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The Tricky Thing About New Year Resolutions

PC Wear Action

PC Wear Action

You know what I'm talking about.

You get to the end of the year and you've eaten your share of holiday nostalgia, dropped the workout routine "due to necessary family commitments", and spent so much money that you're afraid to look at your bank account balance. We're such wrecks by the end of each year that New Year Resolutions just seem like the perfect opportunity to--forgive the stereotypical expression--start all over again. 

But come on, how effective are they really if we habitually forget about them after two weeks? Every single year? 

I wrote a blog post about this last year on another site where I stood adamantly against New Year Resolutions, holding fast to the idea that commitments like the ones we use for for them ought to be implemented immediately if we really believe in their value, rather than waiting until January 1st. After all, it's because we don't believe enough in their value that they only last the stereotypical two weeks. 

This led me to campaign to my friends, family, and LinkedIn about how--rather than setting lofty goals for January 1st, we should focus more on setting goals we can implement immediately. 

Time passed. I started my business this summer and have been working, picking up speed, and am now living and working at such a fast pace--meanwhile pushing to the side priorities like taking the time to eat well, vacuuming the house, and updating my Business Instagram--that a clean slate come January 1st sounds really good. 

I came to realize that the New Year Resolution may not even be about the actual Resolution. Maybe it's something we've created to give us the mental clean slate that we need after a year of the crazy, especially after a month of holiday binging, overworking, or whatever your vice is. I know that I need this; in the same way that I clear my morning thoughts with a fresh To-Do List even if yesterday's still has some unchecked boxes, every year needs a new, fresh start. And if that means adding a "Go to the gym" box to your daily routine, that's great!

Sometimes life needs to be changed up a bit. It's a good thing. Even if you do give up on the thing you originally set out to do, sometimes the setting out part is all that you need.

On the other hand, let's talk about the actual resolutions that we tend to set. Working out and dieting are healthy goals, but let's be real: they're overused, and there are so many other (more interesting) resolution options out there! 

For instance, this year I want to say "thank you" more, and try to complain less. To empathize with people instead of judge them. 

How life-changing would it be to resolve to unplug our social media when we are spending time with friends and family-members? To resolve to give to the homeless, or to a charity we care about, on a regular basis? What about controlling our tempers, and focusing on calmly, verbally expressing our feelings instead of whatever it is we do instead?

There are so many things we can resolve to do that can make a bigger difference than our physical appearances can. Obviously, taking care of our physical health is important, and we should be doing that regardless of what our New Year Resolution is. Something more internal might stick longer though...and it has the potential to turn something that was negative into a new good habit!

So this year I'm not turning my nose up at the New Year Resolution. Instead, I'm going to adopt one that personally matters to me...enough that I think it might last longer than the first couple of weeks of January. Who's with me?

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Diary of a Wedding Planner, Part 2

PC Engstrom Photography

PC Engstrom Photography

I'm so excited to kick off 2017 with a new, great, big business step forward! I'm going to launch a wedding product line! I can't give away the details just yeeeeet, but I've been conducting research, bouncing ideas off of my friends and family, and starting to gather items to be used for said products. Now that wedding season is officially over, and engagement season has begun, I have the time to re-brand myself a little bit in anticipation of this product line. Sheesh! Who knew that there was so much that went into making and selling stuff?

In other news, now that my December wedding is officially over (pictures coming as soon as the photographer releases them!) I am free to focus on the six other weddings I am in the midst of planning and coordinating. It's a lot of computer research, paperwork, and emails, which I really enjoy. I love the freedom of not having to pass my communication with clients and vendors by anyone else--such as a boss. It's just me! How crazy awesome it is to be able to call the shots. It saves so much time and keeps things organized, as information goes through less hands this way. 

I am also excited that as I work with more vendors, I am beginning to pull together a cohesive Preferred Vendors List, especially because it means there's a possibility of working with my favorite vendors more than once. I really love strengthening my relationships with great vendors, because it makes working with them during weddings organized, predictable, and enjoyable.

As a wedding planner, I sometimes feel as though other vendors worry I'm just there to tell them how to do their jobs. On the contrary, I don't want to have to do that--I have my own job to get done. Instead, I want to work with vendors who know how to do their jobs better than I even understand. Rather than worry they'll do it wrong, it's my dream (I'm serious, my DREAM!) to work with a group of vendors who can seamlessly work together to pull off a beautiful wedding. 

