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More on Handfasting

Ok, so we've looked at the cake, the dress, the dishes, where to hold it, who to lead it, and how to get food for the feast. What are we missing? Oh, right...crap loads.

If you have only what I mentioned on the first page, you have a very nice, basic handfasting. But it's the details that make the occasion special for everyone. Let's look at decorations, for starters.



Flowers of the forest...la la la, I don't know the words...

Flowers get expensive fast, especially when you use roses. I recommend keeping the roses down to just the bouquet and cake, and maybe one or two on your headdress, if you have one. Carnations are inexpensive, and come in any color you want...which makes them excellent for table decorations. Baby's Breath and other "filler" plants can be arranged into stunning creations on their own, and can be had very cheaply. Another option would be flower petals...most florists will sell a giant bag of rose petals and other flower heads/petals for a few dollars, and these petals can be used as accents anywhere. Ask about other scraps...sometimes you can get lovely bits of ivy and ferns to create wreaths large enough to fit candle holders in.



Wall decorations?

If you're inside for your handfasting, there are thousands of little things you can do to transform a building into the setting of your dreams. Do you want a fairy forest in the middle of winter? Easy! Borrow all of the houseplants you can get from friends and family, and arrange a jungle. You can rent some larger plants from nurseries, too. String twinkling blue and white Christmas lights in inconspicuous places such as in the bottom of a plant pot, entwined with ivy, hidden inside a larger plant, or under tablecloths for a touch of fairy magic. (Be careful of fire hazards, however. Read all labels!)

If you don't mind the clean up later, sprinkle glitter in sparing amounts on tables near centerpieces, in places that the twinkle lights will pick up, and give small pouches of fairy dust to children to sprinkle around. Those kids will love you forever.

If you have the inclination, build a small water feature in a corner, hidden by plants, as a lovely surprise for your guests to find.

You can cover blank walls with "tapestries" made of plain bedsheets (not the faded rose pattern!) painted with any design you can think of. Make sure any bedsheets you buy fit your own bed, and use washable acrylic paints so you can comfortably reuse them later. Simply run a stitch on the top and bottom to create pockets for dowel rods, then hang them on the walls.

A plain hall can be recreated as a gothic estate with some wall hangings in rich, dark colors such as burgundy, hunter green, and navy blue interspersed with black and cream accents. If you can't afford to buy fabric, bedsheets come in a plethora of colors and can be used for years. Everyone needs more bedsheets! The trick is to make them look like lush wall hangings and not bedsheets...this can be done by hanging the sheets in swags held up by gold or silver colored napkin rings or even shower curtain rings. You can also sew the sheets together with a simple running stitch (which can easily be removed later) to create a longer swag, possibly the circumference of the room. Use accent ribbons at the napkin rings to hang below as eye relief from the plain swag.

Rummage second hand and charity shops for funky candleholders to decorate the hall and tables. If you don't personally like the candleholders, you can give them away as wedding favors later.

Don't forget the ceiling, either! Florescent lighting and ugly plaster can be covered by more bedsheets and long strips of fabric...make sure the fabric you use is flame retardant, and longer than the width of the ceiling. Secure both ends to either side of the hall, and in one place in the center of the ceiling to create a dramatic draping effect. If you do this, try not to use the overhead lighting, but candles, instead. This works best in buildings with very high ceilings...don't try this if the room is only eight feet tall.

If you want something even more different, look into renting a fog machine...this would work especially well in a fairy forest theme. Or possibly hidden buckets of dry ice.

This is starting to sound more like a haunted house than a handfasting, but I'm having fun. Ooh! A haunted house theme! Cool!



Table for two...hundred

Renting a hall almost always includes the use of tables and chairs, but if you're outdoors this can be a problem. Depending on the type of ceremony you choose, you may need seating for the handfasting *and* seating for the feast. It's the groomsmen's job to act as ushers, they can also be roped into arranging the seats. Try to choose big, strapping guys for this.

A quick side note... the groomsmen act as escorts for the bridesmaids for the entire day. If they're all single, this is easy, but if your maids or groomsmen are married or dating anyone, try to work this out. The best choice is to have both people involved, but if you don't like so and so's significant other, it might be best if neither were in the core party. By all means, invite them to the wedding...but it's considered rude to force your married groomsman to escort someone other than his wife.

Back to seating...try to have at least ten more seats and two more tables than you think you need. You're bound to forget someone in the official invitations, or invite someone at the last minute. In fact, try to have extra of everything...just in case.

Get the groomsmen to set up the tables and chairs after the ceremony as quickly as possible, if you don't have a separate area for the reception/feast already. As the bride, you don't get to do much of anything on the actual wedding day, so you need to prepare your bridesmaids for doing everything...it's their job. Show them what you want a few days in advance, and draw diagrams for each of them. You might feel like you're micromanaging, but it's really necessary for a smooth, well done handfasting.

If tables and chairs are not provided, you can contact catering services about this, too. You might also try local schools in the summertime...many have folding chairs and tables that will suit your needs perfectly. This should be much less expensive than a caterer. Renting from a church is also a cheaper option.

