Reception

DIY Wedding Centerpieces: Hurricane Glasses

The key to any good DIY wedding centerpiece is starting with a central element, and for this, our first of a series of articles on do it yourself wedding centerpieces, we’ve picked the popular hurricane glass!

 

What’s in a Hurricane?

Hurricane glasses are curvy cylinders with a million variations. They can be kitschy, retro, vintage, sophisticated, tropical, and- well, just about anything else, depending on how you dress them up. They come in many different sizes, and are typically made from either glass or acrylic. Since they’re a popular shape, it can be quite easy to find bulk discounts on hurricane vases and glasses for your DIY wedding centerpieces. Check online craft suppliers and glassworks for the best deals on bulk packages.

 

The Tropical Hurricane:

For a done-in-seconds tropical DIY centerpiece, you’ll only need a few simple items to add to your glass: sand, a pillar candle, and silk, dried, or fresh tropical blossoms (we like plumeria and orchids). Simple fill a large hurricane about a quarter full with sand, dot the top of the sand with blossoms, and nestle your candle (maybe a fern green or warm ivory?) inside. Depending on the size of your glass, this can be a perfect DIY centerpiece for a small cocktail table, a round table for 6, or, in groups of three, a banquet table.

 

The Modern Hurricane:

If you’re planning for large banquet tables, you’ll need DIY centerpieces that make a bold visual statement, and don’t fade into the background. In addition to over-sized hurricane glasses, this super-simple centerpiece requires just one added ingredient: fresh fruit! Hit your local farmer’s market and look for bulk oranges, lemons, and limes with their leaves still attached. Artfully stack your produce in the glasses, leaving a few leaves attached for contrast. Not only will your centerpieces catch the eye, they’ll release a delicious aroma thanks to all that citrus!

 

The Firefly Hurricane:

While this DIY centerpiece requires a little extra work, it’s worth it for a nighttime wedding! You’ll need to hit a craft store and purchase several colors of glow-in-the-dark paint (we like blue and green, purple and white, or yellow and silver combos,) and several small paintbrushes. Make sure you choose a hurricane glass that is wide enough for you to get your hands (and the brush) in without getting stuck! With your brush, dot tiny circles of each color of paint inside the glass. You can vary the size of your dots a little, but too big and they’ll look splotchy and risk running down the glass. Cover as much of the surface as possible with dots- the more there are, the better the finished product will look. On the day of the wedding, make sure the glasses are left out in the sunlight or placed under a strong lamp during the day; that way, you’ll guarantee a strong glow once the sun goes down!

 

The Rustic Hurricane:

If you’re having an arts-and-crafts or woodland themed wedding, try these rustic DIY centerpieces: In a medium sized hurricane, add a shallow layer of small river pebbles. Then, fill the jar about halfway full with moss. Snuggle an LED candle into the moss, then add some tiny pinecones or a few more small stones around the base of the candle. You can get every one of these supplies at just about any craftstore, and you’re guaranteed to have DIY centerpieces that look as if gnomes crafted them just for you!

The Basics of DIY Weddings

DIY weddings are all the rage, in part because they allow the couple to potentially save some cash while showing off their crafty skills. While it’s unlikely that you’ll be handling all the wedding details by making them yourself, there are elements of any wedding that can easily be made or crafted rather than bought from a vendor.

Whether your skills include sewing, baking, carpentry, or just an eye for design, there are a million DIY wedding ideas that could help you save money while adding a personal touch to your wedding. Nevertheless, getting started on DIY wedding ideas can seem a little daunting for the crafting novice. Here are some important basics you’ll need to get going on turning your big day into a DIY wedding extravaganza!

Do Your Research:

The key to all great DIY wedding crafts is beginning with a great idea for a project. If you know you’d like to add some DIY elements, but don’t know where to begin, there are great resources out there to browse. In addition to wedding and craft magazines, don’t overlook useful sites like etsy and pinterest. These can be a great source of DIY wedding ideas, no matter what style of wedding you’re planning.

