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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was very aware that the wedding was taking place in the ponies field and I didn't want to basically have people throw litter all over it; one of the earliest things I did was start gathering flower petals and getting everyone else I knew to do the same. We had a huge amount of dried out petals that had been collected by my Mum, Dad and all my Mums neighbours. One evening we sat and sifted through them all and removed all the ones that had gone brown and not very attractive, they went into the compost.
I made cones with some paper squares I had in the craft room and spent an evening with Lucinda rolling them up, gluing and then sticking on a Sprinkle with Love sticker that I had made. I got two metal plant pots from B&M bargains for cheap to put them in. This was practically free to do and was really easy, so it's one of my top money saving tips.
I wanted rustic table numbers made from logs. I had shown my Dad another picture and he picked up the perfect size logs. He cut them all to size by hand.
Three weeks before the wedding we had arranged for my brother to have George for the day, he wanted an excuse to go to the farm with his girlfriend, Chan, and we had a tonne of projects still to finish. We had an epic wedding to do list to get through, it was going to be a productive crafty weekend. On the Friday Dan started to get really bad stomach ache. Within 24 hours he went from thinking he had a dodgy work buffet to having his appendix removed. It felt like the worst thing in the world at the time and put everything in perspective. All the worry about getting things finished went out the window, none of it mattered if Dan wasn't there. Thankfully Dan is fit and healthy and the operation was text book. My Dad lives near the hospital so George and I stayed with Dad to be close by. I didn't hear any news on how well the operation went until the early hours of the morning. I obviously wasn't going to sleep so I spent the evening painting the table numbers.
I couldn't have made half the projects without my Cricut. Even if you buy one just for your wedding, you could easily get your moneys worth. I created some vinyl templates for the table numbers and used left over chalk paint from an up-cycle project. At least I was able to do something wedding related even if it wasn't quite the marathon wedding project day we had originally planned.
I wanted the table numbers and flowers to sit on rustic wood slices. This is where my bridesmaid Charlotte came in (well her partner Will). Our wedding present from them came in the form of dozens of wood slices, logs and chainsaw carved toadstools for the kids zone. They were epic and he even delivered them in his van. They are now drying out ready to be treated so they can be dotted around our secret garden.
I really couldn't decide on the name settings, I thought we would end up metal stamping wine glass charms or personalising wine glasses and then I saw a post on a sewing Facebook group where they had used vintage cotton reels. Perfect! A little bit more of my sewing influence at the wedding. I did a Facebook plea and did a swap for fabric to gain a few, picked some up in antique shops, car boots and won a good bid on eBay. They were in all shapes and sizes, some with and some without cotton, the oldest dated one was from 1969, they were all perfect. We used coffee stirrers and a glue gun to stick the little pegs on and I wrote out all the names on the left over card from the invites. I had a paper punch that worked nicely to add some detail.
We wanted elements of our personality and hobbies to be included in the wedding. For me that was easy, for Dan a little harder since his main hobby is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. We had seen that you can hire whiskey barrels as tables and decorations but for £80+ each which seemed excessive, but Dan likes whiskey so we loved the idea of having them.
Dan's major project was doing up 5 barrels he found on eBay. He hired a van and drove them home. He painstakingly sanded all the wood, grinded off all the rust, varnished the wood and painted the metal rings. Although he had done the majority of the work it was on our to do list the weekend of the operation. With the help of our neighbours to do some lifting and his best man the day before the wedding, he was able to get them all finished in time and they looked fab.
18 months or so before the wedding, Dan also started to play the guitar. He got a couple of acoustics to leave around the fire pit in case anyone wanted to play later on, which they did and was lovely around the fire in the evening when there were only a few hardcore people left. We used his guitar case as somewhere to put the cards and I made some bunting using my Cricut again to cut out the vinyl glitter letters.
Speaking of guitars, Dan's cousin Christopher is an awesome guitar player and at most family gatherings he will pick it up and start playing. I didn't hesitate on asking if he would play me down the isle to my all time favourite song "Heart Beats" by Jose Gonzalez.
Chris also played while Linda and my Aunty Paula sang a beautiful version of "One Day Like This" by Elbow while people enjoyed their evening pizza.
I found a friend with a lot of wooden pallets going spare and sent Dan and my Dad to pick them up once Dan was home from the hospital. He didn't have to do any lifting, don't worry, but we had work to catch up on.
I got straight to it, sanding them down once Dad had chopped them to size for me. I created templates using the Cricut again and painted them with Lucinda on our next craft night. My Dad assembled it in the garden the day before the wedding. It was our alternative to an order of service and now still stands proudly in the in-laws garden as a reminder that it all really happened.
We booked a baby tipi for the kids to hang out in and around. During the food and speeches we arranged Event Nannies, I talk more about them in part 2.
I made a mini sign for their tipi, it was decorated with the awesome toadstools that Will made us and I dotted skittles, croquet and giant Jenga around so there were games still after the nannies left (and for the big kids).
During Kristy Allsop's Handmade Fair I came across a lovely lady from Eggnogg Colour-in. She created all sorts of things that could be coloured in. I bought two fabric picnic mats for the older kids table. Along with some activity books that Lucinda put together, it seemed to keep them busy during the food but they all ended up playing with the little ones outside which worked out well. The picnic mat has been out with us loads of times since and it gets more colourful every time.
With 7 parents and step parents between us, there were plenty of responsible adults to keep an eye on George all day. We had a lot of help from my Mum and Linda leading up to the wedding day too. He partied hard until late but it was my Dad's partner, Julie who offered to stay in when he had gone to bed and we couldn't be more grateful. He spotted me on the way to bed and so I wasn't going to get away without a bed time story. The beauty of having our wedding in the parents garden is you are already home. I could spare 10 minutes to read my little dude a bedtime story before I carried on partying.
I have spoken about my Cricut a lot already but I thought I would put a list of all the things it helped me make and explain what it is. It is basically a printer that cuts things out. It allows you to create your own designs and cut out a wide range of materials. You can print things out first and then have them cut out too so I made a lot of stickers.
I came across a lady from The Crafty Cutter who supplies vinyl and got two really good quality lucky dip packs. Since I had all the colours, I could easily make use of what I was sent. One vinyl is for things like glass and the other is heat transfer for clothes and fabric. I already had some vinyl that is less permanent and peels off which is what I used as templates.
Here is what I made...
- Dressing gowns for my bridesmaids and me
- Slippers for my hen do
- Title on my table plan
- Glasses for the top table
- Name stickers for the kids
- Sprinkle the love stickers for the confetti cones
- Labels for the homemade wine bottles
- Labels for the ice cream tubs
- Tipi signs
- Katie and Dan's wedding pallet to put in the village
- Table Numbers
- Pimp my ice cream stand
- Card bunting
- Cake bunting
- Signs in the toilets for the toiletry baskets
Now I haven't added up how much I spent and how much it may have saved but I am sure it was a lot. The flexibility of being able to do all these things myself saved me loads of stress ordering specific things from individuals and allowed me to be really creative. It also meant that I felt like I should make everything and I took on most of these projects very last minute so I would also remind you to know your own limits and still allow yourself to enjoy the process.
To all our friends and family, thank you. We couldn't have done it without you.