Why do lanterns cost so much?

Most of the time, my couples think I’m reasonable. But occasionally I get, “Why does it cost so much?” They see the lanterns in the party store that are $10 for 3 lanterns and think, “This is something I can DIY, (do it yourself)!”

Well, you might be able to if the ceiling is low, there are many attachment points, and you have lots of extra time on your wedding day. Those party store lanterns are also small. The biggest one is 10 inches. You will need at least 50-60 of them to cover a big enough area so that it looks professional.

But, if the ceiling is high, you are in a tent, or it is a smooth ceiling, you should use a professional.

And, we don’t just take fishing line and cheap battery lights that leave a weird pinspot light in the lantern. We have created our own lighting cords with variable drops that use small incandescent bulbs for a warm, soft glow. We also put a dimmer on the light string so you can turn them down if they seem too bright during dancing. We also offer lanterns in all sizes. From about 12″ up to 30″ around, which is HUGE! They look especially great up high or in a tent.

We also carry insurance. If you look at this picture, you will see why! Another part of the cost is the fact that we come back at the end of the night to take everything down. Do you want your brother or your friend up on a high ladder after an exhausting day that may have included a few drinks at the reception? Most venues require you to take everything down and pack everything up that night. This is something that most couples don’t consider when they DIY. Putting it up is one thing, but breaking it down and packing it away is a lot of work.

I love DIY and there are many projects that you can do before the wedding so you have plenty of time to repair or replace if it doesn’t work out. Hanging lanterns probably isn’t one of them!

Centerpieces can be expensive items at a Wedding or Party.  Many of the tall, beautiful fresh flower centerpieces can run well over $100 to $200 each.  That can be a significant amount of money to a bride on a budget.  Many venues offer centerpieces as part of their package.  Some offer a plain candle centerpiece, some offer a mirror with a square or round vase with a small arrangement of roses or flowers of your choice, and some offer a choice of one florist who does the same thing for every package wedding.  Most venues that are offering flowers will offer the ability to upgrade their basic floral centerpiece.

A great way to save but still get a fabulous centerpiece is to rent the vase.  The guests can take the flowers, but the vases go back to the florist or designer.  Most people don’t want to carry the over-sized vases and they don’t fit in with most home decor anyway!  Most florists offer this option.  If you’re going with a smaller, all floral centerpiece, it makes sense to let the guests take the vase.

Another popular option is candle centerpieces with just a few flowers or no flowers.  Floating candles last the whole reception, and tall pillars in a hurricane will last and offer a beautiful glow to an evening wedding. Do not use tea lights.  They hardly last an hour.  Use votives or floating candles instead.

Cylinder Vases with Floating Candles and Roses

Floating Candle with Fuschia Orchid

Beach Themed Hurricane Centerpiece

Floating Rose with vintage tea lights

Broadbrook Garden's Black Cube with Pink Flowers

We were thrilled to work with Gary Craig and the crew at WTIC to decorate Maneeley’s in South Windsor for their Christmas Party for 600 children.  “We Are The Children” is a worthy cause where children are brought to the venue to be greeted by Santa who gives them a big bag of donated toys.  There are fun activities like craft making and face painting and they all get a delicious lunch served by Maneeley’s.  This year, the children were bussed to “The Lodge” and walked the CandyLand game board.

CandyLand at the Lodge at Maneeley's in South Windsor, CT

They were greeted by their favorite costumed characters like Batman, Winnie the Pooh, Tinkerbell, Care Bear, Buzz and Woody, and many more…  Then they jumped into a hay wagon with “Elves” who were volunteers who acted as chaperones and helpers.  They sang Christmas Carols as they drove up to the main building of Maneeley’s where they were greeted by a beautiful Gingerbread Village. Inside, the room was decorated as a Winter Wonderland with a live band on a big stage playing Christmas Songs, donated Gingerbread houses on each table, and donated books and puzzles.

We look forward to making this a special event again next year!

My Dance Canopy was created from the desire to make the dance floor the center of attention without breaking the budget.  We designed and built our columns to offer a simple way to drape the ceiling without blocking the view of the guests.  Many venues have an afternoon and an evening wedding.  There is very limited time for set up and break down of decor items.   Our canopy design allows us to drape the ceiling with less than 20 trips up and down the ladder for set up and break down.  Traditional ceiling draping can be 50 to 75 trips up and down the ladder.  It’s much more labor intensive and therefore much more expensive.

We have used our Dance Canopy for Weddings, Proms, Quinceaneras, Birthday Parties and Christmas Parties.  Canopies can be personalized and made to fit the theme of the event.  They can be lighted, or unlighted.  They can be plain or very colorful.  Here are some examples of canopies and ceiling draping we have done.

 

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This is a Wedding Canopy. The ceremony arch was later removed for dancing. This was a white canopy with lighted hanging lanterns.

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Snowflake Canopy- This was an ivory wedding canopy with snowflakes hanging from the ceiling as well as hanging in the columns. When the lights went down, the snowflakes glittered.

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Chocolate and Champagne Wedding. We used a large gold and brown tassel for the center and small ivory roses on the top of each column.

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Christmas Canopy- This was tulle with burgundy ribbon and a burgundy kissing ball.

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Christmas Canopy- This blue and white canopy has snowflakes hanging in the columns with a blue fabric center.

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Tulle Wedding Draping with flowers and greenery on the corner drops. White lighted hanging lanterns give the dance floor a glow.

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Moon and Stars Prom-Lavendar tulle with a balloon center and lighted hanging lanterns and stars.

 

 

This summer has been the worst for weather in Connecticut.  Cool, rainy, overcast days do not lend themselves to outdoor celebrations.  But, if you do it right, you can make any indoor venue look like the Beach.

Beach Theme Tables with Underlighting

Beach Theme Tables with Underlighting

Ice Carving of Hammock between 2 Palm Trees
Ice Carving of Hammock between 2 Palm Trees

This was a 70th Birthday Party for a local businessman.  We put up a 20 x 40 beach backdrop with palm trees and fabulous lighting by Awesome Audio.  The tables above show different ways to  under light a table.  The blue twinkle lights cost about $15.  The under lighting under the ice carving is done with two $200 cans.

Beach Themed Lighting

Beach Themed Lighting

Hanging Lanterns over the Band Area

Hanging Lanterns over the Band Area

We made centerpieces out of Margarita glasses.  We used small margarita glasses for the cabaret tables in the Social area and we used large margarita glasses for the table centerpieces.   The guests took these home at the end of the night, sand, shells, and all!

Margarita Glass Centerpiece

Margarita Glass Centerpiece

Small Margarita Glass Centerpiece with Flip Flop Favor

Small Margarita Glass Centerpiece with Flip Flop Favor

Beach Backdrop with Palm Trees and Fish Centerpiece

Beach Backdrop with Palm Trees and Fish Centerpiece

Hammock and Palm Trees blocking the Light Panel

Hammock and Palm Trees blocking the Light Panel

With the lights down, you felt like you were in an Aquarium.  The blue and green lighting made you feel you were near water.  The sand and shells, nets and fish gave a beach feeling.  The lime green, yellow and blue linens kept it tropical.  The party was a huge hit, with everyone commenting on how great the room looked.   And, we didn’t have to worry about rain!

For the last 8 years,  since my daughter was a freshman in High School, we have volunteered at Project Graduation.  Project Graduation is a substance free, all night party for graduating seniors.  We do not charge our graduates to attend, so we must fundraise and rely on volunteers.  We also have a rule that no parents of seniors are allowed to be present at the party, so we rely on undergraduate parents to chaperone and make the party run.

The decorating committee used to change the theme every year.  The chairman of the committee was a professional muralist and talented artist.  Her ideas were fabulous.  They did an outer space theme, a Medieval theme, and an Undersea theme.  When I came aboard, I realized that we didn’t have the budget or the time to reinvent the theme every year, so we made the decision to pick one theme and stick to it year after year.  After all, the graduates were always different and they had never seen the decorations before!  We decided to go with a Hollywood theme since we could stick with some basic pieces and fill out the decorations with the most popular movies of the year.  We also got donations from our local movie theater of movie posters and standees. We recently changed the venue where we hold Project Graduation.  In the past, we rented out a local health club, but this year we switched to a large Entertainment Center called Nomads.  They offer laser tag, indoor putt-putt golf, slot cars, billiards, bumper cars, arcade games and a large gym.  Even though rental was more expensive, we had to pay less for activities since everything was included!  Here are some examples of Project Graduation decorations through the years.

Fortune teller tents with Gandalf from Lord of the Rings

Fortune teller tents with Gandalf from Lord of the Rings

Entrance Marquee made out of Cardboard Boxes and Twinkle Lights

Entrance Marquee made out of Cardboard Boxes and Twinkle Lights

Painted Cardboard Popcorn Boxes with Popcorn Balloon Arch in the Food Room

Painted Cardboard Popcorn Boxes with Popcorn Balloon Arch in the Food Room

Popcorn and Soda Movie Theatre Centerpiece

Popcorn and Soda Movie Theatre Centerpiece

Red Carpet Mural

Red Carpet Mural

Director's Chairs with Lighted Palm Tree

Director's Chairs with Lighted Palm Tree

Pirates of the Caribbean Prize Area

Pirates of the Caribbean Prize Area

Bingo Room with Balloons

Bingo Room with Balloons

Walk of Fame with "Hollywood" Graduate Pictures from Prom

Walk of Fame with "Hollywood" Graduate Pictures from Prom

Casino Theme Room with Giant Dice

Casino Theme Room with Giant Dice

Marquee with Director's Chairs

Marquee with Director's Chairs

If you are on a Project Graduation Committee and have questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will be happy to give you the benefit of my experience.   We have continued to volunteer for this event because we feel it is really worthwhile and we want to support the idea of keeping kids safe on Graduation night.

Even though it’s still August, we just had a bride use an Autumn color palette and I thought it was a good time to show you some ideas for fall weddings.  Chocolate and Champagne is a very popular and elegant color combination.  Some brides jazz it up with details of yellow, orange, and red.  Some brides go with a less vibrant peach accent color.  Silver and Gold accessories work well with these colors.

Here’s the first wedding we did in these colors.  The wedding used rich satin table covers with overlays and satin chair covers which added some extra shine to this late afternoon/evening wedding.

Chocolate and Champagne Wedding with Dance Canopy

Chocolate and Champagne Wedding with Dance Canopy

Last fall, we had several brides who used this same color palette, but they made it their own with the details and florals.

Chocolate and Champagne Wedding with Double Tiered Head Table

Chocolate and Champagne Wedding with Double Tiered Head Table

Dance Canopy for a Chocolate and Champagne Wedding

Dance Canopy for a Chocolate and Champagne Wedding

Fall Colors with Vibrant Florals

Fall Colors with Vibrant Florals

Paris Dessert Area at Chocolate and Champagne Wedding

Paris Dessert Area at Chocolate and Champagne Wedding

Autumn Dance Floor

Autumn Dance Floor

Guest Table in Autumn Colors

Guest Table in Autumn Colors

Sunflower Silk Flower Arrangement

Sunflower Silk Flower Arrangement

Most of these brides used Chocolate Brown as their starting color and added ivory china, overlays or chair covers to lighten up the palette.  The florals and chair sashes carry the accent colors.

Backdrops are useful to highlight the Head Table or Sweetheart Table at a Wedding.  They can dress up a plain venue, or draw the eye to an area that should be the focus.   They can also hide unattractive features, like doors or trouble lights on a wall.  In a tent, they can hide an ugly, dirty or mildewed tent flap.  Here are a few wedding backdrops that we have built or created.
Tent Wedding Backdrop

Tent Wedding Backdrop

Wedding Backdrop of white silk fabric and string lights

Wedding Backdrop of white silk fabric and string lights

Lighted Backdrop to hide a Garage Door behind the Sweetheart Table

Lighted Backdrop to hide a Garage Door behind the Sweetheart Table

Rolling Lighted Backdrop used Behind a Dessert Station

Rolling Lighted Backdrop used Behind a Dessert Station

Wedding Backdrop with Brown Tulle behind the Sweetheart Table

Wedding Backdrop with Brown Tulle behind the Sweetheart Table

Backdrops are also useful for Theme Parties.  A plain venue can be made into a Winter Wonderland or a Street in Paris.  There are many backdrop companies that rent theme backdrops, or if you are artistic, you can paint on Tyvek or muslin to get exactly what you want!  We also build theme pieces that hang behind the DJ or the ice sculpture to carry the theme at a Prom.  These can be built out of wood, fabric, foam insulation, or metal.

