Wedding backdrops: when it comes to DIY wedding projects, this is the one project that I always recommend as worth it.
Because when it comes to big, impactful, multi-use decor items, it’s hard to beat a wedding backdrop. They’ll make a huge splash in your pictures, and you can get double use from many of them by using them for both your ceremony and a photo booth (or a display behind your head table). While we have a bunch of awesome wedding backdrop tutorials that you can find right here, we also wanted to round up some of the best tutorials from around the web.
But before we get to that, here are our best tips on constructing wedding backdrops and sourcing materials, without reinventing the wheel.
Wedding Backdrop Frame Options
Seamless Background Frame ($49) If you don’t feel like building a frame, and you don’t need something that will hold a heavy load, a seamless backdrop frame is a simple solution. It’s light, super portable, and easy to set up. These are used for backdrops in photography, and APW owns one (that we use all the time). They’re great functional frames, and you can sell it on Craigslist when you’re through.
Pipe and Drape Backdrop ($139) If you don’t feel like building a frame but want something heavy duty that you can hang anything off of, this is the way to go. Pipe and drape is often available to rent, but if you want to buy one, you can sell it on Craigslist after your event or hang onto it for future parties. The plus, no hammer or nails required for assembly!
Make a (beautiful) Wooden Frame (Use our wedding arch tutorial.) This won’t be considerably less than buying a seamless frame (and it will be way more expensive if you buy expensive birch poles), so only build it if you’re dead set on making something super pretty for the frame itself. Also, make sure you stability test before the day of.
Make a PVC Frame (Around $25) You’ll want to make a taller frame than this tutorial, and keep in mind this kind of frame will only hold something as lightweight as fabric. But if you want to save money and are up for a little extra legwork, this is a cheap way to go!
Wedding Backdrop Supplies
Pretty paper can be expensive, and the price can add up quickly. If you want to make a backdrop that requires a lot of paper (and some serious effort—see the paper crane backdrop below), check out your local Daiso, where you can purchase a box of origami paper: 480 sheets of gold highlighter paper for $22.56. If you don’t have a Daiso near you, Amazon also has a huge selection of paper on their site.
And let’s be real. Flowers are not cheap. But there are ways to get around paying an arm and a leg so that you can create some flower magic. Support your local farmer or go to the nearest farmer’s market. You can guarantee that the flowers will be super fresh, local (meaning less stress on the flowers), and cost efficient, since they won’t be getting shipped from half way across the world.
If you are looking for unique or traditional fabrics for that PVC pipe and drape system you just built, Etsy has a ton of options (like this pink sequin backdrop for under $35). And don’t forget about my personal fave, eBay for used or new craft supplies, among them I found these sheer backdrop panels that come in a variety of colors, starting at $29.
Party supplies, like balloons, streamers, washi tape, or paper lanterns, can be found at many places, including your local dollar store. If you’re looking for more options color and material wise, Oriental Trading and Party City should be able to suit your needs.
Wedding Backdrop Tips To Keep In Mind
It is easy to get wrapped up in the world of DIY projects and Pinterest, so our best practical advice is to know your limitations. If there is a huge floral installation that requires days of set up with expensive product, or if there is a hot air balloon involved (see below), it might be best to leave it to the professionals. The last thing you need is lost time and money, not to mention loads of unnecessary stress (unless you like that type of thing), added to the other moving parts of planning a wedding.
Do you want to know the dirty secret behind all those gorgeous styled wedding decorations you see on Pinterest and Instagram? It is really, really hard to replicate them in the real world. While it is surprisingly easy to decorate a stunning table that seats eight people on a $1,000 budget, it is nearly impossible to duplicate your efforts for twenty tables of eight people on the same budget. Shocker, I know. And sadly most of us are not planning weddings inside one of those money wind machines.
When I was planning my own wedding, I felt like my budget really limited how cool I could make my venue look. Which is why at APW, one of our core goals is figuring out how take all the inspiration you see floating around the Internet, and then reimagining things for a whole lot less money (see: our paper flower wall tutorial). Because we want you to be able to take our ideas and apply them to your fifty-person wedding or your five hundred–person wedding. And part of that process is having a treasure trove of destinations where we source creative and affordable materials.
It occurred to me recently, as I was helping a friend find wholesale crystals for her wedding, that it might be helpful if we shared that information. (I mean, it’s no good to you just sitting inside my head.) So today I’ve pulled together a handful of our favorite destinations for finding affordable, creative, unexpected wedding decorations and DIY materials that you can use in your wedding.
Teacher supply stores: One of the challenges of making your own escort cards or place settings is having to make so damn many of them when most stores aren’t set up for wholesale. But at teacher supply stores, just about everything comes in a set, and is affordably priced. Our favorite items from Learning Resources include geometric shapes (how cool are these wooden ones?) and animal counter sets (tiny animals perfect for spray painting!).
Hardware Stores: One of the single best DIY materials we’ve seen around is flagging tape. It comes in an assortment of bright colors and looks like ribbon, but costs, well, way less than ribbon. You can find it at hardware stores, along with our other favorite DIY material: spray paint.
Amazon: I know, I know. Everything comes from Amazon. But that’s the point. When in doubt, check Amazon first (especially if you spring for Prime. Two day shipping, hello my old friend), because you never know what they’re going to have stocked wholesale. Need a bunch of crystals for your tablescape? (Or for your crystal crown? Please say it’s for your crystal crown!) Got it. Or how about marble tiles for your place settings (like the ones above from Marketing Manager Kate’s wedding!)? Done.
