Monday, April 27, 2015

10 Year Reunion with DIY Touches

Welp. I'm old. If the husband, the mortgage, the job, and the baby weren't indicative enough--2014 marked 10 years since I graduated high school. Ouch. I never really thought about my 10 year reunion until it came along, but if I had, looking hot would have been super near the top of my list of goals. Instead, I had six months of pregnancy piled on top of my already "thick" frame. Luckily, I worked with our class president to decorate the space for the reunion. If I couldn't show up looking as good as I wanted to personally, at least I could have fun doing a bit of decor in the space.

I had no idea until the reunion but it turns out our class actually did a pretty phenomenal job raising and saving money. We were able to have a relatively expensive five year reunion and still had cash left over to rent out two floors of Phillips in Downtown Annapolis right by the water, hire a DJ and a photographer (all photos in the post, save for the balloon column supplies, are from our photographer--Ren of Random Eye Candy), supply hors d'oeuvres for nearly 200 people, and even a small bit leftover for decor and small prizes for a reunion game. Guests were only charged $10 a person.

Because the space was already pretty attractive, we didn't want to spend much on decor (even if we'd had a larger budget set aside to do so) so I pulled together a few DIY touches for the event.

DIY Balloon Columns

My husband built the structure beneath these balloon columns and three of us blew up balloons to assemble on-site. The trick to the balloon columns is to blow up all of the balloons to as close to the same size as possible. It's difficult to tell in this image, but we used four colors of balloons--blue, sky blue, white, and silver. The 36" diameter balloons used as toppers were purchased from Amazon. I cannot recommend the brand we purchased (linked above), however, as I expected the balloons to inflate to a more circular shape instead of an oval and they were very thin. It is relatively expensive to inflate these balloons with helium so to have a few of them pop en route was definitely disappointing. 

Here's what we used for the column bases:

-two one-foot square plywood squares (we cut these from one large square piece of wood)
-two thin PVC pipes

-two 3/8" x 6" steel pipe nipples
-two 3/8" galvanized floor flanges

-liquid nails adhesive
-eight #12 3/4" wood screws
-a drill

The assembly here was pretty simple. The flanges were screwed to the center of the wood squares and then the pipe nipples were screwed into the flanges. The PVC pipes were a bit narrow on the inside so they were opened up with a large drill bit. 

The liquid nails was applied to the tips of the pipe nipples before they were inserted into the PVC pipes.

To assemble the columns on-site, 80 balloons were inflated--20 of each of the four colors. One of each color balloon was tied together into a quad, leaving one end open. Here is a video explaining how to stack the balloons on the column:

The large 36" helium balloons were placed atop the columns and tied through the center of the balloon column to the base.

DIY Light-Up Marquee Class Year Numbers

I used my own DIY Marquee Letter Tutorial to create a large light-up "04." Because I already had the lights from previous projects, this was a very inexpensive project. To save additional time and money, instead of spray painting white poster board, I purchased blue poster board.

DIY Tablecloth Tassels

I used this tutorial to create tassels in our class colors to adorn our photo area backdrop and to attach to the large balloons. 

DIY Photo Backdrop and Signs

For the photo area I used a vinyl backdrop and stand I already owned and adorned it with tablecloth tassels, a handmade 2004 banner, and balloons. 

The photo prop signs were made using glitter card stock, popsicle sticks, chalkboard paper, and chalk markers. 

