'Environmentally friendly wedding' Category

(Uncrafty) Bride on a Budget and Food: Canapes and Wedding Breakfast / Buffet for a DIY Wedding

I have to begin with the canapes.  Such things of rainbow beauty.


L-R: Apple Alices, Rainbow Swirl Biscuits, Rainbow Bakewell Slices

As we arrived at our reception venue around 3pm – tea time – it seemed very fitting to have baked canapes.  My dear friend and bridesmaid, Helen, made a selection of baked goods as a gift to us (we paid for ingredients but the time, energy and love she put in were frankly invaluable).  As well as perfectly jammy and almondy bakewells, delicate biscuits, fresh, moist apple slices and perfect lemon drizzle cupcakes, Helen made pesto and cheese swirls as a savoury alternative.

Two of my young nephews helped Helen to plate up on pink heart doilies (thanks, Aunt Julie) the morning of the wedding. Then, while we were off getting married at the lovely Tenterden Town Hall with our loved ones witnessing, Kench Hill staff put out the canapes on this colourful length of IKEA fabric (it’s machine washable, so is now our reusable tablecloth for kids’ parties and other celebrations) and were ready to serve with non-alcoholic fizz and prosecco when we pulled up in the sunshine outside this gorgeous, Georgian house.

Wedding Breakfast / Buffet

We chose a hot and cold buffet as our main meal, as it fitted with the Garden Party vibe of the afternoon reception.  We all ate at a mixture of picnic and round tables, in the beautiful grounds, between two ponds, with the buffet laid out in a gazebo.  When we first visited, Sandi, who runs Kench Hill, suggested that the best way to plan feeding all our guests would be to name a budget, and then figure out what they could do within that that met everyone’s dreams and needs.  This made so much more sense than trying to adapt our budget around the set price list most venues present, and ending up with a meal that didn’t quite satisfy.  I’ll be honest – it was mildly terrifying not knowing what the food was going to taste like on the day.  However, I needn’t have worried. It was utterly delicious, with plenty to go round for children and adults, vegetarian and non-vegetarian alike.  It was an added bonus knowing that it was, on the whole, locally or sustainably produced, with the vegetables fresh from the kitchen garden.

We wrote up a table order that prioritised tables by number of children and number of vegetarians, to make sure that those with dietary requirements we knew of weren’t left with no choices.

Some of the locally, sustainably-produced foods in the hot and cold buffet

Evening Rolls 

During the evening music, poetry and dancing, we were laid out a smorgasbord of locally-baked rolls and fillings for us to self-serve.  The rolls were so good, you could eat one with nothing on.

Bar Snacks and Biscuits 

As well as having the baked canapes, buffet and evening rolls, we had boxes of crisps and other typical bar snacks on the bar, and biscuits and cakes in the kitchen.

Alternatives: DIY BBQs and Pot Luck Buffets 

During the planning process – before we found Kench Hill – we thought about having a pot luck buffet at a London venue.  The plan for this would have been for us to supply some staple foods, like a huge stew or curry and some cooked salmon, then to ask guests to bring a dish to share.  Personally, I think this idea only works if the majority of guests live locally, so they don’t have to travel with food, and if there are delis and shops nearby for out-of-town guests to pick up things like bread or dips to contribute.

A popular DIY wedding breakfast is the BBQ.  We had a barbeque for guests staying the night before the wedding – about forty people.  I would recommend overcatering for the wedding itself, imagining that each adult will have two plates of BBQ food, and bulking up on salads, deli foods and breads. We were lucky to have close relatives and friends to help out with the Friday BBQ, making utterly amazing salads and diversifying the vegetarian options.

Breakfast / Brunch Buffet

My lovely sister and stepmum provided a breakfast / brunch buffet, with a range of food to keep everyone going as we prepared the venue and ourselves for the wedding.

The Wedding Cake 

Helen convinced us that it was a good idea to have a centrepiece cake to cut, and she was so right.  She made the most delicious, double-height chocolate cake, iced with a rainbow.  We included the cake cutting as part of our more personal rituals at the reception, and have very affectionate memories of it.

Cut the cake, and eat! 

Photo by Tracy Morter 

A Guide to Organising Low Cost Wine and Drinks for Your Wedding, by the Uncrafty Bride on a Budget

Photo by Tracy Morter

For us, one of the key aspects of our low-cost, DIY wedding was that, wherever possible, it should be low cost for our guests, too.  I read a few scary stories online about couples who had got freebie weddings by getting loved ones to pay £150 per night for three nights in a country house, then had an extortionately priced bar with no free drinks for guests, costing guests around a grand for the whole thing while costing the hosts very little – that kind of thing.  We didn’t want that.

We did, however, want to see our guests properly ‘watered’.  A disappointing scenario for the kind of party we wanted to throw would have been for the booze to run out mid-wedding.  Here’s how guests ended up going home with wine in their trunks and cool bags, instead.  (Clue: it does have to do with our friends and family being utterly lovely.)