Minted and Paper source: Paper goods are an easy way to add personality to your decor, and it’s a bonus if they don’t require a ton of work. And for all the little wedding day ephemera, we usually look to APW’s favorite stationers, Minted and Paper Source. Their table numbers, menus, cocktail napkins, coasters, you name it, are all impeccably designed by artists from all over the world.
Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Home Goods: If you’re looking for super on-trend but affordable decor, head to your local TJ Maxx, Home Goods, or Marshalls. Because here’s the best thing about these stores: when they find a theme they, like, they stick to it. Last time I was in TJ Maxx, it was like pineapples exploded all over the shelves. If my wedding had even a hint of tropical to it, I would have been set (I also stumbled on the exact terrariums my friend was trying to find for her wedding for next to nothing.)
Wayfair, HAYNEEDLE, and Lulu & Georgia: As you’re well aware, Wayfair, Hayneedle, and Lulu & Georgia legit have everything you could ever need for your house. But when it comes to affordable accents that you can use at your wedding, and heck, even at home afterward, they’re your best bet. If you’re looking for a quick and easy ceremony or photo booth backdrop check out Wayfair’s selection of wall tapestries. Personally, I’m loving this abstract print. Super cute votives sold in big sets? They have ’em. Need an easel for your escort signage? Check out this gold one. And someone please get these champagne flutes for toasting in style.
I dished, now tell me, Where are your favorite places to snag affordable wedding decorations? Show us your pics of your most creative FINDS!
So you want to make your own wedding invitations. Fantastic! This makes perfect sense. Because back when I got married, we wanted the feel of custom invites without the budget for custom invites. So we improvised. It involved a bit of a struggle with our home printer (there was no solid information online on best practices those days). But after some trial and error, we got good results. So to save you from jammed printer trays and bleeding ink, the folks at LD Products rounded up all the information you need on how to make-your-own-wedding-invitations-without-tearing-your-hair-out-or-even-crying-once.
Want To Make Your Own Wedding Invitations? Start Here.
Pro-tip: If you’re just getting started on this whole making-invitations thing, we’ve got everything you need to know to get started in our comprehensive guide onDIY Wedding Invitations. And for those of you who want to print your own wedding invitations (without, you know, designing them), businesses like Printable Press (pictured above) and E.M. Papers offer affordable—and gorgeous—printable designs, customized to your specs.
But first, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what you should know (and what I wish I had known) before you print your own wedding invitations:
The Failsafe Guide To Printing Your Own Wedding Invitations
Picking Your Printer and Ink
The very first question you need to ask yourself is what kind of printer do you have, and what type of ink does it use? Most inkjet printers use dye-based ink made up of small, colorant particles dissolved in liquid, (usually water or glycol), which is absorbed into the paper. Dye-based ink is well known for its wide color gamut, deep blacks, and brilliant saturation. These inks will produce vivid images when printed on semi-gloss or gloss-coated paper. The only downside? Dye-based ink doesn’t have the longevity of other options, such as pigment-based ink.
Pigment-based ink contains very fine colorant powder suspended in a solution rather than dissolved, so the color is left on the paper’s surface instead of being absorbed. The visual difference can be subtle, but the results are great: prints that last much longer (especially when paired with archival papers). A downside to using pigment-based ink is that it’s more expensive, as there are printers that typically come with several color pots to accurately re-create a range of colors.
If you’re printing an elaborate background that’s heavy on color as part of your invite, keep in mind that this will not only affect your paper choice but drain your ink reserves quickly. You’ll likely need to buy replacement cartridges to keep getting the colors you want. A smart alternative to name-brand ink replacements is to look into reputable distributors of compatible cartridges and double check with your printer manufacturer to find out how many pages on average you can expect from each. Then you’ll have a better idea of how much ink you’ll need for the job.
Everything You Need to Know About Paper
Picking your paper is one of the more important decisions you’ll make when printing your own wedding invitations. Much like fabrics for dresses, there are dozens of different kinds of paper, each with different features and looks that can radically augment the whole look and feel of your design as well as determine its print life.
When it comes to wedding invites, make sure you choose a durable material whose paper weight is no less than 80 pounds or 12 point stock for the heft and feel that invitations usually possess. You’ll also want to consider how much color your design will use—some types of paper don’t take large ink coverage very well.
If your design involves mostly photos, pair dye-based ink and any type of photo paper to bring out the sharpness and color of your shot. Generally, choose paper with coating, such as semi-gloss, gloss, matte, resin, or polymer, when printing with dye-based ink. The coating helps soak up the ink, greatly reducing bleeding or runoffs. You can use swell-able papers with dye ink, too—the coated surface “swells” as it absorbs the ink.
Of course, printing your invites with pigment ink opens up your doors to a whole selection of textured paper. Linen, feltweave card stocks, and cotton rag are popular choices for wedding invites. You can find different varieties at any office supply store, and your local stationery store will have an even wider range of paper finishes and weights available too.
Some paper types might be too heavy for your printer; printing with paper that is heavier than around 85 pound stock may not work with your standard front-loading printer (it’s too thick to bend around the print head without damaging the page). A quick way to avoid this drama is to check online and make sure your printer can handle the paper stock you’ve chosen before you start.
Cost and Quality
An easy way to save on your printing is to set your printer to produce several invites, R.S.V.P. cards, or place cards on each sheet. Size your invites right to help make printing two or three on each page not just easier, but also more cost-efficient. That way you end up with less paper waste and more money to get heavier paper stock. Plus, smaller invites will hold up better in the mail, as they are less likely to get folded or bent during processing.
