A Recycled Wedding...The New Bling!

I haven't blogged much for about a year or so now.  I guess I wanted to savor my new life for a bit. But now, I am feeling the writing bug once more and I thought I'd start it off with bells. Wedding bells!  

About a year ago, my S.O. and I got married.  And, we did it on a tight budget - less than $5,000 for 175 people including the dress, the food and the booze.  But, like many of you, I love me some bling…and some antiques…and some uniqueness!  I spent years (we had a 2-year engagement) watching wedding shows on television and unless you've got David You-Know-Who-tera on speed dial and a huge budget, having a diamond encrusted bling-tacular wedding is just not realistic.

Not to mention, I also like the planet I live on.

But, you don’t have to be environmentalists like Al Gore or Jon Dee to want to do your part to save our planet; our ozone layer; our endangered species or our forests. “Green” weddings are the newest, hottest, most fashion-forward way to do your part in reducing your Big Day's carbon footprint. 
But, you have to be willing to be creative, unique and inspired!
Green weddings aren’t the rustic, uncouth affairs people once thought. And, you too can have the dreamy, blingy wedding you always wanted while doing your part to save our environment AND do it on a budget! I mean, really, how cool is that?!?!?
So…what’s the trick you ask?
See that box?
Think outside of it!
My personal rules when planning our non-traditional, vintage-inspired green wedding were simple. 

The Four Rules:

  1. Everything must already have been used for something in some place or time; 
  2. Could be used in non-traditional way; 
  3. Everything must also have a life after our wedding either as a gift to our guests, something for our home or something I could sell in our Etsy shop AND
  4. Support as many small and/or local businesses as possible.
Simple, right?

So how'd we go about planning our affair to remember? Think in steps.  

First, my fiance and I had to determine what our goal was for the wedding while also keeping in mind our Four Rules.  We decided that we wanted our wedding to be memorable; unique; reflective of us as a couple and as individuals; urban and inclusive.  No small task but certainly within the realm of possibility! 

Second, focus on one thing at a time in order of its importance to you.  For us, we prioritized in the following order: 

  • Venue and Decor 
  • The Dress, Jewelry and the Groom
  • Wedding Party
  • Photography and Music
  • Food, Drink and the Cake

So how'd we manage to do it without me turning into 'Bridezilla' and both of us loosing our minds?

Venue and Decor

To save on costs, we hosted both our wedding & the reception at the same venue, Arts Tech. Arts Tech has an upstairs loft space that is available for rent with all the proceeds from the rental going to the youth programs that it offers, free of charge, to at-risk youth in Kansas City.

We used an old ice chest to hold cards & an old gym locker basket for guests to pick up our programs out of.
Both items were antiques we already had stored in our attic.

Our colors were cobalt blue & orange.  We made it simple using our favorite colors (mine is orange).   We stuck with a single flower type, in this case - carnations, to cut back on costs & to provide huge impact.   We had more than 1,400 orange carnations on all the tables at our wedding.  The cobalt blue overlays brought in my fiance's favorite color while the neutrals (beiges, blacks, creams, silver & white) kept the bright colors from overwhelming the space.  We had our guests go ahead and seated at their tables for our ceremony.  It kept everyone comfortable & relaxed.

We used old fashioned, wooden-handled stamps to hold our tale "numbers" (For information on how to make them yourself, visit the Tutorials section of the blog).  Instead of traditional numbers to help our guests find their seats, we used unique stamps that each meant something special to us such as our love of travel, the old Model-T Ford my Grandpa had or sunflowers for my home state.  Guests had to match the stamp on the tag that was attached to their key to find out which table they were at.

Each table also had a silver frame (all found from area thrift stores which provided a mix-and-match feel) on it with this card in it.  We spent two years collecting antique, salt-glazed crocks in shades of beige, creams, whites, browns or blacks to use as the centerpieces on our tables.  I love salt-glazed crocks & this was my way of sharing that love with our guests.  Each crock had a tag on it with a guest's name on it.  When it was time to leave, each family had a centerpiece to take home with them.  Each crock was filled with orange carnations & served double duty as both a centerpiece & a giveaway.  

This old, solid wood door was found like this at a local salvage center for $10.  I loved the bright colors & artistic flair.  I added the black calligraphy directing people to look for their names to find their seats.  We grouped people by interests at each table instead of by "Bride" or "Groom" which allowed everyone to meet new people with similar interests.

