Tales of Fails and Fixes

Wedding Planning

Nobody’s perfect, least of all me, and while I have quite the success record behind my beaded belt, the last few weeks have turned up a few fails that I’m glad happened now and not closer to the wedding day!

Guestbook Fail

I figured our guestbook was all tied up with the proverbial bow ages ago, but one of the things on the still-too-long to-do list was to actually get everything in one place and box it up to take the to the venue. The only thing I was missing were the pens for people to sign the corks so I picked up a couple of purple Sharpies on the way home from work–even wrapped them in purple washi tape to make them “fancier”–and was just about to put them into the bag with the corks when I decided to test said pens.

Am I ever glad I did! They both dried up before each could write my name once.

So I set about testing every pen we had in the house (and since both Road Trips are rather fond of writing implements, that was quite a selection) and found a few things to be true:

  • Felt tip pens of all sizes and brands get sucked dry when applied to corks.
  • Small-nib pens are tough to read over the texture of the cork.
  • Ball-point pens are your best bet.

Which pointed to this pen in particular:


PaperMate Profile bold tip | image via Amazon.com

Of course, that’s on UNUSED corks.

I had one of those right-before-sleep thoughts that wondered if my results were what they were because I wanted to use fresh corks so that I could make something out of them afterwards. So I grabbed a used cork to give it a whirl and the Sharpie worked just fine on those. And smaller-nib pens didn’t skip over the surface, probably because of the compression the corks got in the neck of the wine bottle.

So the fix for this fail is either new pens or old corks, or maybe both just to be safe.

Favor Fail

Favors rock. I always thought it was one of the worst things about getting older is that party favors seem to go out of style after you hit double digits. Which is why I make favors a priority for all of my parties–why should kids have all the fun?

A good favor needs to be more than just a tchotchke, it needs to be functional or–better yet–edible, to make sure they don’t get left behind. My first choice was to make small jars Champagne Jelly and things were rocking right along until the first dozen failed to gel.


I’ve made preserves before (specifically marmalade) and had no problem getting it to gel. And the actual processing went flawlessly with every jar sealing tight. But this time the jelly just didn’t go beyond a syrupy consistency. But the canning experts say there are ways to rescue batches like this so I gave it another shot. Even tested it before jarring to make sure that it was going to gel and all signs pointed to success.

So much for tests!

Now, I can be pretty stubborn and if this had happened a few months ago I’d probably plug away at it until I got it to work. But it didn’t, so I made a made the call to find a back-up favor just as tasty and just as appropriate to our theme without breaking the bank.

Enter Brix.


Brix is a measure of the sugar in a wine, fruit juices, and other liquids. Brix chocolates are made to complement wine. I first picked up a larger brick of Brix at World Market years ago, so when I needed something edible and wine-themed and relatively inexpensive, they were my first thought. Thankfully their smaller “bites” can be ordered in bulk, and in less than a week 3 pounds of Brix bites showed up at my office, ready to be packaged up and set at each place setting.

In fact, I think this might actually be a better favor as most people enjoy chocolate, and those willing to try Champagne jelly may have been fewer. I’m thinking my excess Champagne sauce might go well over brie…

Health Fail

This last fail, well, it’s a little tougher to fix than a stop by Staples or a few clicks on a website, but I’m working on it.

I can think of a lot of things a bride might need 3 weeks before her wedding: a personal assistant, spa appointment on standby, and unlimited vacation time top the pie-in-the-sky wishlist of many I would imagine.

Pneumonia wouldn’t have made the top 100 and yet it has decided to pay me a visit 3 weeks out from the wedding, all-but killing a week or productivity as far as wedding tasks go so far and looks to kill another one before we’re done. Thankfully it’s a minor case, I should be right-as-rain in time for the wedding, but it did make me take a harder look at that long list of projects and start crossing things off that I wasn’t as invested in. Things like out-of-town bags and bathroom baskets, cute invitations to the rehearsal dinner, and some other decorations that wouldn’t have a huge impact on the day but would take more time and effort from me than I have to give.

