How-to Make your Rose, Hydrangea, & Peony Bouquet

Happy Wednesday! I apologize for my absence and since last writing I have successfully moved out-of-state and started a new internship.  Before I left, however, I took my bridal portraits.  (Bridal portraits are a southern tradition of doing a photo shoot with the bride and her dress prior to the wedding.)  

Using leftover centerpiece flowers from here, I created a large bridal bouquet with about $25 worth of flowers.  Similar, smaller bridesmaid’s bouquets could be completed for about $10-15/each as well…I actually made one and then gave it away to one of my maids before taking a picture!

I love this project because it gives you so many options to save money and still have floral bouquets for you and your girls.   You could opt to have the florist do centerpieces and you do the bouquets.  A florist will typically charge $125-250 for a bridal bouquet and $50-100 for a Bridesmaid bouquet.  Depending on your number of bridesmaids these bouquets could be completed the morning of the wedding in about a half hour and save $100+ per bouquet.  To save even more you could choose to only do floral bouquets and use non-floral centerpieces.  

Easy 2 Step Bouquet Tutorial

Step 1: Buy your Flowers

I actually used the flowers that I purchased for a wedding the previous Saturday.  In the professional pictures below, the flowers were 4 days old and had already been through a wedding, made into a large living room arrangement, and then turned into a bouquet.  Moral of story? Don’t let anyone convince you flowers are too fragile to do yourself.  They weren’t refrigerated, the water changed once before the wedding and once after, and they turned out great.  Seriously, check out the pictures – does that look like a $25 bouquet?

Here’s a picture of the flowers and my initial arranging:

Easy Bouquet Tutorial

Easy Bouquet Tutorial

Step 2: Group Flowers into a Ball

Once you have taken excess leaves and initially trimmed the stems of  your flowers, you should start grouping them together.  This is more of an art than an exact science.  As I tried to illustrate, I simply kept adding flowers to my “bouquet” until it resembled a sphere.  I then took a look at what it looked like when I held it in front of a mirror and rearranged a bit.  Now, the real secret:  simply use rubber bands to secure the blooms.  Three rubber bands to secure the top, middle and bottom of the stems will work well and is much easier to handle than floral tape.  I placed my bouquet into a vase for transport and tied the ribbon on once I arrived at the photo shoot.  

That’s it!  Here’s the professional pictures – what do you think?

Easy Budget Bridal Bouquet

Easy Budget Bridal Bouquet – only $25!


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6 DIY Peony, Rose, and Hydrangea Centerpieces for $50 Tutorial

This past weekend I created all the floral arrangements for a friend’s wedding.  The arrangements were classic and very easy to pull together.  

Step 1: Buy your Flowers

On Saturday I purchased the peonies from a local farmers market for a $1.50/stem!  I then found Hydrangea, Spray Roses, and Spider Mums at Whole Foods.  I love working with hydrangea because they are so big & fluffy – they easily fill in space in an arrangement.  In total I had 12 hydrangea stems, 5 spider mum stems, 9 peony stems, and about 10 spray rose stems.  

I left everything in extra vases/containers and on Sunday these stems were evenly divided among 6 dollar store vases to create classic ivory arrangements.  

Purchase your flowers & Gather your Vases

Step 2: Arrange Flowers

Start with your fuller blooms first.  Here, I made each arrangement sequentially, starting with one large hydrangea bloom.  I then placed another fuller bloom on the opposite side of the vase.  Each vase had 5-6 stems that filled in the sides and middle.  While the arrangement was small, I think you’ll agree that it brought a nice presence to the table.  Doubling the stems (and the budget!) would create additional fullness.

Place stems one by one until the arrangement is full

Step 3: Transport Centerpieces and Set-up!

I packed all the arrangements into a cardboard box and used bubble wrap to secure.  At the venue they were placed on the table and surrounded by crackled glass candles – beautiful once lit.  The crackled glass candle set is available here for $14.   My friend lucked out – I am actually using these in my wedding, so she was able to borrow them beforehand.

Hydrangea Rose Peony Centerpiece

Transport your flowers & Place on tables!

What do you think? Would you consider tackling DIY flowers with the help of a friend?

Quasi-Crafty: Strawberry Buttercream Jam Filled Cupcakes (Recipe + Tips)

I’m going to let you in on a little secret:  I am not a crafty bride.  I don’t have a stash of markers, hole punches, and tissue paper.  I definitely do not own a glue gun.  Yet, despite these limitations, occasionally I find myself wanting to recreate the gorgeous details of weddings that fill the blog world.  Enter the world of Quasi-Crafty projects.  Somewhat akin to a boxed cake-mix, these projects require little skill yet yield surprisingly close results to the real thing (and at lower cost!).   This series  will provide how-to’s to some of my own crafts & highlight those from other real weddings.  