December is almost over! Uh, when did that happen? As this year inches near it's closing, I feel proud of what this business has accomplished in the seven months it's been around, and look forward to what 2017 will bring. Here's to growth in personal knowledge and experience, and to the happiness and success of all my clients' marriages. 

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Diary of a Wedding Planner, Excerpt 1

PC Shelley DeJager

PC Shelley DeJager

Dear Diary,

Before I started my business I felt that there was a large distinction between small businesses and large businesses. Trying to unpack why this is the case has been a very complex process for me for many reasons, but one of note is that when I was in the single digits of my life, my family started a business creating and selling beeswax candles, lip balm, and other natural products at farmers markets, boutiques, and online. My brothers and I learned from our parents the entire creation process of these products, along with the hustle of packaging and marketing. To me, we were a small business. I understood the importance of turning a profit, because the products we sold had initial costs and took time to put together, but I also knew that we weren't making much money based on the amount we sold each week. We eventually stopped producing and selling these products and closed our business; it was an invaluable experience for me, and I've since gone on to start multiple small businesses myself, but that initial experience gave me the impression that unless a business is huge, it is incapable of turning a sustainable profit. That is, one to live on.

At least, this was my opinion of businesses that sold products. Maybe this explains why I've gravitated forward the service industry instead of the product industry, since it becomes a matter of selling time and effort rather than a product that is the result of time and effort. For whatever reason, people will spend a lot more money paying for time and effort than they will for a product, which--I imagine--is partly because a product is only as valuable to its buyer as its benefits are. To its producers, however, it's price tag pays for the wage of workers, the cost of the product's parts, the costs of marketing and business, and a little extra to make it all worthwhile for the business owner. Two very different perspectives on the item's cost that will only sell sustainably if both seller and buyer consider the same cost to be reasonable. 

Maybe it's not so different as I make it out to be, though. In many ways, being in the business of selling my services, I am the product people are buying. The stakes are higher this way, since unsatisfied customers will be directly unsatisfied with me; however, it connects the value of my clients' money to a person, and it forces them to understand that business is...well, personal. I am a person. The effort that I make has human constraint, and is limited by the fact that--as a person--I have a personal life in addition to my business. 

Being a small business owner, I am not branded enough that--like Target, or Krispy Kreme, or Clark Pest Control--when you think about me, you imagine a business made up of effective products, professional phone answering services, or locations characterized by standard logo colors and lit up text above the doors. The reality of my business is that it's just me. I work on my computer. I designed and run my website myself. I take my Instagram pictures, choose the filters, and think of my own captions and hashtags. I answer all of my business phone calls, texts, and emails; I pay for the gasoline that it costs my car to meet with my clients, and I write it off as a business expense on my taxes. I do my work at my desk when I'm home, on my phone when I'm out, or on site with clients, and I do it simultaneously with my private everyday life.

Amidst all of this meshing of business and personal life I have felt that I struggled to keep my personal and professional lives in separate boxes. Sure, I lived in the same place that I worked, but if other brands could keep things clear of any evidence that it was run by imperfect people, why couldn't I? 

And that's the punchline, everybody.

Every business is run by imperfect people.

Nothing about it is actually mechanical--the Trader Joe's that my boyfriend used to work at is always stocked with well-organized, priced, and labeled food during open hours, but delivery trucks--driven by people--come after closing and deliver food for the next day that is unloaded and restocked by people--people who are ready for their shifts to end so they can go home to their personal lives. 

This last Black Friday, everybody shopped, trashed aisles, and stood in long lines for checkout that were controlled by employees who probably would rather be sleeping, but have expenses their jobs need to pay for. The traffic that we faced trying to get places this holiday were filled--from bumper to bumper--with mere people. The Trader Joe's employee behind the car of a business owner, behind the car of someone who just lost his job, behind the car of a woman in labor trying to get to the hospital, behind the bus of dozens with individual stories, grievances, and joys. 

