Wedding Centerpiece and Garland How-To

I'm trying out the How-To post.

With each project I typically do take photos as I go – intending to post some sort of tutorial on the back end. But when the time comes to lay it all out and break down the process it sometime feels a little indulgent – like I think I created something so novel or groundbreaking that I'm required to inform the public how they can to... That's why, you may notice, I try to casually throw in succinct how-to descriptions in the main post. But often that can feel forced and like way too much info, plus, just generally detract from pretty content.

Well, I'm getting over myself. So many of the blogs I love are full of both the beautifully edited reveal, and the incredibly practical how-to. Here's my attempt to navigate aspiration and accessibility as elegantly.  

Centerpieces

Glenna is a nature-loving, refined-glamour kind of girl so that was the vibe I wanted to set with the tables. We considered several tablecloth colors, eventually landing on black for these reasons: it looked the most expensive, seemed fit for a swanky cocktail party, and didn't make the room look like it was set up for a high school prom (a real fear!). We already knew we'd feature her mom Cindy's elaborate terrariums along with a collection of interesting glassware, votives, and dishes I'd been snagging at thrift stores. I just wanted something to corral it all and make it seem like one collection not just a bunch of random objects piled on each table. I kept imagining something metallic and textural like these aluminum sheets used for radiator covers. But, whoah, that would've cost a lot. So I came up with a different option with a similar feel.

I bought a 1/4" thick 4x8' panel and had the kind associate at Lowes cut it into 8 squares on the spot. Then I painted them a matte black so they'd blend in with the tablecloth, used no primer, and deemed one coat fine enough (two would've probably been better). With some 1" metallic gold tape I had on hand (an ancient castoff from some previous project at my day job) I taped off a graphic Union Jack inspired pattern on each panel (pictured below). I couldn't figure out where to buy more of it so I bought this tape which turned out to be so much better. A 1/2" thinner, but unlike the tape I had on hand, it stuck to the panels perfectly and didn't throw me into an inconsolable panic because it bubbled up a few hours after attaching it.  

And here are some invaluable step-by-step photos revealing how I affixed each strip of tape (without which the process would seem incomprehensible, I know):

I still felt like there needed to be more pattern so for half of the tables I made super simple black and white striped runners. Then I just sort of placed a bunch of different vases and other glassware around each table until I felt happy with the arrangements. The flowers were bulk flowers from Costco, artfully arranged by Miss Cathy. And the terrariums, as you know, were Cindy's specialty.  

Boom. A simple and affordable metallic, nature-focused centerpiece.

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The Garland

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Because the venue was essentially one big open space it was important to make it feel less expansive and more intimate by defining zones. We wanted dancing to play a central role in the night's festivities so it didn't make sense to shove a temporary dance floor at the end of the room and hope people would naturally migrate from their seats to it. No, we wanted it front and center.

I had a vague vision of some sort of hanging structure, light and effervescent, to delineate our "dance floor." After contemplating a few different ideas I decided on a garland of dangling white and gold strips of paper.

 The process for creating the garland was simple:

  • Cut hundreds of roughly 1" by 4" long strips out of card stock and gold metallic wrapping paper
  • Fold each strip in half
  • Thread a needle with the desired length of sturdy fishing line and knot the end  (note: if the fishing line is too thin the knot won't be big enough to hold the paper)
  • Poke needle through center of folded strip of paper and thread the fishing line all the way through until the paper rests on the sturdy knot you already tied
  • Tie another knot in fishing line above the strip of paper and thread a new strip
  • Repeat this process over and over and over until you have hundreds and hundreds of strings of beautiful paper. 
  • Enlist a friend (or bonus! multiple friends) so you don't go crazy

Initially we planned to tie each strand to the ceiling creating a semi-circle around the perimeter of our makeshift dance floor. Unfortunately, we found out a few weeks prior to the wedding the venue wouldn't allow that. I hurriedly came up with an asymmetrical angled plan that enabled us to use three free-standing poles borrowed from my friend, Gabriel (thanks, Gabe!). 

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We tied each strand of garland to a lengthy portion of rope, then swagged the rope from pole to pole. In theory this should have worked, but the rope made the whole structure SO FREAKING HEAVY. The poles couldn't stand upright under the weight. In the end, much to the venue's disapproval, we had to reinforce it by using fishing line to attach the poles to whatever random strongpoint we could find in the ceiling. Bryan's dad really saved the day (and my sanity) with this in-the-moment workaround. 

Then, because I'm super into living dangerously, we added even more weight by weaving multiple strands of white twinkle lights throughout the whole thing. It really did have quite an effect and in the end was completely worth it!   

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