Saturday, December 18, 2010

Table "Runners" on the Cheap

Pretty early on in the wedding planning, I realized there were three considerations that were very important to me: 1) Saving money; 2) Trying to use things I already had and buy new things as little as possible; and 3) Making sure that everything we bought or used for the wedding was not wasted and could be used beyond the one day celebration. I didn't want to use the wedding as a reason to buy a whole bunch of items that would just end up in our basement and gather dust, as this seemed wasteful.

In meeting the above goals, I found that (yet again) I had to think outside the box. I changed the way I thought about my wedding. Instead of thinking, "what could I do for my table centerpieces that would be cool?" I thought, "How can I create centerpieces that won't be expensive, and somehow be useful after the wedding?" Coolness, in other words, was by far not the most crucial consideration.

Throughout the process, there were a few aspects of the planning that proved more challenging than others. Because we had chosen a public park as our venue, we had to provide our own caterer. But it had to be a caterer that would agree to deliver the food to the park, set it up, and stay to serve it. Add to that making sure the food was phenomenally delicious, and you might start to see why we had much trouble securing our food vendor. Eventually we found the perfect vendor (not coincidentally, by thinking outside the box and pragmatically), but more on that another post. Another small thing that presented a challenge was finding table runners. I thought it would be easy enough. However our outdoor setting had picnic tables. And not the cute little petite picnic tables, but those bigger ones that fit 6-8 people per table. This means they were quite loooooong. And so, the search for the perfect runner: one that was inexpensive, and served a purpose beyond the wedding, only finally was resolved when I began applying the above "think differently" philosophy...

We had about 15 tables. Since they were simple picnic tables, we covered them with white tablecloths, but I wanted them to have a dash of color--a little pizazz, if you will. So I decided that a table runner on each table would solve this problem. First I just went around looking for runners. I went to home stores, kitchen stores, and department stores in search of the perfect runner. Problem was, none of them were long enough to fit our abnormally long picnic table dimensions--they were all too short. And a bit pricey to boot.

Naturally, I then decided that I would make the runners. This seemed like a great idea because I would have more fabrics and designs from which to choose. So I spent the next phase of the find-the-perfect-runner scoping out home stores and fabric stores for a cheerful pattern on linen or cotton fabric. I was pretty certain that when I went to Ikea, I would have a plethora of good options, since their textiles are generally made of simple, colorful, geometric designs. Unfortunately, what I had not noticed about their patterns, is that many of them had thick black outlines and lots of black in them in generally. Normally, if I were making window shades or a bag, this would be fine. But the high contrast dark images didn't really match the light airy outdoorsy look I wanted. Nor could I find both a fabric I liked and one that was affordable in any of these stores.

And then one day it struck me. "Stop looking for runners," I thought! Just look for any fabric-type thing that might work. And just like that, a whole new world of ideas opened up for me. Suddenly I was considering bedding, curtains, wall hangings, even place mats (I thought I could easily sew them together) as possible candidates for completing my picnic table decor, and there was a lot from which to choose. In the end, the solution came to me while browsing in the Gap store. They were selling last season's scarves for $6.99 each. They were a nice light linen, had flowery prints on them over a white background, and came in bright yellow, purple, green, and blue flower patterns. And the yellow scarves, for some reason, were only $4.99 each. Most importantly, they were long and even had fringes on the ends. BINGO!

For a total of about $95, I had my table decor complete. The day before the wedding, my sister graciously volunteered to iron the scarves flat, and our caterer-turned-decorator fastened them down to the tablecloths with double-sided tape. So simple! And the best part? At the end of my wedding day, 14 happy people were thrilled to take home a new fashion scarf and a great memento from our wedding! Cheap, utilitarian, not wasteful, and definitely cool--I hit all my goals in one. It still brings a smile to my face when I meet up with a friend or family and we realize we both are wearing my wedding table runners around our necks!

A simple, inexpensive scarf from the Gap turns into a beautiful table runner for our hors d'oeuvres table!


  1. The idea to use an inexpensive fashion scarf as a table runner is soooo good! Is the pic with the purple floral-print runner from your wedding? It's gorgeous!

  2. Very interesting tips on wedding planning. My sister is arranging her friend’s wedding reception and I am helping her to find apt San Francisco venues. Hope we will find a perfect venue to arrange an unforgettable wedding reception.


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