So, before Justin and I actually officially got engaged (long story), I found my wedding dress serendipitously via a “You Might Like” email from eBay. I bought it without even trying it on, and got all self-congratulatory about being a super low-maintenance bride.
Then I spent three months scouring every site I could think of and hitting dozens of stores to find a reception dress. We were throwing a swing dance, so a white gown wasn’t going to cut it - it had to be knee-length. Not strapless. With lace. And gray (so I could wear it again). I hated everything I saw.
Enter Katherine Bignon. We’d met through friends a few times. She’s an incredibly talented designer and maker, and she worked with me tirelessly (via email!) to produce something that was absolutely beautiful. She’s based in New York (but is also happy to Skype) and just took the exciting step of launching her own company, Katherine Elizabeth Bridal. I wanted to share her work here. She does Bridal and Lingerie. Amazing, vintage-looking lingerie! I can’t rave about her enough, so if you’re looking for that elusive “something perfect,” consider having Katherine make something just for you.
Photos by Three Winks Studio
Justin & I are both tech geeks. When it came time to design our wedding programs, I knew I wanted an infographic. There really aren’t any sites out there that we found helpful when we were trying to figure out what data to use for our relationship, so here are our lessons learned…
A hybrid timeline/infographic design works best for quantifying a relationship: Although everything in life has a timestamp, most individual moments just aren’t that momentus. A simple timeline doesn’t necessarily tell your story. However, trends that emerge from aggregated moments can be very interesting. When you’re summarizing a relationship, especially for the purpose of a wedding-related paper goods, the stand-out individual moments are pretty obvious - first meeting, first date, engagement, etc. But I felt like the flavor of our relationship was in the stuff that we did often. So we chose a split design: timeline, then summary icons, then more timeline.
What to quantify in the “summary” part? We thought a lot about what defined us as a couple - what did we do together most often, and where. Some themes were obvious…we met blues dancing, and traveled the country together to go to Lindy exchanges. Some were less obvious, and surfaced when we started looking at TimeHop and Foursquare and other apps we use regularly…it turns out we play a lot of Big Buck Hunter.
How to gather the data: To create the timeline portion of the infographic, we searched Google Calendar and pulled the dates of a few key milestones (the night we met, our first date, the night we got engaged, etc).
For the aggregated-moments section, we checked:
- Google Calendar
Foursquare was by far the most useful; if you’re an active user, it’s an excellent source of data on all of the places you’ve been in your day-to-day life. (There’s one particular vegan restaurant in the East Village that I’ve eaten at 67 times over the past year, it turns out). There’s an excellent hack built on top of Foursquare called Intersquares, which can show you all of the places that you & your significant other have checked in together. Or, if you’re more technical, there’s API; our first visualization attempt was a heatmap made from checkins pulled from that API, but it turned out we very rarely left the 10-block radius around East 9th Street so it just looked like a bulls-eye.
The other services served more as reminders of the things we’d done together. There wasn’t any way to pull out the data, so we did a lot of manual tabulating. We looked for trends in restaurants we went to, what we did on “date nights”, where we hung out. TripIt provided us with our travel stats: 34,174 miles traveled between 20 cities over 3 continents.
Creating an icon set: We had to find an interesting way to visualize the results, so we created representative icons. Some of our milestone dates had clear image pairings…Justin asking me out over Twitter = the bird logo, me moving to San Francisco = the Golden Gate Bridge, etc. The cool thing about this was that creating a relationship icon set gave us our placecard/table card design as well. We made a set of rubbers stamps of our icons, and DIY’d those.
The other side of the program was much simpler to put together - it was just the flow of our ceremony and the names of our bridal party. After everything was laid out, Justin took the files to a print shop - two programs fit on each sheet, and the printer cut them in half. Then Justin hand-stamped the top of each with the same rubber stamps we made for our invitations.
If you’re inspired by this DIY and make one, I’d really love to see what metrics you choose.