Overall a good time was had by all. We also played a variation of this reunion game (complete with quirky prizes) by sending out access to a Goggle Doc prior to the event. If you're considering a similar game for your own reunion I'd suggest saving it for an older crowd or for a smaller, perhaps seated, event. At our large, loud event it was lost on a good deal of the guests, even with the use of the DJ's mic. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

DIY Vintage Backyard Wedding on a Tiny Budget

Two years ago today my husband and I got married in a small backyard wedding at our new home. Having just bought a house, we weren't interested in spending a lot of money on our wedding, so we relied heavily on DIY and using things we already had to pull off the event. The whole event, including our wardrobe, cost well under $1500. A huge reason were able to save additional money was on account of our amazing friends and family. Photography was free because our photographer friend (Gary of Dreams in Focus Photography) worked for free to add some wedding work to his portfolio. My dress alterations were free thanks to my friend Cindy. Our friend Tyler officiated for free. Because there was no formal dancing, we played music from our computers in lieu of a DJ. And there was no catering bill because our friends and family contributed their own dishes to our potluck. My husband enjoys brewing his own beer so we provided a keg of beer pretty inexpensively and the rest of the alcohol was brought by guests.


I completely DIYed these invitations and they took for-ev-ER. The base of the invitations was vintage styled paper purchased from Oriental Trading. Over this I layered lace trim and velum paper with event details printed onto it. 

The floral cards around the invitations and the envelopes were purchased from those themed bargain bins at Michael's. The envelopes were all hand addressed.

What We Wore

The Dress

I was so incredibly lucky with my dress. First, I was able to find an actual vintage dress on Etsy with details that I loved--lace overlay, tiered layers, more vintage lace, and buttons up the back. When I bought this dress I got a deal by buying another dress from the same Etsy seller (the dress my bride wore in this engagement shoot that I styled). I paid a total of $90 with shipping for both. BUT the wedding gown was incredibly tiny... and I am certainly not so I would not be able to wear this dress without some magic.

Second, I found this next dress on on super clearance for less than $100. It may have even been as low as $50. Because this dress was new I was able to buy my actual size, BUT the fabric was cheap and the fit was not exactly tailored to me. 

Third, and perhaps most importantly, I had the help of a dear friend of mine--Cindy. Cindy is a Jane of many trades including being an excellent seamstress with a great eye for design. I told her my vision for the dress and she was able to execute it for me... and she did it for free.

We took the bottom of the vintage dress, hiked it up so it was tea length, and attached it to the top of the new dress. The back of the new dress zipped up, but I liked the look of the button-up back on the vintage dress, so we took the vintage buttons from the vintage dress and sewed them onto the back of the new dress so it had that buttoned look. I wanted 3/4 length sleeves so Cindy used the fabric from the bottom of the new dress that we weren't using to create sleeves. We carefully cut apart the lace from the top of the vintage dress and hand appliqu├ęd the lace flowers onto the top of the new dress. I'm a bit of a procrastinator, so I was still hand sewing this part onto the dress the night before the wedding. 


My shoes were purchased from Pinup Girl Clothing long before the wedding... before Kurt and I were even dating actually. I knew they were perfect for something but couldn't figure out what exactly so I never wore them. Our wedding day was the first time I finally wore them.

My jewelry was my grandmother's. When I was little I spent hours playing in my grandma's jewelry cabinet so I was very excited to incorporate her jewelry into the big day. The birdcage veil was a cheap $20 score from Michael's. I embellished it with an inexpensive hair flower from H&M. 

My rings were both vintage. Kurt surprised me (in a big way) by finding my engagement ring on my Pinterest feed. It has a perfect mix of metals, milgrain detailing, diamonds and blue sapphires, and an asscher cut center diamond. It. Is. Perfect. My wedding ring was found pretty inexpensively on Etsy. It is rose gold, from the early 1900s, and features tiny diamonds and milgrain detailing. They do not fit together (and are not even the same metal) so today I wear the engagement ring on my left hand and the wedding band on my right hand. Kurt's ring is tungsten carbide and was from Shaw's. To save money, I did my own nails and accented my ring fingers with an easy-to-execute floral motif reminiscent of our invitations.

The Groom's Attire

Where I scrimped and saved, Kurt Lil Wayned it on his attire and made it rain. His leather suspenders were found on eBay but the rest of his outfit, down to the shoes and socks, was purchased from Nordstrom.


