When it comes to planning a homemade wedding, let me offer you one excellent piece of advice: make sure there is someone really talented in your family at a wedding-related craft and then force them to give you their expertise for free.
Don’t have someone in the family already? No worries, divorce your current family and find a new one. A dressmaker would be helpful, of course, a florist maybe, a caterer would certainly save you a fortune or, in my case, a sister who has just started her own business making beautiful Letterpress wedding invitations.
I’d suggest scouring the endless, endless wedding blogs, find an appealing-looking supplier and then send them a (mildly threatening) begging letter, asking them to either adopt you or perhaps become your “blood brother” (or sister). Leave it a few months and then drop the request for lots of hard work for free. Job done. Money saved.
I jest, of course, but I am genuinely super lucky that my sister started to set up her business just at the time we were planning the wedding, so was more than happy to make us our invitations on her brand new press. (Those who were reading my blog earlier this year may remember the stunning business cards she made for me as well…)
Because the hubby and I met out in the Philippines doing a marine conservation diving course, we went for a seahorse picture on the main invitation and a weedy sea dragon on the RSVP card.
The RSVP card had our address printed on the other side, so people could literally just tick a few boxes and put it in the post. Being one of the world’s laziest people ever, I always find it a bit of a hassle to actually write a reply to invitations, so I work on the assumption that everyone else does too.
Everything was wrapped up with a three-way folded piece of card printed with the lovely seahorse again.
I chose the vintage pictures and did a very, very, very basic design (and, of course, all the wording) which my sister then licked into a beautiful shape and found us the excellent font as well (Manquis CP if you’re curious)…
We were really, really delighted with results and we got loads of compliments from our guests.
And if you’re wishing my sister was your sister too, then fret not! Her company will be open to take its first official customers in a matter of weeks. In the meantime, keep an eye on her blog Wolf & Ink for updates and lots of other wedding-related inspiration. (I’m not promising anything, but it’s just possible a certain someone might be guest posting on there in the near future too…)
Just please, please don’t send her any threatening letters asking her to adopt you.
Take a look at some more of the homemade elements of our wedding:
Everyone tells you that organising a wedding is stressful. So much to do. So many people to coordinate. So many little things to think about.
And of course, you don’t believe a word of it.
“Not me,” you think, “I won’t be some crazed bridezilla, storming around the place screaming at people because my napkins don’t perfectly match my flowers. No way. I’ll be all chilled and laid back. And, really, how much is there to do anyway? I think I’ll try and make everything myself. I think it’s a great idea to do my own flowers. And I’ll definitely make all the favours. Oh and maybe it’s a good idea if we don’t get a caterer and just cook all the food ourselves…”
Ha ha. Okay, insert “me” for “you” in the sentence above and you get the picture. Luckily, someone a lot more sane than we are convinced us that trying to do all the food ourselves was a step too far, but we did take on most of the rest.
But actually, though I had nowhere near contemplated the phenomenal amount of tiny details you need to consider / plan / organise / book for a wedding, I don’t regret deciding to do as much as we could ourselves, and I think I managed to stay fairly stress free for most of the process…
And even if you decide the flowers are a step too far, I really do recommend making the favours. If you’re that way inclined, of course.
I spent quite a lot of time researching different ideas for homemade favours but as soon as I saw an idea on Martha Stewart for hand stamping little bags I was won over. Firstly, I’m a little bit obsessed with hand stamping things. Secondly, we got to have our very own stamp made up! Who could pass on an opportunity like that?
Small muslin drawstring bags. I used a 8cm x 12cm size, which I bought here on eBay. I bought 125, which cost me £65 in total, so approximately 15p a bag. Update: as pointed out by Lynn in the comments below, the cost is of course, actually around 50p a bag!
A stamp made up with your chosen design. (More info on this follows.)
Ink for fabric. I used Versacraft large ink pad in real black. The pad isn’t as big as the stamp itself, but it’s raised up, so you can just hold the stamp down a couple of times to get the correct coverage.
To create your design for the stamp, there are two options. You can either use a variety of pre-made templates at the Martha Stewart site and just fill in your details, or you can create your own.
I used the same text, “Snacks for the road,” but made my own design as we wanted to use the same font as we’d used on our wedding invitations. I did this in PowerPoint: in a blank file use the “basic shapes” button to choose a circle. Right click on the circle, select “format shape” and you can change the fill, outside line and so on. Then just paste your image into the middle of the circle and create the text using a text box. Save as a jpeg.
To have our design turned into a stamp, we used the English Stamp Company. They were amazingly helpful, as I couldn’t manage to upload the jpeg in a way that their website recognised, but finally I emailed it to them and they made all the alterations needed to turn it into stamp form.