Also, if you want to keep your invitation framed for posterity, consider getting paper designed to preserve your print for decades on end. Look for paper described as acid-free, archival quality, or gallery quality when you are shopping. These papers are designed to interact with the ink on the page and keep it looking fresh as the day you printed it for forty, fifty, a hundred years. Keep in mind that many of these specialty papers will cost more than your average paper, and many more are designed to interact with just one brand of ink.
Design Considerations to Remember
Design anything you will be printing with bleeds. “Bleeds” is a printing term for when images or other design elements deliberately extend or “bleed” beyond the trim edge to avoid the appearance of unwanted white spaces on the finished product. This is particularly applicable for invites with photos. It will make cutting your invites a lot easier as well.
Calibrate screen for color balance. Modern high-definition screens do a good job of replicating colors, but in spite of modern print technology, advancements in getting true-to-life image quality, especially for fields such as photography where many had been lagging, there is still often a disconnect between the two. Be on the safe side. Make sure your screen is color-balanced and calibrated before you print. Otherwise, you may find yourself wondering why the printed blue is different from the blue you’re seeing on screen, despite all the legwork you put into making sure everything was proper.
Foil lettering and accents shimmer. Applying them at home is a lot easier than you’d expect. While you can’t print foil accents direct from your printer, with a little extra elbow grease and some creativity you can really make your invites stand out.
You can DIY and make it fancy. Want to include letterpress, embossing, or die-cutting to your invite for an extra special professional look? There’s an affordable DIY solution called the Cricut Cuttlebug machine available on Amazon. If you’re looking to do some foil printing on your invites, consider this $20 laminator as shown on this DIY video. And yes, you can even print letterpress invitations yourself! Check out this video.
Stay away from scissors. When it comes time to trim your invites or table placeholder cards down to size, do not use scissors! That’s one way to guarantee uneven cuts. If you have a lot of invites, invest in a paper cutter to start trimming, or use an X-Acto knife to make sure you get clean even cuts. Cut each invite individually to make sure you get the results you want for each and every guest.
Be ready to make adjustments. One great benefit to printing your own wedding stationery and invitations is you have the utmost control over the process. Rather than waiting for the print shop to deliver before you see your results, you have instant access to proofing your design, correcting colors, and making sure everything is perfect. That, of course, means test prints galore so make sure you take this into account when shopping for the right amount of paper. It’s more work and takes a level of creativity and you probably won’t succeed at first, but if you’re prepared to try out some things you will have a lot of fun AND love the results.
Did any of you make your own wedding invitations, Or print them at home? What did you learn in the process?
Here’s the first thing I will say: do not feel pressured by anyone, especially the Internet, to fancy up your invitations to impress your loved ones. When an invitee opens an envelope and pulls out a grandly embellished wedding invitation, sure, they may say, “How beautiful! I can tell they put a lot of time into this. I’m so impressed!” When an invitee opens an envelope and slips out just a simple card inviting them to your upcoming nuptials, they will still clutch their hand to their heart and say, “Oh my God, they’re getting married! I’m already getting teary… Sniffle.” All that matters is that you want to include them.
That being said, embellishing your stationery can be surprisingly easy and affordable. So if you’re the type of person who drools over paper goods, who scrolls endlessly through Pinterest, or just plain loves crafting, then this post is for you. Because there are tons of ways to do so that won’t make your fingers bleed or break the bank. And to make it even easier I’ve created two types of printable belly bands and two types of printable tags.
If you’re the crafty type, you might be familiar with a lot of these supplies already, or even own them. If not, go to a craft store and get inspired by the paper and hand punches you see. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Variety of ribbons and twine
Metallic spray paint
Belly bands are a traditional way to dress up your stationery a little and hold various cards together. They are incredibly easy to make, and the variations are endless. They are like the perfect little black dress for an evening party, or perhaps the perfect simple clutch that magically fits everything you need.
How to make a paper belly band
1. Choose your paper. It should be regular weight paper rather than card stock, to make it easy to fold around your cards. Try out decorative paper, even good quality wrapping paper!
2. Cut strips that are 11” long and anywhere from 2” to 4” tall. You can use a paper cutter, rotary cutter, or just an X-acto knife and a ruler. Tip: If using an X-acto knife, always start with a fresh blade, and use a cutting mat if possible. Cutting mats keep your blade sharper than cutting on cardboard (or your table top!).
3. Center on your cards and wrap around to the back. Tip: Use a bone folder to make sharp creases on the sides. I’ve had my bone folder for literally twenty-five years. Trust me, this is not the only project you will use it for.
4. Adhere with glue dots, double-sided tape, circle stickers, or a glue stick. Tip: Glue dots make it very easy for your guests to remove the belly band.
How to make a ribbon belly band
1. Decide on your type of ribbon. A wide satin ribbon gives a luxurious feel, grosgrain a high-end feel (since it’s the thickest and most expensive type of ribbon), thinner satin ribbon a more delicate and fun feel, and twine and baker’s string give a rustic hint. I avoid places like Paper Source and Kate’s Paperie for ribbon, and instead go to Michael’s or A.C. Moore.
2. Decide on how you want to wrap it around your stationery. Thinner ribbon and string can be tied in a bow, or wrapped several times around. Wide ribbon should be cut rather than tied in a bow, treated more like a paper belly band.
3. Always cut ribbon ends on an angle, to avoid fraying. Use the sharpest scissors you can. You might even consider investing in a pair of high-end Allex scissors—I’ve had mine for over twenty years!
2. Type in your initials and wedding date into the text fields.
3. Print out on 8-1/2” x 11” paper. In the photos I actually use construction paper, which has a lovely weight and softness.
