Christmas Carol Themed Decor | 3 Tips for A Budget, Low Waste Holiday Hearth

🎼”It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas ….“🎶

The ingredients for this Christmas carol themed hearth may surprise you. Regardless of your decor style, I hope the tips that follow prove evergreen.

1. Ask a local Christmas tree farm or stand for the extra branches they trim from the bottom of the trees. We went to a local place to choose our tree and when I asked if they would sell the extra branches to us, they said I could have them. In fact, they had a trailer of them that may have just gone to waste otherwise. We used these rather than a garland to decorate the hearth and faux fireplace area.

2. Use what you have. Rather than buying new ornament sets every year, challenge yourself to be creative. Choose a theme instead of a new color scheme. I had some old piano books from my time in music school and I used pages from them to carry the Christmas carol theme throughout the room. The lantern was from our wedding and the tray was given to us.

3. Shop ethical and local. Mr. Ellie Pooh paper sells giant, rolled sheets of fair trade paper made of a special ingredient you can read about on their website. They make great canvases for quotes and art! I visited a sweet local fabric shoppe where the owner asked about family for an heirloom ribbon to decorate with. The candlesticks are from a Habitat for Humanity ReStore we visited on vacation.

+ 1. Most importantly, remember Who the season is about and savor the celebration of what He did for us. No decor needed.

The Banister’s Backyard Wedding is One for the Books – Wait Till you See What They Used for Bouquets

This backyard wedding is the stuff of bridal daydreams! From the vintage Mustang to the sentimental venue to that gorgeous off shoulder gown – it was effortlessly beautiful.

Held at the bride’s home, (a la Father of the Bride) and infused with so many unique and storytelling details, this wedding is one for the archives.


They wed surrounded by loved ones on the family estate in an outdoor, evening ceremony. The bridesmaids even carried lanterns as bouquets – what a warm, whimsical, and wonderful idea!


They dined al fresco, seated on mismatched chairs at farm style tables for a sweet reception. Twinkle lights glittered above and draped from a tree and lanterns made it into the table decor as well. The mix of textures and vintage look china was comfortable and classy.


#1 The cut flowers industry is rampant with exploitation of workers. Using replacements for flowers like the lanterns and in season florals from your own backyard, buying local, or ensuring that your flowers are Fair Trade Certified not only can help protect workers. It can also add more story to your bouquets.

#2 Consider using real china (whether rentals, hand me downs from grandmama, or china you plan to use in your own home) to reduce waste and lessen your carbon footprint.

#3 Consider asking for gifts for others instead of yourself on your registry. With So Kind Registry, you can add a charitable donation to your wedding registry.

Photographer Trinity

Winter Wedding: Navy & Lace

So much pretty in this real winter wedding from our More than Lovely vendor, Easterday Creative!

A few words from Megan about this sweet wedding:

“We started out getting ready in their sweet home, which I love to do because it is so intimate and personal. You get a look at what they are going to make their little love nest, and it makes everyone involved so much more at ease.

For their first look, we initially wanted to take at Lock 3 in Akron, but it turned out that there was a ton of unexpected construction happening, so we went to our backup location in front of the Akron Art Museum. Guys, I had to hold back tears. (Per usual.) The amount of joy emoted from these two was palpable and I had to remind myself to keep taking photos and not get too caught up in the moment. Hah! After that we explored Akron together and captured some of my most favorite wedding photos ever.

Their ceremony was equally as beautiful and perfect. Held at their home church, Citizens Akron, their simple yet meaningful ceremony was held in front of their closest friends and family. (Have I mentioned I LOVE intimate weddings and elopements?! Oh, and yes, I am up there. I was their matron of honor!)

Fast forward to their reception. If you’ve never been to Chop and Swizzle, you’re missing out. Emily and Ryan ended the evening with their first dance, hilarious toasts (not mine, his brother’s) and cheesecake and bread pudding in place of a cake.

Anyway, enough chattering on my part, let the photos speak for themselves!”