Strawberry Buttercream Jam Filled Cupcakes

Considering baking cupcakes for some DIY-goodness at your next shower or wedding?  This weekend I co-hosted a bridal shower for one of my bridesmaids.  To celebrate with hungry guests we prepared a feast that included Strawberry Buttercream Jam Filled cupcakes.  Below you will find an incredibly easy yellow cupcake recipe, as well as 4 secrets to making your cupcakes look Pinterest-worthy.  

Strawberry Buttercream Jam Filled Cupcake

Strawberry Buttercream Jam Filled Cupcake

 

4 Secrets to Awe-Inspiring DIY Cupcakes:

1. Bake your Cupcakes.  For this project I recommend a classic yellow cupcake that’s dense enough to support a jam filling and a mound of frosting.  The recipe I posted below is a slightly modified version of one from a Fannie Farmer Baking cookbook.   It’s incredibly versatile, relies on just a few ingredients that most everyone has on hand.  Best of all, it’s written to only make 12 cupcakes – which is great when you (1) only have one cupcake pan, and (2) only need to feed 10-12 people.  

2. Fill them with Jam.  Seriously ignore everything that you see about “simple syrup” and “whipping egg whites until stiff peaks” and folding into ganache/mousse/etc.   Instead grab your favorite jar of jam (bonus points if it’s homemade or from a farmer’s market!)  Using either a paring knife or a cupcake corer (best registry gift ever!)  Everyone loves the surprise and no one realizes how insanely easy it is to scoop pre-made jam into a waiting cupcake.  

Strawberry Buttercream Cupcake with Jam Filling

Strawberry Buttercream Cupcake with Jam Filling

3. Tint your frosting.  You can naturally tint buttercream frosting by adding 2-4 tbsp of your favorite jam (the same jam you just used in the filling!)  Simply cream the butter, add the powdered sugar and then add the jam last.  Beautiful, natural, slightly flavored buttercream is incredibly impressive for very little effort.

4. Use Frosting Tips & Bags.  This part is key to presentation.  An inexpensive decorating set can make the difference between awe-inspiring results and those that elicit comments a la ” it’s the taste that counts!” I use these, but you can find them cheaper at Michael’s (make sure to print off and bring in the 40% coupon).  

Versatile Yellow Cupcake Recipe  

This cupcake will be dense and moist.  It’s great because it works every time, holds up well to fillings, and needs so little time and ingredients. 

  1. 1/2 Cup butter, room temp (read: leave it on the counter for 10 minutes)
  2. 2/3 C White Sugar
  3. 3 Large Eggs
  4. 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  5. 1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour + 1/4 teaspoon salt + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  6. 1/4 C Milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a regular muffin pan with liners.  

Strawberry Buttercream Cupcake with Sugar Pearls

Strawberry Buttercream Cupcake with Sugar Pearls

Place the butter and sugar into the mixing bowl and cream until a smooth, light-colored, fluffy consistency.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.  Add the vanilla extract. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture (the flour + salt + baking powder) until combined.  Alternate adding milk and flour, both starting and ending with flour.  (For me this took three rounds with the flour divided into thirds and the milk in half.) 

Spread evenly into muffin pans and bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 17-20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack (or just your counter) and frost when finished.  I like this buttercream icing recipe (just add the jam near the end).  Once cool core the cupcake, fill with jam and decorate using icing, sprinkles, and sugar pearls.


Quasi-Crafty: DIY Wedding Photobooth Tutorial

I’m going to let you in on a little secret:  I am not a crafty bride.  I don’t have a stash of markers, hole punches, and tissue paper.  I definitely do not own a glue gun.  Yet, despite these limitations, occasionally I find myself wanting to recreate the gorgeous details of weddings that fill the blog world.  Enter the world of Quasi-Crafty projects.  Somewhat akin to a boxed cake-mix, these projects require little skill yet yield surprisingly close results to the real thing (and at lower cost!).   This weekly post will provide how-to’s to some of my own crafts & highlight those from other real weddings.  

DIY Photobooth

Oh, Photobooths.   The darling of wedding blogs, they are fun, stylish, and sure to leave you and your guests with awesome pictures.  And like many blog-chic details, I fell head-over-heels for them.  Unfortunately, like many things in wedding-land, however, they are expensive.  A simple photobooth can cost $895 and up!   Luckily, it’s not too hard to create your own wedding Photobooth experience.  All you need are three things: a camera, a backdrop, and your friends.  (If you want to make it more complicated, then you should check out here and here.  I will warn you – these may require a hammer!) Here are my 3 easy steps for an affordable Photobooth:

Polaroid Camera $69 on Amazon

Retro Polaroid Camer

1.  Photography.  For this step you will need a camera.  You have several choices.  

  • First, if you already own a digital camera – Great!  Place it on a tripod and let your guests take pictures.  No tripod? No problem – you can buy one for $25.  I would consider hanging a sign on the tripod with instructions on how to shoot on a timer.  
  • Looking for a more retro, authentic feel?  Then an inexpensive Polaroid camera is a great option!  A combination of a digital camera and Polaroid camera is also a great way to allow guests to take small prints with them while preserving all the photos for your own enjoyment later. 
  • Lastly, if you know you want premium quality photographs, you should look into hiring a photographer to attend the photobooth for the reception.  It wouldn’t be unreasonable to find a budding photographer who would work for 3-4 hours of the reception for $200-300.   You could ask your wedding photographer for recommendations, place an ad on Craigslist, etc.  
2.  Background.  One of my favorite things about a DIY photobooth is that they are both entertainment and decor – win!  Your backdrop needs two things: a support system and a fabric backdrop. 
  • Support System:  If your venue has two walls, a post and a wall, or something similar, consider simply hanging a clothes line to hold your cloth backdrop.   This is definitely an economical option!  Another budget-friendly option is to buy a photographer’s backdrop stand from Amazon for about $40.  

    Photobooth Fabric Backdrop

    Bed sheets for a Backdrop

  • Backdrops: Here is where your wedding’s style and personality can shine.  Amazon sells photograph backdrops for $35 and up.  For more economical alternatives, try discount fabric stores or an Ikea Shower Curtain.     You could even use ribbons, crepe paper, or saris! If you create a backdrop out of fabric plan on purchasing 4 yards of fabric and some fabric glue.  Simply fold over the top of the fabric to create a loop and glue it down – it will slide right on the backdrop stand like a curtain!
100 Layer Cake DIY Streamer Backdrop

100 Layer Cake DIY Streamer Backdrop $40

3.  Friends & Props.  What makes a great photobooth the best photobooth? Props & friends!  You can purchase inexpensive Props from Etsy, make some cute paper ones with these free downloads from Onewed,  or even make your own clay props with this diy tutorial.  And don’t forget a cute, customized sign to direct your guests – $12 on Etsy.    

LittleWeddingWorks Customized Photobooth Sign via Etsy $12

LittleWeddingWorks Customized Photobooth Sign via Etsy $12

The day of your wedding give your background, camera equipment, signs, and props to a trusted friend to set-up at the reception venue.   The bottom line? Depending on your exact choice of options, your Quasi-Crafty DIY photobooth will cost $50-300 –  well under the cost of a traditional photobooth!
I hope our mini-Wedding Photography series has been helpful.   Know someone who could use a little Quasi-Craftieness?   Please share!
How to Make a Photobooth

DIY Wedding Photobooth Tutorial

Quasi-Crafty: Thrifty Calligraphy and Stamping Return Addresses

I’m going to let you in on a little secret:  I am not a crafty bride.  I don’t have a stash of markers, hole punches, and tissue paper.  I definitely do not own a glue gun.  Yet, despite these limitations, occasionally I find myself wanting to recreate the gorgeous details of weddings that fill the blog world.  Enter the world of Quasi-Crafty projects.  Somewhat akin to a boxed cake-mix, these projects require little skill yet yield surprisingly close results to the real thing (and at lower cost!).   This weekly post will provide how-to’s to some of my own crafts & highlight those from other real weddings.  

Stamping (Return) Addresses

Let’s say that you love calligraphy. L.O.V.E. it.  The traditional choice is to have someone hand-write your lovely invites.  However, at $1.50/return address, you’re looking at $150+ for 100 invites.  If you add-on return addressing for your R.S.V.P.’s that amount doubles to $300.  Ouch!  

At this point you have a few options: learn to write calligraphy by yourself (the diy kit will run you around $20-30 on Amazon) and hope for the best.  Personally, I don’t recommend it.  My attempts turned out something like this

 A better option?  Enter the personalized, calligraphy stamp!  

Stamp by Calligraphy by Hillary

Stamp by Calligraphy by Hillary

Calligraphy by Hillary on Etsy offers this stamp for a reasonable $40.  We actually opted for the self-inking stamp from Love to Create Stamps for the ultimate in convenience.  A couple of hours of stamping (I recommend while watching Glee…) or so of stamping is all that stands between you and this beautiful result:

Finished Envelope by Calligraphy by Hillary

Finished Envelope by Calligraphy by Hillary

Feeling fancy? Kelle Anne McCarter at Designsgirl creates beautiful works of art.  Each stamp comes complete with a custom door knob and makes a beautiful desk ornament when you’re not using it.  Another fun touch is to stamp in a color other than black – pink, blue, purple, etc. would all be beautiful!

crystal door knob calligraphy stamp

Crystal Door Knob Calligraphy Stamp by DesignsGirl

Designs Girl Calligraphy Stamp in Pink

Designs Girl Calligraphy Stamp in Pink

With a $250+ savings you’ll have enough left over to cover the costs of postage for your invites AND a medium-size bridal bouquet AND your Maid-of-Honor’s Bouquet!  Or you could spend the $260 to cover 4 small-to-medium florist made centerpieces – win!

What would you spend the extra $260 on?