Paris Backdrop in a Wedding Dessert Room

Paris Backdrop in a Wedding Dessert Room

New York Backdrop in a Superhero Room

New York Backdrop in a Superhero Room

Red Carpet Backdrop

Red Carpet Backdrop

Beach Backdrop

Beach Backdrop

Winter Wonderland Backdrop

Winter Wonderland Backdrop

New York Night Backdrop

New York Night Backdrop

Moon and Stars Backdrop

Moon and Stars Backdrop

A Moment in Time Backdrop

A Moment in Time Backdrop

We recently did a Country Western Themed Wedding.  It was a lot of fun for us, and it allowed us to step outside of the basic wedding box to create an atmosphere that was fun, but still a little formal.

Country Western Head Table

The bride and groom were honeymooning on a Dude Ranch in Montana, and they wanted to bring that feeling to the wedding.  The groom wanted steer horns and a ranch feel.   We brought in bales of hay, lighted greenery and sunflowers, mason jar candles, cowboy hats, milk cans, horseshoes, red gingham and red bandannas.  We used canvas and rope with raffia bows to decorate the head table, but the underlights added sparkle.

The ceremony was held in the gazebo.

Country Western Gazebo

Gazebo Detail

Gazebo Detail

We brought in straw bales for guest seating.  Everybody was in jeans and western wear except the parents who were seated on chairs.

The gazebo was decorated with a horseshoe, up so the luck doesn’t run out!  The sunflowers matched the reception flowers.  The guests threw handfuls of straw instead of rice.

We built a chuckwagon for the outdoor social hour.  The fly was perfect to hold the platters of cold appetizers.  We used a few details to try to make it look authentic.  An old iron skillet, a lantern, a bullwhip, firewood with an axe, and we even coiled up a snake under the front wheel!

Chuckwagon

Chuckwagon

Here are some of the other details that made this wedding special!

Locking Gift Card Box

Locking Gift Card Box

Saloon Doors

Saloon Doors

Cowboy Boot Arrangement at Entrance

Cowboy Boot Arrangement at Entrance

Cupcake Table with Horeshoe Backdrop

Cupcake Table with Horeshoe Backdrop

Straw Bale Centerpiece

Straw Bale Centerpiece

Come back at the end of August to see our Red and Gold Vietnamese Wedding as well as our Beach themed Birthday Party.  We are also doing an Afro-Centric wedding in September that should be very beautiful and different!

Decorated tent pole

Tent poles can be all around the outside of a pole or frame tent.  If the tent is open, you will see them, and they usually aren’t pretty!

We covered these with tulle, ivy and a few flowers.

Decorated frame tent

This is a frame tent with a liner.   It is not as high because

there are no center supports.  The liner and support covers

give a really elegant, finished look.  Be aware, tent liners are

usually as much as the tent.  They can be quite expensive.  If

you think that you can drape fabric to look like this and save

some money, it is really difficult to get this look on the cheap.   We added

lighted hanging lanterns and uplighting to finish the look.

tent poles These 25′ high tent poles are a real challenge.  This tent stays up all season, from

May to October, so we can’t use tulle or fabric or it would be filthy within a week

or two.  So, we cover the poles with an embossed vinyl, put silk branches at the top

and swirl ivy down the pole.   We needed a lift to get that high.  We have used

a ladder in the past, and it’s impossible to get high enough.

Here’s a wedding tent we decorated.  It was a very large tent and it poseddecorated tent

a real decorating challenge because the poles also had lights and fans

attached to them.  We used the vinyl fabric and ivy again because it was

fast.  We didn’t have much time to decorate this tent.

We have several more tent weddings booked for August, so check our

website, www.mjdecorations.com for more pictures of tent decor in

the future!

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