4. Cut out, wrap, seal with glue dots or tape, and send!
Little tags give an extra dimension to stationery; they’re perfect for both formal invitations and whimsical ones. And if you get yourself a circle punch, they are easy as pie to make. You can rubber stamp them with your names or initials, cut out photos of yourselves, attach photos of your location, or put a quote on it (“We hope to see you there!” “We love you and hope you can be part of our celebration.” “Join us as we eat crow and actually get hitched.”)
2. Type in your initials and date into the text fields.
3. Print and cut. The hexagonal one can be cut out with scissors or an X-acto knife, and the circle one can be used with a circle punch. Tip: I recommend a heavier paper for tags to stand up to the postal system.
4. Use either a standard size hole punch or smaller hole punch to thread your ribbon or twine through. I used a standard one for the circular tags, and a small one for either side of the hexagonal tag.
Adding embellishments to your stationery is like adorning it with little bits of jewelry. Bedazzle your invitations with possibilities!
Clockwise from top left:
1. Spray your invitation with a sheer coat of glitter. I found the best way to do it was to spray from about twelve inches away, in just two very light passes. You can decide afterward if you need a thicker coat.
2. Crop your corners for an unusual look with a corner punch—this one is a simple quarter round punch but there are many other kinds of shapes you can use.
3. Tie on little objects (as long as they’re flat enough to go through the mail). Bits of lace, paper cut outs, leaves, twigs, sprigs of pine needles, the possibilities are endless. Shown here is a leaf spray painted gold (DIY instructions below).
4. Spray paint the back of your invitation in gold or silver for a truly glam look. Just make sure to air our your invitations for at least a week before mailing, as metallic spray is stank-tastic.
You can make your invitation subtly sparkly or super-sparkly, depending on how many coats you choose to give it. Just remember that Grandma might have a little trouble reading through too much glitter.
Making gold leaves is incredibly easy.
1. Go into your backyard or nearest woodsy patch and find a bush that has nice firm leaves.
2. Line up the leaves and spray one side heavily to coat. When dry, flip over and spray the other side to coat. I’ve found that you don’t need more than one coat.
3. Once the leaves are thoroughly dry, you can choose to press them flat between heavy books, since curly leaves might crack in the mail.
Now, these embellishments are for those who want to take it a step further, who want to add a dimensional detail. They go beyond the little black dress, they are the strappy sequined New Year’s Eve dress. Clockwise from top left:
1. Try out some experiments with objects and different ways to tie up your invitation. This little arrow was made from a toothpick and gold washi tape (DIY instructions below).
2. Use a plain belly band as a backdrop to garland. There’s tons of pre-made garland on Etsy, but you can also make your own with washi tape flags or circle stickers.
3. This invitation not only has a gold back, it has a ¼” rhinestone indicating the location for this destination wedding. Rhinestones don’t have to be tacky!
4. Wax seals give things a royal flair. You can purchase initial wax seal kits or an image (like the tree in the stamp shown above). There are also lots of posts online on how to make your own.
This little gold arrow is an adorable AND affordable decoration, but it’s only for the truly crafty and determined. Supplies are just your favorite washi tape and toothpicks.
1. Cut two strips of washi tape, each 1″ long.
2. Fold the strips over the ends of the toothpick lengthwise, pressing the tape closed firmly, especially close to the toothpick.
There is a misconception that learning how to make a DIY wedding bouquet is an arduous feat, which it’s absolutely not. But, hey, a foolproof step-by-step How-to never hurt anyone, right?
how to make a diy wedding bouquet
DIY doesn’t save the world, and it isn’t always cheaper. But when it comes to wedding flowers I personally feel that the latter of the two should be true. When you hire a florist you are not only price quoted for the flowers, but also the labor put into making your floral arrangements. So, if you can take the labor out of the cost by making your own bouquet, you’ll be spending a lot less money.
tip 1: DON’T BE AFRAID TO MIX AND MATCH SUPPLIERS AND/OR VENDORS
We live in a world of many, many options; and no one said that you had to go one place and one place only to get your flowers. With other aspects of your wedding, yes, you may have to be loyal to one particular supplier or vendor. But with your flowers, do what works for you and your budget. If you want to get your roses from Costco, but your greenery from the flower market, then go for it! There is no flower-buying etiquette to be followed here. Trust me: the flowers will understand.
tip 2: KEEP SEASONALITY IN MIND
I’m sure lots of you didn’t know that “seasonality” is a proper word, but it’s a common phrase in the flower industry. We use it to describe flower varieties that have very seasonal growing patterns, which you definitely need to think about when choosing certain flowers. For instance, peonies have a very sporadic growing season, which is why they are insanely expensive at certain times of the year and not available in hot summer months. On the other hand, hydrangea are grown in green houses all year-round which makes them less costly because they are more readily available. Basically, when seasonal flowers are in season they are the best quality and most affordable!
making your diy wedding bouquet:
what you need:
Bouquet wrapping (We used white ribbon)
Flowers of your choice (We used pink lisianthus, white spray roses, green pompon button mums, painted lady wax flower, purple statice, and green hypericum)
Step 1: find the flowers
You can buy your flowers from:
A flower market
An online wholesaler (Like Blooms By The Box)
A grocery store,Trader Joe’s, ,Costco, Sam’s Club, wherever you can find the best quality flowers on the cheap
Figure out what your budget is, what kind of flowers you want, and how many flowers you’ll need; then do some research. If your local grocery store is stocked with awesome quality blooms for a great price, then go that route. And if an online wholesaler is your best bet, click away! Just figure out what’s best for you and what you feel most comfortable with.
step 2: set up your workspace
Kitchens are ideal for making a flower prep because clean up is easy, and if you have a lot of counter space, even better! An outdoor space would also work. Keep all flowers in big buckets too!
step 3: prep your flowers
Use your hands or a stem stripper to make sure all foliage has been removed from the stems
De-thorn your roses
Make sure all stem lengths are approximately the same (you can also trim as you go)
step 4: start putting together your flowers
Choose 2-4 flowers to be the “base” of your bouquet
Bunch the stems together and wrap with floral tape
Make sure there is 1 to 1 1/2 inches of exposed stem visible where you wrap the stems
Leave 4-5 inches of exposed stem at the bottom
step 5: build up your diy wedding bouquet
Add flowers around your anchored flowers to create a bunch
Envision your bouquet and its focal point (hint: don’t go too big!)
