Flowers fade, but beautiful china can be enjoyed long after the last dance. Collect cups and saucers from flea markets, rent them from party rental companies, or, for a sweet touch, borrow them from family members. Stack them high, secure with Museum Wax, set votive candles in the cups, grace every saucer with a single rose or more, and you've got yourself a super-inexpensive centerpiece that's graceful and unique.
Elevate the guest book to an art form by having guests write on plates to be later mounted on your wall. Choose white dishes for the well-wishes, which show up nicely when inscribed with metallic paint pens. After the event, arrange the signed plates with patterned ones in a random grouping for a sophisticated feel. Just don't go using them to serve your anniversary cake -- the paint is not food-safe. White platter (at bottom), Crate & Barrel. Extra-fine-tip Gold Creative Marker (PILSCG-E), Pilot Pens.
The best thing about this bridesmaid gift idea: You won't find another like it anywhere else. Ask your calligrapher to create something special -- a sentiment (as we did here), an illustration, or simply each attendant's initial. Have the image converted into a digital file and print it onto iron-on transfer paper. Cut closely around the design, iron onto a canvas bag (following the manufacturer's instructions), and -- don't forget this part! -- admire your handiwork. Grocery tote, BagWorks. Iron-on transfer paper, Epson. Dress, Barbara Tfank, from Barneys New York.
This delectable display starts with votive candleholders filled with chocolate pudding and topped with crushed-cookie "dirt." Lemon verbena, lavender, and basil flowers sprout from each pot. Serve your treats with wooden ice cream spoons stamped with your and his initials to resemble plant tags. "Beaker" candleholder, CB2. "Taster" spoons, WEBstaurant Store.
The ice cream truck, an iconic summer favorite, is the next big thing at warm-weather weddings. The secret to its popularity? Nostalgia.
To find one in your neighborhood, start with a Web search for "ice cream truck" and add in the words "vintage" or "Good Humor" if you'd like an old-school version.
Help guests find their seats by offering personalized luggage tags that make a functional keepsake. Print labels with lines for name, address, and phone number onto card stock (use the insert that comes with the tags as a template). Calligraph guests' names. Slip tag and decorative paper backing into the plastic cover. Loop cording through hole at top, and hang on chairs. Calligraphy by Nancy Howell.
For the discerning flower girl who walks to a fresh beat, a basket simply will not do, thank you very much. In contrast, this pretty pinafore possesses the virtue of being both distinctive and basically free -- it can be constructed from table linens you already own, like an old-but-lovely fabric place mat, or, in our example, a charming table runner. To add a touch of sentiment, use antique family linens (ask Grandma to let you have a peek at her treasure trove) and pass the pinafore down to generations to come.
A dainty azure bow pinned discreetly to the underskirt of your wedding dress is a charming way to honor an age-old tradition. Choose any pretty blue ribbon you like (fabric and trimmings stores offer the widest selection), then tie a small length of it into a tidy bow. Fasten it to the inner layers of your gown or undergarments with a tiny safety pin, and it'll be your little secret: something blue that's hidden from view.
Refresh your guests with layer after colorful layer of icy treats. Creating this stacked confection is simpler than making a sundae -- just spoon the slightly softened ice cream into a loaf pan (line the pan with plastic wrap first, and freeze one layer before adding the next). Our stripes, from top, are cantaloupe sorbet, peach frozen yogurt, strawberry ice cream, and raspberry sorbet.
Madame Paulette is the dry cleaner among New York cognoscenti (Melania Trump entrusted them with her six-figure wedding gown). Now the firm offers to-go kits containing cloths imbued with the same formulas used by their on-staff pros. Added bonus: a chart on how to tackle different stains. Give the packets to your bridesmaids, and they needn't fret about mascara (or marinara) stains.
These buttons-cum-seating-cards can also serve to introduce guests to one another. Calligraph names on paper, then follow directions included with a button-making machine. Pin buttons to 2-by-3-inch card stock with numbers written on the bottom.
Calligraphy by Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls.
Outdoor weddings are especially beautiful, but they can also be uncomfortably steamy. To keep your guests from overheating, pass out handmade fans -- trust us, they'll be grateful. Ours features a floral motif on one side and a quote from Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" on the other: "My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep."
If invitations hint at what's to come, why not let the celebration begin on the envelope? Stationer Jonathan Wright & Company offers note cards with envelopes prettily embellished with collections of stamps, perfect for a handwritten shower invite. Repeat the effect on your printed wedding invitation with vintage styles from online or specialty stores.
Stitch this simple design -- quaintly evocative of what you might see carved into a tree -- where it will show (without being showy), such as near a zipper or hem. Or keep it private, and stitch it into the lining of your gown. "Dahlia" dress, Simple Silhouettes.
Flower girls are -- how shall we put this? -- not always so careful with the flowers in their care. Consider giving yours something with staying power, like this easy-to-make ribbon bouquet with built-in handle. Dot jacquard flower girl dress, J.Crew. Ribbon (#4495, width 75, colors 31 and 64), Mokuba New York.
A sweet side product of the day you start your new life together? Budding friendships between your guests. Make sure those bonds last by giving them address books to collect the contact information of all their newfound pals. Get them started by stamping your newlywed names and your address in the book.
Boring shoes? Saved by the bell! The idea: Dye plain white satin slippers in a pretty color to match your wedding palette, and sew a smattering of bells, along with some ribbon, on them. Your flower girl will love waltzing down the aisle with a ring in her step!
