Why Wedding Favors Still Matter and How to Pick Out The Right Ones

In the course of wedding planning, there are bound to be details that fall through the cracks, get left until the last minute, or get forgotten altogether. It is my experience that deciding on wedding favors tends to be one of those last minute tasks. A small number of couples will think of an awesome idea for favors way in the beginning of the planning, but for most, it is an afterthought. In recent years, I've even heard a lot of couples asking "Are favors even worth it? Does anybody care?" My answer is simple: Yes, they matter, and make them count. Your guests will likely have spent a significant chunk of money (travel, clothing, hotel, gift$$) to be at your wedding to celebrate you. The least you can do is give them a little token to show your appreciation. That being said, it doesn't have to cost a lot of money to be thoughtful and special to your guests. Here are my tips on picking out the perfect wedding favors for your wedding: WeddingFavors

Factor it into the budget and plan ahead. Favors can get expensive, but they don't have to be. Once you have your venue and you have some clue of how many guests you might have, you should be able to get a clear picture of a per-person budget for favors. Get this piece into your budget right off the bat, so it doesn't become a surprise expense at the end of planning. Also, the farther out you have your spending limit, the sooner you can start shopping around. The best way to save money on all aspects of your wedding is to start shopping early. If you find an item you want from a store that has holiday sales, you can keep an eye out for when your item gets marked down or wait until you have a coupon, rather than being stuck at the last minute paying full price or not being able to afford it.

Connect it to the theme. My go-to method for coming up with a cute favor is to connect it back to the theme of the wedding, especially when it's off-beat or non-traditional. I designed an invitation earlier this summer for a travel-themed wedding. For their favors, they made mini magnets that featured a tiny map of each guest's hometown or favorite place. So personal, useful and totally fit the theme! Another of my past clients had a champagne-themed invitation, and they gave each guest a mini bottle of champagne at their seat. Rather than just picking something generic like a bag of mints and sticking a monogram on it, try thinking of a favor where the item itself connects to your wedding!

Photo: The Shultzes

Connect it to the venue or location. If your wedding doesn't have a specific theme other than the awesome location and decor, try thinking of something that matches that. If it's on a farm filled with with wildflowers, why not give your guests a packet of wildflower seeds for their own backyard? If your venue specializes in something like honey or baked goods, they probably offer a favor package for weddings. If you have a lot of guests coming from out of town, you could always feature something local. Couples in St Louis love to give their guests Gooey Butter Cake, and a couple I worked with from Martha's Vineyard gave a mug from The Black Dog to every guest. Whether it's perishable or an item that will last a long time, a location-inspired favor will remind them of how much fun they had at your wedding!

Connect it to something you as a couple enjoy. Another fun idea is to give your guests something useful that is inspired by something you love to do together. Love cooking? Give out wooden spoons or a homemade spice mix! Love to camp? Give canteens or pocket flashlights. Love the beach? How about koozies and flip flops? What may seem like a basic gift in theory, could be really cute and thoughtful when tied into your wedding, and it might actually get used!

EganFam2014-0411

Pick a "day-of" item that they can take home! I've seen some really great ideas for "double uses" of wedding favors. One idea is to personalize each favor by adding a label or a tag that includes their table seating. By using the favors as escort or place cards, it kills two birds with one stone, and at the end of the night, the favors left behind have your guests' names on them, so the caterer knows who they belong to! I've seen couples give out sunglasses (which look silly but super fun in photos), koozies, custom glassware, or flip flops, all of which can be used at the wedding and then taken home by guests. You could also order paper flowers instead of using a traditional florist, and your guests could take home stems at the end of the night. These ideas all serve double duty, by adding to the fun and decor on your wedding day, but also giving your guests a token to take with them.

If you do the donation thing, make it meaningful. There is an opinion out there that a donation can be a cop-out for wedding favors. While I agree that a couple could easily say they made a donation when they actually didn't, I have more faith in humanity than that. My feeling is that on order to make a donation that is meaningful to your guests, you should donate to a cause or charity that someone (or multiple people) you love has a connection to. Too often, I see couples go the donation route and choose a cause that they feel close to or that they deem important. In my humble opinion, this seems a little self-indulgent for a favor that is supposed to be in honor of your guests. If you do choose to donate to one of your causes, at least attach the card to a piece of chocolate :).