They’ll make a stamp in a huge range of sizes; to fit the muslin bags, I had mine made at a 7cm diameter.
The total cost for this was £21, which I thought was pretty amazing. I am seriously holding myself back from ordering a million more stamps so I can stamp anything and everything…
Wait impatiently for a few days for the wonderful stamp to arrive.
Now all that’s left is the stamping itself. Practice a few times first on paper and then attack your bags…
A few tips:
Don’t press the stamp hard down into the pad for the ink coverage. Instead, sort of dab it across the surface, which covers it up perfectly without leaving any thick places to smudge.
I tore a piece of card from a cereal box and slid that inside the bags before stamping each one, to make sure no ink went through to the other side.
I found that I got the most perfect coverage if I was standing up, directly over the bags and if I used both hands to press the stamp firmly down.
Leave to dry. I left mine for 24 hours just to be on the safe side, but they seemed dry long before that. In order to set the dye, you need to just press lightly down with an iron for a minute or so on each image — with the steam setting turned off.
Fill with some little morsels of deliciousness. We made vanilla fudge to go in ours, which was a part success, though it was perhaps a little bit too sticky. I had originally wanted to make some peppermint cream hearts (a bit more rrrrrrrromantic as well) but decided against it because of the raw egg white involved and the knowledge that there would be a few pregnant people there.
We made these favours double up as place names as well, by tying on a luggage label with people’s name hand stamped onto it. I used the same method for these gift tags. It was a nice effect, I thought…
These bags are great for wedding favours, but of course you could do something similar for a children’s party bag or a box for jewellery or a huge, huge range of things.
If you have a go at this, do let me know what wonders you’ve conjured up in the comments below.
Want to see a few photos of the wedding itself? Step right this way: our wedding.
And if you’re planning a wedding too, and are wondering about what you bits you can do yourself, take a look at my tips for arranging your own wedding flowers. This was another DIY I was really pleased we took on (not least because it certainly saved us hundreds and hundreds and pounds…)
Naturally, I had a Pinterest board to store all my inspiration when I was planning the wedding: Wedmin
Did I mention I got married recently? Oh yes, in every single post I’ve written for about a month…
Well, hot on the heels of my honeymoon photos, here are a few snaps of my wedding, just in case anyone is interested.*
We didn’t use an official wedding photographer for our day. Partly because they are flipping expensive. Partly because we are incredibly lucky to have lots of friends who are amazing photographers and who were generous enough to share their time with us and take photos.
All photos in this post are by the incredibly talented Laura from Circle of Pine Trees, who somehow managed to juggle three children, a camera and being one of the most charming wedding guests ever created.
I should reassure you: we did actually have guests at our wedding as well, but I am always reticent to post photos of other people on the internet — especially photos of other people’s children — and being far too lazy to email everyone and ask their permission, I’ve just stuck to us and the sproglet.
The sproglet, I have to say, enjoyed the wedding about as much as he enjoyed the honeymoon. Not much. Normally pretty cheerful and laidback, he found the whole thing a bit overwhelming and we attempted to placate him with a constant bottle of milk.
I’m going to share a little bit more information next week as well on a few of the handmade elements of the day, so if you’re about to get married and are looking for some inspiration, do head back here then. If, on the other hand, you’ve got absolutely no interest in weddings then just avoid these parts for a week, but do come and visit me again in October, when normal non-wedmin service will resume.
*I do rather feel as if this blog has been veering into “what I did today and what I ate for tea” territory recently, which very much isn’t my intention (I’m simply not that interesting). But I promise, no major life events coming up now, so we’ll be returning to chat about fabric and making things and perhaps a bit of cooking too now that Autumn is here.
The past few days have seen floral tests of great precision going on in this house.
I was really pleased with the variety of flowers I bought from the flower market on Wednesday. Next step was to test my own abilities at arranging them along with their longevity (because we’re driving up to Shropshire before the wedding, I need to buy the flowers four days in advance of needing them in the arrangements).
Last Friday afternoon was the designated bouquet arranging practice time. Saturday was the litmus test as to whether the flowers would still look good four days after I brought them home. And both tests were passed with flying colours…
Before embarking on the practice flower arranging, I felt pretty confident about the table vases (I stick flowers in little jugs all the time at home. I know that I, at least, think they look nice…) and I figured the buttonholes wouldn’t be too tricky since I had plans to do something really simple. But, I confess, I was a little nervous about the bouquet. I wanted something simple, natural looking and abundant. My fear was that this might be one of those times where making something look simple took a lot more artistry and care than making something look formal…
But, after only about 15 minutes of putting the flowers together, I ended up with this little beauty. Impressed? Yes! Pleased? Yes! Proud of myself? Exceedingly so!
