Wedding DIY: Skeleton Key Escort/Place Card Display

So I’ve been meaning to make this post since…well, since we got married over a month ago.

But life has been crazy, I’ve been busy, yada yada, same excuses. So now that I have a spare second (and remembered that I had intentions to post these!), let’s get into my first DIY Wedding blog post!

>>Be warned that with the exception of this first photo (taken by my photographer at the wedding), all of the pictures were taken with my iPhone, so the quality is not the best.<<

My favorite DIY project for our wedding was by far the escort/place card display.

Skeleton key escort card display

I knew from the beginning I wanted to incorporate skeleton keys; I had seen something similar on Pinterest and instantly fell in love. I really didn’t want to just opt for the small, white,  folded cards with names and table numbers on them; I wanted to make them memorable by putting time and thought into them.

When I shared the idea with my (at the time, future-) mother- and sister-in-law, my MIL showed me that she had a whole box of old skeleton keys that her father had collected over decades of antique shows. So we would soak those in warm water and rinse the rust and dust off, easy-peasy.

Clean keys

I originally thought we would have the keys hanging on an old wooden door, but I decided to wait on getting the actually display piece until after we had an idea of how many cards we would need to fit on it. So once we figured out how many people we expected, I figured that a door would be too large (around 30% of total guests would be joining us at the upstate reception only) and that a large picture frame would better suit the amount of people.

My MIL knew my plan and, whilst at a local garage sale, she found a framed picture that she snagged for $3. Turns out, said picture with frame was originally from Home Goods or Marshalls or somewhere like that and was originally about $70. No joke! The price tag was still on the back!

Like, what?! The frame wasn’t anything fancy or heavy duty, and the picture was horrendous, as you can see below. But we didn’t need the picture, so whatever, and the frame was exactly what I wanted/needed, so I was happy.

Awful artwork

The next step was to remove the ugly picture and replace it with some wood for a more sturdy backing for the keys to hang on. We picked up a piece of plywood from Home Depot and had them cut it to the correct dimensions for the frame. I also picked up some nails for attaching the keys to the board.

My mother-in-law had a few rolls of burlap that she had picked up at Walmart during a Christmas sale or something, so we covered the plywood with the burlap and attached it with staples.

Burlapping

Burlap complete

We then attached the plywood to the frame with screws. And when I say “we”, I mostly mean my FIL because he’s handy with tools.

Frame done

So, things were coming together!

I purchased a tag template on Etsy (check it out here!) that provided me with a PDF file of the tag template that I was able to edit for only $7! The process of typing names took a little time because I wanted to perfect them (I ended up downloading about 5 extra cursive fonts and decided I liked Rochester the best…ironic?) and make sure that they would still be legible without looking really crowded and confusing.

Plus, I had to wait until I had all RSVPs (which I didn’t end up getting until about a week before the wedding…) so that I could make the seating chart so that I knew what table each person was going to sit at and include it on the tags. It’s all a process.

During one of my many Michaels runs (this was not the only DIY project I was taking on for the wedding) I bought textured, off-white cardstock to print the tags on. A couple of weeks before the wedding, I went to Staples and had them print off a test copy on their own off-white card stock to ensure that the writing was legible, see the size of the tags, test them out with the keys, etc. I decided that I liked the cardstock from Michaels better – it was sturdier and much better quality. I used those test-run tags and tried out a few different ways of tying them to the keys with different colored ribbons.

Skeleton key decisions

I decided that I wanted to use the white ribbon with looped edging because it went better with the theme of the display (bottom two keys in the picture). Instead of the keys hanging from a loop of ribbon on the nails (like the one on the right), I thought it looked better with the card and key flush together and then I would hang them by slipping the nail through the hole.

Three days before the wedding, the cards were finalized and saved on a USB drive. I took my Michaels cardstock and my USB drive to Staples so that they could print them off. I could have totally used a home printer but my in-laws’ printer tends to leave ink spots wherever it wants to, so I figured Staples would be a safer bet.

As you can see, they turned out awesome.

