Sometimes, when you’re planning your wedding reception, the space can leave you desiring more… This was definitely the case for my now-wife and I when we began searching.
Unfortunately, we waited too long to book our location. We are horrible at procrastinating, my wife and I, so we were left with this location: the Masonic Center. It was….definitely something. We signed the contract and immediately were regretting our decision.
The long wooden tables were creaky and old, the metal folding chairs created a “church basement” type feel (not to mention it was in the basement which left little for natural lighting. The carpet was okay, but we weren’t allowed to dance on it which meant a separate tiled room for the dancing portion of our evening. And the walls were made of cement blocks covered in a cream-colored paint.
It was… okay, but we weren’t necessarily thrilled.
I mean our wedding site was absolutely gorgeous. We found this little hole-in-the-wall campground on the border of Illinois and Iowa. It was right up again the Mississippi river, surrounded by trees and water. It was gorgeous.
We couldn’t have asked for a better wedding location. Everything was perfect and the sun was shining brightly. The whole day was perfect. But let’s be real, you spend an hour or two at most at the wedding site and the majority of your wedding day is spent at your reception site (other than the photographs, of course). We wanted to make sure that our reception site was everything that we dreamed it would be – even though we couldn’t get the location we dreamed of initially.
So, we decided that we needed to simply make it happen. We only get to experience a wedding for one day of our entire lives (hopefully) and we wanted to make it the best we could on our small budget and late notice. We decided it was time to get crafty.
We started by thinking about colors. Then came the shopping. We shopped garage sales, store sales, amazon, anywhere that we could find cheap crafting items that we could use to decorate. We made these beautiful burlap candles (48 of them for less than a dollar a piece!). We went to Goodwill and bought a ton of wine glasses and made these beautiful colored center-pieces based on our colors (blue and yellow, with a pink accent). We found cheap burlap rolls for table runners and even asked for some favors and got cheap linens for rent from a family member!
For our head table, we created a wedding wreath (got the idea from Michael’s) and hung it front and center. We made our own burlap banners with our names and then found some string lights to hang behind us for cheap!
We decorated vases for our homemade bouquets to sit in and set them along the table with our burlap candles interspersed between them.
At our drink station we had a punch bowl, some coffee, beautiful glass chalkboard water jugs, and little bit of wine! It was perfect and beautiful.
Around the room we took twine and clothespins which we decorated with washi tape and hung up pictures of us throughout our 3.5 years together. We printed around 500 photos and hung them all around the room.
Our gift table was decorated with table runners that we found cheap in our colors and definitely added to the ambiance of the room – colorful, fun, and gorgeous all at once. It definitely helps that they were on sale for $1 a piece at Walmart!
An old frame, a can of chalkboard paint, and some chalk markers can make an adorable sign. This one commemorates the date of our wedding and was also used for our adorable save-the-dates!
We had some fun designing our guest table! Found a few ideas to make an adorable and memorable guestbook.
We even did some wood burning to create these adorable and cheap signs!
Some paper, a printer, and some helium balloons can create a great decoration that keeps guests entertained while they wait for the grand entrance!
This is an especially great task if you have someone who really wants to help, but isn’t sure how. My mom came up with some beautiful quotes about love, laminated them, and attached them to these balloons to create a beautiful wedding decoration for us!
It also was a great addition to let the kids play with when they started to get bored. Grab a balloon and run in circles is a favorite game for all little ones! And helium balloons can definitely be affordable if you plan ahead and buy a cheap, disposable helium tank!
We realized right away that food was a necessity for our wedding reception (as is the case at most weddings). We decided to go a cheap route for our wedding and it turned out beautifully!
We grilled up some hot dogs, hamburgers, and brats two days before the wedding and had them in warmers on the day of the reception. Cheap and delicious meal. We got fresh bakery buns and potato salad from Hy-Vee and some wonderful family members brought some additions like cucumber salad, party mints, and fruit salad. Then we filled a giant bucket with potato chips and threw out some jolly ranchers and called it good!
We asked how much of everything people wanted ahead of time on our silly, yet effective RSVP cards. We added it up and threw it on an excel doc to remind people of what they ordered. The brats were just a bonus, so people could eat as many of those as they wanted.
We created an adorable chalkboard menu to let people know their options and placed it in front of our assorted serving ware. The food table was absolutely gorgeous and easy to navigate!
For our cake we found a cake stand that we loved and added some burlap flowers to the sides. We placed our Mario cake (yes, you read that right) on the cake stand on a burlap table runner and bought a personalized cake-topper for cheap at etsy.com to put on top.
As was said before, we had a completely separate dance room than the dining room – which ended up working beautifully because those who wanted to dance could be in that room, but those who didn’t weren’t overwhelmed with darkened lighting, club lights bouncing every which way, the steam machine, and the loud music making it impossible to talk. The dining room was reserved for those who wanted to chat and the dance room was open for those who wanted to party with the DJ!
For a cheap and fun addition, we bought some glow-sticks that we whipped out after our sparkler send-off and we danced to the whip and nae nae by Silento. Fun dance, fun times, glow sticks makes it even better.
For the tables in the dance room, we put out cookies for snacks, pictures, posters asking people to use our hashtag, and our fun game that we created to help entertain people! The final touch was lighting – we found colored lights for in the dance room and used these starry lights for the reception room which added a starry twinkling background in every direction. They were perfect.
After all was said and done, our decorating and crafting completed, the room was beautiful and perfect for what we wanted. We had gone from a drab looking church basement, to a starry and magical evening reception all on a low-budget.
I would say we did pretty well (of course, I’m biased).
Enjoy your wedding day!
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