Don't go crazy with personalization. If the item is something useful that your guests might have around for a long time, don't spend all that money putting your photo, monogram and date all over it. A koozie is one thing, but if I get a candle or a reusable bag or a wine stopper, I'm not all that interested in having someone else's wedding details all over it. Your guests will remember where they got it, and will be more likely to keep it and use it without your names printed on it. Make it special on your wedding day by ordering custom tags with a Thank You note and maybe a cutesy saying that ties it all together. That way the tag can be removed and the item will actually get used!

Think: What Would I Do With This? If the answer is, throw it away, then it's a waste of money, and it's not a favor that will matter to your guests. Go the donation route if you're truly stuck, or hire a pro to help you get creative with details like this!

Are you planning a wedding? What are your thoughts on favors? For more inspiration check out my Pinterest board!

New & Improved Flower & Bouquet Construction!

mg_2595-e1438192039415.jpg

The Paper Florist has been a segment of my business now for almost 8 months, and in that time I have sold a total of 22 bridal bouquets and 4 large table arrangements. Add to that over 50 corsages and boutonnieres and over 200 loose single stem flowers, and The Paper Florist has brought in 16% of my business' net revenue for 2015. And I should mention that more than half of that revenue was earned in the last month... Happy wedding season! With growth comes opportunity for improvement in my products and efficiency in my building process. I started out making flowers for my own wedding, and I constructed my flowers and bouquets from what I could find. I'd cut a square base from a cardboard box or scrap of cardstock I had lying around, then glue a cube of dry floral foam to one side. Then I'd trim down a paper towel roll and glue it to the other side, stuffed with packing peanuts for stability. This was the skeleton inside every bouquet I made until a month ago:

IMG_2457

While I appreciate the idea of reusing and recycling things like paper towel rolls and packing peanuts, it's just not a sustainable business model, at my size. (I ran out of packing peanuts after the third bouquet, and I guess I don't order enough products from companies that still use them! And we don't go through paper towels fast enough..) Not to mention the labor involved with constructing a base like this for every bouquet, on top of the flowers! Once the bouquet was constructed (flowers on short bamboo stems stuck into the floral foam and secured with glue) there was also the finishing touches, like cutting and attaching leaves to cover the base and then gluing and pinning ribbon to the handle so it looked pretty:

_MG_1720To keep my prices reasonable, I had basically left the labor cost of bouquet assembly out of the equation, and was just charging for the flowers that went into it. It would take anywhere from 30-60 minutes per bouquet to assemble, so if I was going to be able to keep growing I'd have to find a more sustainable solution.

So, I did some research and tried out some different materials and methods, and decided on paper-covered wire stems and a new building process (from petal to bouquet) that cuts the assembly time way down. The finished arrangement is much more realistic looking, and the assembly is just like putting a live bouquet together (except its easier because the flowers are now on wire!). As I was pulling together my first bouquet on the new wire stems, it occurred to me that there was a time in my childhood that I thought I wanted to be a florist. It really feels like I am now!

Check out the first order I sent out the door with the new assembly!

_MG_2559

_MG_2551 _MG_2563 _MG_2562

The stems also look much more realistic in a clear vase, and are much easier to arrange than the bamboo sticks I used to use. If I get some free time in the next few weeks, I plan to fill my new apartment with some fresh arrangements using these bad boys. I'll definitely share the results here!

_MG_2631

Want to order your own? Lots of examples are for sale on the Etsy shop, but the possibilities are endless! Let's chat!

Paper Flowers for Teacher!

mg_1923-e1431467967463.jpg

_MG_1922A few weeks ago, one of my best friends emailed me about making some flowers to send with her daughter for "Bring Your Teacher a Flower Day." (Huh?? I know I'm dating myself by saying this, but I swear there is a Hallmark holiday for everything these days..) Laura mentioned that her daughter had 6 teachers that she needed flowers for, and one was a male so we needed one in a more masculine color. I love the idea of doing paper flowers for teachers! While the live flowers were probably beautiful on that day, I doubt they're still bright and cheery 3 weeks later! Laura picked out 6 colors for the roses, and I decided to surprise her and include some Thank You tags that were color coordinated so Hayley could write her name on each one.

_MG_1921_MG_1919

Teacher Appreciation Weeks & Days vary in different parts of the country, but most of them happen around this time of year. And one fact is constant wherever your children are in school: Teachers work SUPER hard, have a HUGE effect on their students' lives, and deserve appreciation YEAR ROUND!