My SIL, Casey, helped me assemble the tags to the cleaned skeleton keys: I cut out the tags and punched holes where holes needed punching, then she chose a key and attached the two together with ribbon.Escort cards

The next step was to map out where the nails would go so that they were evenly spaced and so that all the cards would fit on the board in a neat fashion. This is where math came in handy! I figured out the configuration of nails/cards and then put the cards/keys in alphabetical order within that layout to make transferring them to the frame easier.

Alphabetical escort cards

While trying to hammer the nails in the designated spots, I realized that they were too long and would stick out way too much, so I went back to Home Depot and bought a pack of black carpet tacks. They worked phenomenally and looked much better than the nails, so that was a relief.

Nail battle

I had found two really cute heart-shaped keys in the collection and knew I wanted to do something with them. I made a couple special escort cards to use with those keys and to add as more of a decoration on the display. So I arranged those keys at the top of the frame with the special cards that read “Mrs. & Mrs. Thomas Harrigan” and “The key to love is inside us all” for a little something more. Awww, I know. Stop the mushy stuff already Holliday, jeez!

Heart keys

The only thing left was to hang all the other keys/cards on the frame. When I finished, I wanted to cry because it looked so good after all of the planning and hard work.

Finished display

It was so wonderful seeing such a beautiful display that I made (with much appreciated help from my future family!) and that the vision I had from the beginning came to life even more perfect than I imagined it would.

Rambly post: Update on life (in a neat list)

Wow it’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted anything on here.

But I have some pretty stellar excuses:

  1. I got married (Aug. 16)
  2. I then honeymooned in Montauk for 4 days (Aug. 18 – Aug. 21)
  3. I turned 25 on our ‘leave Montauk, travel back to Brooklyn, and pack for upstate reception’ day (Aug. 21)
  4. We flew upstate for my second wedding reception (Aug. 22 – Aug. 24)
  5. I started my new teaching job (still in ‘meetings all day’ phase) the following week (Aug. 25 – Aug. 29)
  6. My friend flew down and stayed with us this past weekend (Aug. 29 – Sept. 1)
  7. We all went to our other friend’s wedding that Sunday (Aug. 31)

If you’re interested and not tired just from reading all of that, I’m going to address each point in a little more detail now! So come on, let the updating begin!

1.   Our wedding: Our rehearsal dinner and wedding days were both absolutely perfect; honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing…except for my mom’s ability to be there in person. Luckily, we got both the livestream to work as well as our GoPros, so she got to watch the livestream that day and I showed her the GoPro footage the following weekend! You can watch our vows here if you’re interested!

Everything was just fantastic – the weather was perfect, the girls looked beautiful, the guys looked dapper, our vows were wonderful (people clapped!?), the decorations were phenomenal, the food was delicious, seeing our friends and family was the highlight, as was dancing…I could go on and on.

I’ve already posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook that my father-in-law took that day and they’re great so I can’t wait to see our photographer’s pictures! (Update: Click here to see our photographer’s pictures!)

2.   Honeymoon: Between our ocean-view B&B suite (and hence the beach right across the street), the gorgeous weather, the amazing food (my first lobster roll!), our amazing sunset sail, seeing the Montauk lighthouse, and being able to call Tom my husband (eeeek!), I was sad when we had to leave. I think we should make this a yearly thing, maybe call it “Anniversaries at Montauk”?

Montauk collage

3.   Turning 25: It happened. I can now rent a car without any extra stupid fees. I also belong to a new category whenever I take surveys and have to state which age range I fall into. Cool?

4.   Upstate reception: The second reception was a much more low-key shindig, so it was great sitting and visiting with friends and family. Plus, my mom had such a great time visiting with everyone. I’m so glad she got to come and see her friends and family (and me, duh), but as much as I enjoyed it, I’m honestly much happier that she came and enjoyed it. It was good for her to get out of the nursing home, be in a pretty dress, have a glass of wine, eat great food, and talk to old friends. She was tired and her ankles were swollen the next day when we visited to say goodbye, but she seriously seemed brighter and happier.

