DIY Wedding Blackboards

Blackboards came along quite late in the DIY wedding process but they were definitely one of my favourite projects. When I reflect on our wedding, I often talk about ‘my’ DIY projects and the ideas ‘I’ had, much to my husband’s frustration. But the DIY blackboards really were a two-person project, and we both contributed to them equally.  

On our wedding day, the blackboards brought all the various elements of the wedding together. We used them for everything: from the ceremony welcome to the seating plan; from the bar to the dance floor; and from our photo book to the bathroom baskets. We also used them as a photo prop for the stag and hen do’s, as a consistent reference throughout the proceedings. Once we started on the blackboards we almost couldn’t stop, had we not run out of time I’m sure we would have made several more. 

We made our blackboards from scratch, which meant that it was a very cheap project. My husband went along to a local timber merchant and asked for some cheap plywood scrap to be cut to the size we wanted (40cmx60cm). We don’t have a car so he had to totter home on the train, carrying the piles of wood under each arm.  

So, here’s what we did:

What you’ll need:

  • Plywood cut to size (we used 40cm x 60cm)
  • Sand paper
  • Blackboard paint and paint brush
  • Graphite
  • Access to a printer/a printed copy of what you’d like to write on your blackboard
  • Scotch magic tape (or any kind of sticky tape)
  • Pencil
  • Blackboard pens (I used these and these so that I had a variety of sizes)
  • Blackboard pen remover (it is nearly impossible to correct your mistakes without this!)

Steps:

  1. Get your plywood ready by sanding down the edges – your wedding party will thank you when they don’t get splinters when putting these in place ready for your big day! It also gives the board a neater finish. Mike did ours with sand paper and elbow grease but if you’ve got an electric sander this will no doubt save you time (and joint pain!).
  2. Paint your boards in blackboard paint with two coats per side. Don’t forget to paint the edges. Leave these to dry overnight.
  3. Design your text or pattern that you’d like on your boards, bearing in mind you’ll need to be able to trace whatever you choose. I played around with text on Word and found images I liked on Pinterest to print out. Depending on the size of your board, you’ll need to print these on several bits of paper and align them on the board, unless you’ve got access to an A3 printer, or bigger.
  4. Arrange the pieces of paper as you’d like them to be on your board and attach them with the sticky tape as a hinge to ensure the placement remains right.
  5. Apply a thin layer of graphite to the back of the paper (the side without the text/pattern) then place the paper back on the board (graphite-side down) and secure all edges in place with more tape.
  6. Trace the outline of the text or pattern with a pencil. You’ll need to press quite hard to ensure a clear outline is traced onto your board.
  7. Using the pencil trace as guidance, draw over the outline using a thin tipped blackboard pen.
  8. Fill the pattern or text with a thicker pen, do a double layer if required.
  9. If you go wrong at any stage use the blackboard pen remover, you’ll need to scrub a bit to get this off. I used kitchen roll and a circular motion – worked a dream.
  10. Leave to dry overnight.

Let’s start with something simple and incredibly tasty: homemade Limoncello.

When life gives you lemons… make limoncello!

I initially thought of limoncello as an idea for favours as it fitted in with our colour theme at the time: yellow and green. Although further into the wedding-planning the colour theme changed, we kept the idea of limoncello. Limoncello suited us as a couple quite well; we both appreciate a good drink and like its sharp, tangy taste plus it is aesthetically pleasing sitting on a table. One of the main charms of homemade limoncello is that it is so easy to make! A word of warning, before you start: if you want to make a high-quality drink (which, of course you do, it’s your wedding!) then you need to use high-quality vodka, which comes at a price. While we would have loved to make limoncello for all our guests, we only gave formal favours to our wedding party. This made the process slightly cheaper for us and meant we could give each recipient a decent sized bottle of limoncello. For our other guests, we made contributions to chosen charities, in lieu of wedding favours.

 A Google search for ‘limoncello recipe’ will give you 463,000 results, each with different tips and slightly different recipes, some claiming to be closely guarded secrets only recently shared by Italian Grandmothers on their deathbeds. I read hundreds of recipes but only needed to test-run one (which was recommended by a friend) with some minor amendments. I can’t say that this is the best but it produces a bloody good tasting limoncello. I’d say look no further, but the choice is yours.


Top Tips before you start

  • It is SO easy to make but to infuse the lemons and vodka takes time, be patient and know that you can’t make this and drink it on the same night, or even in the same week.
  • Limoncello is an intense flavour and smell – it unfortunately has a very similar smell to a lot of cleaning products. Don’t do what I did and clean just before you make limoncello, you’ll be very close to hating the smell of lemons before you even begin!
  • Your local hardware shop probably has all the items you need and for half the price of Amazon; stay local.
  • Limoncello is sticky; work surfaces and fingers beware!


Ingredients (makes approx. 1 litre limoncello, just scale it up if you need more!)

