I know I promised more blog posts and YouTube videos last year as my New Years resolution, but this time I really mean it. I do. I got distracted over the last year with trying to find a new job while working freelance and temp work and of course, planning my wedding. But now I have both full-time employment and a new last name, so it should make it easier to find time to keep up with the blogging. So here goes the first post of 2019. And hang on, it’s a long one.
When people talk about wedding decorations, they might as well be saying reception decorations. The reception is what it’s all about, people quickly refer to the ceremony as being “beautiful” or something similar. But the reception is where it’s at. People will talk about the tables, the food, the DJ, and any fistfights or screaming matches that happened. The reception is usually the most expensive part of the wedding. Of course, most of the money goes toward the catering, and our wedding was no different, so we’ll just skip that discussion. (If you’re curious we offered a choice of steak in port sauce or salmon in rosemary citrus sauce with garlic mashed potatoes and julienne veggies). I will say that we got a package deal from our hotel venue that included the ceremony, cocktail and reception rooms, catering, basic décor, discounted rooms for our out of town guests and of course a day of coordinator to take a lot of worry from me on the big day.
Our reception was beautiful if I say so myself. Or, should I say magical. It was a Harry Potter theme wedding after all. And here is how we decorated for it. A lot of our decorations were DIY because we’re a crafty couple and not only did it save money, but it felt more like us, and definitely unique. I recorded most of our DIY projects so there will be a YouTube video eventually.
We got married at the Fairfax Garden Inn. They do the weddings outside in an absolutely beautiful garden with a stone fountain and ivy-covered trellis for the couple to stand under. We were so excited and thought it would be so beautiful. Unfortunately, the morning of the wedding got freezing cold and windy and although it was sunny, the cold and the wind caused us to take the guests into consideration and moved it inside to the backup room. We were a little disappointed. Also, due to a communication error the fabric streamers, garlands, and other backup décor didn’t make it to the ceremony room. An error I didn’t know about until I was literally in the middle of the wedding ceremony. (While walking down the aisle I was a bit distracted.) After the wedding, I did allow myself a little bit of upset about having a completely bare ceremony room, but I got over it quickly. (Literally, the only things were the chairs and the chuppah.) The chairs were provided by the hotel, and the décor, both outside and in were also provided. The chuppah was from a local synagogue that lends it out to any Jewish bride who needs one. They don’t charge (since it’s considered essential to any Jewish wedding) but you need to reserve it early because it’s first come, first served with all the basic common sense rules that make perfect sense for such a big favor that we loved. They even had a choice of covers and one of them was purple with glittering stars. Now, tell me that’s not perfect. Decorations for the ceremony final cost-free.
Then came the cocktail hour. Ahh, the cocktail hour. The time when everyone calms down for a nice glass of wine and mingling while the bride and groom take a breather. Well, not so much of a breather as a quick change of my train and then a photo session in the freezing cold and wind, cramming as many photos as possible in the shortest amount of time. (I tried not to be a bridezilla, but I was NOT going to let my vision of a garden wedding completely go away).
We did want to have a nice cocktail hour before the reception. It was in the large hallway between the glass wall of the garden and the ballroom where the reception was going to be. We made sure there were several tables and chairs for people could sit and chat, but a lot of them stared through the glass at us smiling and waving and (I’m sure) wondering when we lost our minds to purposely go out into the cold. Anyway, we had an open wine and beer bar, a candy buffet and some places for people to chat. Here is also where we had the place card and gift tables. All the tables were draped in hotel provided white cloths, but we ordered some purple silk overlays for them from tableclothsfactory.com. At the same time, we ordered runners for the dinner tables, linen napkins, and organza bags for the candy. The total for 10 overlays, 15 runners, 100 napkins, and 100 bags, (all in matching shades of deep purple) was around 35 dollars, including shipping.
We did a fair amount of small decorations for the cocktail hour. The bar itself only had one of the overlays over the cloth, but we did add a small sign. There were several cute signs around the place. On the bar, the card table, the gift table, and a few others. The signs we designed and printed ourselves at home (some with templates found on Muggle Magic and added to with Microsoft paint) and all the frames came from the dollar store. Total cost for signs, only the frames which were 5 bucks.
Since we called the gift table “The Owlery” we decided to add some owls to the fun. After a quick check on craigslist, we found some ceramic owls for sale and picked them up for 10 dollars. They are very pretty and we kept them, they’re now on top of our bookcase in our living room. Total cost, well, I just said. 10 dollars.