Reception #2 Family shot

5.   Work: Since returning from wedding-palooza, I’ve been spending all my days at work, learning about technology, students, and emergency procedures, all while also trying to plan lessons, put in supply orders, get a bite to eat, meet with colleagues, and decorate and organize my room (and, let’s be honest, my life).

Phew. And that is why I am currently sitting on my couch with a glass of wine, just relaxing after a long day. And school hasn’t even begun yet.

Okay, it’s not that bad – I’m so glad I got this job because I already knew all of the teachers (except this year’s new-hires) and administration from last year, know most of the students (again, except for the new ones), and am genuinely happy to be a part of such a great team of human beings.

I definitely want to try to chronicle my first year as a full-time teacher, maybe writing once a week as a reflection of my teaching, things that happened, lessons that worked/didn’t work, classroom set-up/decor, etc. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated as I’m working with pretty much an empty slate at the moment! The room was mostly unused last year, only housing one English class and me while I sat on my computer doing grad school homework or watching YouTube.

All of the posters in these pictures have been taken down, I’ve ordered a few math posters, a number line, and also acquired a small bookshelf. Hopefully it’ll start looking nicer when the posters and student work get put up.

classroom

At this school there are no Mr. So-and-so’s or Ms. What’s-her-name’s; we all go by our first names. So it’s cool because changing my last name to Harrigan won’t be throwing anyone off (except me because I’m still getting used to signing documents and saying it out loud); I’ll still be Holliday and no one will have trouble finding me on the email list or phone directory.

I’ll admit this was a strange concept to me when I first encountered it last year as a student’s private aide. My main thought was ‘Doesn’t this create a lack of respect towards the teachers and staff?’ But now that I’ve been involved with the school for a year and have seen how much respect these students have, I honestly don’t mind that they’ll call me Holliday instead of Mrs. Harrigan.

6.   Friend visited: Our friend Courtney came down this weekend and stayed with us because we were all attending our other friend Erika’s wedding in Long Island. Courtney and I went to see Aladdin on Broadway and it was fantastic! We stayed after the show to meet and take pictures with some of the cast members! She also brought with her The Lego Movie, so Tom and Courtney and I watched it. I will forever have The Lego Movie theme song stuck in my head.

7.   Friend’s Wedding: Erika’s wedding was great – she was beautiful (obviously) and I had so much fun dining and dancing with so many college friends, some of whom we haven’t seen in quite awhile. It was also Tom and my first wedding together as a married couple!

Okay, I’m done talking now. Until next time, cheers!

Wedding Update: 2 months left!

Okay, can time just speed up now?? It’s so cliche but where has the time gone?! We’ve been engaged for almost 10 months already?!

But at the same time, it feels like it was forever ago. Does that make sense? Probs nobs.

Does anyone else say that? I said that to Tom last night and he was like, “Who says that? And what does that even mean?”

I say it, and it means probably not. Only it’s more e-fish. Get it? Like, efficient? Anyone? No? Alright, let’s move on.

So the past week and a half was crazy insane.

Like seriously. This post includes not only wedding updates, but also life updates because, well, it’s my blog and I do what I want. Are you ready?

Last weekend, I wrote about my progress with invitations. I’m glad to say that I’m 99% done (there are a few stragglers that Tom needs to find addresses for) and have sent out any and all invitations that I could! I put the majority of them in the mail on Sunday the 8th (the day after I wrote my 10 week update post on our wedding website) and have already gotten a bunch of response cards back!

Instagram - invitations

I’m using an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of responses as they come. I made a column of all the people we invited, and then made columns for the downstate and upstate festivities, under which I will write the names of people in relation to how they responded. So I’m keeping track of who has responded, how they responded to each event, and also how many are coming. Exciting stuff! Yeah!

The next day, Monday, I accepted a teaching job for next school year! I’ll be the newest addition to the math and science crew at Mary McDowell Friends Upper School here in Brooklyn and I couldn’t be more excited! I worked there this past year as a paraprofessional, employed by a family whose student attends the school. I’m ecstatic that I get to work with (almost) everyone again this year, only as a teacher this time! I’m sad to see people go, but wish them all the best in their amazing future endeavors (one guy is going to Malaysia to teach math!) and know they’ll kick butt wherever they are.