Photographer Easterday Creative @easterdaycreative

Groomsman Attire George’s Men’s and Ladies’ Wear

Hair Stylist Hannah Smart

Dress Store @asos

Floral Designer Every Blooming Thing @everybloomingthing_slc

Dress Store Elyse’s Boutique @elysesboutique

Ceremony Location Citizens Akron

Reception Venue Chop and Swizzle

The Earth Friendly Floral Process | Guest Post: Amanda Jewel Floral

Earth Friendly Floral Process | Written by: Amanda Lankford of Amanda Jewel Floral + Design | Photography by: Katey P Photography
Some time ago Amanda Jewel Floral + Design had the pleasure of inviting a fellow Black Sheep Bride vendor into our studio to help us tell the visual story of floral design. Katey Penton, owner of Katey Penton Photography, brought her camera and shot our methods for two days.  
At Amanda Jewel Floral + Design, we strive to be as green as possible when it comes to creating beautiful designs for each event. We would like to offer you a little insider view of how we work in our studio.
Step One | Pick up the flowers
Believe it or not, flowers don’t arrive in beautiful packages. They come in plain cardboard boxes with a lot of packing material.  Luckily, we don’t mind because we reuse most of it to pack for events. Whatever is left over we recycle.  
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Step Two | Processing the flowers
This is one of the longer steps when it comes to floral design, and if done correctly is a key ingredient to lasting freshness. Each flower comes in a bundle and must be shed of its cellophane, rubber bands, and then trimmed and pruned.  This part of the process leads to a lot of plant waste, which we use as an opportunity to add to our compost bin. We always have a lawn bag nearby for clippings and excess leaves that come off of each stem.  This never goes in the trash.
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Step Three | Design Day
Once our flower processing is complete, we begin designing – this is the fun part! And if you thought processing the flowers led to a lot of waste, this makes even more!
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Step Four | Compost
Once our bag is full of clippings, we dump it in our homemade compost bin.  This compost is then used in our cut flower bed right outside the studio.  We like to keep our garden full of a variety of things which we can incorporate into our designs.
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Step Five | Event Day
Surprisingly, we can reuse things on an event day instead of simply throwing them in the trash. We always try to recycle/reuse any ribbon, boxes, packaging materials, and any other hard goods that some might throw away.  We turn the flower boxes into a vessel to carry bouquets and arrangements. We use these as many times as we can before they get recycled.  
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Step Six | After an Event
This is always the hardest part. We put so much love and care into the entire flower process that it sometimes seems like events end so quickly that the flowers have not fulfilled their entire purpose.  At this point, we refuse to throw any stem away. In our consultations with brides, we offer a couple of options of what we can do with the flowers after their event. They can either take them home to enjoy, or allow us to donate them to local nursing homes, friends in the community, etc. This brings joy not only to us, but also to those who receive a fresh flower arrangement from us here at Amanda Jewel.
We hope this little insider view of the way we work inspires you to be earth friendly in everything you do. There are many aspects of weddings that are wasteful, and these are a few of the ways we strive to meet the needs of our clients without compromising the ability of future generations to enjoy the beauty of flowers. 
To find out more information about Amanda Jewel Floral + Design visit their website here.

