Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category

Programs for Everyone!

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

I know that our programs were yet another element in our ‘unnecessarily complicated’ DIY wedding tapestry, but I can’t help but love them. The covers probably didn’t need to be screen printed, but I just couldn’t help myself. I’d fallen in love with the color combination and the intensity never would have come through with regular screen printing. Plus, the paper had a slight sheen to it so the ink stayed on top and created a 3-D effect. I’m really thankful that I had the sense (for once!) to keep it to one color because thick layers of ink take forever to dry.

The image on the cover is from series of pictures I took of Mr. Lollipop and myself jumping in front of our green screen. The quote on the cover is from first Thessalonians, chapter 5: “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” It’s my favorite even if it makes it sound like we’ve both, um, dated a lot of people.

The outside cover was made of a piece of green 8.5″ by 11″ paper folded in half. Inside we stapled a piece of tabloid sized paper (11″ by 17″) that we folded into quarters. That means that we had 8 quarters to work with, front and back. When guests first opened the front cover they were greeted with another jumping picture of Mr. Lollipop and myself along with a short biography of us as a couple.

Next, that portion flipped open to reveal a series of silhouettes of the wedding party memners as well as short, humorous biographies of each person. I’ve been to too many weddings where I’m wasn’t sure who the heck was up on the altar next to the bride and groom (Sibling? Childhood friend? Jail buddy?), so I thought it would be a nice courtesy to fill in all of our guests.

When the program is fully opened the inside reveals a full script of the wedding ceremony as well as a few notes and directions for guests. Most of my family is Catholic and his is fairly non-religious, so we thought it would be a good idea to let them know where to say ‘we will’ and ‘also with you’ in our Episcopal ceremony. Plus, I screwed up the directions to the reception in our invitations (oops!), so it was a good place to put revised ones.

Finally, we were able to put some of our thank yous in the last empty quarter on the other side of the program.

The bottom four pictures are courtesy of Purvis Photography.

Handing Out the Goods

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

I’ve never received an out of town bag, but I decided to give them out because everyone loves tiny gifts in bags, right? They are a fun way to welcome guests who traveled far, but due to the flurry of activity before the wedding might not get to see the bride and groom until the big day. Nothing says love like a nice note and a snack when you can’t be there.

It wouldn’t be a gift bag without a bag. I screen printed canvas totes with an image of a ticker tape machine:

Gift bags are ideal for distributing two things, information and stuff. Really, the information is the important part. We enclosed the following in our welcome note:

  • A schedule of all wedding related activities
  • Directions to our ceremony and reception locations
  • Walking directions to nearby restaurants that we like
  • A local contact phone number just in case anyone got lost

If you’re on a budget, this will be more than enough to keep guests on track for the weekend. The rest of the stuff, including the bag, is just for fun. Our fun stuff included the following:

My mom helped me mix up and package the trail mix in our kitchen.

We handed out a mix of banana chips, sunflower seeds, vanilla rum peanuts, golden raisins and pepitas. Our concoction was a big hit with our guests.

Crafty Goodness!

Friday, November 9th, 2007

There has been a renaissance as of late in the crafting world. Old techniques have been reborn thanks to new technology and a renewed sense of humor. Craft fairs like Handmade Arcade, Craftin’ Outlaws, Bazaar Bizarre, and Renegade Craft Fair feature handmade items that are fresh, inspiring and found no where else. Plus, with sellers numbering into the hundreds there is bound to be something that will knock your socks off.

These fairs are fabulous for finding unique, clever bridal party gifts. Less obvious is that they are also fantastic places to check out local stationers. Many of them will sell greeting cards, calendars, or stationery. It is a good chance to look at the quality of their workmanship up close, discuss pricing and compare vendors. Also, keep your eyes peeled for knick-knacks that can be used as unusual favors or cake toppers. If you can’t find exactly what you want or enough of what you want, many crafters will take custom orders.

I’ll be a vendor at this weekend’s Handmade Arcade. I won’t be selling anything really wedding related, but please don’t let that stop you from saying ‘hi’ if you plan on attending. It’s always nice to meet bees in real life.

Stretching our Floral Dollar with Wheatgrass

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Previously: Our Favors Require a Degree in Botany

If I had all of the money in the world I would have sprinkled our reception venue with dozens and dozens of dense, exotic flower arrangements. But as someone interested in having a wedding without going into debt we had to think of something else that would have a similar impact, but with less cost. There is a quality to fresh flowers, the glow of living, breathing things, that I love. So, in lieu of silk flowers we decided to go with live plants, namely wheatgrass. I’ve been growing the stuff for years and I love how each plant breathes and perspires, furthermore, the bright green fit right into our color scheme.

Plus, the our third try at finding the right variety of wheatgrass did the trick! It grew up thick and the blades were new-leaf green. I wanted to give the impression of a lawn so I added random yellow chrysanthemums to some of the containers. We used our little containers of wheatgrass to add a little to our table settings and as companions to our guest table centerpieces.