Mix textures and colors to create an interesting composition
Continuously wrap your bouquet with floral tape as you add flowers (TIP: This adds support and creates consistent, yet attractive, composition to your design)
step 6: wrap your bouquet with floral tape
Begin wrapping the stems 1 to 1 1/2 inches from the flower head
Leave between 0-4 inches of stem exposed (TIP: use your personal preference!)
Use floral tape as your guide and pin the ribbon horizontally (TIP: you want the ribbon to be parallel with the floral tape)
Wrap until the floral tape is covered and pin to secure the ribbon
Ta-da! You’re finished!
Lastly, if you decide to go the DIY your wedding bouquet, we offer a fabulous resource (written by yours truly) available for free on our website called The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Wedding Flowers. In it you’ll learn everything from flower prep basics to how to coordinate flower colors.
Did any of you have a DIY wedding bouquet? What did you learn? What would you have done differently?
This year, man. It was such a mixed bag, right? For me, at least, it was simultaneously one of the most joyful years of my life (hello, new baby!) and one of the most challenging from a political and professional standpoint. But because of all the hard reasons, it felt really important to lean into happiness wherever I could. The more frivolous the better. (There’s a reason I went bonkers for my friends’ weddings this year. Other than, you know, loving them.) And one of the most frivolous things I do each year is put together a very over-the-top holiday card. So when it came time to coordinate this year’s, I figured why not go all the way in and coordinate bonkers holiday cards for the whole staff. I mean, what’s the point of having a studio and a professional photographer on staff if you aren’t going to use them?
So we all rented ridiculously formal evening gowns from Rent the Runway (again, if the account is just sitting there). And then I found this amazing tuxedo at The Black Tux. I’ve been itching for an excuse to try out their tuxes ever since my friend rented this beauty for a mutual friend’s wedding, and they generously loaned us all the suits for this shoot. And the absurdity sort of unfolded from there. But if you don’t have a professional photo studio in your house, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have just as much fun as we did and get kick-ass holiday cards at the same time. Here are few of my best pro photographer holiday card photo ideas making the most of yours.
1. Wear something crazy or fun or that you just plain love.
I used to think that if we were going to get our holiday card picture taken, it should reflect who we are in everyday life. (Which is a totally valid option.) But then last year I said eff it and decided to use our holiday card as an excuse to wear a formal gown I’d bought on a whim with an expiring gift card. And surprise, it was way more fun to get our picture taken when we weren’t taking things so seriously. So wear a silly sweater, or that sequin dress you found at the thrift store, pretend to be a model, and have fun. (Hat-tip here to Michael, who is such a good sport. The man has been putting up with my themed nonsense since I made us go to homecoming ’02 in matching cowboy hats and bolo ties.)
2. Find a good wall.
Most holiday card designs look best with a minimal background. But you don’t need a professional photographer’s backdrop to make that happen. A simple white wall is often the best backdrop you’ll find. Just make sure to put a little space between you and the wall (to avoid lots of shadows) and leave lots of space at the top or bottom of your photo for holiday card overlay text.
3. Download a photo editor.
If you’ve got a newer smartphone, you probably have a better camera than I had on my first DSLR. But you can improve the quality of your photos even more with some basic editing software. My favorite is VSCO, and I use the A6 minimal preset on pretty much everything. (It looks pretty similar to the photos you see here.)
4. Put some confetti on it.
Props are the easiest way to take a simple photo and make it . Two years ago Michael and I used smoke bombs for our holiday card (that I got for, like, $15 at a paintball supply store). But for something slightly less fire hazard-y, you can’t go wrong with confetti. Flutter confetti is especially great for photos because it falls to the floor more slowly (that’s what we used in our photos here).
5. Don’t bring your giant dog.
They are the worst models. And they will try to eat your plastic snow.
So if you need an excuse for some frivolous fun or a last-minute holiday card solution (heck, even if you aren’t going to turn them into holiday cards—wedding website, anyone?), then throw on something you love, stand against a wall in your house (perchance with a glass bottle of champagne), and set your self-timer for confetti. That trifecta has never steered me wrong.
P.S. I want to see your holiday cards! Leave them in the comments for me?
Big thanks to The Black Tux, who supplied all the suits and tuxedos for our holiday cards this year. If you’re looking to rent formalwear for your wedding, they have amazing styles (including some, ahem, more normal looks than Michael’s), and their rentals start at just $95. Thank you The Black Tux for helping us make our holiday cards .
If I’ve learned anything from years of compiling real weddings for APW, it’s that you can totally change the look of a wedding outfit with accessories. Want something more traditional-feeling? Fix yourself up with an updo and minimal jewelry (maybe with a little sparkle). Want an edgier look? A hip hairstyle, crazy veil, or all the things at once can make even the most traditional ball gown more modern. And lately I’ve been really into the idea of 3D printed accessories.
