What do you get when you set six A-list party planners loose in the price-friendly land of big retail stores? Six carts full of fun, fantastic wedding ideas that any bride on any budget would find irresistible.
Who knew that Home Depot was the land of trendy table decor? Or that Kmart could dress your flower girls in cute and clever outfits? Ever think that the place where you buy toothpaste and socks—Target—could play a pivotal role in marriage vows? We asked half a dozen of the country's top party planners to turn their creative eyes on the bargain-priced aisles of America's favorite mass retailers. Which proves our theory: You can create a personalized, custom look for a wedding without being an heiress to an oil empire. All you need is a little imagination and a big shopping cart. Go forth and go wild!
Todd Fiscus, Todd Event Design Creative Services, Dallas
Ikea, the mecca of starter-home furniture, has tons of accessories ideal for weddings. I found galvanized steel-and-glass tea-light lanterns ("Rotera," $5.99 each) that can be hung on branches or posts to create a pathway to your church or reception. If you want to add some color, customize them with ribbon streamers in your wedding hues. Is there such a thing as a $5 centerpiece? Yes! All you need to add to the six-inch-high clear-glass "Rektangel" vase ($2.99) is colored water and a few floating candles and/or flowers. I found woven baskets ("Gullarp," 99 cents each) that can double as favors and table decor. Place a shiny Granny Smith apple on top, or plant it with an African violet, and you're done. If you're into a clean, modern look for your reception space, here's how to do it: Put a pair of oversized rectangular floor lamps/room dividers ("Dunker," $34.99 each) in the entryway. The stretched fabric shades can be removed and customized with embroidery—your new monogram, perhaps? "Lakene" table lamps ($24.99 each), which look like plastic, globe-shaped wedding cakes, would be sleek on the corners of your bar.
The after-party lounge is the hottest trend. Take yours outdoors and fill the space with a few easy chairs in bold red ($49.99 each) covered with ivory throws ("Felecia," $14.99 each) and decorative pillows ("Inez Knopp" cushions, $14.99 each, and "Inez Trad" cushion covers, $4.99 each). Place a tripod-footed steel floor lamp ("Treben," $34.99) in your space, and you've created a welcoming lounge with just a few key pieces.
The Home Depot
Niki Delacueva, R. Jack Balthazar, Pasadena, CA
Look past the screwdrivers and the lumber and you'll find amazing stuff! Check out the carpet department for a 26-inch-wide blue Corinthian-pattern runner ($2.49 per linear foot) that would be perfect for your grand entrance. This would work well on a brick or tile floor, or even atop a more muted carpet that needs a little zing. The minicrest mirror ($9.98) could be hung by the bar with the name of your specialty cocktail displayed (use a wax pencil from an office-supply store). A great charger, or show plate, can complete the look of a well-designed table. Try using 12" x 12" Mendocino golden-brown porcelain tiles ($1.88 each) for a fabulously organic appeal. Pair them with square white plates, then repurpose them later in your home or garden.
We are so over traditional table-number displays—those tall metal stanchions that most hotels and restaurants supply make us feel like we're in a cafeteria. Here's a better alternative for a garden wedding: Prop up painted terra-cotta tiles (meant to be used as house-address numbers, $3.99 each) on the table. Pretty, and pretty original! And speaking of alfresco parties, where the slightest breeze can send those precisely arranged rows of escort cards whirling, here's a secure idea: Place a large piece of cork liner ($8.99 for a four-foot roll) on a tabletop, then use pewter pushpins to hold the cards in place. It's a striking look guests will love.
Pier 1 Imports
Claudia Hanlin, Claudia Hanlin's Wedding Library, New York
I usually look to Pier 1 for handmade and ethnic objects, but recently I found sophisticated pieces in the Mosaic line that would fit in at the most formal wedding setting. Place the blue-and-bronze mosaic vases (20", $45 each) on a bar or fill them with flowers as centerpieces. To vary the look on guest tables, alternate the vases with mosaic pedestal bowls ($35 each) overflowing with vines and berries. You know how everything looks better by candlelight? Place mosaic diamond votives ($6 each) on dinner tables, mantles, everywhere—they're the perfect accent. At the Wedding Library, we love table numbers that are out of the ordinary—4" x 6" mosaic multicolored frames ($15 each) will do the trick. You can also use them to present your menus (put three or four on each table), or as a welcome sign near your guest book.