My point is that large businesses and small businesses are separated only by sophisticated marketing techniques dependent on keeping the buying and selling process impersonal, because this keeps the focus on the product and the buyer's need for the product. It plays on human self-centeredness to encourage people to spend money on themselves. It's a brilliantly successful strategy that has tricked buyers into believing that the needs that their purchases are meeting are being met by money, and not people earning this money.

Do you see my point? Big businesses are like plastic to buyers. They're just businesses, as if businesses can run themselves. They maintain professional, impersonal, robotic brands that have tricked us all, and they've given us small businesses the false impression that we must maintain the same plastic branding to get the same official stamp of realness. To feel that we have grown from a "small business" to a "large business" from more than just the brackets on our tax paperwork. 

The difference between general blog posts and personal diary excerpts is that the blog posts have to have a point. This doesn't really, although that doesn't prevent it from having meaning to me. Having been trained in marketing, I understand the branding and marketing process to a far enough extent that I shouldn't have been fooled for so long about this--that the authenticity of a business isn't dictated by my ability to be impersonal while working. It is personal.

Yesterday my client texted me asking if I would help her order a product on Amazon ASAP and I told her I would have to do it after I finished Black Friday shopping. I ended up working on and completing the task between stores on my phone. My client said she totally understood, and I was happy to help her the moment I could--but I felt that the situation forced both of us to acknowledge the nature of my job, and how all over the place it can make my life sometimes.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my job, and I chose it specifically because I enjoy connecting personally with people that I work for, and I enjoy working during unusual business hours as the behind-the-scenes orchestrator of weddings. My job is perfect for me, and I gladly let it consume the majority of my time. 

What I have realized and decided, however, is that the nature of my job as a business owner requires not that I make my brand another, plastic corporate operation, but that I keep it manageable as a lifestyle. And given that the bulk of my work as a wedding planner includes clear communication, healthy and compassionate relationships, delegation skills, and teamwork, I would argue that keeping things honest and relational is absolutely necessary. 

Is that really so unprofessional and bad? I think that clients WANT to hire a wedding planner that they can connect with. They're going to share with me--over the course of the months, sometimes years, that we work together--personal concerns and aspects of their lives that they will desire and need me to respond with empathy, relatability and humor to. They need responses like, "I love that idea! That sounds like so much fun!", "I understand that feeling, I've felt that at X time in my life too. It's totally normal, don't worry.", and "It's okay that you're fifteen minutes late! I know how stressful life can get." 

This works for me. I find, to my utter joy, that my clients will extend the same grace to me as well, like when my client yesterday understood that I was Black Friday shopping, and told me to have a great time. The relationships I build with my clients become ones of mutual respect, patience, and honest enjoyment. The client I spoke with yesterday is a wonderful woman getting married next week, and we are both sharing in the excitement of it together. It's not just a job to coordinate her wedding for me, but a personal investment, because I WANT her wedding to be beautiful and perfect. I bought her and her fiance a wedding gift, and I feel sad that in a week we will be done working together trying to find deals on centerpiece flowers and backdrop curtains.

Wedding coordinator to bride, she is my client, and I am professional. But woman to woman...I kind of want to go to coffee with her sometime.

Will I ever? I'm not sure, but it makes me happy knowing I have these kinds of relationships with people that I work with on a regular basis. I know I'm very lucky to have such a pleasant working environment. 

I love my job. I LOVE my job. Here's to staying personal and keeping the hustle real.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

~ MaKenna 

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The Work-Life Balance

PC officevibe.com

PC officevibe.com

As a business owner fairly new to the position of "my own boss", I must say that it can be a challenge to stay on top of everything. And...when I say that, I don't necessarily mean on top of the actual wedding planning, because I love that part, and always get that done with plenty of time to spare. What I mean is that it's hard to balance life when I am not given perimeters that would otherwise separate the work from the down-time for me. You know, keeping the peas on my dinner plate from rolling over into my nicely rounded mashed potatoes. I'm talking about that work-life balance! 

For example: when you have school, a job, and a personal life, and all of those things have their own locations, the given requirement to arrive at each location at a different time generally keeps them all separate and organized. Each thing gets its own part of you and your time; each thing has its own box. This makes it easy to be productive in the work place, attentive at school, and relaxed at home.

So what happens when you quit your job and work from home, take online classes--from home--and spend a huge amount of time doing all of these things that require different parts of you in the place that has always been designed for resting?