1. Decide what you want to provide as a host

We knew that we wanted to provide guests with a glass of fizz at the Town Hall after the ceremony, as well as fizz on arrival at the reception venue.  We also knew that we wanted to provide enough wine to go with the meal.  We wanted there to be tasty options for friends who are teetotal, do not drink for religious reasons or were driving.

2. Decide on a budget

If you’re going to start married life on an even keel financially, you need to decide on a budget and stick to it.  We knew that we could budget around £6 per bottle of fizz, £5 per bottle of wine and £3 per non-alcoholic toasting fizz, in order to cater for half a bottle of fizz per adult, and between half a bottle and a full bottle of wine per adult.  You may find a wine calculator useful – you will also know your guests and their preferences and limits.

3. Decide on your search terms

Most weddings we have been to have had perfectly acceptable wine.  Neither of us could remember any outstanding wines, from weddings we had been guests at.  However, nor could we remember any disappointing wines.  We couldn’t recall any bold choices.  For us, the perfect wedding wine had to be ‘inoffensive’ and ‘perfectly quaffable’.

It turned out, we were particularly pleased with both the prosecco and white wines we chose – Aldi’s famously good value Belletti Prosecco and their delicious Chardonnay.  These wines got really good feedback from our guests and we wished we had bought more of the white as, unusually (and in spite of us buying more that we calculated we needed), it was the white that ran out towards the end of the meal.  However, in spite of our enthusiasm for it —  we call Aldi’s Pinot Noir our ‘house wine’ — the red was more hit and miss, although that may have been due to the heat of the day and sod’s law, as that was the wine we had bought a bigger surplus of as we’re used to people hunting red wine at a party!

We also decided that, due to the quantity we were buying, the wines needed to have as small a carbon footprint as possible for our budget, so we went for European wines (French and Italian, in the end) so they didn’t have to travel too far.

4. Do your research 

Aldi and Majestic do mixed cases of wines, so you can get willing friends and family involved in trying out different options in the run up to your wedding. You don’t have to get a pre-mixed case from Aldi – as long as you order in multiples of six, you can mix and match as you see fit.

For the non-alcoholic options, supermarkets offering deliveries often have deals in the summer months.  It’s good to have a range of options, if possible, such as elderflower and fruit presses (sparkling drinks) as well as the more typical Schloer.

5. Instead of a paying bar, have a bring and share bar 

This is where our guests’ loveliness came into it.  We had a bring and share bar, which was unstaffed.  Friends and family brought whatever they wanted and added it to the large, sheltered table outdoors, then helped themselves as the day went by.  We provided these non-plastic, biodegrable, Magritte-ish cups, some reusable beakers from the pound shop that we donated to the venue afterwards, some mixers and a couple of huge ice buckets, which Tenterden Majestic very kindly assisted us with.

This is, of course, a really cost effective option for guests, too.

 

Around the bring and share bar. Photo by www.tracymorter.com

6.   Get the ale drinkers together 

My husband, inspired by another friend’s wedding, started a ‘Real Ale Fund’, where all the ale drinkers contributed to have boxes (like small kegs) of local bright beer delivered.  He worked out that for £10 a head, there would be enough for everyone to have plenty of pints… then got the fear as that sounded far too reasonable, and doubled the amount.  It turned out that there was a little under half the amount left over the next day, and a couple of people went home with ale sloshing about in their car boots! So a tenner a head would be feasible.

7. Have unlimited tea, coffee, squash and water available, as well as bar snacks 

We may come from two big Irish families, but cliches are exactly that.  Thanks to our venue, guests were able to help themselves to tea, coffee, herbal teas and squash all day (which I bought in with a big supermarket delivery on the Friday we arrived).  We put tins of typical English biscuits with the tea, and large boxes of pub snacks on the bar.

8. Know your supermarkets

According to a recent study (ahem), Lidl and Aldi have the best wines.  We also rate the fairtrade range by co-op, although they don’t do delivery.  Our back up in case Aldi had any problems delivering was the beautifully-designed Majestic Loves range.  The label designs are just perfect for a celebration.

 

Cheers! Slainte! Salut! Chai yo!

 

 

 

 

A Perfect Venue for an Idyllic Weekend Wedding on a Budget



Gorgeous photos of the idyllic venue by our friend Natalie S.

When we started planning our wedding, we each made a list of what was most important to us.  One of the things that came to the top was it being somewhere our family and friends could spend a portion of time all together, making a sort of special world for a couple of days.  Some of our favourite weddings as guests included those where we had experienced this – at a coastal fort in Cornwall, in a row of village B&Bs in Wensleydale.   Of course, we recognised that as we were marrying slightly later down the road than other friends had, many of our guests would have commitments to families, jobs, etc., and not everyone would be able to (or want to) spend the weekend away, so it also needed to be somewhere within driving and public transport (ish) distance of our part of London.  We also knew if it was going to be low cost for us, it had to be low cost for our guests, as well – anything else just didn’t make sense.