Some people are starting to think to have a candy buffet is a little silly, but I am known among my friends for always having a variety of hard candy in my purse and having a candy dish on my office desk. Not to mention the large one on our coffee table at home. So, a candy buffet didn’t just make sense, it was almost a given. Obviously, the table was “Honeydukes Sweet Shoppe”. We didn’t have a real sign, but we received a large box with a Honeydukes logo some time ago in a Wizarding World subscription box that Star subscribes too, so we simply propped that up. The vintage looking glass jars are beautiful, aren’t they? Can’t believe someone was selling the whole set at a garage sale for 25. We are keeping a few for personal decorations around the house. Each jar had a label propped in front using templates that we found on Muggle Magic and printed out at home, using our own made-up names in the template. By the way, if you’re a crafter and a Potterhead, you need to check out their site and YouTube channel. Just saying. Total cost- 25 for the jars and about 13 for the various candy, all which was bought at the dollar store.
It was the card table that was the star, and it was due to one thing. Sorting Hat! Yes, we were going to buy one anyway, because what home is complete without a sorting hat? But then Target gift cards began arriving in bunches as wedding gifts, so the 25-dollar hat became a wedding gift. Although most of our guests knew which house they were in, they had fun trying on the hat and seeing where the hat would place them. The cards themselves were again made with a template from Muggle Magic and took the form of the collectible wizarding cards found with chocolate frogs in the series that Harry collects. Each one had a name and table, as well as a random Potter quote. There were chocolate frogs as well, but those got moved to the place settings at the table. Star easily made them with frog candy molds he already had and candy melts bought from Michaels. There was a sign here too, of course. Total cost- 6 bucks for the candy melts. (Hat was counted as a gift.)
Since wizarding chess is mentioned in the books in several places, we decided to start a game. We saw a cool chess set on eBay with clear and frosted glass and set up a small table in the corner. There are several great pictures of my step-kids engrossed in a match. (They’re both competitive chess players). Cost- 10 bucks.
We had a small table of decorations near the door of the reception room. On it were a rubber duck (“Tell me, Harry, what exactly is the function of a rubber duck?”- Arthur Weasley) a framed “autographed” picture of Gilderoy Lockheart found online, a boggart, and some Hogwarts detention notices. The boggart was a simple find of a small old-fashioned looking trunk at a local thrift store. Figuring out most of our friend’s worst fear was easy and a large picture of Donald Trump was taped to the inside to rise when the trunk was opened. The Hogwarts detention notices were from a template from Muggle Magic and were filled out by me based on my new family. Cost-1 for the ducks (dollar store) and 4 for the trunk.
Now for the biggie- let’s talk centerpieces. When people come into the reception venue, they will head to their tables first and that will be the first thing they see. Now, for a Harry Potter wedding, of course, we didn’t have your traditional centerpieces. First of all, we’re not some muggles with plain table numbers, our tables were each named after a Hogwarts classroom. We also decided not to have the same centerpieces for everyone, each had a small difference. We were hoping that this would encourage people to mingle.
Every table had a golden snitch, a textbook, and a potion bottle. But the bottle on each table was slightly different color or shape and had a label of a potion directly related to that class. The textbooks also were made for each class. Then each table also had a small item or two that also was directly related to the class. All centerpieces were DIY’d by Star and me. The table cards were simply printed on our home printer onto cardstock with a free Harry Potter font we found and downloaded. The centerpieces were each arranged on a pretty circular mirror that was provided by the hotel venue.
The snitches were easy. They were made with a bag of foam balls we got at the dollar store and a bag of white feathers from the craft department at Walmart. We also grabbed a small bottle of gold acrylic craft paint. Total cost, about 5 dollars.
When hand making snitches, a lot of people use ping-pong or golf balls, which is fine, but these were going to be on a crowded table. When we saw the foam ones, we realized we could slightly flatten one side to keep it more stable on the table, which is what we did. Then we just painted them with a couple of coats of the paint and stuck the feathers in the sides. Total time (including paint drying) about 15 minutes. But this was with some assistance from my 2 step kids. Teenagers will do anything when you promise to take them to the video game store.
Easy. Hitting the library book sale and used bookstores for the cheapest copies of Harry Potter books we could find. Then I found online creations of Hogwarts class textbooks. We made book covers out of brown paper bags from the grocery store. (Remember doing that when you were kids?) and pasted the images onto the cover. That way, we could remove the cover and sell the books back to a used book store. (Either the same or a different one). We spent 12 on the books but got 6 back in future credit when we resold them. And trust me- we will use the credit. The paper bags were from the grocery store and we printed the images on our home printer. The only exception was using our personal copy of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them” from our personal bookshelf.
The bottles and items.
Finding the bottles was no problem, the Dollar Tree has a variety in some really cool shapes, and we also hit the Goodwill next door. Originally, we were going to put water with food coloring in clear glass ones, but I was worried about spilling, even with cork stoppers, so we opted to just get color glass ones and leave them empty. Total cost for bottles- 8.
I went online and found some free templates of blank “vintage bottle labels” and put them in Microsoft paint to add the text. I tried to make the ingredient labels humorous. I can’t seem to find the file I wrote the labels with or I would put up what each label was, but when I do, I’ll make a quick “update” post.
Then we added a class related item or two to each table. Snitches and books aside, this is what we ended up with for each centerpiece.