I was able to purchase a lot of old barrel-style skeleton keys for $35 off eBay.  We used them as the 'keys to the seats' for our guests & another little knick-knack that they could take home with them.  They also tied in the skeleton key stamp on our Save-the-Dates.

About six months before our wedding, I was injured & had to spend several months on bedrest.  Which, as it turned out, allowed me the opportunity to create these little bookpage pinwheels from old books & leftover scrap book paper that matched our programs.  The books were purchased from area thrift stores for a few cents each.

We wanted a unique guestbook that would be a daily reminder of not only the wedding but also our friends & family.  So I scoured Craigslist & found this great blanket chest with some amazing architectural details for under $100.  I handpainted the skeleton key & our wedding date on the lid's center.  At the reception, all of our guests used paint pens to sign little messages to us.  Afterwards, a coat of polyeurethane and it looks great at the foot of our bed!

Our table was very similar to the guest tables.  We didn't have a wedding party table so that we had the chance to have some time to ourselves during the reception & to allow our wedding party to be able to eat with their families.  The marble sculptures on our table represented a trip that we took to Italy the year that my fiance proposed to me.  Each of the tables at the reception also had old books & little wooden stools to help vary the height of the crock centerpieces & allow some unique visual interest.

Each of the barn doors in the rental space had a bookpage wreath hung on them .  We tried to carry my love of books throughout the event from our Save-the-Dates to the wreaths & pompoms that hung throughout the space.

This table was unique in that is was set away from the others in the area & was closest to the front of the room where our ceremony took place.  It was our 'Memory Table' & represented those who had passed before our wedding - Our Grandparents.  Each place setting had family photos on it.  The box in the center of the table held an old pocket watch tool set that my Grandpa had & the crystal chandelier hanging overhead came from my Grandparents' dining room.  Many of the other leaded chandelier crystals hanging throughout the space were from my Grandparents collection.  My Grandma used to use them as Christmas tree decorations when my sisters & I were younger.

White paper lanterns that we bought in bulk (& later sold on Craigslist) served as a wonderful ceremony focal point.  My Dad used hardware store lattice to hang the lanterns from along with some of the crystals from my Grandparents.  In the dusk lighting, the crystals gave the appearance of tears from heaven.  Perfect since it rained that & my Grandpa had passed away a few months before our wedding.

The Dress, Jewelry and the Groom

So, both my dress & my hairpiece were made from recycled hemp & silk fabric that was tea-dyed the most lovely, warm color giving it a very vintage feel.  The hairpiece & the brooch on the dress also had a pre-ban ivory pin as the centerpiece.  Each pin was found at a local thrift store & it had the most lovely shades of beige in them.  Although I do not normally wear (or endorse) ivory in any of it's forms; when I found these two pins at the thrift shop, I had no idea that they were 1900s ivory brooches until someone examined them for me.  

In keeping with the Art Deco / flapper feel of the wedding & my dress, we choose to layer necklaces - common practice in the 1920s.  I chose a vintage shell cameo in a dreamy light orange color that reminded me of a trip to an Italian cameo factory with my fiance; a diamond circle pendant to represent eternity & two vintage, pave diamond pendants - one of which my fiance had picked out for me.  All my jewelry was white gold and none was purchased new.  All the pieces were vintage or estate pieces - including my earrings which originally had square onyxes attached to them that I had a local jeweler remove.

My bouquet was a collection of brooches & crystals.  Some of the crystals are from my Grandparents' collection. There were 13 of them which represented the day we got married - the 13th.  The other brooches in the bouquet also had some sort of meaning.  The micro mosiacs were collected from our trip to Italy; the dog tag has our wedding date on it; a doberman pin since the breed brought us together; a horse for my other "baby;" a ladybug from my Great-Grandma; a broken pocket watch from my Grandpa; woven bead necklaces from my Aunt; etc.

Even the groom got in on the vintage brooch look.  His boutonniere was made from vintage brooches as well & matched my bouquet. 

