A Handmade Tipi Wedding - Part 1


I met Dan when I was just 17. It took 1 kid, 4 house moves and 11 years before we got engaged. You would think after all that time that I would have planned the perfect wedding in my head, but I honestly had no idea where to start.

We started looking at local wedding venues and attending wedding fairs but all the brochures just made it feel like we would be copying someone else's wedding. I have always been creative and never liked matching or whats on trend. We could never have a 'normal' wedding. During some pinning and looking into outdoor weddings, I came across the idea of a tipi. I had never seen or heard of them before but the more I researched the more in love I fell. I contacted several companies for information and price lists, Boutipi just happened to have an open day coming up so we put it in the diary. The next task was to find a place to put a tipi before we got carried away with the idea. We arranged to spend the weekend with Dan's Dad and Step Mum Jane and went armed with prosecco. When we were confident they had drank enough we casually mentioned the idea of the tipi and asked if they would mind if we put it up in their garden. They didn't say no, yay! So, we arranged to come back up for the open day and took them along. As soon as we walked in we all fell in love, we had found our wedding venue! And so the great handmade tipi wedding project began.


What I will say is that we couldn't have done our big day and taken on such a challenge without having the awesome network of friends and family around us. It's one of the reasons I wanted to write this. I needed some way of thanking everyone involved and showing the enormous amount of effort that went into it. When you take on a wedding like this, you don't realise how much there is to think about. In most cases the venue would to take care of - power, toilets, catering, bar... the list is endless. I hope this gives you a few ideas and encourages you to attempt a few more handmade wedding contributions.

Due to the the amount of things I made and people I need to thank I have split the blog in two. This part is dedicated to personal favours from friends and the parts we made ourselves. I have a separate blog post for all the companies we used, although some intertwine so a few are mentioned here too.

COLOUR THEME AND FABRIC

I thought the best place to start would be a colour theme but I like all the colours so that was really hard! I came across some fabric by the Cotton Craft Co in hot pinks, turquoise, navy blue and mustard yellow. It had flowers, elephants and paisley and had a Moroccan feel to it which was in keeping with the tipi. It was the basis of our colour scheme but that evolved and expanded over the space of the year. The bunting was one of the first things I made, around 60 metres of it in this fabric and goodness knows how many more metres in other bunting I had made over the years (I had considered renting out wedding bunting at one point).

I bought the fabric before The Fabric Squirrel was born; I now stock fabric by the Cotton Craft Co and work closely with them creating tutorials with their lovely fabrics.


NAPKINS

I have run Crafts by Katie for years. It started off as just bits and bobs for family. I then took to craft fairs and since having George I have reigned myself in and focused on my two favourites. I hand print my designs onto organic baby vests and create keepsake quilts out of baby clothes. I needed an aspect of Crafts by Katie in the wedding, the quilts were easy, we used all the quilts and blankets I had made myself to put on the hay bails during the reception.



For the printing aspect, I decided to print napkins. I found some fantastic organic cotton napkins from The Organic Textile Company.

My inspiration for the baby vests initially came from The Arty Crafty Place who I came across with my craft buddy and Maid of Honour, Lucinda. We both bought a starter kit and everyone got stamped goodies for Christmas that year. I found a collection of stamps from their website that went perfectly with the bunting fabric. They are all hand carved in India as part of a fair trade project and are just beautiful. This is where my next lot of favours came in. I held several stamping nights with my bridesmaids, neighbour, Mum and MIL. The stamping of the napkins took a LOT longer than I first expected and I think we finished around a month before the wedding. They were totally worth it though and so many people commented on them.




POM POMS

During some tipi decorating research I saw someone that had filled their tipi hats with origami birds. It looked beautiful but would be a bit irrelevant to us. I was speaking to my Mother in Law, Linda, about it and what she might be able to contribute, somehow that evolved into her making hundreds of pom poms. I think she regretted asking us for dinner that evening. Everyone made a pom pom, people that came for dinner or drinks would be passed a pom pom maker gadget, not the two bits of cereal box we knew as kids. The wool was kept by the side of the sofa in case we ever felt the need to make one. It was Linda that made 90% of them though. I didn't count but there were definitely hundreds. To mirror the pom poms I wanted to decorate the apple tree in the garden with lanterns so I ordered a few extras just in case. We used the lanterns along side the pom poms in the tipi and it looked epic. Heather Jackson captured this image of our first dance and it won Photo of the Day on the Wedding Community Blog. If only for that picture, it was worth the miles of wool and hours of wool wrapping.



BRIDESMAID DRESSES

My very loose colour theme made it really hard to decide on colours for bridesmaid dresses and groomsmen cravats. I wanted the flowers really colourful so I decided grey would go with everything. I looked around but couldn't find anything I liked so this was another project I decided to take on. I keep a few really good friends close to me so I only had two bridesmaids. I met Charlotte when we worked together at Belton Woods hotel and Lucinda when we worked together in a training and development team. Friendship comes easy with these two and despite moving on from the jobs we were in, we see each other regularly, especially now we have tiny humans at similar ages.

I managed to find suitable fabric about three months before the wedding and I made a rough dress pattern myself. I hadn't seen a pattern that fitted what was in my head. This was the most stressful task I took on and I wouldn't recommend you did it! So many people asked if I was making my own dress and each time I just laughed at them. I'm not that daft!

I had a lot of fabric left over and with both Lucinda and Charlotte having one year old little girls, it was too much of an opportunity to be missed, they had to be flower girls.