I purchased an assortment of loose flowers from Jennifer's Country Flowers in Glen Burnie and arranged them myself in milk glass vessels I've been accumulating over the years.

I also made my own bouquet using some flowers from the same assortment. The pearl stem wrap was purchased inexpensively from Michael's.

Vintage doilies, napkins, and other linens were used throughout the decor with the flowers.


To save money, instead of purchasing a traditional wedding cake from a fancy bakery, we purchased a small plain cake with whipped cream icing and matching pastel cupcakes from our local grocery store's bakery. Giant's whipped cream icing cakes and cupcakes are actually delicious so I was not disappointed. 

To add a little somethin' to our plain cakes I topped the wedding cake with a bunting purchased from Oriental Trading and an AMAZING narwhal cake topper that my cousin was kind enough to make for us.

The cupcakes were layered under and around the cake and topped with little vintage pinwheels purchased from Oriental Trading. 

For a little bit of a splurge, macarons were purchased from Sweet Hearts Patisserie in Annapolis.


The biggest cost saver at our wedding was food. Instead of having the event catered, we asked that guests not bring gifts and instead bring their favorite dish to share. We provided various chafing dishes (free--thanks to friends who used to be in the catering biz), serving utensils, ice, coolers, flatware, plates, cups, and napkins. We also set up an area for guests to label their dishes. This approach won't work for everyone but it worked great for us. It made for a huge variety of food and everyone there was guaranteed to have at least one dish that they loved.

A couple friends were on hand to assist guests with labeling and setting out their dishes. Everything was set up buffet style to provide for a backyard cookout type of feel. While there was quite a bit of seating, there were no seats at tables to encourage guests to mingle and a laid back vibe. And, okay, because we didn't want to pay for tables.

The plates, napkins, paper straws, and display boxes were all purchased from Oriental Trading. Cups and flatware were from Party City.

Details & Decor

For seating I pulled nearly every seating option from inside my home as well as a few odd pieces from my parents' home and put them all together for a bit of a shabby chic arrangement.

The two trees between which we'd be exchanging vows were adorned with vintage mirrors and the holly tree in the center with paper lanterns from Oriental Trading.

As a backdrop, streamers and cafe lights were strung between the two large trees.

Upon arrival, guests knew they were at the right place by the decorated front doorstep instructing the to head 'round back.

Even after I was ready in my dress, I was still noticing bits of decor that needed to be added--the petals for the aisle for example. These faux petals were purchased from Michael's I believe. They could have been found cheaper with a bit of forethought but were a last minute addition. The paper fans in the background of this next image were from Oriental Trading.

Because the wedding was at our home, incorporating our dog was an easy task. Having him there was easy enough (and decked in a fancy new bowtie collar), but having him cooperate--not so much. I had intended for him to carry a little "Here Comes the Bride" flag down the aisle in his mouth but he didn't think that was such a good idea, even after I dipped the end in peanut butter.

You know who did carry it down the aisle? My step mom. In her mouth. And it still had peanut butter on it. It's my favorite thing she's ever done.

Handmade signage alerted guests to the day's Instagram hashtag and instructed them to grab a packet of grass seed to throw at the ceremony's recessional. The paper packets were purchased from Michael's and the customized stickers purchased from Oriental Trading. (Side note: because of all the thrown grass seed and the girls in heels helping to aerate the yard--two years later, our yard is looking much better!)

Paper fans were provided in case the outdoor event got to be a little hot--and, because, duh,  they were really cute. They were also from Oriental Trading.

For a bit of whimsy, a bubble station was setup with DIY wands made from pipe cleaners, cups for bubble solution, and a pitcher full of pour-it-yourself bubble solution.

Perhaps the best detail of this wedding was that guests came dressed to the theme. 

All in all the day went off without a hitch thanks to some creativity and the help and support of our friends and family... proving that you don't have to shell out the big bucks to have your dream wedding.