I was a two-dress bride; our reception was a swing dance, and I needed something tea length that I could dance in. I really wanted a grey dress, so that I could wear it again, and the original plan was vintage. I fell in love with this one when I saw it on eBay: late 1940s Pierre Balmain, convertible to strapless, and with the most amazing lacework.
When it arrived, it was pretty obvious that it wasn’t going to work for dancing. I knew the dress was a fixer-upper, but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of work that had to go into it. The corsetry and parts of the silk were very brittle, and bits were yellowing and flaking off.
After a few weeks calling restoration specialists, I found Jan Barlow. Her work is incredible, and I hope that she puts up a blog post of her own detailing how she made this happen. She literally re-pleated the material so that the brittle folds were hidden, which gave the dress strength (in addition to making it more beautiful) and made it wearable again.
Part of me is thinking of removing the gold ribbon at the hem, and possibly making it a few inches shorter (if it can stand up to that - the ribbon may provide it with structural integrity). I love the designer’s original, more subdued look. But either way, I think it’s absolutely gorgeous.
I couldn’t wear it at my wedding, but I did manage to wear it out to the SF Ballet gala with my husband a month later. :) I opted for strapless, and spent most of the night kind of afraid to breathe, but it all worked out in the end.
Everyone has something they’re kind of willing to skimp on during the wedding-planning process. Paper was that thing for me - I was totally fine with doing a basic printed invitation.
That was not OK with FDH. He cares a lot about typography and color, so I agreed to turn the paper-goods part of this shindig over to him. He had his heart set on letterpress, but the price of a 3-color invitation started at ~$5.00/piece. So we came up with a hack to bring the price down…one that actually wound up helping us find a design concept for our whole wedding: the rubber stamp.
The base invitation: FDH created a simple single-color design in Illustrator with a vertical layout and elegant typography. (If you aren’t comfortable with doing your own design, there are many Etsy sellers who make templates.)
Then we found a printer: Mercurio Brothers. They are fantastic and by far the most reasonably priced. You send them a PDF, select paper weight and details, and turnaround time is typically 7-14 days.
The rubber stamps: Use a vector graphics program to design simple, iconic images, then convert them to PNG to maintain high resolution. If you aren’t an artist, Iconfinder.com or sites like Shutterstock have plenty to choose from…stick with something simple because fine lines will bleed during the stamping process. Your monogram is a great choice. We used lips and a ‘stache, because DFH actually had a mustache for the first few months we were dating. (Not super original, but very “us”)
After you have your image(s), send the file off to thestampmaker.com, and the stamps arrive ~5 days later.
Buy some high-quality ink in your wedding colors - check Michael’s or eBay - and practice stamping on some looseleaf first. You’ll make some mistakes with the first few, so order slightly more invitations than you absolutely need. The trick is not to press too hard.
Here are our finished invitations:
This project really was a lot of fun. I loved how our invitations were formal but still personalized and fun. And as I said above, we ultimately took our stamping a bit further and created an entire relationship icon set that we used in our programs and placecards. I’ll get a blog post up about that sometime soon…
I obviously didn’t post this on the morning of my wedding, but I had a last minute, morning-of-wedding DIY project and I figured I’d share “lessons learned” from my bridesmaid bouquet disaster. Pro tip: do not use Amaryllis if you’re DIY-ing a bouquet. It is a flower for florists, not amateurs. My girls and I had planned on just wrapping it in satin ribbon with pussywillows and some greenery. Turns out there is a giant wooden dowel that runs up the center of those stems, and they fall to pieces when you remove it.
One of my amazing bridesmaids and my maid-of-honor (sister) saved the day by doing an emergency run for peonies, and we whipped up four bouquets in an hour, five hours before the wedding. I’ll update with better pictures and a how-to when I get our wedding photos.
November 12th = best night I’ve ever had. Madly in love with new husband.
Everything was perfect, except for the fact that Batman made a lot of our guests late.
Seriously. Batman was filming, and traffic was horrible. Whole avenues, and the Queensboro bridge, were closed. But everyone got there eventually.
