For their May wedding reception in Bourne, Mass., Jason and Amelie Neese turned to their shared love of literature as inspiration for table names and homemade escort cards.
Guests sat at tables named after the couple's favourite books, such as "The Great Gatsby," ''A Movable Feast" and "Sophie's World." And the escort cards, which tell guests which table they've been assigned to, were made of old-school library cards and pockets that the Neeses ordered on Etsy.com and decorated with vintage paper.
"We met at a poetry reading in 2007 and fell in love with each other's work, which led to us falling in love with each other, so we wanted to represent that part of ourselves and our relationship in the little details of our wedding day," Amelie Neese said.
Many couples are incorporating homemade themes to help guests navigate seating assignments at wedding receptions. Everything from wine corks and fruit to seed envelopes and clothespins can be repurposed as place cards at individual table settings, or escort cards at the front of a reception area.
"Couples are getting increasingly creative," said Christina Friedrichsen, founder and editor of IntimateWeddings.com. "For a barn wedding, for instance, they might tie a place card to a pear or apple. For a literary-themed wedding, they might use Scrabble tiles as place cards. For a destination wedding, luggage tags might be used."
Friedrichsen details a number of playful do-it-yourself ideas on her website, including one using vintage fashion illustrations and another using found sea glass.
"Place cards can be the perfect way to infuse a little whimsy or add the element of surprise," she said.
One couple featured on her blog fastidiously spelled out each guest's name using Legos.
Friedrichsen favours place cards that are multi-functional. "For instance, you can pin vintage brooches to card stock, add the guest's name and voila, you have a favour and place card in one. Stamp or stencil the guest's name onto a linen napkin, and again you have something that is multi-functional," she said.
Kelsie Evans and Douglas Woodhouse, who got married in Antrim, N.H., made seed packets that doubled as escort cards for their 110 guests. Woodhouse handmade the packets and decorated them with 16th-century botanical illustrations. They were marked with the guests' names and assigned tables, filled with assorted wildflower seeds and hung with clothespins in an empty picture frame, which was displayed in a tree.
"We wanted to plan a very intimate, detailed wedding," Evans said. "Getting married at a family member's farm where we, along with many of our friends and family, had devoted time and energy to getting the space ready already made it a very personal experience."
Wedding blogs and Pinterest contain many ideas for turning just about any found object into a place card or escort card. These include: small rocks, painted with colours that correspond to the assigned table; names and table numbers written onto leaves or seashells; and little name cards held in place by wine corks or pinecones.
"One of the biggest trends we're seeing is edible escort cards," said TheKnot.com's site director, Anja Winikka. "From mini basil leaf pots and jam jars to full fruits like clementines, apples or pears and cutely packaged containers of candy, they're pulling out the stops to get creative and have guests well fed before the ceremony has even started."
Here's just one idea for DIY place cards:
Try revisiting your favourite 5th-grade science-class project with a sun-based art project called Sunprint Kits. The project, featured on the blog Ruffled (ruffledblog.com), is simple enough to do at home.
"Brides and grooms want their guests to feel cherished, so there's a lot of interest in expressive, handmade stationery," said Jessica McCarty, a calligrapher and designer from southern Illinois who runs a wedding stationery business, Magpie Paper Works (magpiepaperworks.com).
As an added convenience, the Sunprints place cards take care of your "something blue."
Sunprint Kits (you can order online at www.sunprints.org)
Your favourite font (consider using McCarty's original Vermandois font)
8.5-by-11-inch printable transparency film
Inkjet or laser printer
Sunprint Template (make your own 4-by-4-inch squares or visit Ruffled to download from their blog post: http://ruffledblog.com/diy-sunprint-place-cards/)
Type guests' names in your chosen font onto the 4-by-4-inch squares.
Print the squares onto transparency paper.
Cut your squares out, leaving the black border behind so it doesn't show up on the print.
In a dim room (avoiding sunlight), put your Sunprint paper on a piece of cardboard. Put your transparency paper cutout with your guest's name on top of that. If you want, add a flourish, like a leaf or flower. Finally, put the acrylic pressing sheet that comes with the kit on top of that. If you want to do many at a time, buy a larger acrylic sheet at a home-improvement store.
Bring all of it outside into the sun. If it's a sunny day, it will take three to five minutes to achieve the right exposure. If it's cloudy, wait a little longer (up to 20 minutes). You are finished when the blue paper has faded to white.
Take the Sunprint paper inside when it's white and rinse it in cool water. You can soak it in a tray of water or run it under cool water. The water changes the blue to white and the white to blue.
When the colour has changed completely, blot-dry the paper. Dry further by placing paper towels and a book on top of the paper.
Once all the water has evaporated (about 12 hours later), the cards are good to go!