Saturday, February 27, 2010

Favors you can use!

Party favors are a fun way to say thank you to your guests, and they're also one of my favorite things to make.  Anytime I think they're appropriate for a party, I'm all over it!  For my wedding, I wanted something that people would actually be able to use later, so I created a list of songs that were special to my husband and I and burned them to CD's. 
How I did it:
1. Choose the songs.  I chose half and my husband chose half.  I've gotten these favors at weddings before, and sometimes people stick with love songs.  I didn't go that route - we just chose whatever we liked best. 
2. Burn them to the CD's.  I used iTunes to do this.  Just make sure you own the actual CD's - if the songs are purchased on iTunes, you can only burn 5 copies before they'll cut you off. 
3. Check your CD's.  I had trouble with some of them not recording all of the songs, so make sure they actually play.  This is kind of time consuming, but worth it.
4. Labels - I found my labels here at  You actually design them on HP's website, then print them out on your photo printer.  They came out really sharp with clear pictures.  But, you're somewhat limited in your design choices and fonts.  I'm sure there's a way to create a custom design in photoshop or something, I'm just not that computer saavy.  You could create a photo in photoshop with text and graphics or whatever, and then upload that as your picture.  I just used regular pictures of us.
5. Cases.  I chose to put my CD's in thin cases - this means it's just one piece, you can't open up the back of it to put a piece of paper in it.  But, they're cheaper and simpler, since a lot of people nowadays don't keep the case anyway.
6. You'll want to tell people what's on the CD.  I printed out large label stickers (Avery 5160 style) and stuck them on the back side of the cases.

7. Display - I put my CD's into a basket and added a sign explaining that they were for guests to take.

A note about favors: I had several people advise me not to do favors, or not to buy very many, because people don't take them.  But, I thought I would be mortified if everyone wanted one and there weren't enough!  So, I made 180 CD's for my 250 guests.  I figured most people would only take one per family (150 families), but I wanted a few extras just in case.  Well, I still have about 80 (or more) of them leftover.  So, my friends were right!!  Don't go crazy on favors, especially if they're expensive.  Mine cost me about $1 each, not including my time of course, which is pretty inexpensive.  But now I have a box of CD's that I can't quite bring myself to throw away!!!  :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hung out to Dry - Unique Photo Display

At my wedding, I wanted a way to show photos of my husband and I growing up, as well as our first years together.  I've been to many other weddings that had slideshows, which were a lot of fun.  However, I already had a lot of other entertainment going on at my wedding, and around 250 guests, all in an outdoor location, so I thought it would be hard to get everyone to focus on a presentation like that.  I came up with this idea instead:

Photo Clothesline

Here's how I did it:
1. I sorted through a million photos from my childhood, and photos from my Mother-in-law.  This was a really fun part of the process, and my Mom and MIL enjoyed it too.  But, it was so hard to narrow down the choices!  I had the Mom's tell me a little background on the pictures I chose so I could write captions.
2. I ended up with about 150 photos, scanned them to the computer, then uploaded them and had them printed by a regular photo printing service.  I could have just printed them out myself, but since most photo places only charge 9 cents for a print, it's really economical to have them do it.
3. I cut the pictures how I wanted them, making some smaller and some bigger, and then pasted them onto cardstock that I had leftover from making my programs and invitations.
Note: This cutting tool from Fiskars is invaluable to anyone who does any kind of papercrafting.  I use it ALL the time.  It does only cut straight lines, but it's still a huge lifesaver for measuring and trimming.  Expect to replace the blades often though (once they get dull they don't make very clean cuts), and they're kind of spendy.  Use your 40% off coupons! (You can get these weekly from Michael's by signing up for their email newsletter)  :)
4. I left some room on the cardstock to write a caption at the bottom, top or side of the photo with the date, who was in the photo, and some kind of funny line about what was happening.
5. I bought a whole bunch of plain clothespins and tied little ribbon bows around the tops.  I thought about spray painting them, but I was going for kind of natural wood theme, so I kept them plain.
6. I used rustic looking twine to string my photos on, again going with my natural theme.  You could use pretty ribbon (maybe even velvet ribbon or rope spray painted gold) if you wanted a more formal look.
7. I made 3 strings - one for his childhood, one for mine, and one for us together, up until the wedding.
TIP: Try to include a variety of pictures and family members.  Also, I attempted to include about the same number of photos of each of us at comparable ages.