We were free to decorate in our own style. Photo by Tracy Morter

We started out looking at Youth Hostels; I have a lifelong passion for the places.  We found YHAs with amazing potential for the kind of wedding we were planning: YHA Hartington Hall and YHA Ilam Hall in Derbyshire and YHA Wilderhope Manor in Shropshire have wedding packages.  Other YHAs, such as YHA Hawkshead in the Lake District, were very accommodating about figuring something out.  However, in the end, we felt they were all too far from our home for us to even make a viewing visit by public transport, which meant they definitely wouldn’t have been convenient for many of our guests.

Through a link a relative sent, we came across the amazing Kench Hill, in Kent.  Kench Hill is a charity that creates educational adventures in nature and wildlife for children and young people from Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham.  It’s an old, Georgian mansion on the outside, with 3* hostel accommodation of dormitories, single, double and family rooms inside.  Revenue raised from hosting weddings helps to support their brilliant work with children from East London.

Georgian Manion on the outside… Kench Hill. Photo by Natalie S.

I made an easy visit by train (from Charing Cross, but could have also gone from St. Pancras) and a pretty bus ride on a scorching hot day in late Spring. Kench Hill manager, Sandi, picked me up from the beautiful, old High Street in Tenterden – where I noticed the Town Hall, with its picturesque balcony, surrounded by flowers, as a ceremony venue. As we drove into Kench Hill, I knew: This must be the place. 

The front lawn was perfect for canapes and drinks and our handfasting.  The spacious, pretty gardens by the duck pond and lake, with a mix of wooden tables and round dining tables, made a beautiful, relaxed English garden party setting for the wedding breakfast.  The long kitchen gardens made a lovely, sunlit walk.  There were hens and ducks about. Children played happily between the Wendy House and small outdoor toys in the enclosed area by the meal, or on the swings by the front lawn, while older children played basketball and babyfoot.  The night before the wedding, we had a BBQ down by the thatched hut, which was all lit up with candles.  We dressed the Straw Hall with fairy lights and colourful pom poms, votives, bunting and paper flowers for the reception’s speeches and open mic.  We filled the alcove with photo bunting, to which guests added memories, poems, crafts and photos, as our guest book.  The bar was outdoors, under a wooden shelter, lit by a storm light.  There was even a little camping in the top meadow.

A relaxed, English wedding breakfast in the grounds of Kench Hill.

Photo by Tracy Morter

Ducks and wildflowers at Kench Hill on the wedding day. Photo by Natalie S. 

The Straw Hall, ready for music, poetry and speeches. Photo by Natalie S. 

Sandi and her team made everything incredibly easy, relaxed and personal.  Whenever I worried I was asking too many questions, or being demanding, Sandi and her colleagues’ responses came back light, flexible and positive.  We really felt that they wanted our wedding to be whatever we dreamed of it. Kench Hill promotes sustainability and a love of life, and the atmosphere is full of that hope and gentle joie de vivre.  We were able to provide our own drinks and partly self-cater.  The food Kench Hill catered was brilliant too – but that’s for another post.

To contact Kench Hill, see their website or facebook.   You can also see photos on their facebook of other weddings, each with a totally different look, which shows the flexibility of the venue for glorious, DIY, budget weddings.  We found our fab photographer Tracy Morter as she had shot a previous wedding at Tenterden Town Hall and Kench Hill – you can see photos of that gorgeous, and, again, totally different, wedding, here.

 

Low Waste, Upcycled Buttonholes (Boutonnieres) – Easy Wedding Crafts for the (Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget

Of all the makes for the wedding, this is the one I had to practise the most before finding something I was happy with.  The initial attempts included glitter foam and pyschedelic, pink and orange rosebuds – they ended up on our flower girl baskets.

Finally, after quite a few glue gun blisters and times spent lying on the carpet in a world of self-doubt, I made these.

Bow Tie and Kerchief from Le Colonel Moutarde

I made these buttonholes based on a tutorial in ‘Handmade Weddings’ by Moyle, Moyle and Faust (Chronicle Books), which was kindly handed down to me by the teacher of one of my preschooler’s activities.  Mine are a more-rustic adaptation.

Here’s a How To…

Materials:

Old clothes (my daughters’ outgrown winter dress and summer dress, in rainbow colours)

White felt, leftover from a craft project

Florist wire (also used for the bouquets)

A second-hand pair of dark green corduroy trousers

Wool (leftover from pom pom making)

Glue gun and glue sticks

Pins with rainbow heads (ebay)

Scissors

Method: 

  1. Cut strips out of the old clothes and felt, measuring approx. 3″ (7.5cm) wide and about 5-6″ (12-15cm) long.
  2. Fold them in half, lengthways.
  3. Cut into the fold, stopping about 1/4 inch from the edge of the fabric. Make these cuts all the way along the length, with about 1/8 inch between each. This will create a fringe effect.*
  4. Pipe a line of hot glue along the uncut edge, then roll the uncut length up tightly, having shifted the tips of the fringe to a slight angle away from the direction you’re rolling in (the angle isn’t essential, but creates a nicer shape if you are able to do it).*
  5. Fluff up the bud.
  6. Glue in a piece of florist wire.
  7. Cut a leaf shape out of your chosen green fabric.
  8. Put two buds together, and fold the base of the leaf around them, sealing (inside) with hot glue.
  9. Double up the florist wire to make a more substantial ‘stem’ and wrap this loop with either brown or green wool.