My mum got a double shock in the summer of 2016 when my step brother also announced they were having a baby! So George has a little cousin just one month younger. Olivia was always going to have to walk down the isle with George, I now had three flower girls. The little girls dresses were reasonably simple and a lot less stressful when Linda offered to help me make fabric flowers to sew onto them. I made George a ring cushion with some of the satin and some lace I already had so he matched too.

Against the flowers and the colourful background the dresses looked great. Overall I was really pleased with how they turned out. I would have done some things differently if I did it again and I see imperfections when I look back at some of the pictures but I also remind myself how much I took on and that most people wouldn't notice. The girls were happy with them and felt comfortable so that was the main thing.




INVITES

My brother is a very talented artist and graphic designer so I asked if he would mind helping me with the invites. When I said help I meant can he do magic stuff to turn my idea of a 3D tipi invite into reality. He was more than happy to help. It took months and months of reminding and nagging to get an invite out of him. It was about 3 months before the wedding that I was able to send them. Thankfully for Tom they were worth the wait. Tom has his own Etsy shop named The Wilderness Co, I promise he is much more reliable if you want to order any of his illustrations.


As well as invites my brother designed the table plan, ice cream tub stickers and wine bottle labels. He certainly earned his dinner on the day.

TABLE PLAN

The table plan was simple. I had a frame I was no longer using (the mirror inside broke when we moved. I know that will make a lot of people gasp in horror but our lucky number is 13 so I knew it would be OK). I free motion quilted a pattern on some calico and wadding and then sewed some string to hang the tables off using little pegs. I used my Cricut to the make the Find Your Seat bit and ironed it on.


PIMP YOUR ICE CREAM

We were going to have an ice cream van but instead went for homemade ice cream in tubs and a Pimp Your Ice Cream station. The ice cream was made by Tuckers Ice Cream in Scawby and it is easily the most delicious ice cream I have ever tasted. I filled jars with sweets and made the Pimp Your Ice Cream Stand, again using the Cricut, but for some reason this was a lot more tricky; it was possibly down to the paint I used. The block of wood didn't quite stand on its own but it looked good on a recipe book stand. Tom designed the labels featuring a cow and "time to chill".

The bamboo spoons and recycled kraft tubs were a conscious plastic reducing choice too.



ABSENT LOVED ONES

In life you inevitably lose people that you love. Big events and gatherings like weddings can make that absence more obvious. I know our grandparents that are no long with us would want to be involved, just like everyone else that contributed. Rather than having some kind of shrine or seat saved, I wanted their influence in the wedding.

I mentioned above about the wine bottle labels. When we lost Dan's Nutty Grandma (self named), we inherited all her wine brewing kit. I have made all sorts of wine in her honour including damson, blackberry and my most successful, rhubarb. Homemade bottles of blackberry wine were dotted around for people to take away with them as a bonus favour. The labels again were designed by my lovely Brother Tom.


My Grandma Pam lost her long battle with breast cancer when I was in my early teens. I inherited her beautiful charm bracelet that I remember her wearing and finding fascinating as a kid. My Mum made my hair piece and carefully attached the spinning wheel charm from the bracelet so I could have her on display but in my own little special way.


My Grandma Jo was the first person to introduce me to a sewing machine and I think she would be super proud to see how much that has influenced my life now. My Mum again very cleverly used one of her pearl earrings as a charm for me to attach to my bouquet.


Dan wore cuff links from his Grandad Don and his Grandad's watch so they were both by is side and keeping him on time all day too. Dan spoke about all of these in his speech and it was really beautiful.


FLOWERS

I wanted everything as handmade as possible but there is only so far my own set of skills would take me. It meant I had to ask favours of a lot of people and call on all their own craft skills. My Dad was high on this list. The first favour I asked of him was to grow the flowers. He looked quite terrified when I asked him but I reassured him it would be fine and we can always pop to the supermarket the day before if we needed to. As time evolved we decided on Dad growing flowers in pots to decorate the outdoor space, anything else would be a bonus.


Along with what Dad had grown, including a mammoth amount of sweet peas, the day before the wedding I got to work with the help of my bridesmaids and Linda to create the table centres and archway. I think the flowers were one of my proudest achievements. I had spent the year collecting and decorating jars and had a last minute panic the day before that we wouldn't have enough. I packed up all my tea pots and can't believe I hadn't come up with the idea sooner. We filled every container we could get our hands on and covered the place with them.





WOODEN STUFF

My Dad attends a local conservation group every other week or so. I set him the task of collecting wood from his tasks for various projects I had in store. I needed some way of displaying my quilts inside the tipi. I showed Dad a picture of a ladder type thing I had seen on Instagram. He gathered up some suitable sized sticks and worked his magic. Using some of the left over fabrics from the bunting, I free motion embroidered a sign for the quilt ladder saying Keep Cosy, Keep Cool, Keep Dancing. I hung the quilts on the ladder and displayed some flip flops and fans next to it in the fire pit area of the tipi. It was lovely in the evening seeing everyone snuggled up in them.


Dad also collected the wood for our archway. The archway turned out so much more perfect than I ever could have imagined and framed all of our photos. The construction of it was really simple and it was held in place with fishing wire. My initial idea was to arrange the flower filled milk bottles randomly to create a screen of flowers. On the morning of the wedding Dan and one of his best men set them up as a curved archway and sent me a picture. It was perfect and I'm so pleased it ended up a bit more regimental than my usual random approach.




The Parents

CONFETTI