If you’re not familiar with 3D printing, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You create a design, and then these crazy machines that I can only begin to comprehend spit out your design in three dimensions using either plastic or resin (or sometimes even metals like silver or brass, which feels like magic to me).
While it used to be prohibitively expensive for common folk like you and me to use 3D printing technology, now even UPS offers it. So when we had the opportunity to work with HP again using their Sprout by HP (which features an overhead camera that scan 3D objects), I wanted to dig in and mess around and see what we could make.
If you weren’t here the first time we got to play with this magical machine, the Sprout is an all-in-one desktop that features a combination touchscreen/touchmat interface, plus an overhead camera, so you can scan objects, manipulate them digitally, and then spit them back out as something new. Which is exactly what we did last time with this paper flower backdrop tutorial and this DIY faux agate decor tutorial. Recently, HP added a brand new 3D scanning turntable to Sprout’s functionality, which means that not only can we scan 3D objects, but now we can create them too.
Truth is, I’ll take any opportunity at work to pretend like I’m on Project Runway and doing an unconventional materials challenge or a design-your-own print. So, we asked Tabitha of Winston and Main if she’d be up for trying her hand at making a modern interpretation of a flower crown using the Sprout’s 3D scanning technology alongside a local 3D printer, and provide the files for you to print your own anywhere there is a 3D printer (UPS included).
The Sprout scanning bed works best with organic materials, so Tabitha grabbed one of the succulents she had in her office, and after some tweaking and messing around, the result is this super cool modern succulent headpiece:
Unlike our usual tutorials, this one actually only requires two steps:
1. Download this file and then send it to your local 3D printer (more on that in a minute). They’ll ask you how big you want the piece, and what density you want. Our is 6.5″ and we chose the lightest material they offer.
2. Affix your headpiece however you’d like. We designed this headpiece to print without an attachment, so you can affix it to either a headband, or some ribbon, or—as we did here—a piece of chain (which Tabitha actually stole off of a necklace that broke and then attached with jump rings to the holes in the back of the design.) To keep it secure, Tabitha looped the chain around our model Ravayna’s bun, and then used a bobby pin on either side to help keep things in place.
Bonus: if you go the chain route, your headpiece can double as a necklace:
And if you’re not into the whole headpiece, but still kind of like the look of our 3D printed flowers, Tabitha even included a single succulent design in our downloadable file, which you can print at whatever size. Below is an example of the single succulent printed at 3.5″ and 1.5″ (plus a few we had printed in different colors like purple, pink and teal). Tabitha is gunning for someone to use the big one as a modern boutonniere or corsage. You won’t have to worry about it wilting!
If you’re new to 3D printing, here are some helpful tips for printing your first piece:
1. You can 3D print at way more places than you probably ever imagined. Did you know that UPS has 3D printers in select markets? You just send them your designs and depending on their work volume, they can have it turned around for you in a few hours. For this project, we went with Hollywood 3D Printing, since they are super knowledgeable about 3D printing (its their whole business). Another popular 3D printer is Shapeways, who will give you instant price quotes when you upload your design and ships anywhere in the United States for $5.
2. You need to tell them how big you want it to be. Don’t like our big ass headpiece? Want something a little daintier? No biggie. When sending your files to the 3D printer, you’ll need to indicate how big the final piece should be, so you have the freedom to make it your own. If you do want to make our designs, exactly as we made them, the headpiece is 6.5″ and the single succulents were printed at 3.5″ and 1.5″ each.
3. Pricing will vary (like, a lot): 3D printing is not for the “I want to save money” projects on your list. It’s for the “I really want this specific thing to look like this” projects. Our headpiece cost about $85 to print, but every 3D printer prices their projects out differently, and the final cost will largely depend on where you print and how dense you want your piece to be.
Brownie points will obviously be given out to anyone who wears this to their wedding and sends photos. Now the question is just: what should we ask Tabitha to make next?
Click HERE to download our 3D printable headpiece files. Bonus download: Remember our PAPER FLOWER BACKDROP? Tabitha scanned a bunch more flowers for us when she was working on this tutorial, which you can download right here.
This post was sponsored by the Sprout by HP. The Sprout is the world’s first immersive computer with a fully integrated 3D scanner. The Sprout by HP lets you take objects from the real world and turn them into digital (or physical) works of art. To learn more about the Sprout and how it works, click here.
When you start planning decor for your wedding, it can become obvious that what seems affordable at first glance can get real expensive real quick when you start doing the math for a hundred-person guest list. Which is why it should be no surprise that wedding designers are pros at turning nothing much into something awesome. Because when faced with a big space and a small budget, that’s the time to get creative.
So back when she was putting together the #APWPlanner, Meg polled some of her favorite design pros to get their best suggestions for affordable materials that you can make look awesome with a little bit of elbow grease and creativity. Last year, we teamed up with Oh Happy Day (makers of some of the best affordable paper goods and party decor out there) to share those findings with their readers, and we figured it was high time we shared them with you. Some of these items will surprise you (and make you run and look them up); some of them will simply remind you not to forget old standbys. But, before we begin, here are some tips straight from the #APWPlanner to help you out (and save some hair-pulling) along the way:
Don’t forget that decorations live in the world of reality. You have to buy them or make them. You have to store them somewhere before the wedding. You have to have time and help to put them up. So come up with a plan for all these pretty things before you ever touch a glue gun.
You don’t plan a wedding based on style choices. You plan it based on reality (namely: who, what, where, when). Once you’ve got all that on lock, then come back to decorations as some really pretty frosting on top of that cake.
You’re going to remember how the day felt, not how it looked. So go easy on yourself when you’re trying to figure out how to decorate this thing.