Et voila! Les boutonnieres!

* High Tech Paper demonstration of 3 and 4:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A link to Handmade Weddings 

(Un)crafty Bride on a Budget: Underwear for a Bias Cut, Ghost, Slip Dress

This week’s post is a bit niche: relatively-budget underwear / shapewear for a bias cut, thin, slip (aka cami) dress.  I hope it coincides neatly with any last-minute, NYE pants panic.  I appreciate that if your dress is quite see-through, this post is likely to only be helpful for someone with my skintone.  However, if you’re looking for pants for a dress with a thicker fabric, this post should be more broadly useful. 

If you’ve just got engaged and are here for tips on saving money, easy crafts, sustainable ideas and ways of personalising your wedding, firstly, congratulations! Secondly, I hope some of my earlier posts on finding outfits, making your own flowers and bouquets, venue decorations and table decorations are useful to you. More to come in 2018 for the uncrafty bride on a budget.  

But for now. The Underwear.  Once I had found The Dress, I became obsessed with The Underwear.  It was so hard to find, and there was so little online to point me in the right direction, so I do hope this is useful.  It is the result of my frugal and exhaustive search.  

Ghost slip dresses are extremely lightweight, and cut on the cross, which is what makes them beautiful.  It is also what makes them virtually impossible to wear pants under, because EVERYTHING shows through.  Moreover, mine had a spaghetti strap on one side (requiring a strapless bra), a very deep scoop (making any bra difficult, especially a typically full-cupped strapless bra), and a thigh-high split on one leg (making shorts difficult).  

A quick reminder of the gorgeous, flimsy Ghost dress I thought was going to be my wedding dress

Advice I had been able to glean online suggested tiny, seamless hipsters – however, as I have had four major abdominal operations in the last six years, including c sections, I wanted to wear something that held my tummy.  I am self-conscious about my mother’s apron, aka The Flap.  I was very wary about becoming negative and shameful about my body during what is supposed to be a celebration of love and life, but also wanted to feel, well, held, and comfortable.  

Here is the Ghost dress with the invisible, seam free, belly-button-high shorts I already owned.

HERE ARE MY BIG PANTS!

They were not invisible.

So I saved up Clubcard Vouchers till I had enough for £50 worth of underwear from Figleaves, and bought a plunging strapless Wonderbra and a pair of Spanx Undie-tectable lace shorts (both in my skin tone).  

The Wonderbra was a stroke of luck – it provided support for my ample-enough bosom and wasn’t visible.  

The Bra

The Spanx pants sounded great, as they were not the kind of upholstered, high-waisted, long-legged, need-assistance-to-pee, no-feasting-allowed Spanx, just a pair of big pants with some light smoothing action.  Unfortunately, the band of shame at the top of the Spanx pants showed through the dress.  

The Pants

The mesh of the lace worked, so I did some searches for seamless, high waist, mesh shorts.  For months.  Couldn’t find a pair.  Looked at a lot of pictures of knickers.

Found out about something called a C String.  With wire as a gusset.  Ran away.

AVERT YOUR EYES

Anything which changed texture was out, as different textures showed through the dress, so most high waisted shorts were out, too, as they all seemed to have inbuilt control panels (which I really didn’t want anyway, as I find them constrictive, and I wanted to eat and drink and be jolly).  

Finally, quite close to the wedding, I discovered H&M’s light control shorts.  They came to mid-upper thigh at the bottom, and up above my tummy button at the top, they were blissfully comfortable, and didn’t ride. They were relatively inexpensive, at £17.99 for two pairs.  As I have very pale, caucasian skin, I was lucky that they were a good match for me.  They come in a pack with a very pale pink and a black pair, and are also great for wearing under summer dresses, for anyone who, like me, gets a bit of chub rub.  Ta da!

My Trousseau

 

If I was to do this again and had more of a budget, I would talk to the woman behind www.hotknickers.ie – I think Ali would be able to figure out a good solution.  Choosing a local producer would, of course, also be a more ethical, sustainable option.

This is an area it seems easy to get priced out of if you’re looking for ethical options, however, if you are far craftier than me and would like to have a go at making your own pants, here is a link to a tutorial.

If anyone has found solutions to a similar issue, please do comment – especially if you know of any brands that sell various tones and / or of more environmentally-friendly options.  

Happy New Year!

(Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget: The Wedding Dress

A dozen years, or so, before my wedding.  I ask my mum to make me a white version of this green Jigsaw dress, with a slit up the leg as well as a ruffle.   She says Yes.  I am single.  She says she will figure out how to make it when the time comes.  She is trying not to laugh.  She will do it, though.

http://saranesbitt.co.uk/2011/08/22/week-eleven-of-why-so-many-clothes-the-best-of-clothes-the-worst-of-clothes/

Four years before our wedding, when our first daughter is tiny, and my mum has recently died, I watch a lot of Don’t Tell the Bride.  I fantasise about what my wedding dress scene would be (although we are not engaged).  I imagine my husband would find something lovely, and very thoughtful, but I would be in West Cork, in Alice Halliday’s studio, giving her my mum’s and granny’s linens to make something like this wedding dress she made from the bride’s grandma’s tablecloths

When I propose to my husband, a year and a bit before our wedding, we consider a last-minute, seven-weeks-away booking on the (don’t-think-too-much-about-it) cancelledweddings.co.uk .  I decide the dress doesn’t matter, I just dream madly of a simple shift, this amazing cape by Alice Halliday (made for Florence Welch) and these R. Soles boots.

We settle down, decide a real budget, and I realise my £150 dress and shoes budget won’t quite cover one boot.  

A year before the wedding, I find, on ebay, a white version of my green jigsaw dress, with a slit up the leg as well as a ruffle.  It’s £79; it’s an original 1990s Ghost dress, probably one I eyed up as a child, seeing the perfect wedding dress.  It’s an ethereal copy of what I’d dreamed up with my mum.  

 


A few months before the wedding, I realise that a chiffon white dress and a one-of-a-kind, beaded cape and two small, gorgeous, beloved, huggable children, who will be eating a lot of chocolate wedding cake, will not mix well.  I decide to get a back up dress and to find a less delicate cape, veil or shawl.  

I order a dress from ebay, but the corset stops an inch above the waist of the bodice, and it does odd things with my body.  My oldest child suggests I sew fabric flowers onto my waist.  It seems feasible… In the end, I resell the dress for what I paid (£20).  

Can you tell one of my kids took this pic?

I try a dress on in a charity shop near work.  I decide white suits me.  I become emboldened.  I decide I will look good in anything.  This is better than the me who has been worrying about her mother’s apron in her Ghost dress, wanting there to be less of me.

I buy a back up dress on ebay for £30.

In amongst my mum’s old clothes, I think, is the rainbow catsuit she had always wanted to wear as her Mother of the Bride outfit.  It comes with a cape, I vaguely remember.  There is a studio photo of my mum wearing the ensemble, in the Seventies.  Her mum had bought it from a graduate of Central St Martin’s.*  I recall a capelet, which wouldn’t be right.  I check, anyway.  I open up the storage bag to find a flowing, sheer, rainbow cape.  My wedding cape.  

I also get hold of a rainbow mermaid dress, for when the red wine starts to flow and the dancing is in full swing and there may be spills…. and briefly consider wearing it down the aisle instead, with the cape.   


A perfectly tidy craft and study area

 

Of course, my period has to make a feature of itself at my wedding.  My cycle goes doolally, so that I will definitely be on on my wedding day. As anyone who has lived with Endometriosis knows, my paper thin, white, chiffon dress is not going to be comfortable.  My back up dress becomes The Dress.

My period got something right.  I loved The Dress; it went with the Lizzie Bennet hair.  It sat unobtrusively under my mum’s rainbow cape, which cradled me in her rainbow colours as I walked up the aisle, with and without her.  When the cape was off, The Dress held me, showed me, and was utterly comfortable.  

 

Photos by Tracy Morter www.tracymorter.com – an amazing wedding photographer

And, around midnight, I became as shiny as Tamatoa in sequins.  ShiiiiinnnnneeeeeY!

*UPDATE – THE RAINBOW CAPE DESIGNER 

I am exhilarated to have met someone online whose mum has the dress version of the rainbow catsuit and cape. It turns out the designer is Jean Varon, who is credited by some as the true inventor of the miniskirt, and who dressed Diana Rigg in The Avengers. 

I love the threads that connect us all.

Wedding Table Decorations, Favours and Bring and Share Decorations for the (Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget

Months before my wedding, I was playing with my kids in a local woodland when my phone rang.  It was one of my best friends, and bridesmaid.  Noone ever uses phones any more, do they? And I knew she was in her family home country.  I picked up, concerned.  What happened next reminded me of the time my mum, then in the early days of cancer, rang me at work – Mum had an urgent question about a black catsuit (this black catsuit, to match her own…).  My lovely friend had found hundreds upon hundred of doilies, hand crocheted by her great grandmother, along with ribbons and collars of lacework.  

Sharing love-driven, crafted, storied objects was very much something my husband and I wanted to do as part of our wedding.  We marry into a family, into a community, into a history of human love.  My friend and I had a few thoughts about what to make her great grandmother’s doilies into.  One idea was bunting.  Another was to push the bulbs of fairy lights through their centres, so they looked like flowers.  In the end, we decided to dye them the colours of the rainbow, and use them to decorate the large, round tables and picnic tables that we were having our wedding breakfast on, in the gardens.  