It might not be clear from this photo, but I sank small plastic test tubes into the soil of the beflowered grass containers to serve as mini water tanks. We filled the tubes with water using a turkey baster before inserting the flowers. They still looked fresh almost two days later when they were deployed for the wedding.

These larger containers were used to decorate our peripheral tables, like the cake table and the guest book table.

I’ll have more pictures of our grass and flowers in action when our photos are released.

Three Tiers for Penguins!

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007


Cake Test
The Backup Cake

I survived making my own wedding cake and ended up with some pleasing results. The fondant didn’t work as perfectly as I would have liked, but we managed to hide most of the flaws by rotating them to the back.

Most of the cake was made late at night the Friday before our Sunday wedding. Our Maid of Honor, Maid of Awesomeness (a title earned through months of selfless service toward our wedding), and our Magic Wedding Elf, Frances, stirred big cauldrons of Rice Krispies and molten marshmallow. All involved did an expert job of measuring out huge quantities of ingredients and getting the proportions just right.

My job was to pour, level and ice each layer. Each tier has two layers glued together with Wilton icing purchased in gallon buckets purchased from the craft store. Despite being mostly shortening it had ideal qualities that made it a good choice. First, it didn’t discolor or make the cake soggy even after two days of waiting to be consumed. Next, it worked well when we needed it as a glue. All of our layers and tiers stayed firmly in place, it kept the fondant exactly where it needed to be, and it managed to keep the penguins and flowers attached despite being moved three times.

Most importantly, the Groom really liked the taste of the icing, which is the most important thing. The Rice Krispy cake was really for him, as he doesn’t care for regular cake. The icing taste was very similar to Twinkie filling. To me, it is better in small quantities, but Mr. Lollipop couldn’t get enough.

The outer layer of the cake was made of plain pre-made Wilton fondant purchased in five-pound boxes from the same craft store at the icing. The fondant tasted like it was made of fresh Lucky Charms marshmallows, but it could easily be peeled off for those who couldn’t stand the sweetness. The fondant was one of the harder parts to get right, especially for our 14 inch bottom layer. I discovered a too late that the ideal thickness is a little less than 1/4 inch. It is the best thickness to remain pliable, yet hide flaws.

As I said before, we glued the penguins and flowers on the cake using frosting that we dispensed from a pastry bag. For those who missed my earlier entries, the penguins were made of Fimo clay and are inedible, although that didn’t stop guests from trying.

Our cake didn’t taste all that bad considering that it was made of two-day-old Rice Krispy Treats. We also served two sheet cakes purchased through a local restaurant with delivery service, a Middle Eastern restaurant called Aladdin’s Eatery. We managed to get two awesome cakes, an Oreo flavored one and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup one, for less than $2 a slice, including delivery costs. Both supplementary cakes were a big hit and saved me worry about serving stale, be-fondanted non-cake to guests.

The cake itself is sitting on an overturned piece of wooden butcher-block counter top left over from a remodeling project. Mr. Lollipop fashioned it into a an ideal cake board by adding some snazzy handles. The cake board was absolutely indispensable for moving the cake from place to place without damaging it. Keep that is mind if you plan on making your own DIY cake.

Cake Test

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Our cake baker has finally returned one of my messages and now I am officially on my own for my wedding cake. Strangely, I feel relieved. I won’t be stuck with a cake that I haven’t seen before the wedding and I won’t hurt my baker’s feelings if I show up with a backup cake. She’s a friend and having a tough time, so instead of being irritated I have nothing but sympathy for what she is going through.

Anyhow, full speed ahead!

You know what I learned this week? Icing things is hard. Actually, the spreading of the icing on the cake isn’t difficult, but getting it to look professional is really, really hard. The little perfectionist demon on my left shoulder told me that a cake that looked home made would never work. The resident of my right shoulder gave up and moved out a few months after I got engaged, so it was silent.

With a default victory for the demon I decided to blow some more money on pre-made fondant. Despite my misgivings, it is surprisingly easy to work with and looks amazing with just a little effort. I only hope that it scales up well for the larger layers.

I glued our toppers on with just a little bit of icing.

The Other Miss Lollipop

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

A few days ago, on a whim I googled my WeddingBee name and discovered that the top result is not for a person, but for an airplane. The original Miss Lollipop was a B-17 bomber that flew missions over Europe during World War II. While the lovely Miss L found an inauspicious end at the bottom of the English Channel after only three months of service, the coincidence stirred the aviation genes deep within me.

And those genes came directly from my father, an aircraft mechanic. When I was younger, he took us to dozens of aircraft museums and we would spend hours looking at aircraft spanning the whole existence of human flight. And my dad knew something about each one, some fact or story. I really treasure that time spent with him and with the things he knows best. My brother must have felt the same; he grew up to be a pilot. I grew up to be someone who really loves planes. Every year when I lived in DC I would go to the Air and Space Museum for my birthday and would name as many planes as I could when driving past as a tour guide.

So, my inner aviation nerd collaborated with my inner design nerd to produce two stenciled B-17 travel cases, one for me and one for Mr. Lollipop.