Simple: each thing fights for supremacy. It begins to determine what you "mostly" are. Are you mostly a student, or mostly a working stiff, or mostly a stay-at-home-whatever? Do you know what I mean?

I am not a college student--in that I am not working toward a degree--but I do take classes from time-to-time so that I am always learning. I would say that I most struggle to separate working from, well, living. There's always something to be done: updating my business Instagram, updating my advertising methods, broadening my network, filming a YouTube video, pinning on Pinterest, consulting with clients, coming up with fun things to blog about, the list goes on. Right alongside that, I have other things to do, such as schedule my hair appointment, or a dental checkup, or a coffee date, or make a run to the grocery store, take my spunky little dog on a walk, clean the kitchen, make lunch, run a load of laundry...

Being in a place where both types of things are possible (home), the tasks eventually begin to bleed together.  I find myself making lunch and then making a business phone call, and then filming a YouTube video following by a consultation, and then scheduling a quick appointment with a friend while I'm in the area. Walking the dog and then blogging and grocery shopping and then working on an Excel Spreadsheet... 

It's a beautiful mess of multitasking and hustlin' along to make life work (pun intended). Totally possible, but the constant switch wears on you after a while. It makes me really respect business owners who have successfully created the distinction between work and private life. 

The work-life balance isn't just a struggle for business owners though. It's also true for people in the midst of planning a huge wedding or event. It's a crazy jungle out there when your work-life balance is further confused by planning getting pushed into your private life! So exciting, but also...disruptive.

I understand the hustle. I think to some degree, we all struggle--from time to time--to keep life balanced. What are some things that you do to separate work from your personal life? I'd love to hear your ideas and experiences in the comments below. 

Keep hustlin'! You got this!

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3 Ways To Stay Organized During The Planning Process + Freebie!

PC pixabay.com

PC pixabay.com

One of the issues I've faced during the planning process of some of my projects is what I call "Unexpected Eleventh Hour Syndrome". This is what happens when you spend all of the months leading up to the Big Day waiting for the last few weeks to do what you didn't realize you could've done ahead of time. It's not purposeful procrastination--just learning the hard way that you could've done something differently to make your life about a thousand times easier. 

Don't do that. Unexpected Eleventh Hour Syndrome (UEHS) is a terrible curse to be avoided when at all possible. To help you out, I've listed some things that I personally do to avoid last minute crazes, and I'm also giving you access to a free downloadable to help you keep track of the To-Do's leading up to the Big Day.

PC thesuburbanmom.com

PC thesuburbanmom.com

1) Devote an entire calendar to your event. 

This allows you to connect your To-Do's to a visual time-line that puts itself in the context of real time. The freebie mentioned in the headline is an Excel Spreadsheet I made for this exact purpose! It includes an edit-friendly calendar starting from September 2016, lasting through December 2017, with a large area available for notes to be made pertaining to due dates, specific tasks, and vendors. (Check the end of the post for more details.)

PC thehuffingtonpost.com

PC thehuffingtonpost.com

2) Plan backwards.

What needs to be done the day of the event? What about the day before? Treat this like a pyramid--the day-of tasks are the very top, resting on a foundation of the tasks done the day before. Those things rely on things done the week before, and the month before, etc. This will force you to understand what things must be done in a specific order, and why. From there, you can figure out when you can most efficiently complete certain tasks.

PC vertex42.com

PC vertex42.com

3) Stay ahead of schedule.

If you're down to 6 months before your event, you should be working on those things as well as the things you'll need to do during the next month. Keep in mind that this requires you to understand the productivity rates and accuracy of you and the people responsible for completing the tasks on your lists. So if you or another person responsible tend to put things off or work slowly, compensate by working ahead. This will enable you to avoid the much dreaded Unexpected Eleventh Hour Syndrome!

Want this freebie? All you need to do is fill out my Contact page and ask me to send it to you! You'll find a downloadable version in your inbox shortly!

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Things to Know about Wedding Gown Alterations

PC David's Bridal

PC David's Bridal

Story time! I'm excited to announce that I am planning a styled event that's happening in August! The process for this has proven to be very complex, since a styled event--while not a real wedding--still requires a venue, a photographer, a cake provider, a florist, models, and of course a wedding gown. Early on, I found and purchased a used wedding gown that perfectly fit the model I'd contracted with. However, due to some conflicting events, the model fell through, and there I was, stuck with a gown that fit an incredibly unique hour-glass figure that I couldn't seem to match with anyone else.