We used Dylon polyester dye, seven huge buckets (which we each needed for our gardens afterwards), a bottle of rose and a Sunday afternoon, to make this glorious rainbow…

In the year and a bit between getting engaged and getting married, my family and several kind friends saved jars.  We stored ours in the garden, in crates, which meant that the weather did a lot of the work of removing labels for us.  These went onto tables, with candles, as well as reusable straws, pencils and colouring sheets for younger children, or wood and paper photo props for older children and teens.  The different shapes and qualities of glass caught the sunlight beautifully.  

We put the differently-coloured bouquets of fabric wedding flowers in glass jars when back from the ceremony (here’s how I made the fabric flowers) and made additional pom pom bouquets (here’s a super easy pom pom tutorial).

Favours also served as name cards.  Small children had envelopes with their names on, with stickers and card inside.  Older children and teens had second-hand card games, again in envelopes with their names on.  Friends whose beliefs reject gambling had delicious jam.  For everyone else, we chose Lottery Scratchcards, as they are potentially fun, recyclable and contribute to charity.  It would have been amazing if someone had won their train fare.  The only regret I have is that I bought some brown envelopes with gold, glittery insides, to signify pots of gold (at the end of a rainbow).  I overlooked that this would leave the envelopes unrecyclable.  Moreover, we have since learned about the damage that glitter does to the environment, and are moving away from using conventional glitter and are planning to make our own from salt or sugar (like this) or buy biodegradable for special projects, like this Etsy product I am planning on trying soon (Etsy biodegradable glitter). Any glitter we still have will be for keep-forever crafts, like Christmas ornaments.  We are also a lot more aware about creating the demand for plastic, and perhaps would rethink buying plastic reusable straws, and go for something like stainless steel ones. I would love to hear more ideas for sustainable / zero waste alternatives to what we did, in the comments.

Instead of a guest book, we asked guests to bring photos, pictures, poems, lyrics or anything that showed ‘family’ and ‘love’ to them, and add it to our bunting (twine, with little wooden pegs).  We also printed off photos of us with everyone at the wedding, and pegged this up to get the bunting started.  It was gorgeous, and deeply personal, as well as being a great conversation maker, and we will keep the beautiful things our loved ones shared on it, forever.

(Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget: Decorating the Grounds of Your Venue

Decorating our venue turned out to be an extended process of joy, community, friendship, love, interaction – all  the good things about any wedding, and, especially, a DIY one.

We made a lot of decorations so I will do several blog posts on different parts of the venue and / or specific decorations, so hopefully other enthusiastic wedding makers can find the bits they need more easily.  

This week focuses on the grounds / gardens of our venue. There is a How To / Tutorial on pom pom garlands, as well as tips on decorating trees, bunting and confetti.  There are, of course, a few stories in here, too.

Overall, our decorations were as sustainable as possible and, largely, either homemade or borrowed.  They were also inexpensive!

Decorating the Gardens for a Wedding

Pom Pom Garlands

Garlands in Trees. Photo by Tracy Morter www.tracymorter.com 

Garlands on the Fence. Photo by Natalie S. 

 

Have you ever made a pom pom out of wool? It’s so easy, the only equipment you need is wool and scissors.  I got a huge bag of leftover wool on ebay for £10, and am still using it to make Christmas decorations and kids’ crafts.

 

  1. Make this shape with the hand you don’t use to write: 
  2. Wrap a length of wool around the four fingers, approximately 50 – 100 times (depending on how fluffy and full you want your pom poms to be).
  3. When you have done this, carefully slide the wool off your fingers.
  4. Tie a piece of wool of about 15cm around the middle, so that you are looking at two loops of wool (rather like the infinity symbol).
  5. Cut the loops at each end.
  6. Fluff your pom pom.

(If you would like some step-by-step photos, please do mention in the comments and I will add some!)

We made a lot of pom poms at my hen do — one of the hens even brought her own pom pom maker.  The gorgeous setting of my childhood’s Holland Park, prosecco, wine and a delicious bring and share picnic helped to fuel our furious pom pom making.  

Crafty Hen Do. White playsuit, lace scarf with armholes and nude Keds, all second hand. 

 

On the day before the wedding, the sun warm on our backs, some friends who had travelled across Europe, friends who had part-cycled from Brighton, my children, their friends and other loved ones, and my (now)husband and I all tried out different ways to fill the trees in the grounds of Kench Hill with pom poms.  The most beautiful method to watch was a friend I had been reunited with after fifteen years (my heart is so full remembering her there, as if we’d seen each other only yesterday, and then, only yesterday) make a huge, woollen web between picnic tables, with the theory this would be the most effective way to make a string of hundreds of pom poms.  It looked beautiful, and certainly made the longest garland of pom poms I think any of us will ever witness — but it was hilariously difficult to transport once made!

The most efficient method was to tie long strings of wool up in the trees and fences we wanted the garlands on, and then to tie the pom poms to them in situ.  Trust us, we tried everything.  