Care of Magical Creatures- This was the most expensive and elaborate of all our tables. Since it was our families table, we wanted to go all out. Well, part of it was we didn’t want to hear about it from our parents about the decorations. My parents had to be assured a theme wedding would be nice in the first place. We found figurines of a Phoenix and a small dragon egg, with a hatchling dragon. These were found at Michaels during a sale and I had a coupon from Michael’s weddings discount club. Star also wanted to make a Monster book of Monsters for this table. He found a book shaped piece of wood and pieces of fur and red felt in the remnant bin of a fabric store. Some quick gluing and adding googly eyes from our craft closet and snap! A monster book. The total was about 12 dollars, the most expensive of our tables.
Divination- We found a teacup with pink flowers (Like the ones Neville breaks in Prisoner of Azkaban) at the thrift store for 50 cents. We were originally going to put tea leaves in it, but that somehow got forgotten so it was just the cup. We also added a small crystal ball that has been on my dresser forever and a few tarot cards from a decorative deck that we had on the bookcase as well. Total cost- 50 cents.
Potions- A small ceramic cauldron we found at the big Dollar Store while shopping for Halloween decorations. We also used a larger glass jar we got at the goodwill while shopping for bottles and filled it with the leftover feathers from the snitches and used a vintage label to say, “Adolescent Harpy feathers” As far as we know, they weren’t mentioned in the books, but it sounded cool. Note- If you’re having a Potter/magic themed anything, best to do it right before Halloween, you can get the greatest stuff. Cost- 2 dollars
Transfiguration- We got a silver goblet at a thrift store and found a cat’s tail in the Halloween section of the dollar store. I let my stepdaughter pick it out, so leopard spots it is. A dab of superglue and all done. Total- about 3 bucks.
Defense Against the Dark Arts- The most complicated DIY project, but the one we’re most proud of. A Cornish pixie lamp. First, we found an old-fashioned lamp at the thrift store, the kind with 4 glass panels on each side. We got some tissue paper from the dollar store (purple to match the wedding colors) and taped it to the inside of each panel, making sure the tape was only on the metal so you couldn’t see. Then I printed out some images of Harry Potter pixies, cut them out and pasted them to the inside of the tissue paper, so you could only see the silhouettes from the outside. We added a flickering tea light (also from the dollar store) and done! A really cool Cornish pixie lamp. Total cost was about 5 bucks.
Herbology- Another DIY project. A mandrake. Star created a mandrake shape with aluminum foil and found some brown modeling clay and put a thin layer of it over. He carved out the face with craft tools and stuck some fake leaves at the top of the head from an artificial plant. (I love flowers, but they don’t love me or my sinuses, so I have many artificial plants around the house). As a bonus, we were shopping at 5 below and we spotted some PINK FUZZY EARMUFFS!!! (Just like Professor Sprout’s in Chamber of Secrets) 3 bucks for the earmuffs, but we had everything else around the house in our arts and crafts closet.
Charms- This one was a little tricky. The large white feather we originally wanted didn’t come so we ran by Michaels again and found some peacock feathers on sale. We also found an unusual decoration at a thrift store and we thought it looked magical, but we didn’t know where else to put it. It was a metal open sphere with an arrow poking through. Total cost- about 5 dollars.
Quidditch field- Although, not really a class, we couldn’t leave this one out. We found some miniature brooms at Michaels in the dollhouse section and then we created the quidditch hoops. We used leftover wooden dowels from the wand project (more on that in another post) and a few wooden embroidery hoops in different sizes. Two I had around, the other cost about a dollar at Walmart. The hoops were glued on the dowels and sponge painted black. I tried to tie the brooms to the hoops, so it looked like they were flying through them, but it looked stupid, so I gave that up and just glued them to lean against the poles. Total cost – about 3 dollars.
The wedding cake table was simply decorated with more purple overlays that we had. Since we went with several smaller cakes instead of one big one, they were on columns. Well actually, they were on large baking pans and bowls turned upside down and covered with fabric, but it looked really cool. The topper was bought from Etsy for 10 dollars. I will talk about the cake itself in another post about the wedding.
The sweetheart table. Yes, we went with that instead of a family head table mainly due to the size of our families. Between parents, siblings (all who were in the bridal party) and spouses and kids of siblings, the head table would have been too crowded. We ended up having to split the bridal party and put them with my cousins at a second and ended up with 2 family tables next to each other, with one table of 10 and another of 12. But we had a table all to ourselves. Well, what little we saw of it. Yes, the saying is true, we didn’t get to sit down much, and we really only got to eat a few bites. We ended up ordering room service hamburgers afterward. We obviously didn’t have a centerpiece. What we did have were Slytherin and Hufflepuff banners from Wish.com for 10 dollars proudly hanging behind us.
And that’s it, the centerpieces and decorations from our Harry Potter wedding. Total cost for ALL wedding décor. Around $180. Not bad.