Plastic-Free Wedding: Amber + Tyler- Daytona, FL

Our uber talented and kind-hearted BSB vendor, Jennifer Juniper Photography, recently photographed a plastic-free wedding on the East coast of Florida and we are so excited to share highlights of their day with you all. The couple was passionate about going plastic-free because they have a sincere adoration for sea turtle and ocean conservation. Read what Amber had to share about her Plastic-Free Wedding below.
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‘The decision to have a plastic-free wedding was an easy one for us. My husband is a HUGE Jack Johnson fan, and we recently attended a few of his shows. Jack made his events more than just about the music and celebration, he made it about how gathering a group of people together is the perfect audience for talking about issues in our world. Part of our inspiration came from that belief, and the other half came from my EXTREME love of turtles. I used to work for a non-profit humane society in the area, so animals are a BIG part of our lives. During my time at the humane society, I took a group of camp students to a local marine science center. During my FIRST visit to the Marine Science Center, I watched a volunteer teach a group of 5-year-olds about the impact a plastic bag has on a Sea Turtle. She talked about how a Sea Turtle can’t see the difference between a plastic bag and a jellyfish and how the bags can make the turtles very sick. That was my moment. I went home that day and vowed NEVER to use plastic bags again. Since then, I’ve been able to convince my friends and family about stopping the use of single-use plastic bags and either bringing their own, using paper or just skipping the bag altogether. From both of our ideas, we began to think of ways that we can make an impact on the audience we had in front of us on our special day. What if… we could make a small difference? So we did! We began to drum up ideas that could make this event a success. My favorite was the art we created from our beach cleanups (shown below). Jack Johnson had done something similar for his tour, so we grabbed some inspiration from this. We did regular beach cleanups leading up until the big day, and I took only a small portion of what we collected and used it for inspiration to make an art piece to display to our guests on our big day.
We also gifted our guests’ cookies in addition to our favor donation to a local marine science center. The cookies, of course, would have been wrapped in plastic. So we had to find an alternative, which wasn’t hard to find with a little research.’
‘You may ask if having a plastic-free wedding meant we “saved” money. We didn’t really “save” money because when it came to this initiative we weren’t going to take no for an answer. We replaced A LOT. Trash bags, straws, coffee stirrers, etc. In the aspect of “saving money,” we did a lot on our own. Tyler is incredibly handy and loves to spend time in the garage wood-working. So together, we created some really cool pieces for the big day. All of the signs and decor we had were made from upcycled wood from a local shop. A local succulent artist dedicated to the conservation of the beach helped me create beautiful succulent pieces. To purchase things of this nature would have probably been more expensive, and they wouldn’t have any underlying meaning to them. We did save money when we said no to things like balloons, fake flowers, etc. It’s crazy, but during our beach cleanups, we found SO many fake rose petals cluttering the beach. Do I think this event cost more from going plastic-free? Yes. Do I think it was worth it? Yes, I didn’t spend an unheard of amount of money, a few dollars here and there to know we’re making a bigger impact.’
Tyler and I REALLY loved making this day the way it was. We were also sponsored by the Sea Turtle Conservancy … in our efforts for the sea turtles and going plastic free …. In addition to favors, we adopted a Sea Turtle from the Marine Science Center. ‘
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Weddings That Waste Less: Angela + Kyle, St. Petersburg, FL

Our amazing BSB vendor, Kera Photography, captured an earth day wedding day of one SUPER GREEN couple. Angela and Kyle came together at an amazing non-profit venue, St. Petersburg Woman’s Club, to celebrate their love for each other, their community, and their environment. They intentionally choose not to purchase any new decorations for their wedding and up-cycled and thrifted the entire wedding day vision. They also used biodegradable plates and utensils and collaborated with the caterer to incorporate as many seasonal and locally sourced foods as possible. BONUS POINTS: their cake was completely vegan, and they worked with a local brewery to make the wedding day brews on tap vs. serving non-local canned/bottled brands! Not only is wasting less and going green a large part of their lifestyles, they also serve the community in huge ways. Kyle is on the board of a non-profit called Creative Clay, they provide resources and supplies to make art available for adults with disabilities. Angela also volunteers for several organizations supporting the St. Petersburg, FL area. Take a peek at this sweet day, you can almost smell the potting soil from here.