Tuesday was a ‘no school’ day so I spent the day cleaning and relaxing. Wednesday was the last official day of school for my student, and it was a half day, so I got to chill a bit that day too. I went and got a spray tan so that I wouldn’t blend in with my ivory colored bridal shower dress. Although they were two different dresses, both of my shower dresses were similarly pale and would not mesh well with my pastiness.

Shower Dresses

Thursday I got my hair colored and blown out. I’m telling you, I would love it if those girls would wash my hair and massage my scalp like that every other day. It feels amazing! And the stylist was able to get my hair straight and swishy! Please come home with me!

Friday was flight day, so I spent the morning packing and getting ready to fly upstate for the weekend. I hadn’t heard anything bad in weather reports, so I left for the airport around 2 so that I would arrive about 75 minutes before my scheduled flight time. Everything was going smoothly – the subway was on time and connection times weren’t long, and I got to the AirTrain in great time.

And that’s when Delta emailed me saying that my flight was delayed an hour. I texted my friend in Boston, Michelle, since we were originally flying in to Buffalo around the same time, and I also texted my friend in Buffalo, Courtney, to let her know since she was picking us up. Michelle said her flight was cancelled and wouldn’t be getting out until the next morning. We discussed what it could be due to – both of us were looking at fairly clear skies!

I got to JFK and my flight was still only delayed an hour which was good. I got my bag checked and, wouldn’t you know it, when I walk out of security and check the departures board, my flight was cancelled. Delta kindly sent me an email letting me know that everything was good and they rebooked me for a 4pm flight the following afternoon.

Oh hell no Felicia Day

Little did they know, that would not work seeing as my bridal shower was at 1pm the following afternoon. So I stood in line for over an hour and the agent was able to rebook me for the 8am flight the following morning. She was really kind and wished me congratulations and good luck on my bridal shower.

Back home I went, this time only with my small carry-on, which was convenient but also meant that all of my beauty products were somewhere in the airport instead of at my fingertips. This meant that I would look like a bag lady until I got said products and the use of someone’s bathroom mirror and outlets upstate. And I was worried that something would happen that would cause my luggage to be lost, and then I’d look like a bag lady all weekend. Nonetheless, back on the AirTrain and subway I went, annoyed but sure everything would work out fine.

Except it was lashing rain when I got out of the subway. Thunder, lightning, the whole shebang. Luckily, in said carry-on, I had my umbrella. Okay, I guess it was a good thing we didn’t try to fly.

The next morning, when I went to leave at 4:30am to go through the whole process again, my sneakers were still wet; not pleasant. Everything went fine and before I knew it, I was landing in Buffalo…where it was about 20 degrees colder than I had packed for. My checked bag made it there fine and, wouldn’t you know, Michelle’s flight was only about half an hour ahead of mine! So it all worked out perfectly!

We got to Batavia in record time, enjoying some TimBits and caffeine on the way, and I was (finally!) able to beautify myself. The entire day was party day – bridal shower, lingerie shopping (oh la la!), and bachelorette party. It was so great seeing all of my friends and family! I want to thank all the ladies who planned and attended my bridal shower this past weekend – it was a fabulous time and I can’t begin to tell you how special I felt. I’ll be writing a post about it soon so stay tuned!

Bridal party

Sunday was relax by the pool day with my friend Jenna whose family generously opened their home to me all weekend. I’m so glad we got a nice sunny day to enjoy! Monday was spent visiting my mom and Godmother before I had to take off once again. My friend Becky drove me to the airport and we got to talk like we used to in college, just shooting the breeze…figuratively and literally since the AC doesn’t work in her car and it was like 84 that day, so the windows were all down! My car was the same exact way a few years ago so it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.

