DIY: Wedding Advent Calendar

My big brother is getting married in May and two weekends ago was A’s bridal shower. It was a lovely, sophisticated and classy affair, with delicious passed hors d’oeuvres, plenty of wine and lots of vintage and romantic touches. Though it was cold and rainy outside, the atmosphere inside was warm and intimate. And best of all, the bride-to-be had a wonderful time.

Here are a few photos from that day:

Loved the decor in the venue. Totally vintage-meets-modern.
The bride’s father made these beautiful wine glass trays as favours for the guests.
The bride LOVES wine, so there was plenty of vino flowing.
I brought my 1920s Underwood typewriter and a box full of vintage books. If you need vintage touches, I’m your gal!

When it came to deciding on a shower gift for A, I didn’t have to think very hard. The Big Guy’s sisters gave me a wedding advent calendar for my shower three years ago, and it was such a wonderful, fun and thoughtful gift that I just HAD to do something similar for A.

What’s a wedding advent calendar? Basically, it’s a series of small gifts, one per day, that the bride gets to open in the days leading up to the wedding. It’s meant to extend the celebration and help build anticipation for the big day. I remember eagerly opening each gift, excited to see what treat or trinket that day’s bag held.

While you can choose to “start” your calendar at any point in the wedding countdown, I decided to start A’s on the day of the shower. Since there were 64 days between the bridal shower and the wedding, I decided to give A 64 gifts.

Just to be clear, 64 gifts is A LOT of gifts. As I started brainstorming the kinds of items I wanted to include, I realized just how challenging it was going to be to come up with that many items. And to make matters even more complicated, I wanted each gift in the calendar to correspond with a piece of marriage/wedding advice. For example, a travel-sized deodorant would come with sage advice to not “sweat the small stuff” and an eye mask would help A “get her beauty sleep.”

Eventually I managed to come up with enough ideas, but the shopping list was monstrous and intimidating. Which posed another challenge: how to keep track of all of the things I needed to buy? There was really only one solution in my mind: a spreadsheet. I love spreadsheets. I’m a list-maker and schedule-setter and as I got further into this process I thanked my lucky stars that I’d gotten organized early on. I made a list of all of the items I wanted to purchase, along with the helpful advice that corresponded to each gift. As I purchased each item I checked it off my list. I then laid out all of the days between the shower and the wedding and started scheduling the gifts. Some of the gifts had to go in a particular order, and others had to occur on a certain day, so using a spreadsheet allowed me to keep all of the gifts straight while fiddling around with the order until I was happy with it.

Rather than trying to wrap all 64 gifts, many of which were unusual sizes, I decided to package all of them into individual paper bags. I grabbed a couple packages of paper lunch sacks from the dollar store, and raided my fabric stash for colourful scraps. Using the mail merge function in Microsoft Word, I printed off labels, which I stuck to the paper bags. After dropping each gift into its bag, I folded the top down, placed a small rectangle of fabric over the top and stapled it closed. The flat bottom of the lunch sacks meant that each gift could stand up on its own and the pieces of colour fabric added a lovely pop of colour.

A few of the gifts were too large to fit in the paper bags. Thankfully, in those cases, the gifts were square or rectangular, so I just wrapped them in a coordinating paper.

Once all of the gifts were wrapped, I was faced with the next challenge: what was I going to put 64 gifts into? I knew I wanted some kind of box, basket or container that could be used for another purpose once the advent calendar was done. The hard part was finding one that was large enough but not TOO large.

Luck was smiling on me two weeks before the shower when I stumbled upon a very reasonably priced vintage steamer suitcase listed on Kijiji. At 32” x 19” x 9” I was hopeful all of the gifts would fit, though I knew it was going to be tight. I decided to chance it and drove out to the middle of nowhere to pick it up. Once I got it home, though, my sizing concerns vanished, replaced instead with a feeling of overwhelming dismay. The trunk was in pretty poor condition. It was over a hundred years old and covered in rust. The wooden boards inside, though intact, were separating from the tin lid and the whole thing smelled, well, a hundred years old. I had visions of plunking this grotty old trunk onto the beautiful, white-clad lap of the beaming bride-to-be and watching as her face registers thinly-veiled disgust.

Realizing I had to work with what I had, I set about cleaning up the hideous thing. I vacuumed the inside and fixed the sagging interior boards with Gorilla Glue. I left the trunk open for several days and spritzed it with the Lysol and Febreze. Eventually the smell subsided and I turned my attention to the exterior. With the assistance of a strong CLR and water solution and steel wool, I managed to lift off a significant amount of the surface rust. When I was finished, the old trunk looked more like a patinaed piece of history than something you’d likely get tetanus from.

After arranging my gifts in order inside the trunk (with a little bit of squishing they all fit!) I added some flags to the inside of the lid. I decorated the handle with ribbon, stuck a large bow to the corner and spelled out the bride’s name using scrapbooking letters on cardstock. The great part about working with vintage trunks is that the exterior is metal, so you can attach decorative elements to the outside with magnets and not have to worry about damaging the finish.

Of course the cats had to get involved.

I had given myself six weeks to collect all of the gifts and materials, and to wrap and package everything. Even still, the night before the shower I was putting frantic finishing touches on the trunk.

Putting this gift together was a lot of work. I could have saved myself a lot of time and stress if I’d just opted for a gift card or something off their registry, but I wanted to do something different. I remember how overwhelming and stressful planning a wedding can be and I wanted to let A know, through 64 little gifts, that I am thinking of her the whole way.

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  3 comments for “DIY: Wedding Advent Calendar

  1. Jeannine
    March 27, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    Mandie…what an awesome gift…I am sure she loved it and will have loads of fun opening each surprise!

    • Three Baggs Full
      March 28, 2017 at 9:29 am

      Thanks Jeannine! I had a blast putting it together :)

  2. Danae
    July 7, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    I love this idea and want to do something for my soon to be sister in law. Would you be willing to share your spreadsheet. Thanks for the great idea!

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