Lots of advice for this one, so to keep it a quick read, I present to you bullet points!

  • One of my married Facebook friends said her husband and she invested more in lighting so the venue wouldn't look like your typical hotel reception hall. They had a white backdrop with crystal lights behind the head table and peppered the room with can lighting to add ambiance. Subtle differences, she said, made a big impact.
  • This same friend also suggested that when interviewing a prospective DJ, one should ask: How will you get people dancing?
  • Another recent bride noted that the type of venue you choose and the lighting inherent in that venue will play a large part in the ambiance you create. She noted, for example, that having uplighting in a venue tends to make for a more formal feel, while having natural light stream through the windows can lend itself to a more vintage, summertime feel.
  • One college peer of mine noted she purposely sought out a venue that wouldn't require lights, fabric, etc., so she chose a place with huge windows and great views. Her biggest lesson learned, however, was to consider how long any natural light will last, and how the change in lighting will impact the room. "I'd never seen our space at night, and it got VERY dark and the room wasn't quite as beautiful without the view," she wrote.

    This is particularly relevant for the Husband-To-Be and me: Our venue is built of old, dark wood, and while the room seems bright enough during the day, I am bartering for uplighting through Something New Entertainment (the company who will be our DJ, too). I want the room to have that additional touch, and I trust that a company led by theatrically trained people can pull it off. Also, we will have Mason jars on each table outfitted with battery-operated votives.

    Why battery-operated? A bride once advised me that she learned the hard way that wax candles can burn out before you would prefer for your darkening room. Our reception will last for five hours, and these battery-operated candles, at their advertised lifespan of dozens of hours, should more than cover our desire for a lasting, romantic flicker on the tables. (Yes, fake candles fake-flicker!)

    Here's a picture of one of ours fake-flickering away atop a tree trunk slab from inside one of the twine-wrapped jars I purchased from a local bride:
Here's another, lights-off look:
  • Last but not least, one person urged: The Do-Not-Play list that one can provide to her DJ is just as important as the Must-Plays. I don't know to what extent I agree with this, as I really feel a dance party is most fun when everyone gets to hear a favorite song of theirs, even if I'm not a fan. Pretty non-zilla of me, right?
 
 
While others hunted for toys and electronics on Black Friday, I braved the unpredictably crowded Jo-Ann Fabrics on a hunt for the burlap I'll need to craft table runners, lace and ribbon for wrapping the glass jar collection currently overwhelming our small dining room and twigs, too.

Thanks to a generous 50% off coupon, I snagged 12 yards of burlap for $23, plus several yards of beautiful lace. I left without fake twigs because I decided I would go gather real twigs in the park across the street.


Gluing lace to jars and cutting strips of burlap seems well within my crafty abilities. But I asked the above question because I wanted to know what people regretted tackling on their own. There was no shortage of advice here:

*No one disagreed with Jenn, my culinary school-trained friend: Leave the food to the professionals.
*Many, though, recommended making your own centerpieces (we are!) and your own favors. A number of my Facebook friends said they simply wrapped candies or made donations to charity for their guests. Another said she created mini storybooks showcasing her hubby and her as part of their centerpieces. A third mentioned his wife and he put together bowls of water with colored stones and floating candles.
*People also recommended that we leave alterations to the professionals. This is a must-do, given that the sewing machine my mom gifted me three or four years ago remains unopened as of yet.
*The response regarding invitations was mixed. Some were happy that they did their own invitations and saved money doing so. Another woman, however, was quite adamant that her decision to DIY the invites was not the right one: "I did my own invitations ... huge mistake ... wayyy more difficult than I thought they would be ... leave those to the professionals!!!!"

*Finally, a piece of advice with which I do agree: "I would have gotten my makeup done as mine didn’t last well throughout the evening," one former bride said. "I’d actually leave anything related to your appearance to the pros – dresses, hair, makeup – you will be able to see the impact."
 
 
The first response I received, from a groom who just got married: In a year, no one will remember what your centerpieces were. Make something, and keep it cheap.

Another engaged friend of mine wrote, "In my opinion, they can be the prettiest centerpieces ever, but if you can't see the people across from you, they're just
downright annoying! Stay small."

Use Pinterest, one former bride suggested. (She wishes it had been around when she got married.)

The same person also noted that she'd seen some HORRIBLE centerpieces, including one involving potpourri and doilies. She noted the bride's mother-in-law had created them, something I think underscores the importance of making sure that if you're entrusting someone with such an important job, they know your vision.

Specific centerpiece ideas:

*Limbs of cherry trees, in bloom, in the center. Hang from them crystals and lit candles. (Only criticism: It was hard to see the people on the opposite end of the table.)

Here's an example of a cherry tree centerpiece I found on Brideorama:
*Photo holders (the type that have clips that prop up photographs), set atop mirrors on each table with small, battery-operated tealights. The couple chose photographs that meant a lot to them, and they wrote memories on the back of the pictures. The idea really encouraged people to mingle and get to talking to people they didn't know, this person noted. "I think it speaks volumes that this wedding was six years ago and I remember it so vividly," she said. Touché!

*Given the love of karaoke my husband-to-be and I share, one person suggested we assign song lyrics or titles to the tables instead of numbers. She said she saw a couple who loved to travel assign city names to their tables in much the same way. Cute, I think, and definitely something we'll consider.

*Tall square vases filled with clear marbles, icy-blue Christmas ball ornaments and glittery icicle-laden branches extending out. Here's an ornament centerpiece I found on Pinterest, credited to boards.weddingbee.com:
*One bride didn't want to use a lot of flowers, so she used pillar candles and glass beads. One particularly helpful thing she suggested is to be cognizant of how much natural light you'll have during your reception because a lot of natural light can render candles useless. By the time it was dark during her reception, the candles were melted way down, she said. Flowers would have helped mix things up and soften the room, she added.

Here's a centerpiece candle idea I like. I'm envisioning one Mason jar (or two) atop the tree trunk cuttings we've bought already, maybe with lace ribbon added to the mix. Thoughts?
Credit: Lindsey Cowan, Pinterest