DIY Weddings: A Handmade Brooklyn Affair
Full disclosure: This is a wedding I attended. And it was fun. And it was sincere. And I just couldn’t wait until the couple, Evan and Rachel, got their photos back so that I could share all their DIYs with you.
The two got married on a January night in a temple-turned-night club-turned-wedding venue in Brooklyn. Their personal touches, seen throughout the evening, made the event something that was exclusively Rachel + Evan. They did everything from designing and printing their programs, creating their own playlist (not as easy as it might sound) and embarking on not one, but two, massive wedding favor projects. But the real focus of their Big Day was joining people from different moments in their lives together and helping them get to know one another with one memorable night. All their efforts paid off at their hip and laid-back nighttime winter wedding.
Evan and Rachel met each other in a running club in Brooklyn. But before settling down in the borough, they’d both lived plenty of places — New Jersey, Michigan, California, Minnesota, New York and Maryland to name a few. So to join all the groups of people from different moments in their lives, they wanted to create an atmosphere that was fun, lighthearted and fuss-free. One way to achieve that? Drinks. And seeing as they were hosting a starry night in an old night club, you can rest assured that their was a lot of cocktail-ing to be done. The couple welcomed everyone to the event with a social hour, before getting serious with the ceremony.
The couple’s ceremony programs acted as a get-to-know-each-other bingo game. Even before the ceremony started, guests were trying to meet “the vegan in the room” and “the rescue dog owners” in the crowd. And yes. Everyone participated. Merging different groups of people from different streams of your life together can be tricky. But by making a game out of it, there was little pressure to make conversation. It happened naturally. We also need to note that it seems just oh-so appropriate to have an ice breaker during a winter wedding in Brooklyn, am I right?
For the ceremony decor, I pitched in. My husband and I created two pretty piñatas that were used as chandeliers on either side of the chuppah. We used Italian crepe paper for both, which is much thicker than the Cindus brand. For the Vine Piñata, we used a Silhouette Cameo to cut a vine design out of mylar. For the glitter globe piñata, I used Mod Podge to glitter the edges of the crepe paper, let it dry and then sealed it in with another layer of Mod Podge. We then applied it to the base to achieve an ombre look.
After the ceremony ended there was… you got it, another cocktail hour(!), where guests got their first party favor which doubled as their escort cards. Each coaster was branded with the couple’s initials, and Evan painstakingly burned custom images into the back of them. He did designs like maps (I got California), Banksy art, animals and more. The coasters were from Etsy, and Rachel gave Evan a Darby Smart wood-burning kit for Hanukkah, which includes the letter brands and tools to make the designs with. If you’re going to embark on this DIY, allocate a good chunk of time for it. Rachel told us that each coaster took about a half hour to make with burning, sanding and sealing.
After round two of drinks, guests went to their table and found their second favor. Since the wedding was in the dead of winter in Brrrrooklyn, it was cold. So, the second favor? Hot cocoa ingredients in a jar. Rachel told us, “The jars all came from The Jar Store, which has every kind of mason jar, jelly jar you can imagine, with options for lids. The cocoa was Ghirardelli off of Amazon, the marshmallows from the grocery store down the street and the ribbon was from Michaels. I used some Martha Stewart paper and snowflake punch to wrap them, and hot glue to put it all together.” Her top tip? “These have to be a last minute project, because after about two days the marshmallows start to dry out.” Noted.
If we haven’t instilled upon you the importance of community DIYing when it comes to your handmade wedding, let us lay it down for you again: When you have friends with massive talents, you’re going to want to put them to good use. The couple’s good friend, Glen Hyde, is a private chef. Rachel asked him to make their wedding cake from a photo she found online — chocolate raspberry with a white chocolate crust under the frosting, rosemary and raspberries on top — no small order. But Glen got to it and made the beautiful creation you see above. He was also kind enough to share the recipe with us, in case any of you want to embark on your own epic cake-making adventures:
“I spread seedless raspberry preserves (store bought) between the four cake layers. I melted bittersweet chocolate and covered the cake with it to seal in the crumbs. Then I chilled the cake to set the chocolate before frosting with the buttercream. I got long, skewer-like sprigs of rosemary to go around the edges from the farmers’ market. Since it was winter, I decided to use freeze dried raspberries on top. They had a very vibrant red color. Finally, I dusted the top with powdered sugar to give a wintery, snowy feel.”
– 4 cups sugar
– 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1-1/2 cups 100% Cocoa powder
– 3 teaspoons baking powder
– 3 teaspoons baking soda
– 2 teaspoons salt
– 4 eggs
– 2 cups milk
– 1 cup vegetable oil
– 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
– 2 cups boiling water
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour four 8-inch round baking pans.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for two minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30-35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.
Meringue Buttercream Frosting
– 3 cups granulated sugar
– 12 large egg whites
– 2 pounds (8 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoon-size pieces
– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. Whisk sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 140 degrees F on an instant read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Fit an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, and beat the egg white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks and mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 10 minutes.
3. Reduce speed to medium-low, and add butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition (meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added). Add vanilla, beat until frosting comes together, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat on the lowest speed until air bubbles diminish, about 2 minutes. Stir with a rubber spatula until frosting is smooth.
And if you don’t believe us when we say that everyone was friends by the end of the night, we’ll leave you with the bride’s favorite moment of the night — getting down with her bad self and her guests in the basement of the venue.
If you have a super creative wedding you’d like to share, we want to know! Just send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a message in the comments below.