After some initial frustration, I realized that if I chose to alter the gown myself, I would not only have a much easier time finding a model, but I would also have the opportunity to fashion the rather generic gown into exactly the style I dreamed of. And so after some ferocious sketches and overzealous designing, I made a plan and am currently living in a sewing-lab that once looked like my bedroom. 

This project has caused me to spend a lot of time pondering the wedding gown alteration process. It's lengthy and time-consuming and there are about a million things going on at once that require careful consideration. It is my hope that the suggestions listed below can simplify the process for you, whether you're hiring someone to alter your wedding gown for you, or are (bravely!) altering it yourself.

1. Don't buy your dress too small.

There are many brides who feel that their set-in-stone wedding date is the perfect motivation to diet toward their weight-goal. This is often accompanied by brides buying their dress in the size they plan to fit into by their wedding date. While in a perfect world this might be a good idea, it tempts disaster, since things don't always happen the way we want them to. The last thing a bride needs to worry about a week before her wedding is the fact that she cannot will her body to fit into the beautiful gown she spent a pretty penny on. And when it comes to altering too-small gowns to fit, options are limited; seams can only be taken out so much, after all. Do yourself a favor: buy your dress as close to your size as possible. Go ahead and diet away! If you do end up losing weight, your dress can always be altered to fit a smaller size. 

2. Don't buy a dress more than two sizes too big.

Not too small, not too big...sheesh, can't I give you any slack? Sorry ladies, but as a seamstress, I know firsthand that the larger a garment is, the harder it is to alter to a smaller size. This is not to say it is impossible. But it does mean that it will take longer, and therefore cost more money, since more parts of the gown must be seam-ripped, sized appropriately, and then resewn. Getting your gown  in a size as close to your own as possible will ensure that you're not wasting extra money on alteration costs. 

3. Make a plan.

If you're altering your dress yourself--bravo. You're in for quite the project, but it can be so fun if you plan ahead and prevent those hiccups! Draw out detailed designs of what your altered gown will look like, and make sure you have all the necessary items for the task. If you're changing the design in any way, know that you will need to make a pattern, or buy one that works for you. 

Sewing Tip #1: Make patterns with paper bags, not just tissue paper. I do use tissue paper--typically when I'm cutting out very tedious pieces of fabric that need to be pinned to their pattern with impressive exactness--but tissue paper can also be a pill to draw on. Ideally, charcoal pencils are used because they write so effortlessly, however, I don't have any, so I always cut up a few Trader Joe's paper bags and draw out rough patterns using a ruler and sharpies. My great grandmother taught me this method, and it's never let me down. 

Sewing Tip #2: Practice sewing complex parts of your dress pattern with cotton first. It is very cheap material that is easy to work with, and it will give you an idea of what the shape of your gown will turn out to be. This way, before any permanent alterations are made on your gown, you can be absolutely sure that the pattern you've created will give you the look you're going for. 

Sewing Tip #3: Prevent your machine from snagging your gown's delicate fabric by pinning tissue paper to the exposed seams before sewing them. It's very easy to tear away the paper once it's all sewn together.

Sewing Tip #4: Hand-stitch the delicate parts of your dress. By all means don't hand-sew the whole thing. You'd be celebrating your anniversary by the time you finished it... But lace, appliques, ribbon, beading, buttons, etc., should be hand-sewn to ensure they are not damaged by your machine.

Sewing Tip #5:  This feels obvious to list, but it's very important that you don't make any unnecessary trims on the gown while you're sewing until you're absolutely sure that it is perfect. Fabric that is cut cannot be uncut, and you may do serious damage to your gown by making premature alterations! I know it's exciting, but let's not toss caution to the wind just because we're getting married, alright?

Oh, and don't forget--

Sewing Tip #6: Get excited! You're going to have a great time. 