Ignoring the fact this almost certainly means total and utter disaster when I come to make the actual real bouquet in a few weeks time, I thought I’d share a few tips for anyone else who, like me, isn’t a florist but is hoping to do all their own flowers.
(Interspersed with lots more photos of the bouquet, as well as the buttonholes and the prototype table arrangements…)
I would say it is imperative, both for your sanity and confidence, to do a trial run in advance. I went to the wholesalers this last Wednesday to buy the flowers, conditioned them when I got home (read on for more on that) and then left them to sit for two days, since this will be exactly what I will do in two weeks for the actual wedding. Then on Friday, I made the bouquets, buttonholes and table arrangements and left them until Saturday to see how well everything lasts with the exact same time frame I’ll be using in a few weeks. Anything that wilts, can’t stick around that long (or simply doesn’t look nice) can be abandoned now, rather than facing the disappointment of being greeted with droopy flowers on the wedding day itself. (Nothing wants to be droopy on my wedding day, thanks. Nothing.)
The only down side of this is the additional cost. As I was buying wholesale, I couldn’t just buy one or two stems of the flowers I wanted, but had to get a whole bunch of each one. I’ve used one poppy seed head in the bouquet, for example, but had to buy ten. However, for a start my house is now stuffed full with flowers; I’ve made myself popular with neighbours, friends and family by thrusting bunches on them and — in the grand scheme of things — I am still saving so much money compared to the cost of buying flowers from a florist that it felt like a reasonable hit to take.
To give you an idea, everything I bought this week cost me £94 including VAT and I think I will spend just a little more than double that on the actual flowers in a fortnight. I think I could have feasibly saved a few of the things I bought and used them then (the wax flowers and chinch will definitely last that long…) but I got carried away with arranging them and giving them away.
The other important thing about a trial is it allows you to work out exactly how many flowers you’ll need to buy. I was surprised to realise that for my table arrangements I will need only three or four stems per milk bottle. I would have hugely over-ordered on the table flowers if I hadn’t trialled these all first.
Containers and other bits and pieces
I would also recommend trialling the flowers with exactly the containers / ribbon / string you’re planning on using.
My table flowers are all going in little milk bottles I bought in Hong Kong. (Okay, eight of them are, the rest are going in normal clear milk bottles…)
I was really shocked how few flowers I needed to fill this up, so I tried out some in a jam jar as well. This also looked nice (though less nice and less striking) but used about four times as many flowers. And of course, four times the flowers equals four times the cost. I am so pleased I tried this all out now, rather than just spending too much money before the day on the assumption I would need loads of flowers for the tables.
I also bought some florist’s scissors (£8.50) and some florist’s tape (I can’t remember how much, but a matter of pounds I think) which not only made me feel like a complete pro, but also made the job much easier than had I used my kitchen scissors (a consideration for some time…)
Conditioning the flowers
I read up a lot about conditioning flowers before heading off to the market. Basically, if you buy flowers wholesale, they won’t be treated in advance (as they would from a florist) so they wilt more quickly unless you do this yourself. All I did is fill buckets a third full of water (about six litres for my buckets), added a quarter of a Milton sterilising tablet to each bucket and five teaspoons of white sugar. You could use a couple of drops of bleach instead of the Milton. Stick the flowers into the buckets and then leave them in a cool, dark place overnight before arranging them. I’ve been amazed how well my flowers have lasted. Four days after I bought them, they look perkier and happier than the day I brought them home.
Insanely early hours of flower markets
If you can, once you’ve done your bleary-eyed early morning trial run, arrange for your flower market / wholesaler to deliver the actual wedding flowers to you. The new Covent Garden flower market was a selection of five or so stalls who take part in UK-wide delivery (though they thought Shropshire was a bit too far) and lots who will deliver within London. Check whether the markets or wholesalers near you have a similar system. On your trial run, you can find the stall you like and have all the conversations face to face with them in advance. Then, when it comes to getting the flowers for the day itself, you can simply telephone through the order.
I’m not going to even try and tell you about arranging the flowers, as I am clearly far from an expert. All I will say is that there is lots and lots of information from experts online. My wedmin board on Pinterest has a few Youtube clips and tutorials pinned about spiralling the flowers and how to arrange bouquets etc. I watched all of these and then just held a flower in one hand and added on stems to it one at a time until I thought it looked nice. But actually, this was much much easier than I was anticipating.
So there you have it! A few tips and hints from a total amateur. If I can do it, so can you…