Magnolia Lane Creative Studio

Visual Styling and Fine Art Wedding Design

3 Tips on How to Maximize Your Wedding Decor Budget

With the average American wedding costing around $30k many brides struggle to bring their beautiful visions to life without taking on more debt (student loans are plenty, thanks). While most lavish weddings allot for a minimum of $5k for decor, that’s just not possible on a more modest and realistic budget.

Here at Magnolia Lane I love helping couples achieve their dream visions within their budget and I thrive on the challenge of imitating upscale designs on a dime. Creating environments for around $1-2k can prove to be a challenge, but with creativity and savvy it can be done!

Today I want to share some of my tips on how you can stretch your wedding’s decor budget to get more bang for your buck! Keep in mind that if you plan on doing it all yourself that there is always a trade off, and while you can create amazing things for very low cost you will most likely put in a lot of time and need to enlist the help of talented friends with various projects (know your own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your friends/family!). Be prepared to take on the full time role of project manager, organizing timelines, and delegating projects while keeping your team on schedule ensuring all projects will be completed well before the wedding day to avoid extra stress.

I recently had the opportunity to help an adorable couple bring their vision of grand Gatsby style soirée to life on a $10k total budget for 150 guests. Now i know what you’re thinking — impossible right? Wrong. The catch… the bride had to enlist the help of about 8 family members/bridesmaids for almost a year of ongoing DIY projects, thrifting trips and craft nights. Here are my the top 3 tips for how getting big design impact on a budget is done.

TIP 1 – DIY:

Think about the most costly parts of your dream wedding and figure out how you can greatly cut that cost by doing a version of that vision yourself somehow – Our picks for this wedding: favors, photo booth entertainment, impact signage & escort cards:

Photo booths have been extremely popular the past few years but if you don’t want to splurge for a professional service you can create your own with custom backdrops, a selfie stick and some photo props for a fraction of the price. (Check out the DIY coffee filter backdrop here!)


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Our brides father was an extremely capable builder and skilled craftsman so we sketched him out some ideas for impact signage to add a sense of grandeur to the environment.


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Four custom art deco signs made from plywood and moulding pieces: about $45 and 10 total hours. The bride and her friends then hand-lettered and painted quotes of brides choice after brides father made and painted the signs frames.

150 peacock escort cards with art deco hand-lettering: about $25 and 10-12 hours. One of the bridesmaids had a paper cutting machine so the bridesmaids cut their own fancy escort cards in the shape of peacocks and had guests names and table numbers hand-lettered by a relative.

150 DIY matchbox wedding favors to enhance the cigar favor bar: about $50 and 10 hours.

TIP 2 – Thrifting/Flea Markets/Up-cycling:

Thrift shops and flea markets are amazing places for collecting props for centerpieces and wedding decor. If you choose to go this route remember to stay flexible and be willing to compromise or spend endless amounts of time searching, you don’t always find exactly what you are looking for.

In order to score some high end items within our budget we sought out thrift shops and flea markets to find decanters, costume pearls, a set of tall vases for centerpieces. We also were looking for a large gold frame for photo booth and faux flowers.

At the Pittsburgh Wedding Flea Market our bride scored tall vases (with faux floral arrangements still in them) and gold table number frames for around $150.
At various thrift shops and flea markets we budgeted another $300 to find about 15 decanters and $30 for costume pearls to build the bulk of our centerpieces for 15 tables for a total of around $500.


Bridesmaids bouquets/boutonnieres: about $30 and 3-4 hours. The brides mother was then able to use the flowers from the up-cycled centerpieces to create bouquets for the bridesmaids, boutonnières, decorate the gold frame for the photo booth prop and use the remaining bunches for accents on food/gift/cookie tables around the venue.

TIP 3 – Borrow items from friends/family or rent:

You might be surprised what you can find in an attic or basement (or even your own home): large decorative vases, old light fixtures, vintage frames, crates, china and linens. Take a look around and see if anything inspires you and start to shape your design around what you have available to you.

Our bride found a beautiful gold and crystal chandelier in her Aunts basement which we borrowed for the ceremony.