My flight home was very smooth and it was so nice to get home and finally not live out of a suitcase! And, of course, see and hug and talk to Tom! I am so grateful that I was able to see and spend time with so many wonderful people this weekend. I miss that so much and I know that it will probably only get harder as everyone gets married and starts having kids and whatnot, but I want to make a point to get together at least once or twice a year because those relationships are so important!

My Childhood Home

So I went back home a couple weekends ago and, although it’s only been 2 months since I last visited, I was hit with a ton of emotions. I was flooded with so many memories of this house – the familiar sounds of the floorboards creaking, the smell of the hand soap, and sights of my baby pictures hanging on the walls (Tom says they look like I had a mullet. It’s called a half up-do with bangs, okay?).Bathtub

I even went through some of our old pictures from when I was a youngin’ that are stored in boxes upstairs. I sifted through pictures of me with my parents, my friends, and relatives during birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, and other random times. There are tons of silly pictures; this one didn’t seem out of the ordinary at first. I mean, it’s just me learning to read and write with my Dad. Ha, nice 40, Dad. Anyways, looking through these, I started getting a little anxious.Holly and Dad 2

You see, my mom has been in a nursing home for almost 3 years now. She was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis back when I was 9 years old, and it’s definitely progressed over the last 15 years. She is not considered a “resident” because she has not fully signed the remainder of her life (she’s only 60) and her possessions over to them. But I think it might happen soon.

We’ve talked about it here and there, trying to decide what to do and when to do it; most of the hesitation concerns her losing her independence, something she has prided herself on for as long as I can remember. It is also so that when I come home to visit and such, I have my own house to stay in.Mom's helper

Even though I have had a love-hate relationship with this house, it will still feel as though I’ve lost something or someone dear to me. Not loss in the sense that it’s a possession and I have to give it up, it’s more from the memories I have of being there. Sleepovers with friends; cooking with my mom; playing in the street as a kid with the boom box playing Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys for the whole street to hear (how did my neighbors not hate us as kids?).

Then there are the many complaints I had of it growing up. My basement has always been unfinished and I have never been in our attic because it’s more of a crawl space, so there wasn’t a cool lair to hang out in like some of my friends had. I will even miss the backyard, as minuscule as it is; it served its purpose when there was over a foot of snow and school was canceled.

Snow action

The tough times pull at my heart as well – my room that became my solace whenever I was upset or wanted to be alone to read or play video games, the platform at the bottom of the stairs where I found my mom lying after she fell (that was the last time she ever tried going upstairs), and the nights spent alone sitting in the kitchen while she was in the nursing home and I was not working either of my two jobs.

I didn’t realize just how difficult this would be; for the past couple years, since selling the house became an actual possibility, I thought it would be exciting and a good idea to downsize and clean house of all these things that we don’t need. But now I am realizing that selling the house is the ultimate implication that mom has lost her independence. And that I am a grown up and need to make my own grown up life and home. And that’s devastating and scary as hell.

I mean she put so much work into keeping this house running even on her single-parent salary that eventually became monthly disability checks. And the nursing home will take every last cent of what she gets for the house. Not only that, but thinking about what to do with all of my and her belongings is super stressful. But let’s not go there; that’s a whole other can of worms.Jack for present

Even though it may be another couple months or a year until the house is on the market, it’s unnerving thinking that this huge part of my life will be gone. And it will become someone else’s; maybe another kid will move in and grow up in my house and make their own memories like I did. Someone else’s birthday will be celebrated there every year. Maybe they’ll repaint my old room and closet like I did when I became a teenager. They’ll make it their own and it will change as they grow up.

Or maybe an older couple will move in and spend the remainder of their lives just sitting on the front porch, enjoying the breeze. Another family will be able to enjoy the beautiful tree in the front yard that blooms in the spring (although it seems to be gone within a couple days because it always ends up raining and then all the petals litter the ground).Before and after

Who knows? Either way, I know I have to let go and move on – I mean, I’m an adult right? I need to get on with life, not just live in the has-been moments. Although it is fun and comforting to reminisce sometimes, I can’t let myself grieve for the past. So here’s to looking forward to the future – moving on from this chapter, creating my own home with new memories, and enjoying every step of the way.