Instructables
Picture of Make Your Own LED Wedding Table Cards
For years I've been drawn to stuff that lights up.  Maybe it was all the glow-in-the-dark toys they made back in the 80's.  Maybe I'm just part moth.  Whatever the case, when I started planning for my wedding I knew that I wanted to make something myself that was unique and lit up and looked awesome.

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...
 
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Step 1: Materials, tools, and cost

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Here's a list of what I used for the project.  As always, there may be a cheaper or better way to do a few of these things so use your imagination.

Materials:

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.
Printer Paper

Tools:
Scissors
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 file
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)

Safety Items:

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
Safety Glasses
Dust Mask


Optional:
Spray Paint
Thin plastic sheet for pull-tabs

Cost:


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

Step 2: What LEDs should I get?

Picture of What LEDs should I get?
My wedding colors were red and orange so we decided to go with red LEDs.  My advice is to basically get the brightest LED you can find that is closest to your color.  The brightness of LEDs is measured in millicandela (mcd) however a higher mcd does not necessarily mean a brighter light because it is dependent on the viewing angle which determines how focused the beam of light is.  I found a great page that explains all of this and halfway down even has a calculator so you can enter in the mcd and viewing angle of the LEDs you are looking to purchase and get an idea of how bright your LED actually is.

I used red LEDs with a beam angle or 55-65 and an mcd of 1000-2000 and they were very bright.  Basically you will want to get the brightest LED you can with a relatively wide angle.  A smaller angle means the middle of the card will light up more than the edges while a wider angle disperses the light better.  I did find some manufacturers claimed theirs were brighter than they actually were, so you may want to get your LEDs early just to test them out.

Also, and I can't remember where I read this, but I did find a site that basically said red LEDs will burn through the unregulated battery faster whereas other ones will stay brighter longer. I had to install pull tabs to activate the cards soon before the wedding so they'd still be at full brightness by the time of the reception.  For some other colors you may be able to activate them the night before and not lose much brightness by the next day.  Get your LEDs early and test one overnight to see how well it holds its brightness.

Step 3: Making the Holder

Picture of Making the Holder
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Perhaps the most time-intensive step is making the polypropylene widgets that will hold the card.  There may be a better way to make these, or a simpler, more elegant solution, but this is the what I came up with and it did work.

Before you go making all of these at once DO A FEW TO USE AS A TEMPLATE.  Once you've made a couple that work the way you want them to, then go ahead and mass produce the rest.  In fact I'd recommend making one full functioning finished card before mass producing any items.  You don't want to spend your time making all of these only to find out you messed something up.

First, cut the polypropylene rod into pieces ~7/16".  The goal is to be able to have your entire LED fit into the widget up to the small collar on the bottom of the LED and also have room to put a slot for your card in. 

Once you've cut the pieces to size.  Drill a hole in the middle of the plastic bit with your #11 drill bit.  If done properly, the LED should fit snugly into this hole.  Do not insert the LEDs until after you have sawed the slot. To hold the tube while drilling you can clamp it to something with your bar clamp or put it gently in a vise or workbench.  If you're using a vise, be sure you pad it so that it does not dig into the plastic. 

Once you have your holes drilled, you will take your saw blade and cut a notch on one end of the tube to about half its depth.  This is the slot where the card will fit in.  If done properly you should be able to have the card fit snugly and it will be just about touching the top of a snug fitting LED.

After this point, take your file and clean up any loose plastic.  It's OK if these don't look perfect, it won't be too noticeable on the finished product.

When inserting the LED you may want to put a dab of crazy glue for stability, especially if your hole isn't an exact size.  When inserting the LED make sure the wires are perpendicular to the slot in the top, this will ensure that the card will be parallel to the base.  You can also add a dab of glue for the cards themselves, however we still need to engrave these, so just make sure your slots are the right size by testing some out but don't attach the cards yet.

Step 4: Prepare your Clips

Picture of Prepare your Clips
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Here's where the poster stickies enter the project.  When first making these I found that there needed to be some kind of padding where the binder clips touched the leads from the LED.  The issue wasn't just to keep the leads off the metal clip, but the LED will move around in the clip if all the pressure is just on the leads.  By adding padding it distributed the force across the top of the battery allowing a firmer grip on the LED.

I cut the rounded ends off the poster tabs, but you really shouldn't see them so it doesn't matter, I just like the symmetry of it.  Remove the adhesive backing from one side and then stick one on each side of the clip.