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Great Gatsby Party Decor Tutorial

Last weekend I had the opportunity to help plan and decorate for a Roaring 20's birthday party at a client's home that I took lots of deliciously Great Gatsby-esque pictures of! I didn't have a chance to take step-by-step pictures of each decor item, but directions for all are listed below and most are straightforward, simply, and affordable. I had a wonderful time crafting each item, and while I generally don't consider myself artistically-inclined, I felt like I had some Roaring 20's stylistic intuition this time around!

Coffee Table

Coffee Table

This coffee table was dressed up with a gold table-runner, some star-shaped confetti, and sitting on a mirror is a candle-holder that I stuck some fluffy ostrich feathers through. Around the top I looped some plastic strings of pearls, and some more pearls and gold plastic "grass" underneath.

Coffee Table Centerpiece

Coffee Table Centerpiece

Here's a close-up!

Fireplace Room

Fireplace Room

Near the coffee table is a fireplace we decked out with some sheer white curtains and some wine bottles wrapped in gold wrapping paper.

Fireplace

Fireplace

I did some line-contrasting with the pearls against the shapes in the fireplace cover.

Fireplace Cover

Fireplace Cover

Just LOOK at it!

Wine Bottle Candle Holder

Wine Bottle Candle Holder

The empty wine-bottles have been spiffed up with some gold and white ribbon, strings of pearls, and topped off with a white taper candle. If you stick the taper into the open bottle with a bit of force, they should stay upright. 

Feather Candlestick Holder

Feather Candlestick Holder

With other candlestick holders, a simple golden bow with an ostrich feather stuck in at an angle is era-appropriate while also ridiculously easy and affordable. If you hunt online, such as on eBay, for these feathers, you can find 100+ for $10 or so.

Feather Centerpiece

Feather Centerpiece

Speaking of feathers, I used about 30 stuck in at angles in a Styrofoam cone to make a beautiful feather centerpiece that is absolutely picture-worthy! My client had a peacock feather on hand that we stuck in at the top to add some extra color.

TV Stand

TV Stand

We stuck these babies on each side of this TV, and some extra pearls, a gold napkin, and a $1 store feather boa was all this so conveniently antique TV stand needed. 

Cup Holder Stand

Cup Holder Stand

Here's some simple confetti and a string of pearls we plopped here to add a sprinkle of Great Gatsby glamour. A little goes a long way with this stuff!

Palm Tree

Palm Tree

Here's another example of where a little goes a long way--3 pearl necklaces managed to make this palm tree a part of the party atmosphere.

Porch Candelabra 

Porch Candelabra 

On the porch entrance of my client's house I looped some pearls around the handles of this candelabra.

Kitchen

Kitchen

The kitchen chandeliers got similar pearl-attention, alongside some white balloons fastened to the ceiling with fishing string to create a floating effect. Some $1 store plastic gold swirls were also tacked from the ceiling for some extra bling.

Chandelier

Chandelier

Both white and silver pearls were used, all at different lengths, to create interest and a casually-luxurious feel.

Pearls and Balloons

Pearls and Balloons

I love working with strings of pearls because they don't require anything to fasten them with as long as you are looping them. If you twist them together, they'll snap together without a hitch.

Photo-booth

Photo-booth

We also created a photo-booth using "Happy Birthday" wrapping paper, black paper under the gold fringe, and two sheer white curtains tacked up and tied with a gold tassel we had on hand.

Stairway

Stairway

Speaking of gold fringe, I really went to town with this stairway that we taped yards and yards of the stuff too along with pearls and white streamers. At the top of the stairway, we covered a handrail with a lace tablecloth and a $1 feather boa.

Entrance Way

Entrance Way

It dressed up the party area and complimented the entrance very nicely. On this entrance-way table are more of those feathered candlestick holders, a feather boa, and some more--you guessed it!--pearls.

Piano Room

Piano Room

A nearby, surprisingly era-appropriate upright piano got similar attention. Notice more wine-bottle tapers on the corners!

Chandelier

Chandelier

Last--my absolute favorite item!--here is the gold fringe chandelier we fashioned with tape, fishing string, a hoola hoop, and a two-tiered hanging plant-holder we suspended from a chandelier chain already attached to the ceiling. Imagine that!

I had a blast working on the decor for this party, and hope my pictures and simple instructions can inspire you guys to dream up and execute your own 1920's decor.  A little party never killed nobody, right?

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