We also found this awesome gold accent table in in the brides home to use as her cake table

Instead of fresh flowers for the table centerpieces we opted to use dried reeds from the grooms backyard. These reeds were cut long, spray painted navy and gold and arranged with peacock feathers for that added Gatsby touch giving us centerpiece vase filler for around $40 (spray paint and peacock feathers).

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We encourage splurging on rentals when it comes to table linens and chair covers; other statement pieces can also really enhance your environment and renting is great for items that are to costly or difficult to DIY. Here, we recommended the bride use rental table linens and chair covers. Colored up-lighting was also used to create reception ambiance and highlight her color scheme.

We also encourage you to splurge on things that are meaningful and important to you; this brides splurges: custom designed three tiered art deco cake by Ali Cleis and a commissioned canvas painting guest book by artist Thao Kim Trang.


I hope you find these tips helpful and inspiring. While it can be extremely stressful to put this kind of pressure on your family and friends by enlisting them to help you bring your dreams to life at a lower cost, looking back on it you guys can all enjoy in what you created together. That joy of all your hard work coming together in one beautiful day in celebration of the love and commitment you are about to share in. It brings a sense of closeness and teamwork to your group and gets you together more often over the course of wedding planning. All that matters is that it’s worth it to you, to give yourself the wedding you have always dreamed of… even if it means you spend countless nights folding coffee filters for hours.

If you choose to enlist professional help with your design, decor and execution I hope you will consider me and my team at Magnolia Lane. While you may want to hire us to do everything for you, we are also happy to just guide you through the process and help shape your design decisions ensuring aesthetic perfection.In keeping with the budget here we came up with ideas and instructed the bride on how to achieve them, we are happy to help as much or as little as you need  so reach out today and see how we can help you bring your visions to life.

xo Jean



Dia de los Muertos Wedding Inspiration

This time of year always reminds me of one of my all time favorite wedding inspiration projects from a few years ago done in partnership with Audra Wrisley Photography. Since this blog didn’t exist back then I thought I’d take this opportunity to share this throwback gem with you all today!

I am so inspired by the vibrant colors and motifs of the Mexican holiday: Dia de los Muertos. It’s just such a beautiful holiday; a colorful celebration and remembrance of the lives of loved ones who have passed on. What better wedding inspiration than a bold holiday that celebrates life itself? After all, your wedding day is the beginning of your new life together as married couple. I decided to draw upon the “until death do us part” line of common marriage vows to shape a beautiful celebration of a couple’s love and commitment to each other; focusing on the slightly dark romance of being together until the end.

I wanted to incorporate some standard traditions such as sugar skulls, vibrant flowers, candles, and papel picado. Audra helped to add a modern flare with beautifully designed custom stationary using modern geometric patterns and creating gold leafed and fabric paper decoupaged terra cotta pots to use as centerpieces. The centerpieces incorporated succulents with fresh fruits and flowers to give a very warm and inviting feel. Want to learn how to make these fancy terra cotta pots yourself,  check out Audra’s DIY tutorial on Wedding Chicks!

We looked to Frida Kahlo for our beauty inspiration; pairing a floral crown with dark lips and a stunning vintage 1970’s Mexican wedding dress with pin-tucked cotton bodice and crochet lace insets throughout.

To compliment the design, we served a Mexican Peach cocktail (recipe below) in gold sugar rimmed glasses, Mexican sodas, pan de muerto, colorful cupcakes, and the most scrumptious alfajores decorated with powdered sugar!

Toast to Dia de Los Muertos with a Mexican Peach cocktail
1 1/2 oz. Pallini Peachcello
1 1/2 oz. Tequila
1 oz. Numi Organic White Nectar Tea (made into an ice tea)
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup

Want to see more? Check out the original feature on Wedding Chicks. Hope you have enjoyed these colorful photos & can take away some inspiration for your own events! Happy Friday!