Now black worked for us as a color for the base, but depending on your wedding color, you may want to try spray painting the clips.  For instance, if your wedding colors were blue and silver you could get blue LEDs and paint the clips (and the plastic widgets if you wanted to) silver and customize it to your wedding.  Just make sure you get a good paint meant for sticking to metal, I believe Krylon makes some excellent choices.

Step 5: Etching the names

Picture of Etching the names
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I am not an artistic guy.  I was worried that this part would be a disaster but it actually wasn't too bad.

The problem with this step is obviously you can't do it until you know exactly who is coming unless you feel like doing the entire invite list.  Once you start getting RSVPs, start cracking on your etching.

To begin, print out the text you want on your cards FLIPPED BACKWARDS.  You can use Open Office Draw (which I used) or another Draw program  to make a template for each card that is 3 1/4" x 2".  From there you enter the text and then use the flip function to make a mirror of the text horizontally.  You end up with backwards text that can then be placed under the acrylic.  I used the Open Office font "Segoe Script" in a size 22 font.  For particularly long names I found it was best to just bump the font size down a bit, anything size18 and above will still be plenty big.

Since you probably won't have your table arrangements done until all the RSVPs come back, just put "Table" at the bottom without a number, the number can be added later.

Take your time and PRACTICE before you start.  I'd recommend setting the etcher speed at 3-4 but your own personal preference may vary.

For the table number, just print out one template for each number, (make sure it's flipped) and go back and etch the numbers in once you have all your table arrangements figured out. 

(Note: The test one I did in the picture is a bit sloppy because I rushed through it.  Without rushing though you can still do a name in just a couple minutes)

Step 6: Assembly

Picture of Assembly
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Once everything else is done, the assembly is fairly straightforward...

Insert the LEDs into one end of the plastic holder you made and the card into the other end. 

Put the leads from the LED around a battery and slide the battery up so that it is nearly touching the LED itself.  I snipped the ends off the leads of my LEDs with scissors to make them a bit shorter because they were a bit long and I didn't want them touching an of the other metal in there. 

If you are worried about the life of your LED, make a pull tab to keep the light from turning on until you're ready.

I bought a couple of those old plastic covers you could get for a school report from Office Depot.  It's a thin clear plastic and it's nice a smooth so it slides out easily.  When you're ready to insert your LED into the clip you simply place this tab between one of the leads and the battery, leaving some of the tab sticking out so that you can pull it out when you want to turn it on.  I use a piece of paper in the picture here instead of the plastic, but you get the idea.

When you close the clip it should be right at the top of the battery where it meets the LED.  The LED should light up without flickering unless you have a tab in.  If you use the tabs make sure you pull a few out after assembly just to make sure you're inserting them properly.

That's all there is to it.  Best of luck on your DIY wedding!

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HarishST6 months ago

Nice Project.. Worthy! But, Where to get Acrylic sheet & Polypropelene rod?

HarishST6 months ago

Nice Project.. Worthy! But, Where to get Acrylic sheet & Polypropelene rod?

espo2demo1 year ago
Hey I wanted to reach out to you and thank you for all your help, I know it's months later but I actually did this for my wedding and it came out amazing. I did a few things differently and made some mods. I went through a lot of prototypes in order to try and build on your concept. (the pull tabs weren't working out well for me it made the connection for the LED too loose when I pulled the tabs out and the light would flicker and sometimes go out completely) I added switches so I could make them all ahead of time and not worry about batteries dying or the pull tabs ruining the whole thing. Then I made mods to that idea and just used cr2032 cell battery holders and then all I had to do was slide a battery into each one the day of, I had the catering hall do this when they set up the card table instead of wasting my own time. It was real simple and worked amazing. I soldered the LED directly to the battery holder and krazy glued the battery holder to the inside of the binder clip and just bent the LED up into place. I cut the polypropylene rod out completely because I think my LEDs had a wider angle of light distribution so it actually lit the acrylic up perfectly without the rod and all I did was use the binder clip to hold the card in place. I still have prototypes with the switches, they're really cool, and I have some of the actual seating cards I used for the wedding still. Im not sure how I could show you pics if you're interested in seeing it. I'm happy I came across your instructable it gave me my own touch on our wedding day, and I wanted to say thanks. Oh and btw I suck at dremel engraving so I used a KNK Zing machine for engraving it came out so professional looking that way. You gotta see the sample I did of me dremel engraving vs the actual finished product.
Can you send me a picture of your modifications? robertbischoff2562@gmail.com
I know nothing about electronics but can you put an rgb led in there and it'll still change colors or do you need other things to make it change colors
you need another circuit to make it change color. Most simply, a microcontroller and a single resistor are all you need. In total, $0.86 for the microcontroller and a penny for the resistor. The other thing worth mentioning is that you would need some soldering. If you are more interested I could send you a schematic and the if you really want, the program to make it run. Cool idea :)
Hey what microcontrollers are you using that would be so cheap? I am very interested in doing that for my wedding.
I would use an attiny13 like this one http://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/Atmel/ATTINY13A-SH/?qs=sGAEpiMZZMsgSGrx0WqTbM6D4zKh2wZJ