Are you looking for a fresh, inexpensive idea for favors? We've got it in the bag. Lush floral centerpiece blooms double as favors when you provide guests with waterproof bags to take flowers home in. Have cellophane ones custom-printed with a message asking guests to pick a few flowers (foryourparty.com made ours). Set them out with twist ties to cinch bags closed, and at the party's end your guests can carry on (and carry off) a bit of the celebration.
Parents know what a lifesaver those kid-friendly paper place mats (think: mazes, connect the dots, word-finder puzzles) can be at a restaurant. Here's a more updated (read: attractive) interpretation of that idea, perfect for a dedicated children's table at your reception. Print these whimsical yet functional activity place mats, created for us by New York City-based artist Jason Polan, onto 11-by-17-inch white paper. Arrange them on a colorful tablecloth for contrast (as we did here). And set the table with clear glass plates and plastic utensils positioned just so over the writing. You could also scatter a few cupfuls of crayons here and there for circling answers and doodling.
Just as the coffee is being served, the dancing always seems to begin in earnest, leaving guests with cold coffee when they return to the table. At your reception, offer caramel wafers to rest across the top of the cup -- the coffee will stay warm and the caramel will soften, turning the wafer into a sweet gooey treat. To prevent premature nibbling, the wait staff should let guests know what the wafers are for when they first bring out the coffee.
From bustling your gown to fetching relatives for photos, your bridesmaids' wedding-day work is never done. Miniature lunch boxes, packed in advance, provide a midday snack and a small token of gratitude. Choose the nibbles (make sure they don't stain!) favored by your attendants, and nestle them in boxes with napkins and drinks. We secured ours with bands of decorative paper and adhesive seals bearing each name.
Personal photographs make a reception space feel like home, and you don't need a hammer and nails to display them. Gather pictures of the bride and groom as children, plus relatives' wedding portraits; arrange on ribbons with calligraphed labels. Hang by the seating-card table for all to see.
Have wine bottles do double-duty as table numbers. Cover-weight paper printed with large, graphic numerals can be adhered over existing labels with double-sided tape for a clean, contemporary look. It's a clever touch that will have guests drinking to your good fortune -- and your good taste. Cotton-linen table runner with black-and-white floral pattern from Anthropologie.
Our ring book is easier for little hands to clasp than a slippery pillow, and your tiny attendant will love that it contains a secret compartment filled with treasures only he is entrusted to deliver. To personalize your book, use a desktop-publishing program to create an iron-on monogram. Book, Michael Roger Press. Mega Oval craft punch, by Marvy Uchida, from Scrapbook.com. Diamond band and oval-shape band, Benchmark.
Chocolate bars adorned with the faces of the bride and groom are sweet in more ways than one. Choose a few favorite photos, then print them using an ink-jet printer or photocopy onto lightweight paper. (Enlarge or reduce images if needed.) With a paper cutter, trim so photos are slightly shorter than candy bars. Remove outer wrappers but not inner foil. Wrap each candy bar with a photo, and secure in back with double-sided tape. Adorn with waxed twine tied in a small bow.
These three-dimensional escort cards are as easy to make as they are refreshing to look at. At first glance, they appear to have been blown onto the table by a warm summer breeze. Following the instructions below, make them using a heart-shape craft punch, bright-white ink, scissors, glue, and paper in a range of hues that complements your palette.
Pose for the camera spelling out love with your fingers. Edit our clip art with your information, then print it on heavyweight ink-jet paper. On the flip side, print your photo. Stamp on numbers and letters in bright-red ink. Matte double-sided premium presentation paper by Epson, from Staples. "Smarty Typeface" rubber-stamp kit by Magnetic Poetry, from Addicted to Rubber Stamps.
Thought-provoking guest books that pose single, specific questions serve as dinner table icebreakers at your wedding -- and turn into keepsakes you'll want to display in your home and reread on every anniversary. Notebooks, Start Here; "Adventure" paper, by Nat Geo, from Eastern Mountain Sports; "LePen" pen, by Marvy, from Lytha Studios.
Quick: Grab a pen and dash off a few incredibly witty sentences about a friend. Panicked? At a loss for words? That's how some people feel when faced with a blank guest book. Come to their rescue with conversation-starting phrases printed on recipe-size index cards.
Here's a winning look: Deal out seating cards disguised as the playing variety to guide guests to their tables. (Manifesto Letterpress created ours.) If you like, have extras printed without names, and use them to number the tables. Place them in stands on tables, and you've got style in spades.
Calligraphy by Deborah Delaney.
Bridesmaids -- an important part of a wedding as well as of the bride's life -- should be put in touch with one another early on and then kept abreast of all the wedding plans as they develop. Send out a letter complete with all the fine points they will need to know: Begin by listing the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all the bridesmaids (they will be thankful when it comes time to plan the shower). Also include a photograph of the bridesmaid dress, a swatch of the fabric, any information about fittings, and a photo or sketch of the bridesmaid shoes. Finally, a few fond words from the bride will make them feel special -- as all bridesmaids should.
End your celebration with a few oohs (as in diminutive doughnuts) and aahs (as in the delighted response they're sure to evoke) by passing out these traditional breakfast treats as a dessert with coffee service, either skewered on spoons or set in dainty piles. Any way you serve them, guests are sure to circle back for more.
File this under A for adorable. Instead of a traditional guest book, use cards from an address file. Our set, by Lovely Design, contains handmade ones from vintage papers, so each is wonderfully unique. Set cards on a table with a sign asking friends and family to jot down messages; once they've penned their notes, they can file their card alphabetically, leaving you to merely flip through all the warm wishes that range from A to Z.