What remains is mostly quiet work: stuff that can be done largely on the computer (our playlists, signage, etc.) or small projects that don’t have me doing any standing or heavy-lifting.

Here’s hoping this got all the fails out of the way and the next couple of weeks will be smooth sailing!

Some Swag and Bottle Service

Wedding Planning

Alas, this post is not about any bachelorette-style shenanigans. No, today I have another diy-decoration update because that seems to be what my life revolves around at this point!

Wall Swags


It’s practically unheard-of for a venue to allow brides to hang anything on the walls, but we have permission to do so for our reception space and to pass that opportunity up would be almost criminal. Granted, the “walls” are actually screens with regularly-spaced pillars, but it’s enough. I look at it like hanging your first piece of artwork or framed photo in your new apartment–it feels more like your own space and less like a rental.

To take advantage of this golden opportunity, I created mesh, ribbon, and grape swags for each of the 8 pillars in the room. They’re not huge, but I’m hoping it will add a slightly more custom feel to the space just by being there.

Deco mesh seems to be having quite the crafting hey-dey but frankly? After making 8 (9 counting the smaller one that I’m using on our program basket) swags out of them I am less than impressed. It’s not very resilient and frays like a–well, like something that falls apart at the least provocation–leaving a trail of plastic strands all over my living room. That said, it does fill space fairly well and is lightweight, which can certainly be important.

I layered brown/coppery and gold deco meshes with some moss green ribbon and tied all of it together with plastic-coated wire. I used the tails of the wire to secure a bunch of faux grapes to the center of the bundle, twisting what was left into a hanging loop at the top of the bunch. Once everything was secured it was just a matter of man-handling the mesh into alternating loops (this being where that lack of resiliency came into play) and spreading out the ribbons.

Once all of that was done, I thought it would be nice to add some length to the arrangement with 3 hanging corks. Into the top of each cork I pushed in (with the help of some pliers) some eye-pins, opening the eye enough to slip a ribbon into. I used 9″, 12″, and 15″ lengths of ribbon, tied it onto the eye and closed it up, knotting a set of 3 together for each swag. It was easiest to loop the ribbon clusters through the wire loop at the top of each swag and tie it off.

I’m wondering now if it wouldn’t have been better to use slightly shorter and darker ribbons. Oh well, a done project is a done project at this point and I’m not going to let ribbon color worry me now!

Cocktail Hour Centerpieces


While I finished our dinner decorations a while back, I hasn’t done much in the way of decorations for the high-top tables we’d have for our guests to congregate around at our cocktail hour. They’ll have the standard long, white, tablecloths tied with a chocolate ribbon but I didn’t want the tops completely bare.

Looks like another opportunity to use some of my bottle stash!

I gave each bottle a quick painting of grapes, leaves, and vines using a mixture of gloss enamel and pearlescent glass stain paints (literally mixing 2 or more similar shades of each type to get the best qualities of each). The end result was a mixture of translucent portions and visible, swirly brush strokes that are, admittedly, a bit tough to photograph but look quite nice in person. I’m happy with them at least!

To go around the base of each is a small wreath. I’d purchased a roll of moss-covered grapevine garland when I ordered all those beads to put in the bottles and used 3′ lengths to make wreaths just the right size. Then I draped beaded garland over the wreaths, securing it with some pieces of moss-flocked wire, and added a bow where the ends of the garland meet–partly for pretty, partly for camouflage!

This is also the point where I tone down my ire (a little) for craft stores putting out Christmas decorations when we’re not even close to Halloween, yet, since that’s where I found ivory and maroon garlands.

Two Birds, One Stone Card Box

Wedding Planning

We’re not expecting many gifts brought to our wedding, but I figure cards might be a bit more common so wanted to include something to hold them in and just set it on the same table as our guest “book” set-up and call it a day. From what I can tell, it’s fairly common to include a picture of the couple (another use for that engagement session) on the table with the guest book–and that’s when I worried said table might become a bit cluttered.