I have bought them for as little as $0.25 each for a 100. Buying in bulk saves a lot. Other chips would work too but this is the easiest to work with in my opinion. It is also very low profile and can be hidden inside the clip still. It looks small, but it is totally easy to solder still.
As for the RGB LED, I would order those in bulk too. Instead of paying outrageously high prices for RGB ones, you can bring them down to a few cents each.
mahajan1 year ago
how have you placed LED ports on battery?????
Hi I'm just curious to know. What other materials could i get to replace the Polypropylene Rods
hi i need the schematic for controlling rgb led through microcontoller can you send it to vignesh220ece@gmail.com
espo2demo2 years ago
Hey I know my post is about a year or two off but I came across your instructable while searching for an LED cube instructable and coincidentally I just got engaged to my gf back in February. I am looking to use this idea for both my engagement party this summer and wedding for next summer however I already purchased the acrylic from rid out (after a serious amount of looking around no one was as professional and cheap). My problem is the website listed for the LEDs doesn't work anymore apparently, and I found some other websites but I don't trust the sources because the websites look real shady. Do you happen to know of anywhere else cheap to order the LEDs from? I'm probably using white (cold light not warm light) if this doesn't look good I'm probably going with Blue, so I don't want to take my chances because I'll probably be making several purchases. Any help would be greatly appreciated, and by the way this was a really clever idea.
This is probably too late, but for anyone else wondering this I buy most of my LEDs from either mouser or tayda electronics. They are both very legit, cheap, fast shipping, and high-quality.
JerseyJ (author)  espo2demo2 years ago
I honestly haven't purchased any LEDs in a while so I can't give any advice beyond the calculator I mentioned in the post. You might want to try asking the question on the general forums or looking at some of the other LED 'ibles for a recommendation though. Obviously there are a ton of projects with LEDs on here so I'm sure someone can recommend a good vendor.

Sorry I couldn't help, but best of luck with the project!
Hey, thanks for the quick response... I found a spot pretty good prices but the LEDs aren't water clear is that an issue? they are 55 degree viewing angle and 4,000mcd .
Onyx Ibex2 years ago
I made a few of these today but found that either the light doesn't diffuse enough or I had the engrave a lot deeper than expected. Did you have this problem too? Yours looks much prettier...
Onyx Ibex2 years ago
THIS IS SOOO COOL!!
Squash2 years ago
Awwwsome! Unique idea. We had some friends marry recently and it seems as though they are mind-readers because they used our song choice, game choice and other ideas we had already discussed for our possible, future wedding. Now we are on the hunt for differnet ideas so not to be known as the copying couple. Lol. This is a GREAT idea we will add to our new selections. Thank you!
patchrick2 years ago
Alright, first I want to say this is a FANTASTIC idea and your parts list and instructions are VERY helpful. That being said, I'm kinda stuck on this step. Well, sort of. I have it all assembled and it lights fine. But when trying to do the pull tab setup, there's just too much grip where the clip holds onto the leads and battery, and it moves the battery along with the tab. I tried paper and plastic with the same results. Any suggestions? I'm testing my LEDs tonight to see how long they will last, but I'd kinda rather have the pull tabs so that they can be brought to the reception venue before the day of if necessary.
hailster3 years ago
Awesome idea! We're currently in the process of planning our wedding and when we were trying to figure out how to decorate the tables this Instructable popped into my head. I remembered reading it when it was first posted and thinking how neat it was but never thought I'd be able to make them.

