• Wedding Invitations
• Engagement Photos
• Plate or Cake Stand
• Photo Booth Props
• Wedding Cake Topper
• Table Numbers
So weddings are expensive and I wanted to do something different while not breaking the bank. I decided to make all my own wedding decorations using different techniques which can be done with minimal tools. The most expensive tools required to do these projects are a scroll-saw, table saw, and an Inkjet printer.
Note: There are a lot of good tools out there that can make your life and these projects a lot easier for you. I don't own any of those tools so the following instructions explain my process and how these projects can be done on a budget.
This all started with the idea of making our wedding invitations out of wood which blew people’s minds and are not as expensive as it sounds. I have a local hard wood shop where I found a 1/8 in. thick maple sheet of plywood for $32, which can make 140 invitations at 32 cents each. Luckily for me, I didn't need the full sheet for invitations and I had extra scraps I could use to make some of these other projects. There are many wood types that work just be mindful of the grain and what kind of look you’re going for. I decided to make my invitations on 5.5 x 7 in. planks but you can change the dimensions to fit your envelopes.
Note: I had a hard time finding the right size envelopes so if you already have some in mind, take the thickness of the wood into consideration. You might have to change the dimensions.
Step 1: Wedding Invitations
To start buy the plywood and have it cut into a bunch of 7 in. strips by the store. Some stores do this for free others may charge a little extra per cut. If you can't find plywood you can go to your local home improvement store or a local hobby shop but the price will definitely go up.
Optional: I also sanded the faces with 220 grit sandpaper for a super smooth finish but it’s up to you. If you want a more rustic look you might want to skip the sanding.
Now prep your invitation with your preferred photo editing software. I used Gimp2 and Microsoft Word because I don’t have experience with anything else but use whatever is easiest and works best for you. Print a couple samples on standard 8.5x11 paper to get the right look. Make sure it’s exactly the look you want because you will have to make a lot of test print outs and you don’t want to waist the wood. Once you get it the way you want make sure you FLIP THE IMAGE for the wood transfer. You can do this with your Inkjet printer settings or with the software you used to create the image.
There are many videos out there that show how to do an image transfer on wood but I haven’t seen any that give you a clear image and can be done in minutes. Here is the trick, use label sheets that don’t have perforated waxy backing. These Office Depot sheets work pretty well.
Before you start to print you should set up a quick workstation that will help you with alignment of the image. Blue painters tape and some rulers should help you out. I used a mat to mark the placement of the wood and printout.
Note: You need to make sure you can easily replace new pieces of wood and printouts in the same orientations to each other.
When your ready to print, peel off all the labels. You are going to print on this waxy part where the labels sit. It's a good idea to leave some of the label edges around for rigidity.
When you place the paper in your printer place the waxy surface face down on your printer. Some printers work differently so double check, but most print on the bottom side of the paper. The image is going to look a little faded when it comes out but this is normal. Make sure nothing touches the ink because it is wet. You can take your time to work carefully because the ink stays wet for a while. Work carefully to not smear the image.
With one of the sides of the print out taped, use a straight edge to transfer the image onto the wood. Press the paper on to the wood. Start on the side with tape on it then run the straight edge to the other end with even pressure. Make sure the paper doesn't slide at all. Before you lift the paper to reveal the image, run the straight edge across the paper a couple times in the same direction.
After this you should let the ink dry then seal the wood and give it a finish of your choosing. I gave it a few sprays with spray shellac and sanded with #0000 grade steel wool in between coats and you’re done.
Step 9: Presentation
I decided to wrap this up like a package by wrapping it with brown paper similar to butcher paper. I had to design and cut out individual sheets while taking the wood thickness into consideration. It helps to have a long straight edge and a stamp that cuts the corners of paper to give a nice round edge. When all of this is done, print the rest of your stuff out and build bundles of invitations. I wrapped the bundle with string then mailed them out.
Step 10: Engagement Photos
You can present your engagement photos around your wedding on wood! This may require some photo editing and these come out better in black & white but you can make several of these in minutes. Try not to use small images and make sure you zoom in to faces because they become hard to see. Use the same Inkjet image transfer technique as the invitations, however you may have to adjust your printer and image settings because if you are not careful it is easy to smear and blur the image. Take your time with this. I used 2 in. thick birch wood because of the clear clean grain. Sand the wood with 220 grit sand paper for a flat surface then make sure there is no debris. Print your image on the transfer paper and remember you need to invert the image specially if there are any words. Tape one side of the transfer paper to the side of the wood with blue painters tape and carefully transfer the image. Again it is easy to smudge the image so take your time and be careful. There are other wood transfer techniques like using modpodge, but they are not as fast or as clear as this. If you do mess up, you can sand the wood clear then start over but this is very time consuming if you don’t have any tools. When you’re done, seal the image with shellac and steel wood.
Step 11: Coasters
I am surprised to say that I actually used something I found on the side of the street to use as a decoration for my wedding. You can probably buy these at Michael's for around $2 each or you can chop down a tree branch. I got a couple branches of wood, about 3.5 in. diameter, I found on a curb and chopped them up on my miter saw. They can be sanded down lightly to get rid of the cut marks then sealed with shellac. I made enough for all the mercury glass candle votives we bought.