Honeymoons that Give Back: Jicaro Island Ecolodge, Lake Nicaragua

Today’s Honeymoons that Give Back Feature comes from Lake Nicaragua, on a private island full of romantic, sustainable, amenities and abounding in relaxing retreat-minded comforts.  The following information and photos are accredited to Jicaro Island’s EcoLodge’s website.
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Jicaro Island Ecolodge is a sustainably run luxury hotel located on a private island, Granada Isletas, Lake Nicaragua, just a short boat ride from a local colonial town. At Jicaro ecolodge hotel you stay in your own luxury two storey house, a ‘casita’, raised up above the ground like a treehouse. The nine casitas on the island all have lake views and are only a short walk from the pool, restaurant, and wellness center. You can relax in the private space of your casita with its views of Lake Nicaragua or join other guests in the communal areas. Jicaro Island Ecolodge was built on the premise of sustainability. Just a few examples of how the hotel is sustainable:
  • Water is filtered for drinking, so no plastic bottles going to landfill.
  • Water is heated with solar panels for guest and kitchen use.
  • No air conditioning is installed on the island. Cross ventilation and ceiling fans create enough of a cooling effect to ensure guest comfort.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. While there is a strong recycling program installed, the focus due to the island location is on reducing. Bring as little trash to the island as possible.
  • Wastewater is treated on the island with a treatment plant complying not only with Nicaraguan but internationally accepted standards.
  • Hiring of a local staff is essential to the success of the lodge. We want to spread the potential wealth that tourism brings to Nicaragua by hiring locals as employees, subcontracting services locally and buying and producing locally.
  • Use of organic and biodegradable soaps, cleaning detergents and spa products.
  • Chlorine free systems to clean water in the pool.
  • Energy efficient lighting and illumination throughout the island.
  • Underground electricity system that does not interfere with the surrounding wildlife.
  • Low energy bulbs
  • Education of local communities in sustainable practices
  • Pigs and chickens
  • Dinner ordering
Jicaro Island Ecolodge is a member of the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels.
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In collaboration with US-based 501c3 Earth Equilibrium, Jicaro has developed a community-based outreach program focused on the support and implementation of educational projects that encourage sustainable community development. Padre Nello School is located just a short boat ride away from Jicaro on the mainland shores of Lake Nicaragua. Approximately 88 children attend Padre Nello School every day, Monday through Friday, from 7:00am until noon. The school has just 4 classrooms: one which is used for kindergarten and the other three for elementary education. Each classroom is used to instruct two different grade levels simultaneously by one teacher.
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One of the primary challenges to providing clean water at Padre Nello is the fact that the school does not have access to any form of commercial energy service. Therefore, the goal of the water filtration project is to introduce a clean technology which utilizes energy generated by solar panels. In addition to providing energy for the new water filtration system, the solar panels will also power a small network of lights and outlets the classrooms as well as the community health center! Not only will this project facilitate classroom instruction, but also the ability for medical professionals to operate vital equipment needed during medical exams. This project has been exclusively funded through the generous donations of the Jicaro guests! The water filtration project was created out of necessity for safe drinking water for the children who attend Padre Nello School. There is currently no access to clean drinking water at the school, so children and teachers are forced to use lake water for all of their daily activities. Once installation is completed, the water filtration system will benefit not only the children and teachers at the school, but also the approximately 600 people living in the surrounding community! People in the community currently rely almost exclusively on expensive bottled water for their daily consumption, so this project will have significant broad-ranging impacts for Las Isletas. This project has been exclusively funded through the generous donations of  Jicaro guests! If you want to support with this community project you can do it by delivering your donation during your check out in Front Desk or alternatively online via the Earth Equilibrium website.
Built entirely from timber reclaimed from trees blown down by hurricane Felix, the buildings and furniture are made of tropical hardwoods which provide a solid and beautiful environment in harmony with the natural setting. Harmony with nature and the local community were a key consideration in the development of Jicaro Island Ecolodge. The hotel was built with minimum impact to the island and with very careful planning in terms of water supply, waste water treatment and electricity usage. The team in charge of the management of Jicaro has a 12 year track record running ecolodges and sustainable hotels in Costa Rica and has brought this accumulated know how to Nicaragua. Jicaro Island Ecolodge donates a percentage of its profits to support new ideas to implement healthy lifestyle alternatives for members of the surrounding community. The primary goal of these projects is to provide sustainable solutions capable of improving the quality of life of our neighbours.
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In September of 2013, in cooperation with a local Granada family, Jicaro constructed a chicken coop to provide a new economic alternative for local families who now earn extra income through the sale of organic eggs. The chicken coop is managed by a local Granada family who supplies eggs to Jicaro for use in some of our meals!
In November 2013, Jicaro began constructing a small edible garden to grow herbs and vegetables. The herbs and produce generated by the garden are shared 50/50 by Jicaro and the families who care for the plants.
In October of 2012, Jicaro purchased a pair of pigs to begin a breeding program. The pigs serve several functions, from providing food for local families to disposing of Jicaro’s organic waste to even serving as a source of energy for cooking!
As part of their sustainable philosophy, the support of clean energy technologies is a key facet of their work. In October of 2012, Jicaro introduced a biodigester to the pig farm which turns pig waste into a form of clean energy. Prior to the biodigester project, the families in this area were cutting down trees and using them as biomass for cooking. In order to minimize both the negative environmental and health aspects of biomass cooking, Jicaro introduced the biodigester! The biodigester is located on the same property as the pig farm and the two projects combined have been able to provide both sustainable food and as well as sustainable energy! The pig farm, bio-digester, and chicken coop are all located just 5 minutes from Jicaro by boat or kayak. If you are interested in taking a complimentary tour to see these projects in action!
For more information about booking your Honeymoon that Gives Back at Jicaro Island Ecolodge visit their site today.