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A Craft From the Heart – The Leininger Threads

Today we get personal with a project just for fun, but super close to my heart.  Determined to continue hoarding my collection of my grandmother’s old sewing supplies, I found a way to actually make use of the pieces that are no longer functional for sewing…


Growing up my grandmother taught me about basic sewing, garment construction, and repair. She encouraged and inspired me to create things and helped me to bring my visions to life, so when she passed away a few years ago her collection was handed down to me. She was a child of the depression and one of nine children, she never wasted anything and could always find a second use for items others might throw out. She appreciated all the small things in life and had the most intriguing sense of creativity.

That being said, part of her sewing collection included baskets of threads that are so old and brittle they break with any amount of tension. But I refuse to get rid of them because the threads in those baskets are a lifetime of handmade memories, small pieces of all the things she made over the years and while they are no longer functional they are still beautiful and extremely sentimental to me. Using a shadowbox, I arranged the threads in a visually appealing way and then used a hot glue gun to secure spools in place.

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So today in honor of my Grandmother—creative muse and mentor—I present The Leininger Threads



Now these colorful old spools grace my walls and allow me to keep a treasured piece of my grandmothers collection for display (instead of sitting in a box near the sewing machine).  I hope this project inspires and encourages you to look at things in a new way and to challenge yourself to make something old new again. How do you show off your favorite & sentimental collections?


DIY – Matchbox Favors

Looking for a super cute fun and easy favor for your next event? These personalized matchbox favors are the perfect detail to make your sparkler send off or cigar bar pop! These tiny keepsakes live on after the wedding to become cherished memories for guests to adorn bedside catchall dishes or accompany candles around the house.


Matt and Sarah were looking for a unique way to thank their guests for attending their art deco/Gatsby style wedding. With a budget of $200 our goal was to create personalized favors that enhanced their wedding theme. This favor also perfectly compliments Sarah’s desire for a sparkler send off (and eliminates the attempt of guest all trying to share lighters) and even left some money in the budget for Matt to offer cigars to his gentleman guests. Stay tuned to see how we style these pretty favors next month for Matt and Sarah’s big day!


Matchboxes (splurge for the plain white matchboxes and save yourself from step two!) white paint, mod podge, paint brush, glitter glue, paper designs cut to size of matchboxes, and scissors

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Step 1: Either use a program on your computer to design customized images the size of your matchboxes or find paper designs / photos that you like and cut to size of matchboxes.

Step 2: If you are willing to spend a bit more money and opt for the pain matchboxes you can skip this step. Otherwise, paint both front and back of matchbox solid color. You could also cut your paper designs to cover the entire area of the matchbox; just make sure you leave enough room around the edges for the glitter border!

Step 3: Mod podge paper designs to both front and back of matchboxes allowing to dry between sides. Or you can attempt to do both sides at once standing boxes on their side while drying.

Step 4: Use glitter glue to edge all four sides of matchboxes front.

Step 5: Let dry and repeat on backside.

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Material Cost: ~$50
Time Spent: ~10 hours

  • $27 for cheapest option bulk matchboxes for 200 total / $44-$200 for plain matchboxes (allowing you to skip step 2) for 200 total favors
  • $18 for 8 (4oz) bottles; we used about 5 bottles for 200
  • $5-$12 for bottle of  mod podge

Artist Spotlight: Thao Kim Trang

Recently, I had the opportunity to work on a really fun project doing fashion styling and set design for Artist Thao Kim Trang. Thao was working on building a beautiful new website and needed new imagery to help enhance her brand. I was called upon to help stage Thao’s latest body of paintings in a studio setting and to aide in outfit selection and accessorizing her for the shoot. Together with Audra Wrisley Photography, we helped bring her dreamy vision to life!


Thao is a talented young abstract artist exploring visualizing expression and feeling through various artistic mediums. Highly influenced by nature, she often draws inspiration from plants and beautiful landscapes which we see come through in her subject matter. As a scientist, her work sometimes blurs the line between what we see with the eye and what she sees under a microscope. Thao’s abstracts are able to invoke viewers with a strong sense of powerful emotion and wonder when they stare into the fluid pools and bold fields of color in her paintings.

When helping Thao to select fashion options for this project we chatted about the direction and feeling she wanted to go with the brand and then we set out to find two looks that were both artsy, modern and effortlessly cool. She told me she felt most at ease in pants, liked to be comfortable/to have movement and that she really wanted to do at least one all black outfit.