Anything paper: People usually ignore party shops for wedding decor, but paper pom-poms, crepe paper, paper wedding bells, and paper lanterns can look modern and classy when done up right. Raid your local party supply store for ideas or head to this post for some of our handpicked favorites.
Lots of candles: If you’re not into lots of crafting, you can make a huge impact in your space by just piling on the candles. The soft glow makes for beautiful photos, and you don’t need any special skills to make them look good—cluster a few different sizes together and go. Pillars can get expensive, so if you want to make a big impact while using smaller candles, try our hack and cover simple cylinder vases with vellum paper. Pop in some small votives for a beautiful soft glow at your tables.
Paper and glue: Paper is one of the most versatile decorating tools when you want quantity, because it’s cheap and can be made into a million different things. Think glitter paper, butcher paper, tissue paper, wrapping paper, and just add creativity. For our most affordable and impactful paper project, check out this paper flower backdrop, which you can download for free right here.
String or Rubber Bands: When combined with wood and nails, you can make incredible geometric designs out of colorful string or rubber bands. Check out our easy seating chart tutorial that uses little more than a plank of wood and some colorful rubber bands.
Balloons: Balloons are another one of those oft-ignored party store items that can make a huge impact when you buy lots of them and fill up a room (or pool). Get ideas right here.
Flagging Tape: Ribbon is super expensive when you try to do anything large scale with it. But there’s this magical stuff called flagging tape (which is basically plastic caution tape, but in a variety of colors and patterns) that costs literal pennies on the dollar and has essentially the same impact. See examples and get tips here.
Colored napkins: If you’re looking for a way to brighten up your tables, swap out white napkins for bright, colorful napkins. They make a huge difference without making a huge dent in your budget. If you want to make your own, check out our DIY neon-edged napkin tutorial here.
Fabric, Muslin, and Drop cloths: Some of the cheapest fabric you can get is the standard painter’s drop cloth. Add paint for an easy, affordable, showstopping backdrop (get the tutorial here).
Metallic paint: When all else fails, spray paint (or regular paint for cleaner lines, if you’re so inclined). You can paint anything metallic to make it look appropriately festive. Think plastic animals, figurines, or other small affordable items. Get the tutorial for these painted vases here.
Fruit: Speaking of things you can paint for festiveness, pick up a bag of fruit at your local Costco and make a modern, organic centerpiece. See our tutorial here.
what secretly awesome everyday materials have you used for your wedding?
When it comes to spring flowers, I’m about as knowledgeable as the girl whose Ranunculus all died the morning of her wedding. I know what kinds of flowers I like, I’m familiar with the names of the ones I’m really into, but I otherwise have no idea where they grow, when they are in season, or how you put them together. And it’s really hard to get exactly the kind of floral arrangement you want at a reasonable price if you’re not at least a little familiar with what you’re asking for. Plus, if you’re going to DIY your wedding flowers (we have a full run-down on that right here), it’s vital that you know what flowers you can get when.
So with that in mind, we decided to pull some of our research from the #APWPlanner to bring you the ultimate guide to spring flowers. We’ve included price estimates from online wholesalers Fifty Flowers and Blooms By The Box, plus research from Meg’s recent book. With this handy guide, if you’re getting married in spring, basically all you have to do is figure out which spring flowers you think are pretty. (And you know, which ones you can afford. Boo.) And here it is…
The ultimate APW guide to spring flowers!
Cost: $11–$19 per bunch | Hardiness: Vase life of 7–12 days | Colors: All except blue
Alstromeria is a variety of Lily that is native to South America. It comes in many color varieties, which makes the flower DIY-friendly and as an excellent filler flower in large bouquets.
We’re going to go out on a limb and say this is one of the best spring flowers. Cost: $22–$25 per bunch | Hardiness: Reasonably hardy, but does not hold up well in temperatures of over 90°F. | Colors: All | Affordable Alternatives: Godetia, Poppy, Ranunculus
Region: The native region varies based on species. The flower is available in many saturated colors, and white with the black center is the most popular.
Name: Calla Lily
Cost: $27–$48 per bunch | Hardiness: Flower has medium hardiness and holds up well in heat. | Colors: White, gold, purple | Affordable Alternatives: Alstromeria, Tulip
Calla Lilies are wildly popular (especially for weddings), and come in a range of varieties. The flower is native to cool, temperate regions in the Northern Hemisphere.
Cost: $9 per bunch, or $.75–$1 per stem | Hardiness: Holds up extremely well. | Colors: Basically whatever you can imagine, including colors that don’t exist in nature
This flower is used widely, and is generally purchasable by the stem. The flower hails from the Mediterranean, but is now cultivated worldwide.
Name: Craspedia (billy ball)
Cost: $50 (25 stems)–$250 (300 stems) | Hardiness: Very hardy. | Colors: Yellow, green, orange, red (also available tinted and airbrushed)
Craspedia are native to Australia and New Zealand, and are often used a filler flowers for wedding bouquets. You can generally get a good deal on stems because several are required to make a big impact.
The bloom that just screams spring flowers. Cost: $89.99 (50 stems)–$249.99 (200 stems) | Hardiness: Very hardy. | Colors: Yellow, white
Daffodils are a classic flower that are native to meadows and woods in southwest Europe and North America. They play well with other soft petaled flowers, such as Ranunculus, Sweet Peas, and Irises.
These flowers are ideal for tall flower arrangements, and come in a wide array of colors (purple is extremely popular). They typically occur in Asia, Mediterranean Europe, South Africa, and tropical Africa.