Ethically Styled Wedding Inspiration: San Fransisco, CA

Today we are sharing a fun, ethically stylized, inspiration shoot sent to us by the incredibly talented photographer, Praise, from ComePlum in San Fransisco, CA. Here is what the team had to share:
‘So grateful to do this ethically styled home shoot with Suzanne and Kevyn (Jill of all trades!) of Atelier Des Modistes and Natasha of The Consistency Project. We incorporated vintage and thrift items from The Consistency Project for the styling of this shoot. Their goal is to reduce waste and their mission statement is “For those who do more with less and waste nothing.” Natasha of The Consistency Project who styled this shoot volunteers at a community thrift store several times a month. Praise, from ComePlum, does international photojournalism work annually, highlighting brands and individuals who give back or focus on socially conscious areas. She has photographed artisans in Kenya, an adoption in India, and orphanages in Romania, thus far.’

‘The couple, Jeff and Cándida, has been married for 3 years now, and in preparation for the upcoming move, they wanted to share their sweetly styled love nest with the world.  Jeff and Cándida continuously embody what it means to give back. They volunteer with their church in San Francisco, Vive.SF, and work with local budding photographers, teaching them the basics of photography around SF with CanvasTribe.’
‘The shoot was all about mixing these tailored pieces with items previously loved by others. Its couture meets comfortable. A perfect vibe for this hard-working, yet ever yolo-ing couple. Watch out for Cándida’s forthcoming home/interiors line (perhaps hints of Guatemalan textiles in the pipeline).’
Photography: ComePlum | Models: Jeff and Cándida Wohlgemuth | Dress, shoes, earrings, hairpiece: Atelier Des Modistes | Pocket square, jacket, sweatshirt, bandana, vintage tees: The Consistency Project

