Earlier this year, David and I attended the wedding of our friends Rachel and Jelmer, who you may remember as the daring couple who let APW sponsor Emily Takes Photos photograph their whole wedding using Instagram only. Rachel is one of those people who is pretty much ridiculously cool, mostly because she just doesn’t give a shit about if you think she’s cool or not (ie, that thing we all longed for in High School). For their US wedding reception, they didn’t have a lot of money to spend, they didn’t have a lot of time in the states to get things set up, and they really didn’t care very much. As a result, their wedding ended up decorated mostly by family members with whatever was in the “wedding decoration” section of their local store. They had old school wedding bells, and plastic cake toppers, and a bunch of things I hadn’t seen at a wedding since my childhood. It was perfect, possibly because their kitschy nonchalant style was so exactly the opposite of what the wedding industry has been peddling for the past few years. What is the opposite of a styled shoot? Buying your wedding decorations at the wedding aisle at Party City.
So of course, I decided I wanted to hack the kitschiest wedding decorations we could find, and a series was born. To kick off this new series, we’re starting with an item inspired by Rachel and Jelmer’s wedding: honeycomb decorations and paper wedding bells. (H/t to the folks in yesterday’s open thread who are already planning on using these decorations.) If I have one regret about this tutorial it’s that the pictures can’t even begin to do justice to how amazing the results looked in real life. You should make this project. YOU SHOULD MAKE THIS PROJECT. In real life, it was easily the coolest project we’ve ever made, not to mention the easiest. Secret ingredients? Colored hairspray, and the brains of Michelle Edgemont, wedding designer (who flew out from Brooklyn to play with us).
When we were getting ready for this shoot, we knew we wanted to do something with honeycomb decorations and paper bells, but we weren’t sure what materials were going to work with the thin, fragile tissue paper. Turns out, the secret sauce is the spray hair dye you get at most party stores. Since the hairspray isn’t as liquidy as regular spray paint, it doesn’t saturate the paper and you get a cool ombre effect that we decided to run with. Keep in mind, you don’t get a ton of mileage out of the hairspray, and each can yields approximately two big ombre honeycomb bells or a hand full of little ones, so buy in bulk. When we were putting together our final arrangement, we did end up using spray paint on a few of our pieces (the neon yellow and the metallic gold) and found that the spray paint works really well with neons, metallics, and other color effects that require a bit more saturation.
A few things to keep in mind if you decide to create these for your own wedding:
- Honeycomb balls and paper bells are pretty easy to find, but they were generally cheaper on Amazon, with more variety. The party and craft stores are trying to cash in on the DIY movement right now, so we found a lot of tissue paper flowers and fancy honeycomb balls in those stores and a lot less kitschy stuff than we would have hoped. They did have wedding bells in abundance, though; just make sure to look in the wedding section and not with the rest of the paper decor items.
- Not every hairspray color is going to work, so be prepared to trash some of your rough drafts. We ended up really liking the purple and the blue, but had to trash some red bells that weren’t working. And forget about the glitter hairspray. It’s a total bust. Some colors are also going to need a lot more application than others. Our black honeycomb ball took nearly a full can of hairspray to get it to the saturation you see in the photo above, but boy was it worth it. (Related note: don’t try black on a wedding bell. It looks funereal, not hip.)
- Honeycomb balls also come pre-colored. If you don’t want to bother with painting your own, you can get colorful ones from Amazon and most party stores will carry at least pink and blue. Even if you do want to pant some of your own, we recommend mixing ombre balls with colored balls for the best effect.