Wedding Party

It was important to me that the bridesmaids' dresses be something that they would all be comfortable wearing again.  So, we let them pick them out themselves.  It didn't matter to me if they all looked identical.  It only mattered that they were roughly the same shade of cobalt blue.  So, I mailed them each a swatch of fabric & then let them pick out their own dresses.  My only other request was that they pick something short.  I bought them all orange pashminas & peacock feather bobbypins.  Everything else, with the exception of their jewelry, was their own choice.  I hope that it made it easy for them to feel comfortable & to wear the dresses again.

Instead of flowers, each bridesmaid carried a beige clutch with peacock feathers, a skeleton key & fabric flowers that matched the conversation starter napkin ties that I made.  Each bridesmaid also wore a choker necklace that I made out of briolette sapphires, citrines & carnelians.  My Maid of Honor also wore a necklace of my own design.  Her's was a large tassel made from the same briolette stones on a long sterling silver snake chain.  As a gift for my Mom, I made her a matching bracelet.  Hopefully, they each have found an occassion to wear them again.  My dress, was cut off to turned into throw pillows after our wedding.  

All the little ring bearers wore their own kakhi trousers, white button-down shirts & then I bought them the chocolate brown vests & matching cobalt blue converse sneakers to match the "Big Boys'" wedding shoes.  Their trio of pins were purchased off Etsy & are simple little crocheted buttons.  The little blue & orange pinwheels were last-minute, dollar finds at the local craft store & I honestly think the boys had more fun with them than anything else!

Instead of a pillow, the rings were carried down the aisle inside a vintage blue book that I picked up at the local Salvation Army store & hollowed out.  A bit of ribbon, fabric flower, skelton key & BAM!  Instant ring bearer book.  Visit my Etsy store (link below) to see another version of this book that we have for sale.

Not to be out done by the women when it came to jewelry, all the Best Men each picked out their own set of vintage cufflinks.  My fiance's sons had a great time picking out cufflinks that fit their individual personalities.  I think I may have even created a monster in one of them.  He's forever on the lookout now for fun & unique cufflinks!

Food, Drink and the Cake

At each place setting on the table, we had mix-and-match silverware & silver chargers.  But, the one truly fun & unique item that we had was all designed to spark conversation among strangers.  It was the napkin ties.  Each one had a little question or knock-knock joke on it attached to a fabric flower, leftover scrapbook paper that matched the bookpage pinwheels & a piece of twine.  At each table, we tried to match people with similar interests.

Our cake was designed by a local baker with a flair for the Art Deco style.  I made the cake topper out of glass frog ornaments.  The cake table was an old school desk that my fiance & I had in our attic from a previous day trip to the White Cloud Flea Market.  We also used an old metal flower frog to hold us one of our invitations which I made out of vintage postcards & a custom-made stamp.  Each invitation was different & we had several people ask us if we had extras so that they could frame them & use them as home decor.

One of the things we did but which I never thought would be as popular, was the mix-and-match vintage plates.  We collect full place settings, glasses & dessert plates from area thrift stores, garage & estate sales.  We tried to make sure that they all matched in some small way by having similar color pallets. After a good cleaning, we mixed them all up & used them for our buffet.  We found our guests swapping plates to get patterns that they liked & comparing patterns while they stood in the buffet line.  The comment that we heard the most afterwards was that having the mixed plates made the buffet line seem to go faster because everyone was having so much fun looking at the different patterns.  After the wedding, we picked out the patterns that we liked to keep for ourselves & then sold the remainder on Craiglist to anothr bride.

In keeping with the mix-and-match theme, we used a collection of wine glasses but in order to cut down on waste, we asked people to label their glass so that they could use it for the entire night.  Again, when our event was over, we kept the glasses that appealed to us & sold the remainder to another bride on Craigslist.

So all you junkers, pickers and antique lovers out there – When planning your wedding (or next big event), hit up some of your favorite haunts from thrift stores to that barn down the street you’ve been wanting to visit and look at those old things in new ways to help make your event as green as possible. Your guests will remember and appreciate it. And, you will know that you added another lifetime of love to those old treasures all while doing your share to save this planet we all call home.
(And hey, who among us DOESN’T need an excuse to go junking?!?!)

If you’re interested in any of the items you’re seen pictured in this blog; be sure and check out our Etsy shop where you can find these treasures (or ones similar to them) and SO much more!



  1. Very useful post. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. Really its great article. Keep it up.


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