Friday, February 4, 2011

Please (don't) Wait To Be Seated.

Ah, the "table number" dilemma. If you have reached this stage in your wedding planning, you are probably pretty far along. Meaning, that you have planned most of the Really Big stuff, which--at least in our case--meant: venue, food, band, guests, invitations. Of course, if you are figuring out how to indicate to guests where they are going to be sitting at your wedding....this also means you have already made your seat assignments, right? Not necessarily.

We prepared all our "table numbers" in advance, before we knew who was sitting where, and this saved us a lot of time later, when things got more hectic. We estimated how many tables we would need based on the number of guests we invited, and added (or subtracted) the number of "table numbers" accordingly, later. Because the cost of our "table numbers" was low, we could easily afford to do it this way. I keep putting "table number" in quotes because we didn't actually have table numbers, we had table hobbies. Keep reading.

I wanted to do something more creative than table numbers. And given that we both do photography and had yet to incorporate a way to display some of our photos, I figured out a simple way to do so via table seating assignments. The concept was simple: figure out how many tables we were using (15), and think of 15 hobbies/activities/concepts Jake and I enjoy doing together or both value. Here were our activities (plus a few extra for good measure):
  1. Food
  2. Dogs (ours in particular of course!)
  3. Photography
  4. Travel
  5. Hiking
  6. Biking
  7. (Spending time with) Friends
  8. (Spending time with) Family
  9. Reading
  10. New York City
  11. Nature
  12. Art
  13. Laughter
  14. Parks
  15. Music
  16. Holidays
  17. City Walks
And now the photos came into the picture. We had a blast and many-a-fit-of-nostalgia going through all of our photos to find some that would represent each category. We picked two per category, and ordered simple 4 x 6 prints from a cheap online store (in this case, Snapfish).

When we got the photos back, we cut some cardstock we had sitting around, in half lengthwise. We mounted each photo to the bottom center of each half sheet of cardstock with double-sided tape (but you can use glue dots, spray adhesive, whatever you have). At the top, with a black Sharpie, we wrote in the title of the hobby/interest. Here are some photos of the completed cards (the clowns are "laughter," the nature scenes are "nature"):

Note that some table labels are horizontal while others are vertical. It didn't matter to us because they were at different tables and we didn't need everything to be "uniform." You do, however, need each category's photos to be the same layout, unless you use bigger sheets of paper that accommodate both. I hope that makes sense...

Next, we simply bought a package of those shish-kabob wood skewers that grocery stores sell, taped one skewer to one photo card (on the back) and then glued the second photo (back to back) to the first photo. This sandwiched the skewer in between, turning the two photos into a standing sign. We reinforced the skewer to the cards with tape (after glueing the stick to the first card), just to be safe, which I would recommend.

Now for something to stand them up in. We considered all kinds of pre-made things to hold up the handmade signs on the tables (pre-made photo holders, frames, etc), but in the end decided to assemble the holder ourselves. Going with the tradition of either using cheap/free items, or buying items that we could reuse after the wedding, the answer came to us after a nice walk in the Village when we popped into CB2 (a budget version of Crate and Barrel). I had been fond of those stemless wine glasses for a long time, but didn't dare suggest buying them because we didn't need them. But there they were; on sale, and seemingly perfect for sticking a sign into. We just needed a filler to put in the glasses and our project would be complete.

We debated sand, marbles and rocks, but decided that none of these would be particularly useful to us after our shindig. Next up were lentils, beans, and rice and various other grains. We discovered in a test run (just before I made my delicious red lentil soup recipe) that while beautifully colorful, the lentils did not hold the sign as stable as we would have liked. And since we were having an outdoor wedding, any potential wind would knock them over. Next we decided we preferred white, because there would be so many other colors at the tables, and eagerly and pleasantly acknowledged that rice was quite cheap. In addition, because the grains of rice are small and stiff, they held our little wooden skewers very solidly. Most importantly, we eat a lot of rice, and would be perfectly content to recycle the rice (just needed to rinse it a bit) after the wedding (which we happily did!). Rice it was:

We still use our wine glasses to this day, and the best part is remembering our beautiful event each time we do. These turned out to be not only a cheap and practical choices, but meaningful ones that lasted well after our wedding had passed, as well.

Here is an approximate cost breakdown of our table signs:
One package of 25 wooden skewers = $1.99
20 stemless wine glasses (extra just in case) = $1.99 each for a total of ~ $40
20 photos printed from Snapfish = $2 (with free shipping from an online coupon we googled)
8 16 oz. packages of rice (with lots unused) =  $1.40 each for a total of ~ $12
Total Cost = $55.99 which includes a new set of gorgeous wine glasses (we gave some away to family as gifts after the wedding) and months worth of rice to eat.
This project was more expensive than it needed to be because we were buying something specifically to both use at the wedding AND keep for ourselves. I have found that thinking about things you could use around the house in combination with wedding decorations leads to very creative, satisfying and ultimately cost-saving solutions--like our choice for table runners!

Our final product, in "action" at the wedding:

[Photo by Andy Cross]

You could easily cut costs even further by:
  • Getting bulk rice (or another, cheaper grain) 
  • Using less fancy glasses, for example glasses from Ikea, or even cheap and short glass vases.
  • Using random interesting vases or tall glasses you find at a thrift store. Some of the "vintage" colored glass pieces you may find at second hand stores are cheap AND gorgeous.
  • Using branches you find in the park instead of bought skewers (and this would be even prettier too!)
  • Getting free prints from Snapfish--you get 50 free prints just for opening a new account.
  • Using magazine clippings for the pictures of your hobbies/interests rather than photos.
  • Print creative commons photos or images instead of using/printing your own photographs for the hobbies/interests.
  • Using a longer stick/branch and sticking the signs in your flower vases along with flowers. This way you don't have to buy any additional sign holders at all.
The guests loved these personal hobby/interest lists and asked us about them. We later learned that they even became conversation pieces amongst guests at the same table. People remembered the food we cooked based on the photos, some of our guests were even featured in the photos (the ones labeled family/friends), and other guests talked about how they were with us during some events that were pictured in the photos (like the clown being taken at the NYC Halloween Parade that we went to with friends). It was so fun to see how much people enjoyed this seemingly small aspect of our wedding!

*Photographs copyright Wedding Thrift. All rights reserved.


  1. You know what Maggie, my wife and I also still use the recycled glass drinkware that we used on our wedding day. You're right, it's not just about being practical. It's a totally different story because those glasses are also mementos. It's just a big bonus that the ones we bought were durable enough to have lasted for several years now. And I really hope that they would still be around for our kids' wedding days.

  2. That is so nice to hear, Jhames! Yes, so many aspects of the wedding become more meaningful when you consider their use/life after the Big Day. And passing it on to your kids adds an even more special dimension!


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