Get Friendly With Craft Stores:

Your local craft store is likely to be the basis of a lot of DIY wedding projects, from favor stuffing to ribbon banners. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with one of the managers or clerks, to ask about the possibilities of special orders or bulk discounts. If you can’t find what you need at a store, don’t hesitate to search for great deals online! Online glassworks, fabric stores, and even florists may be a great source of savings- especially if you can disassociate your purchases from the dreaded “wedding” price raiser!

Prepare to Price Compare:

If you’re looking to save some dough by turning to DIY wedding ideas, be prepared to do some price checking. With bulk discounts and sales, it may actually sometimes be cheaper to get pre-fabricated items than to make them yourself. Price out the shopping list of your DIY items against pre-made versions, and don’t forget to factor in charges like shipping or tax. Of course, if you’re just looking to add a homemade, artistic touch, then craft away without fear!

Timing is Everything:

While it’s tempting to think of just how much money you’ll save by making 300 mini-jars of jam instead of buying expensive wedding favors, don’t make the mistake of forgetting the time factor. In the month before your wedding, you’re unlikely to have hundreds of free hours for DIY wedding crafts, so making everything from the chuppah to the bouquets might be out of the question.

If you can spread craft projects out between your wedding party and relatives, however, or just get all your bridesmaids over to help you stuff favors and hand-write place cards, you can probably handle quite a few small DIY wedding projects- or at least a couple of big ones!



 

Wedding Photography

A good photographer will provide you with your most lasting memories of the day, things that you may be too busy or excited to pay much attention to at the time. In addition to using our vendor questionnaire for photographers, be sure to take these factors into consideration when considering your options.

Discuss the Tone:

Some people want formal portraits, others want a more candid feel to photographs. Look through your photographer’s portfolio carefully to determine how he or she prefers to capture a special event. If you have a specific viewpoint about your photographs, be sure to convey it early on. If you don’t know much about photography, but think the work in your photographer’s portfolio is excellent, be sure to ask him or her for their input on the best way to record your wedding.


Consider Video:

While photographs can be marvelous keepsakes, a wedding video will provide you with an even more thorough look at your wedding day. Many photographers offer video services as well as traditional photography for an added charge. If the expense is too great, ask friends with good digital cameras if they would mind taping the ceremony or important highlights for you. In this age of excellent consumer digital cameras, you’re sure to find someone on your guest list to help you out.

Set Limits:

Photographers are sometimes so consumed by their desire to get great shots, they can monopolize your time at the wedding. Be sure to set a strict time limit for formal photographs and insist they stick to it. Chances are, after the ceremony, you are going to be hungry and excited to mingle with your guests- don’t make the mistake of spending two hours standing for pictures while your stomach growls in protest.

Check Venue Rules:

Some churches and other houses of worship do not permit photographers to approach the altar during the ceremony, because it can be a distraction. Be sure to check with your venue coordinator about any photography rules, and try to stick with them out of respect for the location. Even if there are no rules against it, you may want to ask the photographer to stand in a fairly unobtrusive place during the ceremony, to prevent distraction.

Meals:

In general, it is considered polite to allow your photographer to take part in the reception meal. Some caterers will offer a set number of meals for on-site vendors such as the DJ or photographer at a discounted price, or even for free. Make sure you check with your caterer to find out their policy on vendor meals.

Choosing A Wedding Cake

Flavor and appearance are the two most vital components of choosing a wedding cake. With the option of going to tastings with many different bakers, this is one area where stress can easily be replaced by deliciousness. Here’s a few pointers to help make choosing a wedding cake as easy as it is tasty!

 The Baker:

Be sure to sit down with the baker in person, and look through his or her photos of past cakes. Make sure that the photos are ACTUALLY of the baker’s cakes (if you need convincing of the potential for fraud, check out cakewrecks.com for some true nightmares). As always, look at reviews online to get a general idea of customer satisfaction. Try to ask about price range per serving for each cake you are interested in. Visit our 10 questions for your baker page to get the skinny on more important considerations.


Yum!!

 Flavor:

Most bakeries will have several basic flavors, including vanilla, lemon, and chocolate, plus a few bakery specialties that are a bit more complex. Ask for a tasting of any you are interested in; most bakeries are happy to do this for free, or at least waive the tasting fee if you end up ordering from them. If you are torn between two flavors, consider getting half the layers in one, and half in the other. Best of both worlds!!