_MG_1923

Hayley's teachers' flowers will still be in bloom when students arrive for school next September, and their desks will be graced with a reminder of how much Hayley and her family appreciate them.

Do you have a teacher you'd like to show your appreciation towards? Order yours today!

The one GENIUS idea that makes the home office/guest room combo REALLY WORK.

_MG_1799By a show of hands, how many people out there have a home office that doubles as something else? Is it a guest room? I don't have any statistics on this, but I'd guess there are a lot of hands raised. If you're anything like me (working from a home office, in a relatively small apartment in the city), your office is also your Guest Room. It may act like a home office and feel like a home office, but on most days it looks like a cramped bedroom with a lot of crap lying around. I don't have a picture of it at the "end of the day" because I'd never publicly admit to how much of a slob I can be when I'm busy, so here are a couple pictures of it looking pretty. From the first month we lived in the apartment, in 2013:

1015616_686228630302_1215863802_o

Our Office/Guest Room is 110 square feet (10X11), with four large windows (a MUST for productivity), and two sets of french doors and one more doorway not shown in the above photos. Needless to say, there is really only one wall of the room that can be classified as an office... four pieces of furniture all crammed together to store all my office supplies and equipment for my work.

The bed, which takes up 40% of the square footage, is situated in the center of the room, and really makes the room look and feel like a bedroom. (After a year of working here, I can proudly say I've never given into the urge to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon). The bed is also right across the narrow aisle from the neatly organized shelves and office fixtures, and takes the brunt of the mess (which coincidentally helps fight the nap urges). As I pull freshly inked pieces from my printer, they are placed on throw pillows to dry. I prep my Silhouette mats on the bedspread. When I get a delivery of supplies, reams of paper and stacks of envelopes find refuge at the foot of the bed until they're put to use. Oh, and I forgot to mention--the closet in this room is my husband's. So, when his laundry is lying in wait to be put away, guess where it sits? You got it--the bed.

1969198_743656439512_1845159371_n

My desk in this room would be fantastic if my business was just graphic design. But because my business includes printing and full assembly of stationery and invitation suites, as well as the Paper Florist work, I simply need more work space.

Enter the dining room table. And the encroachment of my "personal" space. One of the biggest challenges of running a business out of your home is keeping your work and personal life in separate spaces. Especially when you're sharing your space with your significant other and/or your family, it is important to draw physical boundaries between "work" and "life", or you run the risk of your work equipment, supplies and product littering the entirety of your home. As my business has grown over the last year, so has the amount of physical space it takes up. Having company over for dinner or even just a drink means I have to sweep the apartment and toss everything back into the Office/Guest Room, which means it lands... dun dun duuuunnnnn... on the BED.

With my business continually growing, something had to be done. About six months ago, I had this idea to find some sort of folding or portable fixture that would fit OVER the guest bed, creating a counter-height island-style surface in the middle of the room. I wanted to be able to have a work space where supplies I use every day (paper cutter, score board, Silhouette mats, adhesive, etc) could stay day to day. Maintaining a tidy apartment meant taking out and putting away these supplies every single day, which may not seem like a lot, but added up to probably 2 hours a week of set-up and clean-up. ("Genuis", as mentioned in the headline of this post, may be a stretch.. but it is a true sanity saver..keep reading!)

Last week, I looked at the next two months of my production schedule and decided I couldn't wait any longer. If I was to survive March, April and May, I would need to find a table. I did a ton of research and found that nothing of the sort exists out there. Even if I were to build a table top and legs, it was proving difficult to find the right folding legs to fit over a full size bed properly and at the right height. I drafted a plan to build the whole thing out of wood and hinges, and asked Anthony to borrow his truck so I could pick up materials. And there the buck stopped. My husband comes from a family with three generations of talented carpenters--it's in his blood, and he's pretty freakin' handy. So he offered to "think about it" for a couple of days and work on it over the weekend.

10616159_832320441142_1187472445359150270_n

Fast forward to last Sunday morning in St Louis--a sunny 65 degrees, and a perfect day for some outdoor carpentry. He decided on a relatively simple design--a table top with solid boards as sides, on hinges that would fold inward so the whole thing would fold up to a mere 2 1/2 inches thick--perfect thickness to tuck behind a door or lean against a wall when we wanted to use the bed as a bed!