Pier 1 is famous for paper lanterns (from $5 each); hang a bunch together under a big tree or over the dance floor, and use low-wattage amber- or rose-colored bulbs for a casbah effect. If you're having a cocktail party, the tables will look romantic with Kaylee accent lamps ($25 each). Fill 10" glass hurricane vases ($10 each) to the brim with iridescent, floating bubble-glass balls (12 for $5), creating instant impact at the bar or at the candy or dessert buffet. The balls would also work well with escort cards leaning against them—tack them with double-sided tape in a few neat rows.
Bryan Rafanelli, Rafanelli Events, Boston and Palm Beach, FL
This store's slogan is "Expect great things," and I've got to say I wasn't disappointed. For the bridesmaids, I love Daisy Fuentes's jewelry. My favorites are the 14-karat-gold circle dangle earrings—a totally glam look for $47.99. There are lots of choices, so you can pick out a different style for each of the girls.
What if, baby, it's cold outside during your spring or fall wedding? Stop Mom from worrying that all the guests will freeze inside the tent by stocking up on solid fleece throws ($7.99 each) in sand or green. Imagine piling them in a vintage wheelbarrow, red wagon, or wicker basket outside the entrance to the reception; guests could pick one up when they got a little chilly. Go a step further—why not?—and personalize the throws with your new monogram or wedding date on the corner. Roll them up, tie with a grosgrain ribbon and special tag, and you've got yourself a favor!
No matter what your style or colors, the seven-inch-square Celine plate ($7.99) would be perfect for individual candies or minicookies on each table. And how's this for a great centerpiece bowl and favor all-in-one: the Circleware Downtown seven-piece vodka-shot set ($29.99), which comes with a seven-inch-diameter bowl and six different colored-glass vodka-shot glasses. On every table, fill the bowl with roses and orchids, and then place the glasses with a single orchid stem all around the arrangement. Each couple can take home one of the individual vases. Very chic!
Marcy L. Blum, MLB Events, New York
Where else can you walk in the door with $20 and walk out with a major wedding decoration—plus change? I love the idea of taking the shadow-box wall shelf by Wilton Industries ($17.49), filling it with photos of the bride and groom (or of their parents' weddings), and hanging it above the escort-card table. Also from Wilton: an assortment of pretty frames—in jewel, pewter, and brass designs—that would make lovely table-number holders ($3.99 each).
If you were thinking of chair covers for the head table, consider Essential Home's 100 percent silk gusseted pillows instead; they're only $19.99 each, and you'll have throw pillows for life! Outfitting the flower girls can be expensive, but not if you opt for the tiny-ballerina look of Rhythm Studio Basic Dancewear's leotards and poufy skirts ($8.99 each) in pink or white. Speaking of kids, keep them busy with their very own goody bags; the stationery department's got cute little satchels ($6.99 each) you could stuff with crayons and puzzles.
Here's an easy way to kitsch up the furniture for the after-party: a few armfuls of 16" Glam Girl shag pillows ($12.99 each), accompanied by a few 50" x 60" shag throws ($24.99 each), all in hot pinks and purples. And if that's not sweet enough, consider decorating the dessert buffet with French Preserves Candles ($7.99 each)—they resemble strawberry, raspberry, and concord-grape jam jars. Everything looks better by candlelight, even chocolate éclairs!
Scott Corridan, Corridan & Co., Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, CA
Never have I seen so much style for so little dough! Which made me think, why rent when you can buy an entire silver-and-pewter table? The breakdown: from Fieldcrest, camel-colored Irish linens, including tablecloth ($39.99); a cocoa-embroidered runner (24.99); and eight matching hemstitched napkins ($39.99). I added a trio of antiqued candlesticks (from $14.99), a pewter footed centerpiece bowl ($14.99), silver votive holders ($5.99 for six), and candles ($1 each).
I'd stick a white daisy in a sweet bud vase ($4.99) and put one at each place setting for a favor. Place settings could also feature white metallic-leaf chargers ($9.99 for four), white glazed-porcelain dishes ($39.99 for four five-piece sets), water tumblers ($7.99 for four), white wineglasses ($9.99 for four), and red wineglasses ($12.99 for four). Finally, I found cute drapery rings in a powder-coat pewter finish and used them as napkin rings, holding the place cards with the clamps. Cost? A total of $9.99 for ten pieces! Partner them with fantastic fleur-de-lis scrolled drapery tiebacks that double as table-number holders—very chic in a shabby, whitewashed finish at only $12.99 a pair, and way fresher than a silver frame with some number in black and white. Your entire table checks in at much less than the $500 per-table minimum that it costs me to rent specialty items. And the fact that you can keep it all for your own personal inventory? Brilliant.
Note: Store merchandise changes frequently, so the items mentioned in here may not be available when you shop (prices may also have changed). Consider what you see here a guide and inspiration.