  • 10 unwaxed lemons, washed and dried (if you are unsure then go for organic lemons, which are almost always unwaxed. If you don’t want to fork out on organic lemons then just be aware that the alcohol will strip everything from the lemon peels, pesticides and all…)
  • 750ml bottle vodka (the higher the proof, the better the limoncello will taste: higher-proof grain alcohol extracts more lemon flavour from the infusing process and the result is a smooth, tasty, tangy limoncello). I made two batches of limoncello using Grey Goose and Ciroc (both 80% proof).
  • Fancy branching out? Lemons can be substituted for other citrus fruits (lime, grapefruit, orange…)
  • Caster sugar (to your taste)
  • Water


What you need

  • Vegetable Peeler or grater
  • Knife
  • Large mason-style container with lid
  • Some form of strainer – I used a sieve
  • Large bowl
  • Funnel (although not essential, it makes things easier and less sticky)
  • Bottles for storing the finished product (or jam jars, if you’re a classy lady, like me)

 

Method

  1. Use a vegetable peeler to peel your lemons, it is easier than a grater and your hand will thank you after the first 2 lemons. Try to only get the rind (the yellow stuff); the pith (white stuff) is sour and doesn’t add anything to the flavour. If your rind comes away with a layer of pith then scrape this off with a kitchen knife until you just have rind.
  2. Put the lemon peel in the bottom of your container and cover with vodka. Put the lid on and leave the vodka and lemons to infuse for one month. If you want a softer, less intense flavour then you can stop the infusing process earlier. I like big, bold flavours so I would recommend leaving for the full month.
  3. Leave the container in a cool, dark space and gently swirl the container once a week to ensure ultimate infusing.
  4. When you’re ready to finish the limoncello, make some sugar syrup. Bring the water to a simmer and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Allow this to cool. You can play with the sugar and water ratios to make a sugar syrup to your taste – the more water you use, the more you will dilute the alcohol base, making a less alcoholic, milder, and smoother-sipping liqueur. More sugar will make a sweeter limoncello. I used 240 ml water to 200g sugar for a tangier finish.
  5. Using the sieve or other strainer, strain the infused vodka to remove the lemon peel into a large bowl.
  6. Gradually add small amounts of the sugar syrup to the infused vodka, while stirring continuously. Taste as you go to get the flavour you like.
  7. Make sure your storage bottles are clean and bottle the limoncello using the funnel.
  8. Chill, drink and enjoy. Keep the limoncello in the fridge or freezer. I recommend serving limoncello straight from the freezer.
  9. Apparently this can be  stored for up to a month in the fridge or up to a year in the freezer. I’ve kept mine in the fridge and it has been four months now and it still tastes fine. The only side effects? …A pretty sore head the next morning!


Homemade Labels – instructions to follow

For me, presentation is everything so I decided to make homemade labels to stick on the bottles. I will write a future post on my wedding DIY sidekick (no, not my husband), Cricut, which I used to create the labels. Cricut is an incredible machine; it is essentially a paper cutter but with excellent technology and agility. It enabled me to create almost anything from a huge range of fabrics and materials. You will see in future posts how much I relied on Cricut during my wedding DIY days and how it helped me to create my DIY wedding. 

#Speirswoodemerger

I had been planning my wedding day (minus the groom) since I was about five years old so I was overjoyed to marry my incredible husband (it still sounds weird calling him that), Mike, on 25 June this year. We met at the University of Birmingham, where we were both students and we have been together for somewhere between seven and eight years.

Although Mike and I had been together for a while, getting married was important to us. So many of our friends and family have strong, successful marriages, and we tried to incorporate that into a general ‘love’ theme at our wedding. Rather than celebrating the start of our life together, we wanted to celebrate the journey we had already been on and how our friends and family had influenced that, as well as making the formal commitment to each other.  

Lots of brides that I know hated planning their weddings but I am a planner; I write our meal plans each week, book our holidays months in advance (and create detailed excel itineraries) and buy Christmas presents in February (the difficulty comes from hiding them for 10 months!). So it was no surprise to anyone that I loved every minute of wedding planning. I was involved in all the tiny details of the planning and Pinterest was my world for quite a while. In the end, Mike and I ended up doing as much as possible ourselves, including: making our wedding invitations and DIY blackboards (buying wood then cutting, sanding, painting and writing on them); learning to code so I could build our wedding website; roping Mike in on printing, cutting and sticking 108 ceremony fans (his favourite job!); and infusing homemade limoncello for our favours. There were times when we wondered what we had taken on; it was like working a second job. We were up well past midnight every night sticking, cutting and sorting all our bits and pieces and we would wake up early to start again and do as much as possible before going to work for a break!

From one brother playing the piano as I walked down the aisle to my other brother painting our cake toppers, we tried to make the wedding as personal as possible. All the detail had a meaning: my Grandfather had saved some fondant flowers that my Granny had made so we used those on our cake; Mike’s sister and my uncle did readings; and we had photos of all the family weddings on display to celebrate the wonderful couples who have influenced our relationship and helped us to get to where we are today. Our dog attended the wedding for some photos – Mike dissuaded me from allowing him to be ring bearer (wise decision). We wrote our own vows, and managed to make almost exactly the same promises to each other. The speeches were brilliant – a good mix of emotional, funny and personal – and the girls were well represented with two Maids of Honour, the Mother of the Bride, as well as my own impromptu speech (big up the girls!).

The day itself was perfect. I know everyone says that but it really is true; it was better than even I could have ever imagined. All my Pinterest boards came together and it was so good to see the ideas in my head becoming a beautiful reality. All our favourite people in the world were in one place for one day and everyone was so happy. The day was made even more special as several of our friends travelled from around the world to be in the same room as us, and we were touched by how many people made such an effort to be there. The day was filled with so much love and laughter and it is a day that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. 

The post-wedding blues have yet to hit us. We are still on a high, enjoying readjusting to married life, although in reality much is the same as it was before; Mike’s favourite phrase is ‘everything has changed, but nothing has changed’ and it’s so true!

I have started this blog to share my DIY attempts; my tips, my failures and to be brutally honest about wedding planning. I hope to help other DIY brides and save them time and (hopefully!) money – watch this space!