 Icing:

Bakeries tend to use one of three icings for weddings cakes: Buttercream, Marzipan, and Fondant.

  • Buttercream icing is a basic sugar/butter/milk mix which is very flavorful, can be altered to match nearly any flavor or color, and when applied skillfully can look beautiful. It is typically the least expensive option.
  • Marzipan is a smooth icing made from almond paste- it can be delicious, but is dangerous for anyone with nut allergies. Marzipan may also be used to mold figures or decorations for the cake.
  • Fondant is a very popular icing because it looks extremely smooth and beautiful, but there are some drawbacks. First, it is usually fairly bland, does not accept flavoring well, and has a rather heavy, clay-like texture. Secondly, it is made from gelatin, making it unsuitable for vegetarians.

Most wedding cakes are brought out for the newlyweds to slice, then taken to the kitchen to be cut for guests. One easy, sneaky way to save serious dough is by ordering a smaller “presentation cake” for the cutting, then making up the rest of the servings with far less-expensive sheet cakes. The sheet cakes have exactly the same flavor, filling, and icing, but easily be half the cost of a full size wedding cake. No one will ever know, we promise!!


Wedding Favors

Favors are typically small gifts handed out toward the end of the wedding, for guests to take home. They can also be items incorporated throughout the reception. A few simple considerations can take the stress out of these knick-knacks!


 What to Use:

Popular wedding favors include small treats like cookies or candies, candles, bottles of bubble bath, picture frames, or packets of seeds for gardening. Some couples like to personalize the items with their names or the date, but this can limit the usefulness of the gift. Bulk favors can easily be purchased online or through wedding supply shops.

 Breaking the Mold:

Without raising your budget, it can be fun to incorporate favors into the wedding. Consider handing out pinwheels and party noisemakers for guests to use when the newlyweds kiss, or buy shawls, which can cost as little as $3 when purchased online in bulk, to drape over chairs for guests to use during the reception. Some couples also like to leave a disposable camera on each table so that guests can take pictures of the wedding, though these are often collected at the end of the night.

 Packaging:

If you buy favors from a wedding company, they will often come packaged. For packaging your own, visit a crafts store to find small fabric or net bags in your wedding colors. Get a pretty basket to hold all the favors during the reception, so they can be easily distributed toward the end of the night.

 

Decidebride extra tip:

If you have a friend/bridesmaid who wants to help out, ask them to organize this little detail of the wedding. He or she may be happy to do this in lieu of a wedding gift, and it can take one extra thing off your mind. Be sure to assign someone to handout the favors or make sure they are waiting at the tables for guests. Junior bridesmaids or older flower girls can be great at this task.

Transportation

A limo? A carriage? Dad’s old station wagon? Choosing and scheduling the right transportation for the wedding and ceremony is an important part of setting the tone and making the day go smoothly.

 Who gets Where, When:

If you are planning on using a limousine or other chauffered transportation, arrange for someone else to drive you to the wedding site. That way, you don’t have to worry about dealing with your personal vehicle.

 The Limousine:

Classic and romantic, limos come in a variety of lengths and styles. If you’re planning to drive the whole wedding party around, this can be a great solution to ensure that everyone sticks together and gets to each site on time. If your wedding is during a busy season, book early to ensure availability.


Why not?

Alternative Vehicles:

Classic cars, tandem bicycles, or horse-drawn wagons may all be great limo-alternatives that also make for wonderful photographs. Check local listings to see what other types of interesting vehicles might allow you to make a splash at your wedding. In many cases, alternative vehicles can be considerably less expensive than traditional limousines.

 

Decorations:

Tin cans and written messages are popular additions to wedding vehicles (along with some less savory items) but be SURE that they are permitted by the rental company before indulging. If they are not permitted, the wedding couple may be charged extra for cleaning and could lose their deposit, if one was paid. If decorations are allowed, let any decorators (often the bridal party members) know what is and is not appropriate. If grandma is going to pitch a holy fit at condoms strewn about, tell them to just stick with tin cans.

