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A crystal-and-freshwater-pearl dragonfly brooch perched in a maiden's tresses is a bewitching alternative to a flower.
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Tiny treasures of the woods are rendered sweetly in marzipan on an ivory marzipan-covered cake. A ladybug signifying good fortune rests on the frond of a fern, and a fiddlehead with royal icing foliage uncoils overhead. Mushrooms with gum-paste stems, acorns, oak leaves, and fallen bark made of shaved chocolate further adorn the tiers.
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Chocolate Faux Bois
Faux bois, French for fake wood, is a lovely decorative motif. A wood-graining tool creates the white chocolate markings on bittersweet chocolate panels -- they are then pressed into the chocolate ganache that envelopes the cake. To make the leaves, tempered bittersweet chocolate is brushed onto real lemon leaves, which are peeled off after chilling briefly.
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Use this gentle, evocative color combination on your invitations to give guests a taste of the warm celebration to come, then repeat the colors to personalize other paper pieces and carry the theme throughout. Every element here combines the two hues in ink or, more unexpectedly, in decorative accents, such as envelope liners and ribbon.
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A dramatic display like this is sure to draw well-wishers to the guest-book table. The vivid wreath packed with chartreuse santini mums and covered with tiny bows (secured with T pins) gives people something to admire as they pluck a colored pencil from the nearby cup to offer their sentiments to the bride and groom and sign their names. The blank book has a celadon cover and a bookmark of pale-green trim.
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Finely Wrapped Favors
Extend your theme with pretty favors in green and brown that are a delight to behold. Familiar materials -- paper bags, cardboard boxes, crepe paper, twine -- are easily made into sophisticated packaging with ribbon or decorative paper. Fill with soaps, candy, or any other little treat, and place on each plate, or group together on a favor table.
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Pinecone Hurricane Vase
Flowers and paper leaves accessorize hurricanes. After making the blossom, affix to decorative ribbon and wrap around hurricane vases.
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Pinecone Place Card
Florets burst from place cards, made by gluing card stock over veneer paper. Prop up the cards with a triangle of heavy paper glued underneath, perpendicular to the veneer.
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Decorate groomsmen's lapels with fresh and fabric boutonnieres, tailored to a woodsy affair. Pick one design or mix and match. The leaves are made of handsome textiles, including felt, wool-suiting fabric, and corduroy. The patterns mimic the veins of real leaves. Fiddleheads and sprigs of oregano, fresh lilac, rosemary, and grasses lend contrasting color. Make leaves ahead, and add flora on the wedding day.
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Plant an idea in your guests' heads with these seedling favors meant for enjoying long after the party's over. The Magnolia Company offers more than 15 different oak varieties and will send you the one that's suited to the geographic region of your wedding locale ($12.50 each, minimum order six trees, seedsoflife.com).
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Dinner at Dusk
Cast a warm glow from above. A midsummer night's meal at an outdoor reception is served on the lawn under tall maple trees strung with lanterns hanging on chains from strong branches. Small and large, these lamps hold ivory tapers, their bases disappearing in a thick layer of fresh, fragrant rose petals.
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The soft light of paper luminaries sets a romantic mood. Two bags, one fitted over the other, form a box. The lanterns, strung on electric Christmas-tree lights and hung along branches, are tied with ribbon and sway gently in the evening breeze.
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Shake things up with a dish that's distinctive but doesn't abandon traditional flavors: fall-foliage lasagna. The secret? Pasta colored with beet and carrot puree, and shaped with cookie cutters. Your caterer can incorporate these tricks into her recipe; we layered fresh ricotta cheese between beet and carrot pastas, which were cooked, then sauteed in -- and drizzled with -- a brown-butter and sage sauce. The combination is hard to, ahem, beet.
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Sweet marzipan acorns capture the beauty of fall. The marzipan is tinted pale green with food coloring to mimic the appearance of nuts just picked from the tree; a thin coating of bittersweet chocolate, decorated with sprinkles, crowns each one and balances the marzipan's concentrated sweetness. Place the acorns on pressed leaves for a lovely autumn display, and serve them on a dessert buffet or on platters at guests' tables.
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Assemble evergreens into an elegant arrangement. Accentuate the needles, leaves, and pinecones by filling your container with as many branches as possible.