how to dye a wedding dress

I really loved my wedding dress. It was pretty, it was simple, and it was formal enough to match the husband's tux without being a giant terrifying pile of icing. Getting it was incredibly simple: I'd looked at it for weeks online before my mother and I had a chance to get to a David's Bridal. We sat down with the saleslady there, and she asked "What kind of dress are you looking for?"

"Style number WG3313," I said.

Her jaw dropped. "You... know the number?"

So she went to find the dress, came back with the two sizes the store had in stock, and had me try one on. It fit absolutely perfectly, no alterations needed. And Bam! I had a wedding dress!
It was comfortable, pretty, and easy to dance in. Everything I wanted!

But after the wedding was over, the dress no longer had a purpose. I was a little bummed that I only got to wear this awesome dress for one day, so decided to DYE MY WEDDING DRESS. I was inspired by Sherry over at the Young House Love blog, who dyed her wedding dress an awesome gunmetal gray color. I was also aware of the fact that she'd wanted to dye it black; I was prepared before I even began for things not to turn out as I'd expected.

Here is the extent of my experience with dyeing prior to this: once, when I was Prop Master of a play in high school, I dyed a pair of white cotton gloves yellow. Which is to say, I have almost no experience dyeing things. I was originally planning to use Rit dye, just because that was the only brand I knew, but our local art store didn't carry it. I ended up going with iDye, which had the advantage of having colors for both natural and manmade fibers. (Rit is only for natural fibers.) The top layer of my dress is 52% polyester and 48% rayon. Almost all of the other layers were 100% polyester. Rit was probably not going to work. iDye recommends that for blended fabric, one should combine the normal dye with a complementary color of their "poly" dyes. I got Crimson and Red.
Let me point out right now that these are powders. As soon as I opened a packet, tiiiiny invisible particles of red dye disseminated throughout the bathroom, landing in weird places and not showing up until after our next couple showers, when the steam condensed into little tiny drops of PINK all over the surfaces of our bathroom, even the ones I had covered with a layer of catalogue pages for safety.

For polyester, you're supposed to boil the clothes in the dye for 30-60 minutes. My dress was much too big for even our largest stock pot, so instead I boiled loads of water over the stove and poured it into a storage container in our bath tub. I then added the dye, and THEN THE DRESS.
My dress is in there! Eek! Note the gloves (otherwise I'd've had blotchy red hands) and the paint stirrers: You're supposed to agitate (stir) the dress the whole time! I leaned over the bathtub and listened to an episode of This American Life. After 45 minutes, I couldn't take it anymore, so next came the final, and for me, the hardest step: rinsing the dress. You rinse the dress over and over in cold water until the water runs clear. This. Took. FOREVER. That dress held a lot of dye, let me tell you. Then I put the dress on the fire escape to dry.

While it dried I scrubbed and scrubbed the bathtub, because it had turned hideously pink.

But then, by dinner time, it was dry. AND LOOK:

The light looks dim in this one, but the color of the dress is very close to what it is in real life.

I love it! Mind you, I had expected a crimson/red dress, and this is sorta mauve with cherry red accents. And the dress was "Dry Clean Only," which all sources say not to dye... and definitely not to soak in boiling water. As a result, the heat shrunk the cloth on either side of the zipper, so the bodice shrunk by about about 1/2 an inch... which sounds negligible, except the dress had fit me PERFECTLY before. I had to wear it around the house for a couple hours breathing really deeply to stretch it back out. But it fits fine now, and above all, I think it looks great!

The color looks a little washed out from the flash in this one, but you can see the sash better. And if you look at the bottom right hem, you can see that the layer of crinoline turned cherry red!
Now I just need an occasion to wear a puffy pink dress.


simple mason jar centerpieces and decor

Centerpieces and table settings are things I never really thought about before planning our wedding. (Other things I'd never really thought about: wedding dresses, how kegs work, how far caterers will travel, how many weddings take place in Cooperstown in mid October, and maple syrup shots.) I mean, I know how to set tables and I have put vases of flowers, candles, or fruit bowls on a table to make it prettier. But I'd never before had to think about how to make tables for 70 people look not just pretty, but cohesive. The more I thought about it, the more I found wedding decorations as a whole to be quite daunting.
Enter my new BFF, THE HUMBLE MASON JAR. (The cage thing in the middle is for cards. We had a no-gifts wedding, but my sister got us this because she said we'd get cards anyway. She was right!) Ball mason jars are inexpensive, made in the USA, and available at all hardware (and probably most grocery) stores. They're also perfect for reuse: they are all presently in my kitchen, full of food, right now.
I bought two colors of ribbon (they matched the invitations!) and tied them around the mouths of the mason jars, then put matching (I'm so [color] coordinated!) candles in each one. We had 24 jars all together.