Since our guest book is actually a cork cage, I thought a card cage would be a bit much even if they are one of the prettiest options out there. The mailbox idea is cute, but it’s tough not to look at them and see the montage from UP! and that leads to instant waterworks. A suitcase wasn’t right and while the cardbox monsters are absolutely adorable, it was a little more levity than I had in mind.

But something needed to be decided, so I picked up one of those generic patterned paper boxes at the craft store with the intent to paint or otherwise cover it.

I’d used one of these at a shower I threw a few years back and just inserted a skewer to keep the lid propped up. It was functional if nothing else.

However, this was right around the time I was making the mini-books for our centerpieces so I started looking at the box from a different angle and decided if I could fashion a way to keep it open without losing the cards inside when the box was moved, why not do that instead? And if it’s standing up like a book (or a picture frame, ahem), why not put our engagement picture there instead of on it’s own?

‘Why not’ indeed!

I even had some of the envelope liner/mini-book cover paper leftover, enough to cover most of the “cover” of the card-box book and create a mat for our photo on the front.

I love it when a plan comes together.

First things first, I had the gold paint out again and decided to go ahead and paint the narrow sides of the box/book. It probably would have been best to prime it with a layer of gesso, first, so that it wouldn’t take four coats of the metallic gold paint, but it eventually got where the pattern wasn’t showing through so no harm, no foul.

Not that I'd consider trying to color the entire side of the box, but, hey, for edges it works!

Not that I’d consider trying to color the entire side of the box, but, hey, for edges it works!

For the edges where paper coverage was less likely, instead of getting the paint back out I opted to use my metallic sharpies and they worked amazingly well covering up the patter on the edges and dried much quicker, too! I liked the ease of the marker so much that when it came time to create the shim to hold the box open/create a base for the box, I colored over the paper with the bronze marker, too, and it worked wonderfully.

And it was around this time I realized I'd fit the shim to the wrong end of the box--oops! Good thing nothing was permanently adhered, yet.

And it was around this time I realized I’d fit the shim to the wrong end of the box–oops! Good thing nothing was glued down, yet.

By adding a couple of metal washers to the shim, the flap of the box will serve the same purpose: keeping the lid (that’s now the front of the book) in place! In this case enough that I don’t have to permanently adhere the shim to the inside of the box so we can use it to store the cards or other memorabilia after the wedding.

Rather than cut tiny little strips to line the inside edges of the box/book, I used ribbon to cover those areas, mostly it just needs to blend in more than anything, so the darker color of the ribbon works better for that than the patterned paper would have anyway!


Then it was just a matter of cutting the paper to size and adhering it to the box, then using 1″ strips to create a mat around the edge of the cover before attaching our photo. Preferring the look of finished edges, though, I decided to take a bit more ribbon and frame the photo and then dressed it up with some self-adhesive pearls.


The final touch was to mat a little “cards” sign on a scrap of the patterned paper then create little legs for it to stand on at the top of the book. I colored the flat portion of the legs to match the gold paint it’d be sitting on, but left the other half white so it would blend in with the paper. Minor details, sure, but it’d be far more noticeable if I’d left them out.

(Okay, probably only noticeable to me, but one less distraction for the bride is never a bad thing, right?)


Convertible Corsages

Wedding Planning

When I started thinking about the additional flower-wear for family and special guests, I figured I’d ask Mama Leadfoot’s preference on lapel vs wrist corsages and go from there.

Silly Miss Road Trip for thinking it would be a simple question!

At first she wanted lapel but then she worried about getting too hot over the course of the day and taking off the little jacket that goes with her dress so switched to wanting a wrist corsage after all. Of course, if she’s taking off a jacket, whatever’s on her wrist could still get in the way or prove cumbersome, so what to do?

Convertible corsages it is! This way I get to make everything the same and the wearer can decide how she wants to deal with it, there’s no words exchanged over who gets what or making twice what’s necessary to make sure everyone’s happy.

All it took was adding a little clip to the back of the corsage and sewing a bit of elastic to some ribbon to form bracelets that were neither too stretchy nor too tight. The best combo for me ended up being 6″ of grosgrain ribbon and 4 inches of elastic, but it definitely depends on how much stretch your elastic has as to whether or not that ratio needs to change.

