Tuesday, September 13, 2011

DIY School Daze

Even though the days are still sunny and bright, there is something about September that brings visions of autumn leaves scurrying down the street as we walk with the wind at our backs. What could it be that evokes this sense of change? Is it the slight chill in the air? Is it the pumpkin lattes at Dunkin Donuts? No, it's the start of school.

For many of us, parents or not, September means the start of local school events - whether it's baking treats for the local bake sale or going to watch your niece in her soccer games - September is always back to school month.

I'm involved with a local school in Boston that serves primarily low and moderate income students. Finding funding for activities is always a challenge and every penny saved is a penny earned. At our annual fundraiser this year we had it all figured out - we were ready to make thousands of dollars for arts programming with an elegant cocktail party & raffle. We had secured donations from the Boston Red Sox and Celtics, dozens of local businesses including wine and had a fantastic caterer lined up. The only thing missing was decor. How on earth were we going to transform our school cafeteria into an elegant space? I needed a classy way to wear my DIY skills with school pride. 

Enter A.C. Moore.

After being turned down by every florist we contacted for a donation my friend and fellow event planner went on an absolute spree with me in the floral department the night before our event (less than ideal, but I work well under pressure). She was not convinced that I could make the faux florals and inexpensive vases look luxe enough to tempt our moneyed guests into opening their wallets. But with a little waving of my imaginary pompoms I coaxed her through the process and convinced her I would make elegant floral arrangements in the school's blue and yellow colors overnight.

I won't lie - our caterer made our lives immeasurably easier by donating cocktail tables and beautiful linens. That alone made the room appear more like a party and less like an after-school special. We had five cocktail tables so I needed five small centerpieces. We had two registration tables and a bar so I wanted six large arrangements to flank the sides of the tables. My vision was natural florals - blue is tricky to pull off naturally so I knew it had to be hydrangea and delphinium. Luckily my local A.C. Moore is always well provisioned with a wide selection of styles.

We started with five small square vases and six tall cylinder vases. I wrapped a large leaf around the inside of each to hide the stems and the foam. I used the blue hydrangea - short and bushy - in the small square vases. Yellow wildflowers were added and a white poppy set off the colors.

faux hydrangea and wildflower cocktail centerpiece
For the large cylinders I used delphinium combined with curly branches, eucalyptus, bright yellow peonies and tall grasses. I staggered the heights to create an effect that continually drew the eye higher as each color popped off its background.

floral arrangement on the bar

registration table

Unfortunately the photos don't quite do the centerpieces justice, but trust me, folks there kept asking when the centerpieces were going to be raffled off!

For just under $172 I was able to create 11 reusable arrangements for the school. There is no way we could have purchased fresh centerpieces and vases for less than $16 each. In fact, we had up to $250 budgeted for decor but were hoping to get most of it donated. Considering we walked away with with over $7,300 net profit for the school's art programs I'd say it was money well spent. I look forward to seeing these arrangements again and again at school functions.

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