I can't wait to get started on this project.
these are definitely a great way to put them together. I have made some similar before. however to save time on this step ... my husband & I have a laser engraving business ... where we can laser engrave all your cards for you, and laser cut them to the size and shape you prefer. it's always an option and may even cost the same amount that you may pay for just the acrylic cut alone. just wanted to let you know that there are more options out there, that may make it easier for the newlyweds and still be able to do DIY projects all in one.
Don't bother with LazersEdgeEngraving, poor communication if they ever get back to you
Paulybo3 years ago
JerseyJ, thanks again for this instructable. I just got married on June17th, and these place cards were a huge hit. It was a Friday evening wedding in a modern space and it fit in perfectly. I will upload some photos once I receive them. It was well worth the effort as many guests took them home as wedding favors. The lights I tested stay lit for over a week (although they get dim after a few days). I pulled out tabs inbetween the battery and light about 6 hours before the wedding started and they were just as bright at the space. If your event space is very bright, you wont get the same effect as a darker room. I saw several photos on facebook the next day of just the place cards. Thanks again, Paul
JerseyJ (author)  Paulybo3 years ago
Awesome! Definitely would like to see some pics when you get the chance.
Ciege6663 years ago
Has anyone tried to do this with Acid Etching ? Just had the idea and it might be much much easier and quicker with a similar effect.
arbita23 years ago
good-thank you
mpili3 years ago
im doin this project for physics :)
Thinking about doing this for my wedding, really cool idea. Would love to see some photos of them being used on the day.
vyncynt3 years ago
simple, practical, very cool.
thanks for sharing.
FyreAntz3 years ago
Rediculously kewl 'Ible! Thanks for sharing!
The most clever ideas are the simple ones. Now, I can't wait for some one I know to get married so I can jump in to assist with this idea. It would normally be impossible to convice a guy to assist on a wedding but this is proof that with the right mix of techology, you can get a guy to do anything.
This project looks fantastic, and I tried making one myself using blue LED lighting. Looks great! My fiancee liked the way my prototype one looked, and I am most likely going to make these for our wedding reception coming up next year.

The only modification I made was using a "rectangular LED" and just cutting a notch in the acrylic glass. I lined the bottom edge (covering the sides of the LED) with black electrical tape before putting the name plate in the clip/holder. The rectangular LEDs have really wide viewing angle and with a brightness of ~2500 mcd, they look great. This also eliminates the need for the plastic tubing to hold to card and LED. Thanks for the Instructable, and great job!
The House4 years ago
We need to talk. How do I sell this idea to my lady. She won't let me make anything for our wedding and I have the itch to do something on my own.
make one and show her how nice they look? When she sees them for real she may change her mind lol
n00b0014 years ago
Simple, but very nice.
JerseyJ (author) 4 years ago
Thanks for all the positive feedback everyone. If anyone actually decides to undertake this for their own wedding or special event feel free to ask questions.
Paulybo JerseyJ4 years ago
This was a great idea. This is one of the ideas I proposed to my fiancee that she was ok with. I might be interested in seeing photos of your event space. I was worried that if too bright, the LEDs might take over all the photos. I hope you didn't feel this was true.
JerseyJ (author)  Paulybo4 years ago
They're definitely not bright enough to overpower the event space. The LEDs will light up the cards nicely but the light is dispersed enough that it won't turn your tables into huge glowing masses of light.
Paulybo JerseyJ4 years ago
Once I got some fully assembled, I noticed the polypropylene tubing dimmed the LEDs from most viewing angles, but kept the place card very bright. I had put together a few by etching a place for the card directly onto the LED. I felt it held the card well enough, but the light was overpowering.
Paulybo4 years ago
I just wanted to say that these instructions are great. I can tell that you put a lot of thought into it and tried a lot of different options. I tried modifying things here or there and when it came down to it, your original ideas ended up being the best option.

The only things I found to save time or money was using a roll of foam mounting tape and buying polypropylene tubing from Ace Hardware or possibly Lowes. I got the 3/16" ID and 5/16 OD tube. It is rigid and holds the card well. In addition, it holds the LED very tight (although you cant push it up all the way up the tube). This tube has the same cloudy color that keeps the light from shining off to the sides.

I have spent about $85 on this project ($8/100 leds (ebay), $13/100 batteries (ebay), $59/155 name cards (ridout plastics - best prices), $5/2 rolls of foam tape (Walmart), and $1/5 feet of tubing (ACE). I was able to borrow the other equipment like the dremel. I believe I could make about 85 finished products ($1 per card), but I will probably only need to make 70.

Thanks again. Ill let you know if I need any more help, but your instructions are stellar.

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