(More pictures by my friend and professional photographer, Josh Benson - click to email)
8. You'll need a good place to hang them.  I used the side of my barn.  Just make sure there's plenty of room for people to walk around and look at them, and have some lighting if it will get dark in that area.  People really seemed to enjoy this at the wedding - someone even took down one photo and chased down my brother in law to ask if the 80's mullet picture was really him!
9. After the wedding, I took down the photos and pasted them in the back of my guestbook.  (Side note: My guestbook was paired with a photobooth where guests could paste in a photo from the booth and write a note.  So, after all the photobooth pictures, then I have pages with the clothesline pictures, the book is great fun to look at!)

I used this for my wedding, but it could be a very useful and entertaining tool at any party, particularly celebrating a milestone of some sort.  1st birthday, 40th birthday, Retirement, 50th Anniversary... Possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Glittering Centerpiece

I know I'm focusing a lot on things from my wedding, but that's where most of my entertaining has been centered (lately anyway)!  I originally wanted to make these for all of my tables, but after starting, realized that making 24 of them would be crazy!  But, it would make a great centerpiece for a buffet table.  I used it on my gift table.

By the way, this and most of my other wedding photos were taken by my friend and professional photographer, Josh Benson at JB Photography (he can be reached by email at

Here's how I did it:
1. I bought a whole bunch of flat, mirror-backed faceted crystals
2. Using a dremel tool with a very small drill bit, I drilled two holes in each crystal, one on each side. (You have to hold the crystal still with a pair of tweezers while drilling - this takes some practice)
 - The drill bit gets hot and starts to melt the plastic of the crystals a little bit, so you periodically have to stop and clean off the bit, and also make sure the holes in the crystals are drilling all the way through.
3. Loop jewelry wire through one of the holes and twist around using jewelry pliers, then loop again through a hole in another crystal and twist back around itself.  (See photo). 

Continue this until you have a long enough string of crystals.  My strings were about 20 crystals long on average, but I made some longer and some shorter.  I made sure I had a few crystals with only one hole in them so that the end of the string wouldn't have an empty hole.  Make however many strings you think looks good.
4. You can hang these strings of crystals from anything.  I used an interesting branch I found.  I thought about spray-painting the branch (You could do silver or any color that matches your theme), but I liked natural better for me.  I hung them by twisting a piece of wire from the hole in the top crystal in the same manner as the connecting wires, but then connected it to the branch.
5. To stand up your masterpiece, you'll need an appropriately sized container.  I found this large vase (about 24" tall) at Michael's. (If you sign up for Michael's weekly email newsletter, you'll get a 40% off coupon every week, comes in very handy!).  I filled my container with sand, but you could also do pebbles or marbles.  You could also do just enough marbles to support the branch, then add water and a fish if you wanted (I've seen that at some weddings).

Now that the wedding is over, I plan to use the strings of crystals to make a lamp, but I haven't gotten that far yet!

A Year-Round Centerpiece

My wedding theme was kind of a woodsy type of feel, so I wanted centerpieces that were both inexpensive and natural.  I came up with the idea of logs that would hold candles, but I had to figure out how to make them stable enough to not fall over if the tables were bumped,  and so that the candles wouldn't be blown out by the wind.  Here are the steps to create these:

1. Find logs (I used fallen branches found on my property.  If you don't have land, make sure you're allowed to take the wood you find).  The logs I used were about 3-4 inches in diameter.
2. Use a chainsaw to cut them to size.  I used 3 sizes for each centerpiece, about 8" high, 6" and 4"
3. Using a drill with a specialty bit (this is where my husband came in handy!) drill 1 3/4" holes in the top of each log to accomodate the candles.  The holes should be deep enough that the wick sits just below the top of the log so the wind can't reach it.
4. Cut a 12"x12" piece of scrap wood or pressboard
5. Using cheap linen cloth, cover the wood, securing on the bottom with a glue gun. (You won't see the bottom, so it doesn't have to be perfect)
6.  Position the logs where you want them on the board.  I had mine just touching, and turned the prettier sides toward the outside.
7. Screw through the base into the logs (this is tricky and is easiest done with two people)
8. Put tealight candles in the holes in the tops of the logs.
9. I surrounded each of mine with 4 small glass votives that I wrapped with wire strung with small green beads.