 Decidebride extra tip:

Other than simply using a rented car to get to and from the wedding site, consider taking advantage of the features and quiet interior for a few extra trips. Grooms can surprise their bride with the car in the morning, so she can take it out to breakfast, to her hair and makeup appointments, and wherever else she pleases. Or, book the car for your departure at the end of the wedding, then spend a few hours cruising around the local scenery. A moonlit drive with your new spouse can be a wonderful way to detox, relax, and savor your first time alone as newlyweds. For fun during the wedding, see if the driver would be willing to give any kids at the wedding a quick spin in the car- it’ll make their day!!

Dancing

Dance at a wedding is a inherent part of many cultural traditions. While dance gives us an opportunity to express joy and have fun, it can be nerve-wracking for some people. Talk about your plans for any formal dancing, such as the couple’s first dance, well in advance of the event.


If we can do it, anyone can!

 Couple Dance:

Some couples are content to simply sway around in a circle, while others like to take advantage of the opportunity to do something romantic and silly. Taking dance lessons for a few months before the wedding is recommended if you want to do a formal-style dance. If either one of you have dance experience, save the cost of classes and choreograph your own fun, romantic, or dazzling first dance. No one is going to be holding up score cards and judging you, so have some fun with this!

 Song Choice:

Even if you have the perfect love song for your first dance, consider editing the song to make it shorter. A 5-minute long song can take real endurance to get through, and even the spectators may feel a little awkward after a while. If you have a long song, consider choreographing a short routine to it, then including the father/bride and mother/groom dance in the second half of the song. You can edit down a song to a manageable amount of time using a simple music editing program, many of which are free to download and easy to use.

 General Dancing:

Talk to your band and DJ about the tone of the guests and the type of dancing you’d like to encourage. If you know you have a reserved crowd, ask the entertainers to do their best to draw these introverts out on the dance floor. If some of your guests are great swing dancers or know how to tango, be sure to include a few songs that let’s them show off. Keeping the dancing lively is a good way to ensure the energy of the party stays high throughout the event.

 Last Dance:

A good way to end the night is to perform a simple last dance of the evening with your new partner. This is a good chance to use a song that’s important to the two of you, and helps end the party on a sweet, romantic note.

Inevitably, a line dance, conga line, or chicken dance can break out, even at the most formal wedding. Even if you think it’s ridiculous, just go with it. This sort of mass-hysteria is really more fun once you join in.

Entertainment

Lively music at the reception helps build atmosphere and set the tone for the event. To make reception music stress-free, first start with your three basic options.

MP3 Player Reception:

The least expensive option, using an MP3 device allows the couple to build a large playlist (or several shorter ones) that are pumped through the venue’s speaker system. As long as the speakers are adequate, this can be a great option for saving money while ensuring that only your favorites are on the list. Consider breaking the playlists down into “cocktail hour” “during meal” and “dancing” categories, to make the music easy to operate. Assign a bridesmaid or groomsman to be in charge of operations for the evening, so you don’t have to keep bolting over to the dock.


DJ Reception:

The biggest benefit to a good DJ is that he or she is good at judging the mood of the crowd and selecting appropriate music. They are also usually willing to make crowd announcements during the wedding, such as alerting the crowd about the cake cutting, first dance, etc. When you are in the booking process, be sure to present the DJ with a list of “must play” songs, as well as (EQUALLY IMPORTANT) “do not play” songs. Let them know if there are any songs you want for specific moments, such as the bouquet toss, and be sure to confirm that they have the exact version that you want, as songs can have multiple remakes. As always, read online reviews at an independent site to make sure they meet your standards.

 Live Music Reception:

Hiring a band to play the reception gives you the great atmospheric advantage of live music. This can make the whole experience more exciting and memorable for guests, but does usually come at an increased price tag. If you really want a live band for dancing but don’t have an enormous budget, consider using an iPod or DJ option for the first half of the reception, then bringing the band on after dinner. Make sure you hear the band play live before hiring, as recordings can be somewhat deceiving. If you have a special song you want them to play, give them at least a month of leeway to learn the piece. Bear in mind that many bands have a finite repetoire and specialize in one kind of music, so be certain that you will enjoy several hours of their style before hiring them for an entire event.