Pom pom garland cost: £10 (large bag of wool from ebay), plus generosity of woolly hens.

Silk Bunting

One of my bridesmaids lent us metres and metres of silk bunting that her mum had made for her own wedding.  The bunting had graced several weddings in between – it was beautiful in its own right, and it was also beautiful to have this link with other loving celebrations.

We strung it in the places that needed quiet transformations: a wall with washed-off children’s drawing from a recent school visit; the ramp up to the music / poetry / speeches hall; a dark stretch between two gorgeous trees.


Photos by Tracy Morter www.tracymorter.com

Confetti

There was a meteor shower the night of our wedding.  That was pretty good confetti.

Image by Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society.

 

(Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget: DIY Wedding Hair

Photo by (the utterly fabulous) Tracy Morter www.tracymorter.com  

 

One of the obvious areas to save money for the wedding was on hair and makeup.  I decided to do my own, which was hugely daunting as I have two daily hairstyles: down, or loose bun (or ‘flower’, as my youngest calls it).  I also have two fancy hairstyles: I can straighten my hair, or I can rag curl it.  

For the wedding, rag curls seemed most bridal and most unlike the everyday.  

I have a set of Remington Hair Envy Heated Rag Rollers, which plug in in their case and are very easy to use.  If you wanted to use zero electricity and chemicals, you could easily do this style using the more traditional method of tearing rags and applying them to damp hair.  

Rag rolling creates lovely ringlets in even the most stubborn, fine, straight hair, which you can separate with fingers to make into loose curls.  

I watched a few YouTube tutorials to help me perfect my method and found this blog helpful http://offbeatbride.com/rag-curls/

My hair is fine but plentiful, straight on top with a slight wave / kink. I am of mixed white British and Irish heritage.  When I began practising, I had a long bob, which was slightly longer at the front, much like Mandy Moore in this Pinterest picture (yeah, honest…)

The bob responded pretty easily to rag curls, as in this first attempt, the summer before (planning is everything…).  

However, as I couldn’t imagine getting married without my old, long hair, I had grown it quite long by the wedding.  The back just didn’t work down by this stage – it was too haphazard and not curly enough, and was best roughly pinned up with the nicely-curled front down and loose, a la Lizzie Bennett in 1990s Pride and Prejudice.

Lizzie Bennet

I put my hair into rollers first thing on Friday, before we left London to head out to Kent to our Saturday wedding’s venue.  To keep the rolls from falling out and / or bashing me in the forehead, I wrapped them in this Liberty silk scarf.  My about-to-be Mother in Law tidied up the back into the scarf for me when we got there, which I really appreciated, as the back kept unrolling.  

Day Before Hair

 

On the wedding day, I got extremely nervous about taking out the rolls, so one of my lovely bridesmaids came into the bathroom with me as moral support.  Once unrolled, it was fine and dandy. I swept back my hair into the shape I wanted, and my lovely friend helped me pin it up.  Honestly, if we could put this together in a tiny mirror in a dormitory bathroom with a puddle of wasps on the floor, you can DIY your hair, gorgeous ones!  Just before we left, my wonderful sister fixed in my rainbow mermaid comb, made for me by the massively talented Irish designer Alice Halliday from sea pottery and shells (http://www.alicehalliday.com/ ).

 

Alice Halliday comb – this is bespoke, but others are available on Alice’s Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AliceHalliday 

I avoided using hair spray as no matter what I did during practice runs, my very fine hair ended up heavy and crispy with it.  I had put a curl activator through it on Friday morning.  The key is to roll up your hair when it’s damp, and to trust it to dry out overnight.  The curls really stick for hours, and fall out elegantly enough. Here they are at nearly midnight…

Back to the day of the wedding… After the ceremony, back at the reception venue, I needed to fix my hair and completely lost the ability.  We were still waiting for the second mini-coach to bring guests, so I had a few minutes to fix it.  One of my oldest friends happened to bump into me as I came out of the bathroom having given up.  She sat me down in the breakfast room and the two of us caught up as she gave me a new hairstyle in five minutes flat – something she had last done in 2002 when we were students.  Complete with rainbow mermaid comb, it was magical.

Photos by Tracy Morter www.tracymorter.com

It was important to me to get my hair right for the wedding, and I am very happy with how it turned out.  My hair and I have history.  I grew up with bum length hair, and chopped it all off not long after my mum died, while I was caring for my newborn, first child.  I wrote about that here http://saranesbitt.co.uk/2013/03/14/cutting-my-own-hair-short-an-act-of-grief-identity-or-silliness/

 

(Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget: Handmade Fabric Bouquets, Origami Flowers, and Flower Baskets

Making our wedding flowers was a long and rewarding part of preparing for a highly personal, low-cost and (relatively) environmentally-friendly wedding.  I’m posting about this first, as if you’re planning to make your own flowers, it’s good to start early, so you can pick up and put down this project as time, leading up to your wedding, goes by.  I had never made flowers before, and with some help from friends and strangers, was able to make my own bouquet, and my seven (!) bridesmaids’.