A quick how-to:

The original cases from paper source:

Print your image on the back of a a sheet of contact paper:

Cut it out with a craft knife:

Stick your new contact paper stencil where you like and rub the edges with a spoon to seal.

Lastly, just spray paint, wait a few seconds and peel.

Our Invitation Inspiration – Part II

Monday, August 13th, 2007

Part I

Mr. Lollipop once tried to add up all the time I spent on our invitations. I had to stop him because I couldn’t contemplate the amount of time I put into them without losing my mind a little. I started sketching in November, did the design in April, screen printed in May, letter pressed in June, and finally mailed them in July. Of course, I had lots of help on the last three, but the point is that I spent lots of time in the print studio that could have been used to learn a martial art or a new language.

Still, I don’t think I could bear to let anyone else design our invitations.

I put invitation page together to carry on the tree theme we used on the cover:

My original digital mock-up:

Luckily, our parents were really understanding when we couldn’t get the letter press calibrated to add everyone’s first names.

Also, I drew dozens of trees (one can be seen on the cover), but ended up buying the rights to use a much nicer one from That website is a great place to legally obtain the rights to all kinds of vector images for those who like to design, but have trouble drawing.

Our map and directions page:

I drew the map using an old copy of Macromedia FreeHand. We used the pattern at the bottom of the page to register the layers of ink.

The full package, including a rehearsal dinner invitation and a website card:

An assembled invitation:

Dripping with Jewels without Breaking the Bank

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

I confess that I love sparkly things, and I especially love pretty, sparkly things from nature.

In high school I was a chemistry and geology nerd. I loved how the molecular components of each crystal dictated the structure for the whole thing. The hexagonal shape of apatite, the little squares of salt crystals, it all makes sense and it’s something that can be held in your hand!

Plus, it’s amazing to look at gems and minerals. They come from the ground! They might have been cut and polished by humans, but the sparkle, the color and the tone mostly come from nature. I still love pacing around the mineral exhibits in the Pittsburgh Carnegie Museums. It’s almost like shopping. “Yes! I shall have you, Tourmalinated quartz!”

Some of my stash of pearl strands, double drilled garnets, amber strands, and loose opal, white topaz and garnet stones:

Also, it’s surprising to learn how affordable most precious and semi-precious stones are when you shop around. Gemstone beads can be used to make great offbeat gifts for bridesmaids, or they can be incorporated into bridal accessories. I’ve been buying this stuff for years, so I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. Here are my favorites:

To find affordable precious stones, opting for less than gem quality materials can save tons of money, but give you beautifully colored stones with some personality.

  • Ruby droplets: these are cloudy unlike their gem counterparts, but they would make stunning pendants.
  • Gradated Sapphire beads: I haven’t purchased these yet, but I want them sooo badly.
  • Emerald Chips: These inexpensive chips are a great way to get the fantastic green glow of emeralds. The description says that the chips are oiled, but they don’t stain or feel oily to the touch.

Semi-precious stones are incredibly affordable even at gem quality levels, plus they can be used as substitutes for their more expensive counterparts. Also, going semi-precious doesn’t mean looking cheap. Even Tacori uses white topaz in their hair pieces in place of diamonds.

  • Faceted peridot beads: Peridots are a good replacement for emeralds, though the green is more yellow. I think this stone is particularly appealing when mixed with pearls.
  • Blue Topaz Faceted Drops: Most commercially available blue topaz is created by irradiating less desirable colors, though natural blue topazes exist. They are an affordable substitute for sapphires, especially gems of the London blue variety.
  • Double drilled garnets: This gem was a popular symbol of love in Europe during the middle ages and renaissance period. There are many varieties (even green ones), but they are amazingly affordable even at AA level quality and better.

, especially the freshwater cultured variety are totally affordable. I have stands of white lotus variety, and even chunky, giant c-grade pearls (the striped ones in the upper right corner of the picture above) that are used in regular rotation in my wardrobe.

Even humble quartz comes in a variety of colors (smoky or green, for example) and shapes like leaves or flowers.

Other favorites:
moss agate,
light blue Apatite,
dark blue apatite,
lapis lazuli,

From left to right: emerald chips, moss quartz, turquoise, lapis lazuli

90 Down, 60 to Go

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

The first round of invitations have been mailed. Phew! Even with three people working for most of the Fourth of July, we only got through the first 50 out of the full 150. 90 have now been completed and we are still faced with one more day of printing, cutting, addressing and stamping.

This is our last major task before getting married, and the biggest time commitment so far. I think we spent less time in premarital counseling than we did on these things.

Luckily, we have the food, bridal party, clothes and location locked down. Now that we have notified everyone we are left with just minor tasks before the big day. Even if those don’t get done we can still show up and get married and feed everyone.

Here is the resulting invitation package, including a rehearsal dinner invitation there are 7 pieces. The colors are off due to my busted camera:

The assembled invitation:

The screen printed front cover, a slightly different version from the assembled one above:

Our (redacted) invitation and map pages, letterpressed and screen printed:

We’ll be having a drawing contest using our RSVP card. We’ll be giving out prizes at the reception. Each is numbered just in case they arrive without a name written on them: