I'm travelling into a new way of working, a new country, a new language, and a new hobby which I'm passionate about. Come with me for some of the journey...

Monday 13 August 2012

A handmade wedding

This post is dedicated to the amazing friends without whom I couldn't have achieved the transformation: Jo, Lynda, Sheila, Katy, Simon, and my mother, Gil.

Hello all, and welcome!  A post slightly off the usual tack today... but there's plenty of crafting content too...

So, alongside everything I've been blogging about for the last couple of months I've been carrying out some other - top secret - crafting transformations, and this was on an industrial scale: a whole wedding's worth!  I couldn't blog about it because it was all supposed to be a secret from Laura, the bride, my brother's partner, though there has been the odd sneak peek.  Those sneak peeks encouraged some of you to hope that there might be some pictures of the end result... well, you asked for it!!

The venue was a scout hut: the grounds are already rather lovely, but the hut itself - though it has very large windows in the main room - is a pretty dingy affair, so something drastic needed to be done.  It was my task to transform the lowly scout hut, inside and out, on a (compared to most weddings) pretty minuscule budget.  There was borrowing, begging and a lot of handmade crafting.  So I think I'll start with some 'before-and-afters', and then show you some of the details.

We "wallpapered" over all the posters and posterboards with metres of lining paper. And we took down the grimly dark blue curtains and swooped net curtains between the very useful metal struts. 

The metal struts were decorated with ivy, metal hearts, and hooped decorations created out of a scarf holder from Ikea.  The bits and pieces from Czech bric-a-brac stores were decorated with paints and inks to suit the wedding colours of sage and lilac.

Tables were decked with either white or lilac tablecloths - some were old family linen recently discovered in the house clearing we're doing; the lilac linen an incredibly lucky find in the Oxfam shop where my mother volunteers (and cut and hemmed by Jo); some were paper - and all covered with metres of material painstakingly cut into table runners to go down the centres (and I HATE fabric - any other kind of crafting, let me at it, but not material!) 

The green runners were cut from material bought very cheaply in CZ.  The top layer of runner is heavy duty paper, bought in great quantities years ago by my mother for dollshouse wallpaper.

If you click on the photo of the windows above, you can see the wonderful butterfly wings effect Simon and Katy managed to achieve with the nets.

The place cards are made on tiny tags to continue the theme started with the wedding invitations (made months ago - so I now find them a bit tame! - but much admired by the recipients).

The tiny clothes pegs we'd had sitting around for years (benefits of hoarding again), but unfortunately the hearts were bright red... that was fairly tedious - 80-odd tiny hearts needing, in some cases, three coats of white acrylic before the scarlet stopped showing through!

But I was delighted that many people attached their name to themselves for the rest of the day, as I'd hoped.

I used the little Prima stamp as the background, and on the back, and the most used Distress Ink for this wedding was Bundled Sage (predictably, given the wedding colours of lilac and sage!).

We were working in a world of shabby chic and vintage... so one of my ideas was that everyone should have a slightly different drinking vessel, and a mixture of beakers and wine glasses.

(Champagne flutes for the toasts were hired, which was great because then all the place cards were at the same height as you looked along the tables!)

Again, some we'd had for years (I'm quite a glass collector); and we scoured charity shops and car boot sales (sort of like yard sales only with all the yards in one big field together!) for bargain vintage glasses.  The gold-rimmed ones you can see in these photos were my Czech grandmother's, so it's lovely that we had that sense of heritage in the day too.

In this view from the top table, you can see some of the other glassware being used.  (Bride and groom each had the gold-rimmed champagne glasses; mine's the green spirally one!)

For the wild flowers on the tables (grown in our garden, gathered from hedgerows, begged from strangers' gardens - how lovely people can be... and the gypsophila our one flower expenditure) I went with simple jam jars of all shapes and sizes, with rustic string wrapped and tied in a rough bow.

Also on the tables were some of the vast numbers of picture frames we'd sourced, and I'd filled with collages and pictures not only of the bride and groom, but of Victorian wedding couples too (Google image search I love you!). This is the selection directly in front of the happy couple, along with the gorgeous glass bell, another Oxfam find, which we used to announce the speeches.

Most of the rest of the pictures formed part of the decorative backdrops on either side behind the top table.  And the vast majority of this lot I already owned - what can I say, I'm a shabby chic, candle girl!

We'd been gathering picture frames both from charity shops and from the house-clearing process we'd been going through, and had amassed quite a large, but disparate collection.

The silver and gold ones I decided could stay as they were, but the motley crew of pine, stained wood, and plain old nasty plastic (some of it masquerading as wood) needed dealing with.  Distressing time!!

I tried out a couple of techniques I found online, but in the long run worked out the simplest method was simply to use good old gesso - it needed a couple of coats in most cases, but it looked really good, plus it felt really great to the touch, grainy and rugged.

I then made some collaged backgrounds, using all the greenish or vaguely mauvey coloured papers I'd dragged out of my paper stash (many from K&Co's Best Of collection), and some of which I'd doctored with some stamping or Picket Fence Distress Stain.

As focal points I used the "vintage" wedding photos (the printer played up again, and instead of sepia a lot of them came out lilac coloured - oh happy serendipity!)...

...the happy couple's favourite photos of themselves, reprinted in many different shapes and sizes...

...and some "vintage" postcards I'd created using the wedding colours.

The picture frames (with a specific travel twist to these ones) also put in an appearance as part of the "Gift Table".

Rather than presents, given they've been together twelve years, have two gorgeous children, and a houseful of belongings, Adam and Laura requested contributions to a 'travel fund' so that they might take a family holiday, something which they can't often afford.

So I knew I'd need somewhere for people to leave envelopes and cards with "holiday money", and had always had the idea that I'd love to have some vintage luggage involved (because I love vintage luggage!).

I had a tiny leather suitcase that I used to keep my dolls' clothes in; another belonged to my uncle when he went to school; and the largest was a donation from friend Sheila.

So with another Google Image search I gathered old travel labels, and I used the Tim Holtz (phew, he made it into the post) Distressables to create some "vintage" postcards.

I made a large scale postcard telling people that they could leave their gifts in the smallest suitcase.

We had also found, when clearing the house, a shoebox of real vintage postcards, which I left for people to write messages on and 'post' into the suitcase too.

There was even a vintage style cotton nightdress, and men's stripy pyjamas hanging above on padded, embroidered hangers - I forgot to take a picture, but I think you might be able to spot the pyjama legs somewhere here...

Then, of course, there was the outdoors to be dealt with...

One of the very first things I was desperate to do was find a way to disguise the horrid plastic chairs being used for the ceremony.  At the wedding breakfast, the chairs would be less of an eyesore, since attention would be drawn by the decorated tables, but at the ceremony, it would be just the chairs, standing in rows in the garden (as long as the weather remained fine...).

Eventually, after toying with and discarding a number of ideas, I came up with the idea of draping the chairs with tulle (otherwise known as discarded net curtains).  Then we'd wrap ribbon/fabric/raffia (still, at that point, to be decided) round the seat, with some lavender and ivy tucked in to it.

Now ivy we've got growing in profusion all over the house and garden, and we set about growing some new lavender.

As soon as the stems were large enough, we snipped a crop and then ran it through the dehydrator (usually used for fruit!); we didn't have time to wait for nature to take its course.

Fortunately, since there were more yeses to the 91 invitations than I'd been hoping (sorry, Adam and Laura, but I had my fingers crossed for lots of "sorry, can't be with you" responses!), we were able to raid a friendly Czech's magnificent lavender display in a nearby village.

And then the operation started really to be on an industrial scale!  From the garden, to the dehydrator, or up into the garage roof to dry naturally, then into a crate to be shipped back to the UK with us.  Can you imagine what the car smelled like as we drove across Europe?!

We also collected old net curtains from all our usual sources - Oxfam, friends, friends-of-friends both in CZ and the UK.  We ended up with vast bagloads which all needed cutting to the right size for draping over the chairs.  The sashes to tie round them were cut from the remains of the runner and tablecloth material - at least it meant everything matched!

Lynda did incredible work assembling the 75 chairs on the day before the wedding.  It was the element I'd been most unsure about - I still thought maybe it would look too random and makeshift.  But as soon as they were all lined up, I was deliriously happy with the look...

After the ceremony we scattered the chairs in groups around the garden and people were able to gather, eat, drink and chat in the glorious sunshine... it was completely lovely!

We bought some cheap rose arches to form an aisle - one at the start, one behind the celebrant's table, and one to provide a backdrop to the garden bench under the tree for the wedding photographs (you can just see it behind the arch).

They're decorated with some more cut-up net curtains tied into bows, some metal tealight holders of mine, and some balloon string ornaments made by my niece and nephew (with some parental assistance I believe!).  And then of course some ivy, gypsophila and lavender to complete the look...

And another jam jar and candle affair to adorn the celebrant's table.

One last element I was very pleased with (if there's anybody still with me...) was the table map.

Adam and Laura named the tables after delicious teas and their favourite cakes, and then we'd ended up needing to have the tables in columns to fit - but I didn't see any reason why the table groupings within the columns couldn't still have their tea-and-cake names.

There was a posterboard right at the entrance, perfect for my table map (which was rather large).

Each gesso'd frame had information about the cake or tea of the table it represented - this one is for a delicious Czech honey cake called Medovnik.  

The text was computer generated of course, but stamped with a Kanban frame of wild flower silhouettes, and the individual name labels have the Prima background stamp again.

We were fantastically lucky that the weather held out, and everyone had a wonderful time - the greatest satisfaction was seeing people enjoying themselves so much in the surroundings I'd created.  It took blood, sweat and tears, and hours and hours of work.  And then it all had to be returned to its original state before leaving, so I can't tell you how exhausted I am today - but I know what it meant to Adam and Laura... so it was completely worth it.

My thanks to all of you who sent good wishes for the wedding day, so kind, and I hope you've enjoyed seeing some of the results.  Normal blogging service will be resumed as soon as I've recovered a bit!!  Hope to see you again soon.

Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts.
William Shakespeare

Oh, and a totally fantastic P.S. - my thank you gift from Adam and Laura is a workshop place for when Tim Holtz is next in the UK (have to get in there early, of course!)... I'm ecstatic!

I'd like to offer this up at Inspire Me Fridays - to let people know that you don't need to spend thousands on a wedding - all my stuff came in at under £200, and the venue itself was £130 (including the day before which gave us crucial set up time)...


Patti P. said...

How fabulously gorgeous are both venues and how happy they must have been with all of your creative hard work. I am blown away by all of your ideas, love to recycle and you are the queen of that!!
Many blessings to the happy couple and you as well, hope you enjoy your workshop when it comes around.

Sarah said...

What a beautiful transformation from scout hut to wedding venue. Your hard work was worth every minute and broken fingernail. Absolutely lovely!

Alie Hoogenboezem-de Vries said...

I thought you just had to be a guest at the wedding, Alison, but without you...both inside and outside wouldn't be as beautiful as the photo's show now.
How creative and special!

greetings, Alie :-)

Abbeybufo said...

Absolutely lovely! - I've just been telling Cestina/Gil how pleased I am that the day went well for you all, and how superb all your work is - what a transformation!

Deborah said...

An absolutely beautiful transformation of a very utilitarian building, and all the better for the love and care that went into creating everything. Fabulous!

Anonymous said...

I am in awe. Not just the ideas, but the stamina to carry them through. Adam and Laura are one lucky couple.

mark gould said...

wow, great stuff, so much thought and detail has gone into what you have managed to achieve. You can see the love that has gone into making your brothers day special. I bet they were blown away by your efforts.

Andrea Small said...

When we spoke I had only looked the photos, but now I have read all the text. And considered as a whole, as a description of the unimaginable (to me) creativity and effort you poured into this, as an act of love - it made me cry. To have mistressminded this enormous project and carried it out, alongside all the other creative work you have been doing -it's astounding. Well done - and lucky, lucky Laura and Adam. What an astonishing family you are :-)

Laurart said...

I can't tell you how much it means to me that you did this for us as words can't describe it. You got everything so perfect for us. It was our dream wedding! I keep looking at photos and just am amazed by how wonderful it was. I could NEVER have done what you did and I am so grateful to you - All my love, Laura xxxxx

Chrissy said...

I think I may need to go husband hunting, just to get you to do my wedding..absolutely stunning Alison..breathtaking actually..looked like a million dollars..


Ana K. said...

Wow Alison, you did amazing job! Incredible transformation and of course I love that you choose vintage style. Absolutely stunning!!

New England Wedding Venues said...

great wedding stuff :)
Thank you for sharing this idea to us.It really gives me an idea on how to make my wedding day successful.

...the yorkshire fox... said...

...OMGosh the amount work time work and effort you have put into your Brothers day is amazing...you have managed to bring the fairytale to life...beautiful gorgeous stunning I could go on and on...loVe the whole natural shabby vintage theme...your one very talented lady Alison...Mel :)

Jane said...

What an Ab Fab wedding venue - all your hard work was worth it. Well done and congratulations to all concerned ! x

Cestina said...

Thank you for including me in the dedication. It was a privilege to be alongside you as we found the makings of the magic, and to watch you transform them.

I (mostly!) enjoyed being the gofer though hauling cow parsley out of hedges full of nettles because it had mostly gone over was not the best bit.

And if I never have to build another rose arch I will be a happy bunny.

Seriously - I am in awe of your abilities to envision and bring those visions to life. I have been watching it all summer with the subjects of your previous blogs and this creation is the icing on the cake - the wedding cake!
Gil, with love

Amy Pigott said...

The transformation was amazing, but then I knew it would be :) You have a wonderful eye for detail and everything just looked so wonderful.