Here is my bouquet — made from the petticoat of my daughters’ outgrown, 2-year-old-size summer dress.

Why would I have needed to make flowers?

Wedding flowers cost hundreds of pounds, cheap cut flowers are often not friendly to the environment.  What’s an uncrafty bride on a budget to do?

Make flowers.  

What sort of flowers? You may well have a theme or colours for your wedding.  For years, I held onto a dream of having a rainbow of bridesmaids; however, after looking at a few Pinterest images, I decided it didn’t work visually.  I had seen that when a group of bridesmaids stood in a line wearing dresses in every colour of the rainbow, they looked like a rainbow, but I imagined that as soon as they reconfigured or mingled or moved – which I very much wanted my bridesmaids to do – they’d look like guests, in block colours.  

The rainbow was still an important motif for a number of reasons, but another one had become important: my bridesmaids as backing singers.  These were the women who had been there at all the important times, who brought the glamour of true friendship and love.  They have always been with me, backing me. I love backing singers.

I also wanted my loved ones to be comfortable.  So, I asked my bridesmaids to wear their little black dresses (or catsuits / trouser suits / skirts and tops), like backing singers, and to each choose a colour to accessorise with.  Then I made bouquets in their rainbow colours.  

Photo by the brilliant Tracy Morter (www.tracymorter.com ). Three brilliant women. Three out of seven rainbow flowers…

As established in my ‘Why So Many Clothes?’ diary (http://saranesbitt.co.uk/2011/06/12/why-why-so-many-clothes/), during which I wore everything in my enormous wardrobe, I have a tendency towards holding onto clothes.  This meant that when it came to finding meaningful materials to make my flowers, I had plenty.  

I used fabric from our daughters’ outgrown summer dresses.  Around the necks, there were the usual toddler stains etc., which meant they were not good hand-me-downs.  However, much of the fabric was gorgeous and colourful and, importantly, connected to our union.  If you’re making your own bouquets from old clothes, first date clothes might be another interesting fabric, or anything that is unwearable but has some kind of history.

A friend added me to the Facebook group, A Make Do and Mend Life, early on in wedding preparations.  This helped a lot: a community of people who are generous with their skills and advice and gently passionate about conservation.  I was advised to get myself a glue gun and given some ideas on how to make the fabric into flowers.

The method I went with in the end was a combination of several, and well suited to my rudimentary craft skills.  

  1. Cut a strip of fabric, about 2-3 inches wide (4-5 cm), and longer than 12 inches (30cm).  
  2. Thread a needle with a length of cotton, doubling it up and tying several knots in the end so that the knot hooks onto the fabric when you make the first stitch (much like you will have learned at Primary School).
  3. Tack along one long edge of the fabric strip (to tack means to do a very basic stitch, in and out. I know this from a friend who customises all her clothes. She is amazing).
  4. When you get to the end, pull.  The fabric will gather along the edge with the stitches in.  Pinch this fabric between your fingers as it gathers, so it forms the base of a bloom.
  5. Poke a piece of florist wire inside the gathered fabric.  
  6. Apply hot glue to it from your hot glue gun.
  7. Squeeze the fabric into the hot glue to stick the wire to the flower and cover up any dodgy stitching (being careful not to touch any hot glue so you don’t burn yourself).
  8. When you have made enough flowers for a bunch, wrap all the flowers together with florist tape.  This tape doesn’t appear sticky until you apply a mild stretch to it and then it activates – great fun.

 

Total Cost: approx £26

Fabric – reused (free)

Hot glue gun with glue sticks – approx £20

Florist tape – approx £3 per roll

Florist wire – appox £3 for 100 ‘stems’

Time: on and off for months.  Once you get the hang of it, you can make three or four at a time while catching up with a TV show, listening to a bit of music, or even having a drink and chat.

Floppier fabrics were less useful; starchy cottons were best.  I filled in smaller bouquets with woolly pom poms (more on those in another post).  This is my picture of the bouquets, their stems wrapped with tissue just in case the English summer got really hot and the wax on the florist tape bled (almost wishful thinking…)

After the ceremony, the flowers went back to the venue and into glass jars on the tables.


A Little Rustic Stitching…

 

Flower Girl Baskets

As well as the bouquets, we decorated two baskets found in a local charity shop with the fabric flowers.  Two lovely friends and I spent a fun evening trial and erroring making origami flowers, finally finding a video we could follow on YouTube.

We filled the flower baskets with the origami flowers and they were scattered to make a colourful path down the aisle.  It was a perfect way of bringing our wedding into the Town Hall.  

Total Cost: £6

Origami paper – friends decluttering (free)

Baskets – £6 from charity shops

 

Time: a very enjoyable evening, plus a few extra origami flower making sessions while watching First Dates.  

With huge thanks to Natalie S for additional photos.

The Origami Flowers, made from this YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm_4hFPFAOU