Our amazing photographer posted these two sneak peeks. :)
I’ve talked a bit about my ceremony veil in other posts - it’s a killer handmade all-lace mantilla, but it won’t work at all for our swing dance reception. For the dance, I’m planning on changing into a tea-length grey dress. To still look “bride-y,” I decided to DIY a birdcage veil. I might wear it at my rehearsal dinner, too. It’s super-simple and quick to make one, and the materials cost less than $10.
What you need:
- an applique (or fascinator - though that will raise the cost a bit)
- a 9” wide piece of Russian netting (use a wider piece if you want it to cover your whole face; 9” comes to just below the eyes)
- a pack of bobby pins
- a needle and thread.
- Cut the Russian netting into a trapezoid shape. Mine was 21” long on the bottom edge.
- On each diagonal side of the trapezoid, sew in and out of the square openings, anchoring each stitch into the thick areas of the netting. As you pull the thread tighter, the material will bunch. Stop when you get to the flat top part of the trapezoid, and knot off the thread (again, into the thick area of the netting).
I realize that instruction may sound unclear; it did to me, too. I spent quite a lot of time looking for help on this, and used this tutorial - it has a few great graphics showing the trapezoid shape you’re going for. Honestly, though, don’t worry about getting it perfect, because what is really going to make this veil look good is how you pin it on. A lot of sites will tell you to sew it onto a comb, but I found that was unnecessary.
Assuming you don’t go the comb route, you’re going to pin the veil itself to your hair - use a lot of bobby pins to get it to sit just how you want it. Birdcage veils have a tendency to puff up. After it’s situated, attach the fascinator or applique to your hair as well, using it to cover up the spot where the veil is gathered. My applique had a million threads criss-crossing the underside, so I just stuck some bobby pins through and then had a friend work them into my hair. If you’d like to be more thorough, buy an alligator clip and glue it using E6000 or something similar.
An applique will sit flat on your head, so if you want something more decadent, buy a fascinator clip. There are many amazing ones on Etsy.
I know this tutorial needs a lot more photos, especially of the finished product. I’ll update it with pictures of me wearing it once I have my wedding pictures. :)
Update: this is the birdcage veil from the back, worn with the applique.
I’ve been looking for some hair decorations, and I’ve been seeing a lot of hair pins, embellished headbands, and jewelry made of bits of lace. They’re lovely. They are super-easy and cost about $5 to make, but sites like BHLDN sell them for $90+. Don’t do it. You can totally make these yourself.
Venice lace is the best for making wearable pieces of lace because it’s heavy and that makes it a good candidate for stiffening. All of the pieces you see in the photo below are from swatches I got while I was shopping for lace to make my mantilla, so they were actually free. Even if your fabric shop charges you, you can make do with 1/8 of a yard.
What you need: Elmer’s glue, venice lace, scissors, findings (hair pins, chain, etc)
How to stiffen lace:
- Using the scissors, cut the lace along the motif into the shape you want.
- Take 1/4 cup of Elmer’s glue and mix in 1/4 cup of water into a container with high sides (tupperware is great). You can try something other than Elmer’s, but be sure it dries clear. Craft glues are generally unsuitable; the lace will get too hard.
- Submerge the piece of lace into the glue & water mixture. Make sure it’s completely coated and soaked through.
- Press out as much of the mixture as you can against the side of the container. Wring it out between your thumb and forefinger, but try not to bend the lace.
- Let dry overnight on a nonstick surface (the lid of a tupperware container or a plasting cutting/craft board is perfect).
You now have stiffened lace. The rest of the photos below show me attaching it to bobby pins and barettes, using E6000 glue. (What’s not pictured is me using an dress form clamp to hold the pin to the stiffened lace - highly recommended) Once again, if you are going to use glue, be sure it dries clear. The first time I did this I used Gorilla Glue. Mistake.
Even though the lace is stiffened, you can still sew it if you use a thick enough needle; I sewed some onto a flower fascinator/birdcage veil I made for my reception. You can just as easily attach smaller pieces of lace to earring backs, or connect a chain to the two ends of a long piece to make a necklace. The possibilities are endless. :)