You performed some kind of magic on that hut, totally stunning :)

Well done you did more than an amazing job!

Anonymous said...

Oh my!!!! What an incredible transformation. Lovely, lovely ideas. This must have been stressful at times but I can imagine the fun and enjoyment you must have had as well with the planning and the creating. Fantastic job Alison. TFS.
Regards Florence x

Anonymous said...

Alison, I followed your mother's links from her CBB post to this. I'm completely in awe of the transformation you wrought on that Scout Hut. I have no doubt your brother and sister-in-law were thrilled - I know your mother is really proud of your accomplishment.
Elder in Ontario

Anita Houston The Artful Maven said...

Beautiful work...and so much! You've been a busy bee!!!

Marina said...

This is fantastic! I hate to hear of people spending zillions they can't afford on weddings and I hope this will inspire others to save money and still have a lovely wedding.

Marjie Kemper said...

Oh my goodness, Alison! What a labor of love... I can only imagine the hours you put into this and you've achieved such a fabulous outcome. The bride and groom must have been totally amazed. You should consider sending this into a DIY magazine... they'd love it, too!

Jo said...

It was an absolute pleasure to participate in your wonderful project Alison, I truly enjoyed every second of it... I wish I could be as creative as you are...

Neet said...

I cannot believe how much work you put into this wedding. What a gem you are! Everything you did was perfect - and yes, I stayed with you to the end and enjoyed every minute of it. So much so that I will return and read again - from start to finish.
This is just absolutely perfect and what a glorious day weatherwise you seem to have had.
Cannot get over the amount of work, love and dedication you put in here.
Hugs, Neet xx
ps when is TH over here and where is the workshop (whisper it to me please as I would love to go myself)

Sue said...

Wow Alison, I can't believe in the transformation you made. I always think that the hardest part is coming up with the ideas, but carrying these through can't have been easy. The love that you put into this really shines through. What an amazing gift to your brother and new SIL x

Karen McAlpine said...

Exquisitely beautiful!!!

Shelby said...

You've found a new career as a party decorator, planner extraordinaire! That is just an amazing amount of work and it all looks so gorgeous. Congrats to you as well as the couple


Victoria said...

A sensational transformation and a wonderful personal gift to your brother and new sister-in-law! There is so much thought and dedication gone into this. You have literally made their day happen. Congratulations!

Maria Matter said...

WOW, amazing and so beautiful!!!

I'll be featuring you this week @ Inspire Me Fridays, thank you so much for sharing!!

Gez Butterworth said...

WOW! What a beautiful, wonderful day. I am sure everyone will remember with affection. My no wonder you were shattered! Wonderful pics, thank you for sharing.

I hope you have a lovely weekend. Gez

Jill McC said...

It was lovely hearing Gil's description, but even better to see the pics. What a labour of love!
Now, I have a '0' birthday coming up and still have some net curtaining...,.any ideas for November?? (Just joking). My chosen (washed) baked bean cans with raffia tied labels to hold floral table decorations seem quite tame now.... Hope all goes well for the next couple of months or so. You'll return to work for a rest! Love Jill

Kezzy said...

WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW AMAZING. WOW lol I don't know what to say other then WOW, the flowers (ribbon, fresh and dried) are stunning, the rings for the winders are out of this world, the stationery on the glasses are beautiful, the frames and all the vintage atmosphere from the tables are stunning and WOW the postcard idea in the cases and the holiday fund idea oh wow you are amazing. Just getting over being away, unpacking etc and now sitting down and catching up, only managed to posts so far as I have been mesmorised by the wedding post. Hugs Kerry :-) xxx

Geraldine said...

Wow, what a beautiful transformation, I can't even begin to imaging the amount of work that went into this. I love your ideas, and am in love with the vintage suitcases.

Dianne said...

How did I miss this post, I know I was all over your blog, anywho,PERFECT Fairytale wedding, I honestly think the best wedding planner could not have done anything as well, everything is soooooo beautiful and my favorite hedgerow, perfect the stamped chair cover WOW so beautiful, all those pics with the painted frames and the photos, what a fabulous mishap, oh and the old suitcases with the old post cards, it's all so brilliant done, who needs a wedding planner when you have friends and family to make it perfect, I'm so glad I got to see this post,it all is fantastic and kind of knowing the bride ( whose work I loooove) is very special....

sara j said...

I could no more do this than fly to the moon so I am totally flabbergasted. I'm just overwhelmed....the chairs alone are gorgeous and spirited in the sun, but ALL the other things....just amazing Alison. What a gift of love. Beautiful. Thank you for letting us share the day.