Cost: $13–$15 per bunch | Hardiness: Moderately hardy | Colors: Purple, blue, white | Affordable Alternatives: Lilac, Snapdragon, Stock
The flower is native to the eastern Mediterranean (from south Turkey to Lebanon, throughout Syria to Northern Israel), Iraq, Northeast Iran, and Turkmenistan. They also hail from Holland.
Cost: $7–$10 per stem | Hardiness: Moderately hardy | Colors: Any and all
Hydrangeas have been popular in gardens for years. They are native to southern and eastern Asia and the Americas, and you can find the greatest species diversity in China, Japan, and Korea.
Cost: $19–$20 per bunch | Hardiness: Moderately hardy | Colors: Blue, purple, yellow, white
The Iris is a super saturated, colorful flower that is found in temperate Northern Hemisphere zones from Europe to Asia, and across North America.
If you’re contemplating DIY wedding flowers, it’s important to think about what, exactly, you’re taking on. If you just want to DIY your bouquets, here is a tutorial, go knock it out of the park. But if you’re thinking you’re going to DIY all of your wedding flowers, now is the moment to take a timeout and contemplate the scope of the entire endeavor.
Because for real, putting together a centerpiece isn’t actually all that hard. But the whole picture is a little more complex.
Here is how to DIY wedding flowers: figure out your design, buy vases and floral supplies, practice, buy your wedding flowers right before the wedding, put centerpieces together, and have enough space in a vehicle to transport them to the venue. All together it’s a project. It’s a totally doable project, but if you take it on, either minimize it (bouquets only), or make it one of your only major projects.
To help make your DIY florals as successfully as possible (fewer dead flowers, fewer tears), Natalie Marvin, owner of Belle Flower, and Jessica Dixon, owner of The Petal Company, shared their best tips and tricks for making your florals awesome and painless.
How To DIY Wedding Flowers
1. come up with designs in advance
Getting in the room with pretty flowers doesn’t mean that inspiration will suddenly strike or that you’ll have any clue how to construct a centerpiece or a bouquet. This is the time to scour the Internet for inspiration pictures of projects you think you could actually create, and ideally you should find tutorials for them (we’ve got a bunch right here). Also, spend some serious time with tutorials on how to put together a bouquet. Then get some flowers from the grocery store and practice.
2. don’t get too technical
You know all those amazing, lush, complex centerpieces you’ve seen on Pinterest? I say this with great love, but you probably can’t have those if you’re DIYing. You want to pick a design with one or two flowers, and make sure you have a good idea of how to construct it. Not just once, but upward of ten times.
3. buy your vases
Buying vases can work one of two ways: you can figure out what your concept is and find vases to match, or you can find vases that seem workable and figure out what flowers to put in them. Regardless, be aware of scale. Something that seems huge to you at home may well be dwarfed by a large round table. Great sources for vases are flower markets, craft stores, thrift stores, big-box stores, and Amazon. You can always do some crafting to make your vases cooler (hello, spray paint), but you really don’t have to.
4. buy floral supplies
You’ll want to pre-buy your supplies, which you can easily do online. You’ll probably want floral scissors, floral tape, pins (for your bouquets as well as any corsages), floral foam (as needed), and floral wire (if you’re doing boutonnières and corsages). Don’t forget ribbon to wrap the bouquets.
5. pick hardy flowers
When doing it yourself, you don’t want to risk your money on flowers that die if not treated exactly right or that only last twenty-four hours. Research which flowers will last longer (here’s a good place to start), and use those blooms. When you get the flowers, put them directly into clean water and remove leaves and foliage below the water line. Store them in a cool, shady place.
6. be aware of how the flowers may arrive
If you’re ordering from a wholesale flower company, make sure you know what state the flowers will arrive in. Often they will be delivered a few days early, still closed, and you need to keep them alive while they bloom. Allow time for that, and make sure someone is going to be in charge of keeping them fresh.
7. arrange for help
Unless you’re only doing simple bouquets, you’re going to need several sets of hands to put the flowers together. Set up a time (probably the day before the wedding) to do the arranging. Remember to have pictures on hand of what the final product is supposed to look like and set up a sample or two to copy. Once all the flowers are done, you may want to do a little quality control to make sure they look the way they’re supposed to. (Granny’s idea of hip centerpieces may be slightly different from yours.)
8. Realistic timelines
Centerpieces can be created two days out. Plan for two to three hours for fifteen centerpieces, with two people working.
Bouquets should be made the day before. Allowing for inexperience, allot forty-five minutes to an hour for a bridal bouquet, and about half that time for each attendant bouquet.
Boutonnières and corsages are tricky little things and have to be made the day before or the day-of to stay alive. Allow two hours for a handful of them, or consider skipping them all together. (Here is a Boutonnière tutorial and a corsage tutorial, for the determined among you.)
9. don’t refrigerate your flowers
I know, what? But as it turns out, the humidity and temperature of a normal refrigerator is different from that of a floral fridge, and it will dry out your flowers and kill them. Store your flowers in a cool and shady place, and you’ll be fine.
10. arrange for transportation
Unless you’re one of those lucky people with nearly unlimited access to your venue (maybe it’s your house?), chances are good that you’re going to have to prep your flowers in a different location and transport them to the venue. Transporting centerpieces takes space (you can’t stack them) and careful packing. One option is to use opaque vases and create your centerpieces in floral foam, so they’ll stay in one piece even if they fall over. Another option is to empty the water from the vases, and pack things together compactly so nothing gets knocked around too badly. Regardless, plan in advance for a friend or loved one with truck or van space to transport the flowers.
(And a bonus tip: Remember cleanup. Have brooms.)
For those of you who tackled DIY wedding flowers, what advice do you have? What would you have done differently, and what did you do just right?