to its banner. Using white and black ribbon, I quickly sewed a handle on each banner to allow it to hang from the center aisle chairs during the ceremony. I think they came out splendid! What do you think?

9" x 12" banner to decorate the center aisle

18" x 24" banner to decorate the sweetheart table and counter in the reception hall

COST FOR BANNER PROJECT (10 mini and 3 large):
4 yards of fabric: $15.96
7/16" dowel ($1.29x5): $6.49
1/2" dowel (1.49x 2): $2.98
Thread: $5.00 (approx.)
White spray paint: $2.09
White/black ribbon (2.49x2): $4.98
1/2" buttons: $13.20
1" buttons: $33.20
Making Memories Jumbo Blossoms White Daisies ($3.99x3): $11.97
Making Memories Blossoms Spotlight Daisies ($2.99x2): $5.98
Daisy Doodles in Green Apple: $4.99
TOTAL COST: $106.84 (plus tax for items purchased in-store)

Monogram Banners Part I: Assembly

Before Brian even proposed, I had purchased the Martha Stewart Wedding Collector's Edition 2008 magazine. Seriously, I hid the thing in one of my dresser drawers and would bring it out when Brian wasn't home - like a prepubescent boy and a copy of a dirty mag. Now that he has proposed, that poor Martha Stewart magazine has been opened and closed so many times, the spine is weakening.

One of the decorations in the magazine that instantly caught my eye was this adorable monogram banner. I think the blue was the initial (no pun intended) attraction, but then I thought, "I can make that!"

Martha's banners are very large, and she suggested hanging them from trees at an outdoor wedding. I decided to make mini banners (9"x12") and hang them from the center aisle chairs for the ceremony and a couple larger banners (18"x24") to decorate the front of the sweetheart table and the long counter in the reception hall.

An important thing to understand about me, however, is that I can't sew. I can crochet and cross stitch, but if you put a sewing machine in front of me, I'm all thumbs and no brains. How am I going to make these? Enter Mom and Mom #2 (my mom's best friend who is like a second mom to me). OK, I had my workers lined up, but they're in Arizona. Looks like we're making a trip to AZ with some blue fabric and dowels!

I purchased four yards of a beautiful light blue, cotton fabric from JoAnn's for $15.96 and thread for approx. $5.00. I then purchased four 48" wood dowels (7/16" and 1/2" diameter) from OSH for $9.43 and white spray paint for $2.09.

After a few fits and starts to get the tension of the sewing machines correct (during which I stood by looking like a puzzled monkey), Mom and Mom #2 were ready to commence Operation Banner Sweatshop! I first measured, cut, and ironed 10"x13" (9"x12" when complete) rectangles. After expert tutelage from Mom, I then folded over, pinned, and ironed 1/4" then another 1/4" of fabric on both sides for the hem.

Mom and Mom #2 neatly sewed those and returned them to me so I could then make the slots for the dowels across the top and bottom. I folded over, pinned, and ironed 1/4" and then approx. 1 1/2" to make the slot.

After a couple hours, we had our ten mini banners! On to the larger banners...

I measured, cut, and ironed 19"x25.5" (18"x24") rectangles. We repeated the pinning, ironing, sewing assembly line until we had three large banners. Here's one of them.

Once those were done, we started working on the dowels. Brian's oldest brother had previously cut the dowels to length and even bevelled the edges to look more finished. Mom and I tapped nails into the ends with string in order to spray them and later hang for drying, which took about three seconds in the AZ heat.

In my next blog (Part Deux), I will discuss how I devised a less expensive solution to spell out our monograms without spending a fortune on silk flowers.

Black Cupcake Liners: The Ultimate Find

The future hubby and I are bypassing the traditional wedding cake and opting for fun and trendy (and less expensive!) cupcakes. Our cupcake vendor, Betty's Sweet Dreams, is awesome. Betty is very creative and WOW are her cupcakes tasty!

During our second tasting (that's right, we went back for more), we discussed designs and stands. We have chosen three delicious flavors: chocolate raspberry, chocolate abuelita (cinnamon-y chocolate), and lemon raspberry. One problem: Brian didn't like how informal the cupcake bases looked compared to how intricate the tops looked once decorated. We asked if she had black cupcake liners, allowing all the bases to appear uniform and more formal. Believe it or not, black cupcake liners are near to impossible to find - unless you want them to have little bats and pumpkins sprinkled across them. Um, no thanks.

That evening, Brian (A.K.A. Internet Master) searched online and finally found what appears to be the one of the few places that sells black cupcake/baking liners. Eureka!

And so, boys and girls, the black cupcake liners will make an appearance, our cupcake vendor is THRILLED to now be able to offer black baking liners to her clients, and Brian has once again proved his Internet abilities.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Centerpieces: Hydrangeas and Ball Jars

Centerpieces help to define a reception and tie in themes used during the ceremony. In my previous post about the choice of flowers, I mentioned that mine will be a hydrangea wedding. My mom has always been a collector of Ball mason jars, those timeless canning and storage jars that conjure images of summer preserves and retro kitchens. Her love of glassware must be genetic because when I began to think about centerpieces, I instantly pictured Ball jars as the vases. Since the wedding and reception will be in a deep valley next to a quaint lake, I am aiming for a modern, updated, sophisticated country theme. Some quick research resulted in this adorably simple and petite centerpiece from The Preppy Wedding blog:

Okay, so how to do these centerpieces on a budget... Depending on the number of RSVPs, I will have either fifteen or sixteen reception tables, a guest book table, a seating card table, and a 29' counter along one side of the reception room. Twenty-four bunches of hydrangeas in Ball jars should do the trick! First and foremost: eBay is your friend. I found twenty-four clear, quart-size, wide-mouth Ball jars for $33.98 (free shipping!) from eBay vendor Denny and Kathy's Superstore.

For $1.50 each, I purchased two light blue ribbon spools with a white center accent at Michaels. I wrapped this ribbon around the opening of the jars to add a little color to the jars and tie in the country theme. (Don't worry about the overlapping edges - a bow will cover this in the next step.)

Want the perfect bow? Look no further than Martha Stewart's Favorite Bow. I wanted to make sure the bows would not untie or unravel, so I sewed a couple stitches (using light blue thread) into the center of each bow and dabbed fray check onto the trimmed ends. Time consuming: yes; the guarantee that the bows will stay perfect and pretty: priceless.

After sewing each bow, I hot glued them over the band of ribbon on each jar. And here is the final project: twenty-four identical jars all dressed up and nowhere to go... yet.

Remember, these are still functioning canning jars (once you wash the flower gunk out). So, sitting next to each jar will be its lid, with a note inside that reads, "Whoever is chosen to take home the centerpiece (we suggest Ro-Sham-Bo) can also take this lid and reuse the jar at home!" (FYI: Ro-Sham-Bo = Rock, Paper, Scissors)

Cost for this project (minus the flowers):
12 one-quart, wide mouth Ball jars: $16.99 (free shipping) x 2 = $33.98
1 spool of Michaels 'Dashes, Dots, & Checks' 3/8" ribbon: $1.50 x 2 = $3.00
Thread and hot glue sticks: minimal cost (free if you already have them laying around)
TOTAL: $36.98