Remember that in addition to tables and chairs, you need tablecloths and possibly napkins. If you have a smaller wedding party, and your own table at home is roughly the size of those used in the reception, you might consider buying your own tablecloths and cloth napkins for later use. If the party is larger than four tables, this is probably not a good choice. You can rent linens from a variety of places, including caterers, churches, party supply stores, and even linen services. Some larger hotels include linens, tables, chairs, and room discounts in the rental of a convention room, and if the bride and groom have a room, you get all sorts of perks. Many hotels can be bargained with on the price. Call around, it never hurts to ask!



Favors and table decorations

Decorate with just about anything! Common centerpieces include a wreath of flowers surrounding a candle, a basket of flowers, or simply a basket of favors. I've heard of small fishbowls being used, complete with a goldfish! Designing a centerpiece is probably the easiest part of the whole day, so let's move on to favors.

Choosing these can be a bit more difficult, and these little bits of fluff can get expensive quickly. Most wedding designers sell simple favors for $2-$4 each, and when you have a few dozen guests, this can be painful! It is cheaper and much more fun to make them yourself, with the help of your bridesmaids.

The most important part of a favor is the personalization...a wedding favor is there to commemorate your wedding. This is almost always a small tag tied to the favor with your name, your husband's name, and the date written on it. Many people include a short poem, or a small design on these tags. You can easily make them yourself, especially if you have a printer! Splurge on some thick, creamy paper in any color you want. You can use this paper for the invitations, as well. Design a small tag with whatever fonts and pictures you have on your computer, and print out a few sheets filled with the tags. Cut them out and use a small hole punch...that's it! Use ribbon or metallic thread to attach them to your favors.

Most favors are small amounts of something nifty tied up in small-weave tulle. You can buy tulle very cheaply, it's usually less than $2 a yard. Just make sure you get the small, gauzy tulle and not the giant weave plastic-y stuff. Cut six-inch circles or eight-inch squares, and they're ready to go. Metallic thread is fantastic for closing the pouch...just thread it around and tie it with a bow. Leave about an inch of the tulle at the top for fluffiness.

You can fill the tulle with just about anything...candies, pretty mini candles with a tiny holder, small metallic glitter hearts, herbal potpourri, little pots of lip gloss, tiny soaps, charms, pretty stones, tiny decks of cards, earrings, tiny perfume bottles...anything! You can also pick things for different people, such as glitter lip gloss for little girls, tiny cards for boys, your uncle's favorite candy, or your aunt's favorite scent of candle. It's difficult to do this when ordering your favors in bulk.

My brother and his fiancÚ bought a crate of folding paper fans and added tags for their favors, this is also very inexpensive. You could create small booklets containing a favorite poem, your vows, or a personal thank-you for attending very easily using your printer. You could also make booklets to use as programs and an explanation of what's going on in the ceremony.

You can also use larger candles and holders, larger soaps, nifty pens or pencils, pretty chopsticks, hatpins, magic wands for small children, small bouquets of flowers, interesting lighter holders for smokers, incense for those you think would appreciate it, crystals and semi-precious stones for the rock collectors, engraved spoons, Jordan almonds, bubbles, small mirrors, or even dice for the gamers. For an exotic feel, wander around in an oriental market until something catches your eye. You can find packets of joss paper with beautiful designs, and while most of it isn't appropriate for a wedding, most of your guests have no clue and it really is a pretty design. You can use the joss paper as a small place mat, under the centerpiece, or just an accent on top of the plates. Just don't use the fake money and you should be fine.



Invitations

Yay, fun! Before you decide on an invitation design, make out your guest list. This has a definite impact on your budget. If you only have a few guests, it would be easier and more economical to make your invitations yourself. However, if you invite a few hundred people, a print shop is a fantastic idea.

Another quick note...it is normal and usually considered polite to invite people you know won't show up. Grand-Uncle Maurice lives in Timbuktu and probably doesn't know you exist...but you should send an invitation anyway. Just ask for an RSVP and give a respond date. This date should give you plenty of time to finalize your plans and give exact numbers when you need them, so I recommend a date at least three months before the ceremony. This is why you should have extras of everything...some people won't respond in time, and others will be invited last minute. If someone shows up without having responded, it is perfectly acceptable for you not to feed them. Welcome them, by all means, but it's not your fault you don't have a table setting for them... it's nice if you do, though.

If you decide to make your own invitations, you should have some, if not all of them, made card-style. This is so you can mail out any invitations you can't hand deliver. It would be a nifty touch to use a thick, creamy paper and hand made envelopes sealed with wax...but I just think that's cool anyway.

My brother made his invitations scroll style, and tied them with a simple piece of cotton string. This could also be made cooler with a seal of dripped wax. I have seen invitations that were nothing more than a small square of paper with a ribbon bow tied through holes at the top, but this has to be done *just* right...otherwise it looks like something out of a kid's craft corner.

Many craft stores sell embossing kits, this could be a very cool and cheap alternative to professional work. You could later use leftover paper and embossing stuff for the thank you notes. You might also take a look at the stamping kits, you may find something perfectly suited for your decorations.

Handfasting I Handfasting III