_MG_1801

The table is made to fit perfectly over the bed frame, and he even made it so it can overhang the end of the bed, which created a standing desk for me! It's made out of MDF, so it is not exactly light-weight. But what it lacks in the easy-to-move factor, it more than makes up for in the stability factor. This thing is SOLID. And it's plenty easy to move with two of us. The MDF is dense enough that it can butt up against the perpendicular side with a 90 degree hinge and stand very sturdily. Anthony offset one of the sides so the boards lay flat against each other when folded.

_MG_1798

_MG_1803Long story short, this is a game changer. My office feels like a real, functional design space. I've always loved the natural light in this room, and now I can really work in it. And the best part? We have our dining room table back! Work/Life balance is SO important, especially in a home office. This new work space allows me to truly spread out my work and have a solid surface to work on, all the while staying out of my "living" space. And I'm obsessed with the height of the table. At 3 feet high, I can stand while I work and not have unhealthy back pain at the end of the day, and it's also the perfect height for our bar-height chairs if I need to sit!

What do you think? Comment below if you'd like more information about the construction specs or a tutorial on how this was built! (I'll ask the hubby to write up some instructions) Katherine Elizabeth Events

Two Food Lovers in Love (OUR WEDDING!)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin EganFam2014-0685

Anthony and I love food. We love to cook, we love to eat, and most importantly we love to sit across the table with those that we hold dear and share a meal. (Sharing a meal is different than the simple act of "eating", but that discussion is for another time). If you ask Anthony the way to his heart, he probably wouldn't say "through my stomach" because he's pretty romantic and I think I have other qualities he would list before my cooking. But, he would definitely agree that a mutual appreciation for cooking and eating good food was a huge building block of our relationship. We made pizza together on our second date! Our love for all things food has led us on many journeys together; amazing dinner dates, the perpetual hunt for new eateries, the food blog, and some memorable cooking disasters, just to name a few.

So when it came time to talk about the feel of our wedding, we both agreed immediately that we couldn't skimp on the food, and a fantastic farm-to-table caterer was a must. We eventually settled on Season to Taste, and it was one of the best vendor decisions we made! As one vendor after another started to fall into place, so did the feel and theme of the whole event. The focus would be on sharing a meal, and in general, the idea that "food is love". In keeping with the KE Events model, our stationery would start to tell that story, and then the details and decor on the day of would tie it all together.

We started things off with a postcard Save the Date that looked like a recipe for a good time!

_MG_1548[1]

* E X P E R T * T I P *

A great way to save money is to do a postcard -- it's $.15 less postage per card, and the envelope is another $.25 to $.50 depending on size. We sent 200 of these bad boys, so by sending a postcard, we saved $100! 

When it came time to design our invitations, I stuck with the theme, and tied in the red striped tea towels we would be using for our table settings.

_MG_1550_MG_1554 _MG_1555

Anthony designed a beautiful website that matched all our stationery (he built the website, I created the content) and we accepted RSVPs online.

Screenshot

* E X P E R T * T I P *

Accepting RSVPs online is a fantastic way to use modern technology to make your wedding consumed life easier. Again, you save at least $1.00 per invitation (postage and envelope for returned RSVP cards). But more importantly, it's easier for you AND your guests. You automatically collect all your responses in one place that you can access from anywhere, and your guests can RSVP from their smart phone--no trip to the post office! We used a google form to collect ours, but many of the wedding websites out there now have online RSVPs included in their website templates. I can't recommend it enough! (If you hire KEEvents for planning and coordination, we even offer a free custom website with online RSVP as part of the package!)

When our out of town guests arrived at the hotel, we had prepared some goodie bags to welcome them. Inside was a little booklet I created with some information about the wedding and the area, complete with two maps and an explanation of what the heck a #hashtag is! (Click to see full size images)

* E X P E R T * T I P *

A Welcome goodie bag is certainly not a necessity for your wedding. It does add work, and some cost, and if your budget is tight it's an easy thing to skip. However, it's a nice thing to consider if you have a lot of guests coming in from out of town. We had over 150 people staying at the hotel, many of whom had traveled quite a distance to be with us and share in our day. My mom was a big proponent of the bags, and I wasn't about to argue. It's a nice thing to provide for your guests, but it also provides you with another way to communicate important information for your guests. Our little booklet included a personal note, the schedule for the weekend, wedding shuttle details and a tutorial on #hashtagging (for the older folks!) 

We got married at the church I grew up in, Melrose Highlands Congregational Church. The ceremony was so special to us. It included a poem written by my cousin and a song written and sung by some of my closest friends. I didn't want a boring program!

Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography

EganFam2014-0599

The reception was held at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Melrose, MA, which is an old utilitarian theater and event space that houses the Melrose Symphony Orchestra and Melrose Youth Ballet, along with many community events and a few weddings per year. The stage is where I performed in The Nutcracker for 8 Years as a child, it's right around the corner from my childhood home, and right in the center of my hometown. I personally didn't know anyone who had hosted a wedding there, and there were almost no photos online of the space set up for a wedding, so I was starting from scratch with decor ideas.

We went with long tables because I love the look, but also because I think they're better for conversation than the more traditional rounds. We did a family style dinner, and we wanted our guests to feel at home.

Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography

Photo Credit: @clairemary on Instagram

Each table was covered with white linen and a layered  paper runner and decorated with simple paper roses in mis-matched jars and mason jars with fresh Maine winter berry. The bridesmaid bouquets were lined up down the length of the head table. The simple look worked to blend the rustic, farm-to-table meal with the grand, indoor, utilitarian space.

EganFam2014-0664

Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography

We weren't allowed to light real candles in the space, so my mom rigged up some stringed cafe lights to bring a cozy feel to the tables without any open flame.

EganFam2014-0436

To fill the old theater boxes at the back of the hall, I hand painted large banners that coordinated with the logo I had designed. Each was 4 feet wide by 6 feet tall:

EganFam2014-0434

The cocktail hour was held in a room off the main hall, and was pretty much filled to capacity with our family and friends. We made up a signature cocktail, The Crimson Camel; a twist on a Moscow Mule that represented our two Alma Maters (the Harvard Crimson and the Connecticut College Camels)

EganFam2014-0665

EganFam2014-0367

For our favors, we bought spice jars from World Market and filled them with our Rotio spice blend for our guests to use in their own kitchens. I designed tags for the front that served as place cards, and a small hang tag with recipe suggestions. Anthony's Dad built us a giant "spice rack" to display them, and I wrote on the kraft table runner, "Spice a dish with love and it pleases every palate" along with a little map of the tables.

EganFam2014-0411

EganFam2014-0415

table map

Each table was named after one of our favorite restaurants. Anthony built a miniature sandwich board for each table, and I created a "chalkboard" design for each one that told a little story of why each spot was important to us.

Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography

The menus and table settings were meant to mimic the trend in some of our favorite restaurants - a clipboard style card holding a simple utilitarian menu, tucked into a tea towel.

EganFam2014-0698

In keeping with the theme (and taking into consideration that we'd want it displayed proudly in the future), our "guestbook" was a collection of bamboo cutting boards.

Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography


There were a couple other pieces that didn't get photographed -- an adorable Rehearsal Dinner invitation with an embossed silverware emblem and checkered envelope liner, and Head Table placecards for our bridal party. Only now, after writing this post and seeing all these photos collected in one place, am I coming to terms without how much work I did on my own wedding! Holy moly! And this doesn't even include the flowers!

* E X P E R T * T I P *

If you don't work in this industry, I would strongly recommend NOT taking on this many DIY projects for your big day. (Hire an expert like me!) Because I do this for a living, I was able to tackle it all myself, and was very prepared with a timeline that started 11 months out and left me two weeks before my wedding to catch my breath and take it all in. I recommend taking on 2-3 major projects max, and I would also suggest choosing projects you can tackle well before your wedding date. The other tip I have for getting DIY projects done on time is to ask for RSVPs extra early. Our RSVP date was a full 2 months before our wedding. You won't have your final count for Welcome Bags, Favors, Placecards, Menus and Programs until you have your RSVPs back, and if you have a bigger wedding (ours could have swung 100 people in either direction!) you'll want some breathing room.

Paper Wreath

So I got the idea for this wreath from the Corner House Blog, but by the time I got around to making it, I didn't follow her instructions, I just did it from memory. I had an Oriental Trading catalog in my recycling bin, and rather than chuck it I decided it would make the perfect paper wreath--so many bright colors! I started by forming a wreath out of paper and duct tape. Then I used my 4 inch circle cutter to cut circles out of the catalog pages. Here's where I faltered from the tutorial that inspired me: I cut each circle in half before I rolled and glued it. It made the cones shallower and the wreath a little smaller and tighter. I made the bow out of the scraps from a bridesmaid dress that I hemmed and just used a pushpin to hold it to the top of the door.