While initially browsing Thao’s personal closet for outfits ideas, I completely fell in love with this black and white printed jumpsuit and knew it was just the piece to build off of for her new artist portraits. The feathered arrow print gave a cool boho vibe, while the long vertical lines helped to lengthen her legs and torso. The print scale was also key so as not to compete with the artwork around her. Once I saw the open back, I was sold, always a subtle, sexy win in my book! For the all black look, we paired thick black ponte leggings with a drapery knit top and added a pop of color and some edge with burgundy moto boots and silver statement jewelry.

Make sure you check out Thao’s new site at:

Happy Friday!

Travel Outfit Inspiration Guide: Big Sur

IMG_4480My Husband makes frequent trips to San Fransisco for his work; when he surprised me with a plane ticket to join him on his most recent trip I could not have been more excited! With our 1 year anniversary right around the corner I saw the perfect opportunity for a romantic getaway and immediately started planing a trip along the breathtaking Highway 1 from San Fransisco down to Big Sur.

When it comes to packing, I try so hard not to over pack as no one particularly enjoys toting around lots of luggage. It can be stressful at times trying to ensure you have adequate options that allow you to look good but also be flexible with the weather (especially in coastal California). I always love the challenge of trying to put as much style into one small carry-on bag as possible; Here’s what I took on this most recent trip and a few tips I’ve picked up over the years to help you pack a versatile bag. (Color coordination not required but makes packing extra fun!)

outfit set 1

Keeping in mind that weather ranges greatly along the coast and I wanted options that allowed me to layer as well as mix and match options for tops and bottoms depending on how I was feeling that day.

-A pair of white capris (or blue jeans) that can be paired with every top makes outfit planning effortless.

-Northern CA can be chilly when you’re not in the sun or if a breeze picks up so a neutral colored lightweight cardigan that can be added over any outfit is a must have. For colder weather I could wear my white capris with the linen blouse layered over the navy tank top or the white capris with the striped tank and cardigan.

-For end of summer travel, a white dress is essential in my opinion. So romantic against sunkissed skin & allows for play of bold accessories.

-All footwear should be comfortable for walking. Traveling = lots of walking.  I like to have at least two footwear options, for this trip I packed two pairs of comfortable neutral toned sandals that went with all my outfits as well as one pair of practical shoes (sneakers) for any cliff climbing or forest exploring adventures.

We spent an amazing 5 days basking in the beauty of the west coast hitting up some key spots along our trip.

Highlight Stops along the way included / recommended visits:

Santa Cruz (boardwalk and and amusement park)

Monterey Bay Aquarium

17 Mile Drive; a scenic drive through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula  (sights to see along the drive; The Lone Cypress, Spanish Bay and the famous Pebble Beach golf course)

Big Sur ( Julia Pfeiffer Burns State park featuring McWay Falls) (Jade Cove,where you can search for Big Sur jade; also a designated hang-glider site) (Garrapata State Park, great for hiking and whale watching)

Big Sur lodging- Post Ranch Inn (very expensive but one of the top rated hotels in the US) Treebones Resort (yurts! and camping/glamping)

Big Sur restaurants- Sierra Mar in the Post Ranch Inn, very expensive but one of the best views in Big Sur. Big Sur Roadhouse (farm-to-table California cuisine) Big Sur Bakery, amazing pastries, sells out fast, get there early. Nepenthe (look it up, very cool)

Galleries/Museums- Big Sur Coast Gallery, Hawthorne Gallery, Henry Miller Memorial Library.

I hope you enjoyed this travel guide inspiration! What are some of your favorite locations for romantic getaways? How do you conquer packing? Share some of your packing tips with us below =)



Delight in Handcrafted Details

In honor of this months feature in Whirl Magazine, we are sharing the making of pretty behind our top five lust worthy details of this stunning backyard wedding. Featuring some of our favorite projects and handmade details, this Pittsburgh wedding is jam packed with pretty little embellishments. A modern take on a whimsical garden wedding with a touch of vintage romance in the details, we will highlight some of the key design elements we crafted to pull this beautiful event together and bring our couples vision to life.

As artists one thing we are very passionate about here at Magnolia Lane is reuse and recycling, giving second life to something. We are huge fans of thrifted/vintage projects, we believe it adds unique character difficult to imitate and bringing something beautiful back to all its glory through restoration and repurpose gives us all the feels!

Salvaged And Refinished Vintage Door Frame Repurposed As Ceremony Arch:

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Most cities have a few places where you can find salvaged building materials,  we scored this gem at Construction Junction in Pittsburgh. Its wonderful being able to support their mission while creating beautiful one of a kind pieces for projects we are working on here at Magnolia Lane. Since the wedding this beautiful door frame has been repurposed yet again, serving as the entrance to the Brides fathers garden.

Tea Cup Succulent Planter Wedding Favors:

It was no easy feat to accomplish this project, it took months of searching thrift stores and flea markets to collect the perfect set of about 100 tea cups. And even longer for propagation of a wide variety of succulents using a custom rigged green house only a pittsburgh dad could concoct. Transporting so many delicate wedding favors from our studio to wedding venue was a whole other challenge on its own – but oh so totally worth it!

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The favors were designed to pair well with the stunning centerpieces which sat inside of metallic birdcages with arrangements designed by Petals and Promises. To keep the mismatched look of tea cups from overwhelming the design, they were divided into color stories for a cohesive look per each table. Now 100 new tea cup planters grace the homes and offices of guests instead of collecting dust on thrift store shelves!

Origami Paper Flower Sidewalls: 

Tents with sidewalls are so elegant but when your outside you kind of just want to embrace the beauty of whats around you. For this project we enhanced the look of our tent while fully embracing the beautiful garden around us by creating sidewalls of ombre garlands made of origami flowers and their effect could not have been more magical.

Vintage Doily Pennant Banners & Garden Vintage Birdcages:

To adorn the ceilings and the tree tops surrounding the venue we hung loads of vintage style birdcages brimming with plants and created very romantic feeling pennants using vintage doilies and ivory ribbon.

If you have a vision, allow us to help you bring it to life! Visit our contact page to get in touch today =)

What are some of your favorite handmade details you have seen at weddings recently?

The Knot Feature – What I Wore

In honor of my up coming two year engagement anniversary and #TheKnot featuring our love story in their DC, MD & VA fall/winter 2016 issue, I wanted to share my engagement outfit style for our beachside engagement session with Audra Wrisley Photography.

 “James concocted a plan to propose to Jean while on her family’s annual vacation in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The only problem? Jean’s sister’s boyfriend also had plans to propose that same week! With the help of Jean’s brother, the men decided to propose on different parts of the beach without overshadowing the other. One evening during a sunset walk, James got down on one knee and asked jean to make him the luckiest man alive. “I said absolutely before he even got all of the words out,” she says.”

Since the proposal happened on the beach, I really wanted to have our engagement photos taken on a beach to commemorate that detail of our story. Audra was kind enough to find us a beach location within driving distance of the DC metro area at Flags Pond Nature Park and it couldn’t have been a more perfect backdrop for our visual announcement of our engagement!


I love putting together outfits and anyone who knows me knows that outfit planning is something I greatly look forward to every week, I am also missing my department store visual days in styling looks for hundreds of mannequins on the regular, so posts like this help to fill that void!

Planning outfits for portrait sessions is an important part of helping to capture a moment or tell a story in the most visually appealing way. Since our important life events are the most photographed and most likely to become cherished heirlooms for future generations, it helps to both look and feel good about how your image is preserved.

I wanted the style to be a little more structured for our engagement shoot since the overall style of our wedding was going to be more boho so I kept the looks for Wyatt and I tailored and color palette crisp and bold.

Her Style Details:

To compliment a modern engagment ring I paired this striking lace Isabel dress by BCBG Max Azria with a pair of Jimmy Choo cork and embroidery wedges. I kept jewelry very simple and minimal. Beauty by Lori Nansi of Le Mariee.

