Expert Advice from Crafter Denise Sharp

Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 2011

A creative crafter, Denise Sharp, shows you how to design a day that's totally you.

Known for
Imaginative paper favor boxes and thoughtful, intricate cake toppers

Where to Find Her
D. Sharp in Portland, Oregon (

Q: How can couples create the look of their day?
The most successful events draw inspiration from an overarching theme rather than a single object. A "Great Gatsby"-style party with parasols, croquet, and mint juleps could be hugely successful, while a beach wedding with seashells everywhere is overkill. Not everything needs to match.

Q: Creating the little details is fun, but it's definitely time-consuming. What's the best way to manage the workload?
Think about how much time you have to spend on projects and what you're good at. Even if you're crafty, it's really hard to make everything yourself. Consider bringing someone else onboard to help. Whether it's a friend or an artist, the person should possess a skill set that's different from yours so you can divide and conquer.

Q: Where can couples find a crafter?
Start by checking out Etsy. If you find someone who's selling items you love, inquire if she'd take on a custom project. Or ask a local art school to recommend a student (or even a teacher). And there's always Craigslist -- posting an ad for a person with the skills you need sometimes works, too. Try to hire someone at least two months out so there's time to e-mail prototypes back and forth.

Q: What are the most impactful ways to work in something handmade?
Focus on the elements guests will see up close, like centerpieces or escort cards, and also on those they'll be able to touch, like favors.

Q: Speaking of favors, what makes a good one?
Anything that's delicious! I've never met a person who doesn't appreciate candy at the end of the night. Present it beautifully, and make sure it doesn't leave behind a lot of trash, or else you'll wind up with crumpled paper all over the place.

Q: Your favorite easy-to-do project?
Stitch together paper flags or circles with a sewing machine, and hang the garlands on the guestbook or cake table. It takes no time at all and looks charming.

Q: Are there any great, inexpensive materials a couple could utilize in their decor?
Absolutely -- raid your own house. Basket coffee filters make lovely faux flowers: Just stack them, pierce with wire, and twist the petals. Plain white rope, knotted around napkins, looks cute at a nautical wedding. And paper is really versatile. Draw a design on butcher paper to cover an ugly table, or decorate water bottles with wrapping paper.

Q: Are there any wedding decor items a couple could repurpose after the big day?
I once made a wreath out of gold ribbon as a ceremony marker for a friend's wedding. Now it hangs above the mantel in her home. And handmade favor boxes can be used for storing jewelry long after the sweets inside have been eaten.

Sharp's Strategies

1. Incorporate the Unexpected
"I often utilize vintage paper, like these sheet-music covers, in my cake decor," says Sharp, who finds her paper on eBay.

2. Use Quality Sources
"Castle in the Air ( sells awesome trimmings," she says. "I scrunch up their crepe paper to create ruffles like those on this flower-girl headband." To buy: $40,

3. Employ Top Tools
"The Martha Stewart Crafts Scoring Board makes pleating paper and scoring cards a cinch," says Sharp ($20,


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