Optional: These can be engraved or labeled with a monogram or something for party favors.
Step 12: Plate or Cake Stand
We had a candy and dessert station for our wedding and we needed some stands. We also needed some wood decorations on this table so I came up with these plate stands made from a tree trunk. Fundamentally, these are just like the coasters but much bigger which require some special tools. I did not have those tools so I improvised. This project requires a miter saw, a hand saw, a belt sander with 100 grit sand paper, and a level.
First mark where the tree trunk needs to be cut.
Cut as far down as possible with a miter saw. This trunk is too thick for my miter saw so I had to finish the cut with a hand saw. Hand cutting will leave uneven surfaces and you’re going to have to flatten the ends so they sit square on the table. This will take some time and it won’t be perfect but the belt sander can be used to take away a lot of material fast. Other tools can be used for this but this is what I had available. Once you are satisfied with the stand you can finish it by sealing it or leave it as is. I intended to put it on the same table that carried food so I gave it a quick spray with shellac.
Step 14: Signs
To tie in the wood theme around our venue we made a couple signs for our bar and a few other tables. To make these you need a wood burning kit, laser jet printouts, and your wood planks. The wood can be reclaimed or bought. The text can be made custom on your preferred word processor and printed at a local Staples or FedEx for a couple cents a page. The wood burning tool you use needs to have a flat round attachment for this technique.
Have your piece of wood ready, it should be sanded down with around 120 grit sand paper if you cut down the wood yourself. If it is store bought it is ready to go.
Size up and align your printout on your wood block to make sure it is the right scale you desire.
Flip the paper over and make sure you keep the right alignment you want. Tape down all sides of the page because you want to make sure the paper does not shift.
It will take some practice to get it right but plug in the wood burning tool an make sure it gets hot but not too hot. You might want to test this out somewhere else before you work on your final piece. Be careful not to burn dark circles on the paper this means it is too hot. You need to drag the round tip flat on the paper and move it around in small circles. Do not go over the entire page at once. Go over one line at a time working from the top down. The image transfer works best with large bold letters. You can peel the paper back slowly to check your work. The ink makes the paper stick to the wood so peel back slowly. If you feel any resistance the ink has not transferred fully yet and you will need to put the paper back down. If the ink does not transfer fully take a quick break to let the burning tool heat up a little more. Sometimes it also helps if you peel the paper back as you slide the burning tool back and forth. Continue until you finish, then you can seal the image with more shellac.
Step 18: Custom Photo Booth Props
Photo booth props can be found cheap online but sometimes you need a batman mask that looks just right. To make these you can use the rest of the plywood from the invitations. As far as tools you can use a scroll-saw or jig-saw and drill. Simply find a template you like or make your own and size it to scale.
Print out the template and glue it to the plywood. You can use a light spray adhesive but make sure the paper can still be peeled off without any tools. Cut out the masks by tracing the outlines with your tool. When you're done, lightly sand any sharp edges. Spray paint the masks. This is a set of batman and cat woman so a flat black works perfectly. Once they are dry glue a thin dowel with a glue gun and your set.
Step 20: Wedding Cake Topper
My wife and I couldn’t settle on what kind of cake topper we wanted but having the material and tools I decided to make my own. Another cool thing about this is that I get to use the same font throughout all my wedding projects. These can probably be purchased or made on a CNC mil but I don’t have a CNC and there is something about using the same plywood as the invitations that I liked. Now this requires some patience and practice and can’t be done without at least a scroll saw.
Create another template on your word processing software to your liking. Print it out and glue it to the plywood with spray adhesive. There is going to be a lot of vibration on this so make sure the paper does not peel off easily. Before you start cutting make sure you draw a stem or have a plan for how it is going to sit on the cake.
Trace the outer outline with the most delicate parts first. The delicate pieces may break if you leave them for later. Once that’s done, drill out the cutout parts and thread the blade though the hole and carefully remove the cutouts.
When it’s finished give it a very light hand sanding and spray with shellac.
Step 23: Table Numbers
If you have a lot of extra plywood invitation cutouts like I did, you can use the same wood to make your table numbers. We decided to add a little color to match with the flowers and our color scheme. This is a quick example of how you can make this to your custom design. My design had a lot of detail and I did not document it at the time but this is basically the steps I used to make mine.
To make this you are going to need:
- Invitation size wood
- 2 paint colors of your choosing (1 should be an acrylic)
- Pumice texture gel
- Impasto knife
- Paint brush
- X-acto knife
- Blue painters tape
Paint the background color evenly on the wood and let it completely dry.
Tape a portion of your painting and cut out a stencil that will cover the bottom layer of paint. This can take some time if you have a lot of detail but go ahead and cut out your image with the x-acto knife.
On some kind of pallet mix the acrylic paint with the pumice gel using the impasto knife. This will add some texture so mix it evenly.
With the impasto knife, spread your paint with a back and forth motion. Do this until you get the right texture you like. Lightly push the paint with various angles using the tip and the back of the knife. You can also remove some paint to expose the bottom color.
Before the paint dries, carefully remove the blue painters tape with the xacto knife. Let the paint dry and your done. You can glue a piece of wood on the back to stand the sign upright or just lean it on something.