Weddings that Give Back: Kim + Jose, Rialto Theatre, Tampa, FL

It astonishes me how generous the wedding world truly is these days. When Hope, from Rialto Theatre , originally shared this couple’s story in the Black Sheep Bride vendor Facebook group, and asked if anyone would be interested in gifting this couple, it had instant interest, volunteers and vendors coming together to make the day possible. You see, Jose and Kim met in the Army, and have since spent the last five years together in service to this country. Even one of our BSB photographers, Brandi of Alexis June Weddings, flew in from out of state to donate her time and talent, to this couple, because she was also in the service and knew the value of these individuals sacrifice. Jennifer Buono, was the planning and design mastermind behind all of the magical details and logistics for the day. Here is what she had to share: When I think about the country we live in and the people who selflessly give their lives for the service of our country it moves me in a way that is so hard to put down in words. Their dedication and commitment to the protection of our people, their fight for our independence, their families fight; none of it goes unappreciated in my eyes. And I wanted to give back in a way that would be meaningful to them, so I donated my time, services and expertise to help plan one of the most special days of their lives. I was honored to be able to serve this couple and to create an entire day for them that they would remember forever. Every detail had it’s place and a special meaning to them. The Retired Jose Cabrera and active duty Kimberlee Ashton joined together and were married by Jose’s Uncle on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, June 5th 2016. It was so important to them that their family was a part of their union and celebration.Kim’s stationery was all handmade and designed around the navy details infused into her wedding, byBlush Design Studio.Kim and Jose had never before had professional portraits of themselves. So they were deeply moved when Brandi,Alexis June Weddings, an Air Force Veteran and incredibly talented New York based photographer offered to fly down to capture their special day. In fact, one of Brandi’s favorite moments was the first look. “They were so nervous. It was such a magical moment as the two of them took that time to be with only each other.”Inna ofInna Olimpiyuk Eventsdid such a beautiful job on bringing in a romantic and lush feel to the room. The soft ivories in Kim’s bouquet really stood out against the vibrant pops of burgundy red garden roses and navy in the bridesmaids dresses. Kim and Jose chose to have their wedding at the historicRialto Theatre in downtown Tampa. The old brick walls, blue tile and painted details create the perfect combination of old and new. This venue is a gem for our city providing a grand space with 27 foot ceilings and a beautifully remodeled, historic backdropOne of our favorite planning moments was being able to tell Kim + Jose that their border collies, Thor and Loki, would be able to attend their wedding as the flower girl and ring bearer, thanks toFairyTail Planning. Kim was so happy she began to tear up and at that moment we were so humbled to have been able to make such a special detail come to life for them. The floral details were carried out throughout the reception, where vibrant navy crushed satin linens provided byKate Ryan Linensadorned the tables, complete with burgundy red dupioni napkins and the most elegant ivory china place settings fromEver After Vintage Weddings.Blush Design Studio did a beautiful job of incorporating a calligraphy escort card display, menu cards and stationery suite.The Icing on the Cake to their whole day, was that the couple PAID IT FORWARD and donated their wedding registry to Fisher House Foundation. The Bride shared why Fisher House Foundation was important to them as a couple:‘We choseFisher Housebecause it helps accommodate military members, and their families, while they visit their loved ones being treated in the hospital. These houses offer rooms at no cost to the families. We both have a personal connection to this foundation because in early 2014, less than a year after we got back from deployment, I got a call from Jose’s Mom that he was in the ICU due to having acute pancreatitis. He was in excruciating pain and was losing too much fluid. They pushed fluid and he literally ballooned up from water weight to keep his organs from shutting down.After almost a week they were finally able to move him from ICU to a normal room. He was in Georgia still at this point at Fort Gordon. His mom could only be with him for a couple of days, but I packed a bag and drove up to be with him for the remainder of the time he was hospitalized. I had no idea how I was going to be able to afford a hotel room for 2 weeks. Luckily, Jose’s Mom found out from one of his surgeons that they secured a room in theFisher House for me to stay while taking care of him. I came very close to losing him that week. Had it not been forFisher House, I would have been stuck and he wouldn’t have had support after his Mom had to go back home.Fisher Househomes are normally built within walking distances of the hospitals on base. They have full kitchens – full of food, laundry rooms with supplies and the rooms are fully furnished. These houses can have a few rooms. I think the one I stayed in had maybe 8. So it can be very difficult for families to get a room here, but when they do, it is one of the best gifts family of military can get, because it is completely free accommodations for the guest/s.’

Thank you to the amazing vendors that made this day possible for this deserving couple!  Planning + Design: Bourbon and Blush Events // Photography: Alexis June Weddings // Linens: Kate Ryan Linens// Catering: Tastes of Tampa Bay // Venue: Rialto Theatre  // Floral: Inna Olimpiyuk Events // Table and Chair Rentals: A Chair Affair // Lounge Furniture: Danilyn Vintage Rentals // Dishes and Decor: Ever After Vintage Weddings // Stationery & Ceremony Backdrop: Blush Design Studio // Pet Sitting: FairyTail Planning // Wedding Cake: Trudy Melissa Cakes // Transportation: His and Hers Limousines // Entertainment: DJ Jenks // Mini Desserts: Sweetly Dipped Confections