I'm also pretty proud of my camera idea in that picture. While we had two photographers (a professional one, and our friend Michael from the Dazed and Infused blog), I wanted candids. I put a tag on my personal camera saying "Sarah's Camera/Please take lots of photos with this," set it by the "guestbook," and ended up with almost 300 pictures of my friends and family. They were all silly and fun candids--just what I wanted!
Our professionals also took pictures of people taking pictures with it--so meta.

Our table settings looked like this:
Simple, clean, and pretty. The plates were Leafware's palm leaf plates. Disposables, I know, but they're made from fallen palm leaves and are totally biodegradeable, so we still get some green points, right?
Our favors were small bottles of local maple syrup. The husband and I spent a couple hours tying little ribbons onto them.
By the end of the night, the candles burned out completely. Removing the wax so I could reuse the jars was easy: I put the jars in the freezer for about 30 minutes, and the wax tumbled right out. I think I read about that little trick on Martha Stewart's website? You will note the maple syrup bottles in this photo have been opened. That's because a few intrepid wedding guests decided to challenge each other to shots of maple syrup.

Other than a few pumpkins and hay bales outside the venue (thanks, Dad!), the mason jars were our only decorations, but they went far in giving the already pretty venue some extra warmth. (visually, not physically. We had a fireplace for that).
Putting them everywhere drew the place together visually and made it seem like we had a plan. And the plan was mason jars. (Well, and getting married.)


easy DIY wedding invites and time capsule guestbook

January is "sarah wants to write about her wedding" month! Last week I wrote about our awesome homemade vegan wedding food, and today I'll be showing you our homemade invitations and our time capsule guestbook!
Kevin (the husband) and I clean up pretty well (hee!), but we're pretty informal people. We got married on the porch (it was going to be the lawn, but it was really rainy) of a camp by the lake in my hometown, and had the reception inside right afterwards. With such an informal wedding, traditional wedding invitations, with their million inserts, envelopes within envelopes, and flowery language, didn't seem fitting. Since so much of our wedding was DIY, we opted to make our own invitations as well.

I began with a trip to Paper Source!
We were shooting for a guest list of 70-80 people, so we got enough materials to make 100 invitations, since 1.) we were sure there'd be a few mess-ups during the making, and 2.) we wanted extra invitations so we could invite more people as others said they couldn't make it.

We printed almost everything at home... except the RSVP cards. Our printer HATED the dark green cardstock we were hoping to use for them and spat it out all wrinkled and streaky, so we had to go with a beige-color at FedEx/Kinko's last minute. But that was pretty cheap, and we had to go there anyway to do all our cutting. (I would've just used scissors, but Kevin pointed out that I can't cut straight lines, and I think he had fun using the paper cutter there anyway.) Home to stamp everything, and voila!
Invitations! It's hard to tell in this light, but the birch trees on the invite are stamped in a metallic copper ink. I think it's so pretty!
And here's the inside of the invite. (Our wedding was at a private location, so I blurred out the name/s.)

One advantage to DIY invitations is certainly that you'll save money. The whole endeavor, even including our printing mishap that led us to FedEx/Kinko's, cost less than $120. But I would do the same thing even if it weren't more cost effective. We had a lot of fun putting together our invitations, and we were really happy with the way they looked. These weren't just store-ordered invites where we plugged in our names and dates. Making our own invitations really made them ours. They were as much "us" as the ceremony on the porch--pretty, simple, and informal.

AND I had enough leftover paper to do another project, the wedding DIY project I am still excited about: our TIME CAPSULE GUESTBOOK.
I got the idea from this Offbeat Bride guestbook alternatives post. They write about a Japanese product that lets guests write messages to put in a vial, then the couple burns a candle to seal the vial, then ten years later they burn the candle again to unseal it, and they can read the messages. I figured this would be an easy thing to DIY.
I cut up and stamped some of the paper left over from our invitations, and set them out with some nice pens next to an old mason jar. (We used mason jars as centerpieces, so this fit with our overall look.) I included a note next to it so guests would know what to do:
You can click to enlarge the image, but it says: "In lieu of a normal guestbook, we're collecting messages from our guests that we'll seal in the jar to be opened on our 10th anniversary. Please take a moment to record something (well-wishes, a memory, a message, a drawing, even just your name) to help Sarah and Kevin of 2021 remember that you were with us on our special day!"
People really seemed to enjoy writing messages, and I think this is a more fun alternative for me and Kevin... Because while I can't imagine us taking out and looking at a more traditional guestbook 10 years later, we're already excited to do that with this one.