Alcohol

Serving alcohol at a wedding can certainly help get the party going, but can also add lots of extra dollars to your budget. Consider some simple ways to keep the spirits- and your balance sheet- under control.


 Talk to the Caterer/Venue:

Some venues and caterers offer alcohol, some do not. Many that do will charge a corkage fee if you prefer to bring your own instead of choosing from their selection. Sometimes, they can also save you money by charging for only what you drink, thereby preventing you from over-purchasing. It’s important to have a conversation with your catering or venue manager to determine how to get the best price.

The Full Bar wedding:

Obviously the most expensive choice, a full bar wedding includes wine, beer, spirits, and mixers. Since mixed drinks are served, an experienced bartender is also necessary. You can defray some of the cost of a full bar by having a no-host option, or only hosting the bar during the dinner hour. Even with this reduced responsibility, the sheer size of the full bar can be a costly, if fun, choice.

 The Beer/Wine Wedding:

This is a less expensive choice that still allows guests the chance to enjoy a drink or two. In general, you will want to provide at least one red and one white wine, and one to three beer options. Some people also choose to have a limited amount of champagne available for toasting.

 The Non-Alcoholic Wedding:

Soft drinks, iced tea, lemonade, and other non-alcoholic beverages can easily be used to create a hangover-free bar with lots of creative options. Don’t be afraid to get creative with the possibilities of a non-alcoholic bar- consider including unusual drinks, like egg creams, chocolate milk, punch, or even ice cream sodas. The alcohol will never be missed, and the price may be considerably less.

Good champagne generally costs in excess of $20 per bottle- at a large wedding, that can quickly wrack up, even if it’s just available for toasting. If you want some bubbly without the stress, consider mixing your signature cocktail out of an inexpensive ($10 or less) sparkling wine, and a few fruit juices. This is a great way to have your champagne- and save, too!

One fun alternative to a full bar is to offer a signature cocktail. You and your sweetie can spend some time concocting practice versions at home in order to create a drink that matches the style and theme of your wedding. This way, you can provide the fun of a real cocktail hour without spending excess money on tons of different spirits.

Food

The menu may be dictated by equal parts personal taste, time of day, and style of the wedding. These three factors can help narrow down options, but can’t really make the final decisions for you. Some additional considerations that can help you choose the right menu options include:

 Favorite Foods:

There’s nothing wrong with asking a caterer to make one of the main dishes- or all of them!- representative of personal tastes. Rather than ye-olde-chicken-or-fish option, why not give guests the choice between the groom’s favorite chile rellanos, or the bride’s grandmother’s shepherd’s pie?


Fun Foods:

Many wedding receptions make the mistake of trying to please everyone by providing fairly bland, basic foods. It can be far more memorable to include a few extremely fun foods that kick the culinary options up a notch. Mashed potato or mac and cheese bars allow guests to pile on toppings of their choice, while cotton candy or gourmet corn dogs can add a fun, festival option. Talk with the caterer about featuring a fun food choice in addition to regular menu options, just to freshen up the standard fare.

Cuisine themes:

One of the easiest ways to build a stress-free menu is to pick a style of food, for example Italian, and simply stick to it for all major dishes. Choosing a broad cultural or thematic concept can make sure that each element of the meal complements the others, without odd clashes. For example, a Greek-themed menu might include warm olives, tapenade, hummus, and flatbread appetizers. Lamb or vegetarian kebabs for main courses, and greek wedding cookies served alongside the cake. Consider visiting a few restaurants that feature a type of cuisine you like, so that you can try out popular dishes and see if they’d fit in with your menu.

Dietary Requests:

Diabetes, veganism, lactose-intolerence–all of these words can turn your menu on its head. It’s generally considered polite to make sure there is something for each person to eat, but don’t worry about making sure your entire menu is prepared for all dietary concerns. The easiest way to manage dietary requests is to talk to your caterer in advance about the number of guests with special diets, and see what can be done for them. Some caterers are happy to provide a small number of diet-safe meals if they are told in advance. If the caterers are unwilling to accommodate dietary restrictions, make certain that they don’t charge you for the guests that cannot eat, and be certain to let the guests know that, unfortunately, there isn’t anything on the menu for them, but it’s perfectly alright if they want to bring food for themselves.