You don't want to leave these completely unattended as they can catch fire if the wind blows the flame against the wood for too long.  You could spray them with fire retardant spray, or soak the logs in water before attaching them to the boards if you're concerned about this.  I didn't have any problems when I burned them indoors.

After the wedding, I found that I could use these for any season, and decorated them with fall leaves for Thanksgiving and festive ribbon and holly for Christmas.  You could use any color of cloth for the bases, but I found that black is the most versatile.

Fan Programs

When I started planning my wedding, I didn't think I would have programs.  I knew I wanted a short, non-formal ceremony, and I didn't see the point to them.  But then I started thinking about what I could put in them OTHER than ceremony information.  I've seen all sorts of infomation in programs, including:
* Parts of the ceremony
* List of the wedding party (I've also seen random facts about the wedding party, or how they are related to the bride & groom - this is interesting to read while waiting for the ceremony to start)
* List of family members
* List of close people who have passed away that they want to remember/recognize
* Thank you's
* List of vendors
* Trivia Q&A about the Bride & Groom (This was an idea I came up with, I've never seen it done.  I thought it would be cool, but I already had too much going on in mine)

I knew that I wanted to have my program double as a fan, since my wedding was planned for the hottest time of the year, mid-July, outdoors in the full sun.  I also wanted to let people know what the schedule was for the evening, and who was in my wedding party.  We had 250 guests, so not everyone knew who our friends and family were. 

I found instructions for this program on a blog by Aylee.  I decided to do a 5-page program, as outlined:
Page 1: Cover, our names and the date
Page 2 and 3: List of the wedding party and how they're related to us
Page 4: Schedule of events for the ceremony and reception
Page 5: Thank you's to our parents and friends
Note: I think the most you can do is 6 pages and still use a normal size eyelet.  You could tie them together instead, but I think the eyelet makes them look more polished.

I designed it myself and found clipart and fonts on the web that I liked to make it look really custom.  I then printed out the pages on my computer on regular paper, and (since the cardstock wouldn't go through the printer without jamming it) I took them down to the local copy store and had them photocopy them onto the cardstock (Keep in mind that a photocopy isn't QUITE as clean as an original printed copy, but I could barely notice the difference).  I got 4 leaves on each sheet of paper.  I never found an economical way to have them pre-cut (to have a die-cut made was around $200 and then more $ to actually have them cut), so I cut out all 1,250 leaves by hand with scissors with help from my amazing MIL and MOH!  Then I punched an eyelet in the bottom with an eyelet punch, and tied ribbon through. I used small 3/8" eyelets, which come in various colors and shapes - I just used plain round bronze colored ones since they were the least expensive.  But, if I'd had fewer guests I may have gone with fancier flower or heart-shaped eyelets or something. These worked pretty well for creating breeze and guests seemed to like them!  (Note: I also made my centerpieces and menu's, more on those later.)

New Blog

I've always loved throwing parties - when I was a kid I even started a little business planning kids' birthday parties. I'd make pinatas and cakes and favors, plan games, help with invitations, whatever the parents wanted. And of course, I'd be at the party as a day-of helper and coordinator. Little did I know at the time that you can do this as a full-time job and make big bucks for it! I also greatly enjoy crafts - most things I see in the store I know I could make myself for less money. Lastly, my husband and I own a residential remodeling company, so I've effectively tripled the number of projects I can do on my own, since he knows how to build more complicated things that I see!

I have always loved hosting and planning so much that it never seemed stressful to me. Recently, I planned my own wedding and helped with a few friends' weddings, which kicked my creativity into higher gear. So, I've decided to share what information I can on the things I've made and other planning tricks as they come into my head. Hopefully it will be of use to someone out there!