Putting together the wristbands.

Putting together the wristbands.

Sewing the ends of each piece to their match and then rolling the seamed bits into themselves (followed by a few more stitches to secure) ensures all ends are enclosed and your edges are nice and neat.

For the corsages themselves, I went pretty simple with a 2-layer bow and a paper flower with a flat-backed crystal in the center. The bows are made out of 28″ pieces of wired ribbon: 4 loops for the wider, cream ribbon and 5 for the skinnier, chocolate ribbon. While the loops are still flat I secured the centers with a piece of plastic-coated wire and used the ends of that wire to secure the little clip to the back. Fluff out the bow loops and then glue on your center items and the clip will be all-but hidden.


I’ll include a package of corsage pins with the corsages, but the clips can also be used to attach to clothing or straps on their own.

For the gentleman in the family I just went simple with a paper flower and a spray created out of tubes of bronze paper and wire, wrapped with floral tape to secure them and attach groups of five together. A couple of crepe paper leaves and I thought I was done, but the stems looked so unfinished. I tried a couple of different ribbons but they didn’t really look right, until I remembered some hemp yarn I had in my knitting bag.


The residual tackiness of the floral tape actually helped quite a lot to keep the yarn wraps in place, but I found the best way was to start with a slip knot at the base of the stem, tightened to secure, and then wrapping up, enclosing the “tail” as you go. This mean I only had to use a little bit of glue at the top edge to make sure nothing came loose.

I think the real lesson, here, is not to give people options so as not to make more work for yourself. But necessity is the mother of invention and all that, so I think I hit on the best compromise overall.

Our 2 Year Engage-iversary

Wedding Planning

When Mr. Road Trip and I made our engagement official, 2 years ago today, November 2013 seemed so very far away. We’d already been doing some planning “under the radar” for 4 months prior and knew that the next 2 years would afford us (literally) the opportunity to make the wedding into just what we wanted, and not what we’d have to settle for with a shorter engagement.

This time last year we spent the day in a car, driving back from a comics convention in middle-of-nowhere Mississippi. Today is, in many respects, just another day: work, dinner together, and whatever else we can squeeze out of the evening. And while our engagement anniversary isn’t something we plan to observe each year, it is nice to mark the day as, this year, it also reminds us that we’re only a smidgen over a month away from the wedding!

In some ways, we’re exactly where we planned to be two years ago. We’ve continued to meet our savings goals each month and have kept at least the big things within the budget (smaller purchases coming out of our regular spending); going into debt for the wedding was definitely something we wanted to avoid. On the other hand, I thought I’d be much farther ahead on the DIY front by now, and not still staring down the barrel of a really long to-do list.

Some things I did get done far ahead, like my cardigan and a boatload of beading. We settled on our venue early on and made some plans, but there was a very big lull when I wish I’d be working on other projects. But now the ‘oh, we’ve got plenty of time’ tune has changed to ‘holy cats, we’ve got 5 weeks!’ Four, really, since I hope to have everything that’s going to get done, done by the week before the wedding. Having a week to decompress is really important to us.

Luckily, the main things are done. The biggies left on the list are things like creating our playlists for the various parts of the day, getting our marriage license, and finishing our vows (why we keep putting that off I don’t know!).

Thinking back, I don’t see any major changes in our relationship from then to now: we’re still the same goofy couple with a tight-knit friend group. We like to stay home over going out, and we’ve yet to have our first fight. Yup, nearing six years together and we vaguely remember this one time that we disagreed on something but apparently it must not have been important because we can’t even remember what it was that we agreed to disagree about! Part of that is that we both had such combative partners in the past that there’s very little we’re willing to go head-to-head over (life’s too short to live in strife and all that) and part of it is that we just generally see eye-to-eye on all major issues. Makes for a peaceful household if nothing else.

Hindsight being what it is, aside from wishing I’d gotten more done earlier, I don’t regret having a long engagement. I’m ready for the wedding to get here so we can move onto other projects both together and individually, but I’m glad we made the choice we did.

Would you have preferred a longer or shorter engagement?