His Style Details:

A pair of slim navy Ben Sherman pants with a crisp fitted white button down and topped with a preppy pink and navy bow tie to compliment the color in her shoes.

Need help putting together a look or two for your special occasions? Visit my contact page to reach out about outfit styling services, Id love to help! For details on re-creating the look featured in this post check out my Polyvore.

Beachside Engagement Outfit Inspo


Jimmy choo shoes

Ippolita charm necklace

Kenneth Cole analog watch

Leather belt

Giorgio Armani men s fragrance
$89 –

Men s accessory

Opi nail lacquer

Inspirational wall art
$28 –

A Magical Harry Potter Themed Bachelorette


I think it is safe to say that in my family Harry Potter has always been a favorite and for my sister, quite the obsession. We never missed a book release party, midnight movie release and have even hosted harry potter birthdays over the years. When Sarah got engaged last year, we knew that a Harry Potter themed bachelorette party would be the perfect way to celebrate her transition from muggle to Mrs.

We wanted to go for a tri-wizard tournament /Weasley wedding style soiree with furnished tents & loads of twinkle lights. In order to keep the party from feeling like a child’s birthday we added a potions style bar, and took our favorite harry potter elements and turned them into adult themed games.

Decor details:

Warner brothers had an awesome DIY for floating candles -so we made a few dozen for our great hall.

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To add some Hogwarts spirt to the tents we made yarn tapestries in each of the house colors to run down the center of the main tent. We also crafted some mandrake cupcakes & made some minor adjustment to the bathroom…

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We started the night by sorting all attendees into the four houses as teams for the games we had planned. Prior to the event we added a drop of food coloring to the bottom of shot glasses; each person picked a shot glass and was then poured a vodka shot to kick off the evening and find out which house they were sorted into.

Games included, quidditch pong, pin the wand on the wizard, scavenger hunt, ring of fire harry potter edition and a drunk defeat the dementor challenge. We turned a beer pong table into quidditch pong by adding 3 hoops; dowel rods with circles of cardboard tubes hot glued on top and painted gold. We created a dementor piñata and stuffed him with bachelorette appropriate swag including panties &  mini liquor bottles.

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It was a wonderful evening and Sarah was beyond thrilled that we were able to bring one of her favorite childhood fantasies to life in bachelorette form.sparklerspartydarkmark2


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DIY Dip-Dyed Bridal Backdrop


After a recent trip to Anthropologie,  I was totally in awe of their wisteria installation and loved the idea of creating something similar for a bridal inspiration project that was in the works.


This masterpiece was made with cupcake liners, balloons, paper and yarn. I wanted to achieve a similar impact and effect on a smaller budget and in a short time frame, so I searched for other ideas that could provide a similar whimsical abstract floral effect and act as a backdrop for our shoot.

After some searching I came across this amazing DIY on style me pretty for an ombre coffee filter backdrop. You can follow their awesome tutorial on how to make this yourself and I’ll share my experience in making this project below.


Things you will need:

600+ coffee filters (about 40ish per strand you plan to make), fabric dye, fishing line, scissors, needle, about 10 hours

Their tutorial suggests to use staples to attach coffee filters to fishing line – I eliminated the need for this additional resource and decided to just use a needle and thread to string the filters tying spacer knots between each one

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Dying of filters:

The dying process was not as simple and took longer than I thought it would. (especially the drying!)  I found it very difficult to dye large numbers of filters at a time and attain an even solid saturation. In playing with the dying process I achieved interesting textures and color variants, which I ended up loving for the botanical look I was trying to create.

Folding of filters:

I used ~650 coffee filters and was able to fold ~120 filters per hour.  I spent 5.5 hours folding coffee filters into triangles

Stringing the filters:

I was able to make one strand per 15 mins or so. Each strand was about 8 feet long and contained 45-55 coffee filters leaving about 12+ inches at the top to allow room for hanging. I made 12 strands which took a total of about 3 hours.

For around $20 in material costs and about ten hours you can create a beautiful photo/wedding backdrop. Check out Ruffled Blog to see how we used this insanely gorgeous backdrop!