My original idea was to make some kind of LED centerpiece. I was looking online and found that there are already many prefabbed setups to make LED centerpieces, but nothing really gave me the unique twist I was looking for. Finally, I stumbled upon the idea for edge-lit holiday cards at Evilmadscientist.com which linked me to the LED Throwie Instructable, which in turn led me to all the other cool stuff on this site. It was then that my idea for light up table cards was born.
Before delving any deeper, I'd like to give one cautionary note to anyone thinking of making these. Though they are fairly simple to make, (I'm not the handiest or most artistic guy in the world, but I still pulled it off), they are time consuming. You're getting married and there's a ton of other stuff you're worried about. You need to make sure you start the project early and leave only the last steps for right before the wedding so you don't find yourself in a mad dash to finish these the night before your wedding.
In the end, the payoff can be pretty cool though. Unless you're friends with one of the 150 or so people at my wedding, chances are your guests will never have seen anything like it before. It's definitely a nice touch and something that people will even take home with them and still look at until the battery dies out.
Finally, remember this will not be very impressive if you're having a very bright reception. For instance if your reception will be outside during the day, this won't really work. If you get bright enough LEDs though you should be able to see it decently well even in a normally lit room and it will look fantastic in a dimly lit or dark room (like when they dim the lights when everyone's dancing etc.)
OK, now let's cut to the chase...
Step 1: Materials, tools, and cost
Large 2" Binder Clips (Office Depot or any office supply retailer)
1" Poster Strips (Office Depot or any other office supply retailer)
LED lights of your choice (Buy-LEDs-Online.com or multiple other web-based supplier, eBay etc. See next step for LED buying tips)
CR2032 Lithium Batteries (Buy-LEDs-Online.com or multiple other web-based supplier, eBay etc.)
3/8" Polypropylene Rod (US Plastics or other plastics retailers)
1/16" Acrylic sheet, Precut into 3-1/4" x 2" Rectangles (Ridout Plastics or other online plastic retailer/fabricators) Can you cut acrylic yourself? I wouldn't recommend it unless you have done it before. To do it efficiently you'll need special saw blades. To do it the hard way by scoring and breaking it would take forever. Trust me, getting it pre-cut was fairly inexpensive and well worth the time savings and gave me prefect cuts which I could probably not do myself.
A clamp (I used a bar clamp)
A drill (If you don't have one, borrow one)
A Dremel rotary tool if you have one. If you don't then this Dremel Engraver (Online or at your local big-box hardware store) which is pretty inexpensive.
#11 Drill Bit ( 4.8514mm .191") OR a close equivalent. Note: If you cannot get the exact size you may need to ream out the hole a bit if you have a smaller bit, or use crazy glue if you have a larger bit. You can find this size bit online but might have trouble finding it at your local hardware store.
A printer (or access to a printer)
Tubing Cutter or other cutter (Outdoor snips for cutting branches might work. Anything that can give you a fairly clean cut on the polypropylene rod)
Metal Cutting Blade from a Reciprocating Saw There may be other blades that give the same width cut, but this is what I had lying around. I rigged up a little handle for it and used it to make the slots. (I wouldn't recommend actually using a reciprocating saw, just use the blade form one and do it by hand)
I only used Earplugs (the engraver is loud), but if you'd like to be extra careful I believe the manual for the engraver recommends safety glasses and a dust mask whenever using it. I think the dust mask is more for when you are engraving glass or metal, but whether you want to use it or not is up to you.
Earplugs How To Put In Earplugs Most people don't do this the right way
Thin plastic sheet for pull-tabs
Of course everything at your wedding is being done on a budget and one of the main reasons people like to DIY is because it cuts down on the cost of professional services for things like invitations etc. These place cards will probably end up being more expensive than a standard paper card (unless you were planning on something super fancy) but in the grand scheme of things they aren't too bad.
My best estimate on the cost for materials comes out to ~$1.25 per card plus maybe a little bit of shipping depending how much you get online. Keep in mind couples get one card, so for a wedding of ~150 you'll be making maybe ~90 cards. As with any project though: Always order 10% more than you need so you have extras
The Only tools you may have to buy are the Dremel Engraver which is about $20 and maybe the drill bit, saw blade, and tubing cutter which are each a few bucks a pop. Overall you should be able to do a wedding of ~150 people for $150-$200. It's not the cheapest way to make table cards but people will definitely think you spent more than that to make something like this