Monday, 3 June 2013

Handmade Wedding Decorations On A Budget

So you’ve got your dress, the flowers are sorted, the wedding food is in the bag – now there’s just the question of that big empty space for the party – how do you convert a cavernous multi-purpose community hall into something like … an English garden setting?

Red Door Studios helped soon to be wed Ruth & Mehdi and their guests create an English Garden setting in a community hall in East London ...

Here’s how...

Assemble a team from the wedding guests:
  • Project manager - someone with the creative vision and a plan.
  • Production manager – someone who can translate the plan and pull ideas together.
  • The chippie – someone who can handle a saw and has a tool kit.
  • Handypeople – friends who can follow instructions and are competent with glue guns, measurements and electric screwdrivers.
  • Haberdasher – someone with a sewing machine, pins, needles and an eye for fabrics.
  • Gofer – someone with wheels, preferably a van, who knows the area.
  • Crew – groups of makers, painters and doers who will follow instructions, incentivised with wine, food and good cheer.
  • A making space – preferably with storage and floorspace for cutting and painting. 

After agreeing a theme with the bride and groom and many planning meetings over pots of tea, we had 5 projects for the wedding crew to tackle.
  1. Centre canopy with fabric swags.
  2. Chandelier.
  3. Back wall tableau.
  4. Table centres.
  5. Photo booth. 

Dolores the project manager and her eager assistant (yours truly) did a recce of the hall, boy was it scary. The walls were whitewashed breezeblock, the floor was a gym, the ceiling soared meters above our heads, all in all it was a massive, empty proposition.

We collared the friendly building manager and talked through our proposal. It was important to ascertain if he could hang our swag and was it possible to drill holes into the walls?
We proposed a grid of taught cords strung wall to wall that would take the drapes of our fabric canopy. Most importantly we secured a promise that a competent clutch of people would be on hand on the day to safely hang our canopy from a girder in the roof space.
Once we understood what was feasible, we could source our materials and get the crew a-making.

The Canopy

Our chippie cut a central wheel from plywood that would be ‘flown’ via meters of cord and painted it white.
We cut twelve 12m lengths of organza ( for cheap as chips fabric) and tied each length to the canopy wheel, securing the knots with cable ties. 
Lord bless the inventor of the cable tie ...

Our butterfly crew had cut out hundreds of paper butterflies from thrifted paper pictures and prints, passing them to the hole puncher who passed them on to the stringer – they made meters of paper butterfly bunting to dress the cord we would string across the hall. Brilliant and simple.

The Chandelier

This was hung directly under the canopy wheel, it had to be light and simple to make. 
We began with two kiddie hula-hoops, some wooden batons and 4 short chain lengths for hanging. Next we added some garden edging easily bent into shape, wrapped the lot in white bandaging and dressed the chandelier with hessian, ivy and fake candles.

We had a sub-team of helpers who gathered fresh ivy and foliage from the neighbourhood.

Back Wall Tableau

The ugly breeze blocks were disguised with lengths of white ‘satin’ hung from a taught cord. The Haberdasher organised a team to measure and cut the fabric lengths, pin a pocket at the top edge (no sewing necessary) and thread each panel onto the cord.
Against the satin backdrop we created a tableau from an old painted wooden ladder, painted plant pots, borrowed garden table and chairs, more shabby garden chic finery and lots of ivy and donated plants.

The romantic sweetheart was made from cardboard packaging found on a street corner. Extra paper butterflies were glued around the edge along with a smattering of paper doilys and the whole heart was wired onto a borrowed artist's easel.

Table Centres

We asked for donations of jam jars and soaked off the labels. The jam jar crew decorated each jar with lace, hessian and sparkles then added a wire handle at the neck of each jar and popped in a tea light. Over 40 were made.

Photo Booth

Guests could write a message on a homemade chalkboard and be snapped with a series of thrifted picture frames spray painted gold – with more paper bunting!

Leftover organza and ivy was used to dress tables for the cake and guest book.

A lot of the work was done prior to getting into the hall, which was just as well – we only had four hours in situ to get everything up and dressed.
We had a crew of helpers who came on the evening of the ‘get in’ and were assigned various tasks dressing the space. The building manager was as good as his word drilling holes where we needed them and climbing ladders armed with meters of organza.

Everything went without a hitch, which was due to excellent planning and amazing helpers.

Red Door Studios crew & helpers
It was a magical transformation and I know the bride and groom were delighted and moved by the communal effort. Many hands make light work – so long as the planning is immaculate!

One great asset for a project like this is to have lots of supplies to hand – timber, paint, fabric. Ask for donations or scour skips and charity shops.


If you have a similar project planned in East London, a wedding or a garden party with a theme then you’re in luck – Red Door Studios in East ham is having one its famous Yard Sales with a ton of stuff to shift for your up-cycling needs. 
You may find just what you need to transform a space for very little cost or maybe you’ll find something for a small up-cycling project, a chair, table, lampshade and some fabric for example.

Details soon ... watch this space!

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