The only catch: you have to have willpower. A bunch of people at the wedding said things like "you're not really going to wait 10 years, are you?" or "are you going to peek first?" No, you guys, that's the whole point! I don't want to open it until our 10th anniversary, it would spoil the fun! But if you can't trust yourself not to peek, you could seal it up with wax.
I am PSYCHED for October 2021.


homemade vegan wedding food!

My awesome husband and I got married back in October, and I've been meaning to write a few wedding-related entries about ever since. Because there's nothing more fun than reading about other people's weddings, amirite?! Ha, but really, when we were planning the wedding, it was actually really helpful to see how other people did things, especially when they had non-traditional weddings. (If anyone's interested, Offbeat Bride was one of my favorite sources of inspiration/reassurance.) And it was so awesome I want to write about it.

The biggest source of stress when it came to planning our wedding was the food. As I mentioned in this entry, we had some issues finding a caterer, so my mother stepped in and offered to cook all the food for the main meal herself. She'd cooked about half of the food for my sister's wedding, so she figured she had it down to a science. And so she made a huuuuge amount of food for 70 people in less than two days! And while our wedding itself was for 70 people, there was easily enough food to feed over 100. My family thinks large when it comes to feeding people! The food was presented in a buffet line, with a couple different tables.

Here is what my mother made:
From foreground to background: Sauteed onions and peppers (for the beer brats), Tofurky Beer Brats, baked with onions, Baked tofu with Fennel Mustard Sauce (super tasty, though some of our kitchen help poured uncooked sauce over top, which was very mustardy! the baking helps subdue the mustard flavor), and Korean Barbecue Seitan, from The Accidental Vegan. (I wrote about that recipe here.)

But wait, there's more!
Butternut squash puree with pecans, creamy mushroom-and-white-bean stew (both of which are recipes my mother made up), coconut rice (to go under the stew), and ziti, topped with daiya, which, besides the sauteed peppers, was the only non-nightshade-free main dish. Everything except the pasta, seitan, and beer brats was gluten free. Everyone ate so well! And everyone loved the food. No one commented on it being a vegan wedding, no one made cracks about not having meat--hooray! Plus, my mother made so much extra food that everyone in my family ate leftovers of these things for weeks. (I think there's still some rice in our freezer now...?) Thanks, Mom!

So to help alleviate the stress of cooking all the food, the husband insisted we seek out appetizers on our own. He searched for places in Boston that could be made ahead of time that we (well, helpful family members) could bring to the venue from Boston the day before the wedding. He decided on Sofra, a Middle Eastern restaurant that was happy to make a variety of vegan tapas-type dishes. Only a couple things were nightshade-free, but everything except the bread was gluten free, and they agreed to provide ingredients cards for everything they made, so those of us with food allergies could feel safe.
The Sofra food is the stuff on the right. There was muhammarra, parsnip skordalia, pumpkin peperonata, white beans with green tahini, Moroccan carrot salad, romano bean plaki, and Persian black eyed peas. The finger-bread is above; there was a za'atar version and a plain version. In addition to the purchased food, on the left side of the table, a family friend also made a huuuge amount of delicious corn and pumpkin muffins, my aunt made a great coleslaw (not pictured), and there were chips, hummus, and a veggie platter (with cashew-tofu ricotta for dipping) provided by my mother. (There are also some plain rolls on the far right.) I don't even want to tell you how much extra appetizer food we had. I guess we anticipated our friends and family being much bigger eaters than they are!

And can I tell you about our cake? I LOVED OUR CAKE.
It's a Snickers cake from Xs to Os Vegan Bakery in Troy, NY. I love that bakery sooooo much, I strongly encouraged anyone within driving distance to GO THERE RIGHT NOW. The Snickers cake is peanut butter cake with chocolate frosting, as well as caramel in the middle. We ordered a gluten-free one, and it was incredible. I had a couple guests tell me it was the best cake they'd ever had--and these guests were neither gluten-free nor vegan, so that felt like pretty high praise for the cake!
This was one of the only things we didn't have too much of--we barely managed to squirrel away a couple pieces to freeze for our first anniversary.

Finally, even though it's not food, I wanted to make sure you knew we kept our guests well lubricated:
Cooperstown, where we had the wedding, is home to Brewery Ommegang, the husband's favorite brewery. And all their beer is vegan! We had each of their beers available (including a not-pictured keg of BPA), as well as some LaChouffe, the husband's favorite Belgian beer. My mother- and sister-in-law also dug up vegan wine, and a family friend even got some Santome [vegan] prosecco, though I don't think anyone drank the prosecco until the after party. Nonalcoholic drinks included tea, coffee, still and sparkling water, and a variety of organic sodas.

I'm planning to do a few more wedding-themed entries this month, so stay tuned for more DIY wedding goodness!