It’s the little things that count

As the size of my to-do list seems to grow exponentially longer every day, so too does my talent for wasting time on the “little details” I never knew I would care about.

Take, for instance, the table number holders. You see this type of thing at restaurants where you order from a counter and food gets delivered to your table. They are usually constructed from wire and have a double loop to hold the number in place but are otherwise unremarkable. This is fine, even at a wedding, because they exist only for function. Furthermore, at weddings there are presumably flowers on each reception table and therefore little need for additional ornamentation. I got it into my head that I could find these table number holders online for about a dollar each. If they didn’t look pretty or “personalized” enough, I could tie ribbons around them. (When in doubt, just add ribbon!) Unfortunately, store-bought table number holders are a lot more expensive than they should be. We’re expecting to have about 200 guests — so that means about twenty tables — but I would strongly prefer not to spend close to a hundred dollars on yet another silly little detail that hadn’t even occurred to me until this morning.

So, I’ve spent the last few hours daydreaming up some potential handmade table number holders (my regular job has really taken a backseat to such noble pastimes). And of course all my ideas are insane. And of course I really want to put them to use, but won’t. Blast you, social convention! And of course, all you devil-may-care brides- and grooms-to-be are welcome to use these ideas…if you really want.

1. Potato table number holder. Everyone who knows me well knows of my fondness for the humble spud, so this idea would have added a “personal touch” at my wedding. Would have. Sigh. Anyway, according to my vision, each table gets a nice big baking potato with two grill skewers sticking out the top of it. The skewers are close together enough that you can just slide a piece of cardboard with the table number between them and it should stay in place. Alternatively, you could use just one skewer and stab the number through it. I really was serious about this potato idea for a good ten minutes or so.

2. Lego table number holder. They would have to be the big fat kind of Legos that toddlers play with, to both save time on construction and minimize opportunities for choking. Put your ringbearer/flower girl to work: just have them make a Lego tower about a foot high for each table and tape on the table number at the top. Then they and any other little kids at your wedding can play with Legos while they are suffering through the speeches and dances. It will keep them preoccupied for at least three minutes.

3. Gingerbread House table number holder. This one is quite a bit more time-consuming than the last two. Make a gingerbread house. Okay, now make 19 more gingerbread houses. Each one needs to have a chimney. Affix the table number to the chimney with frosting. I don’t mean to brag, but this idea would be really cute for a wintertime wedding. Too bad mine is in July and I hate baking. For a summery, gluten-free alternative, maybe I could try building 20 popsicle stick houses instead.

4. Pipe Cleaner table number holder. Now we’re talking – this idea is both cheap and easy, my favorite adjectival combination. Take four or five pipe cleaners, twist the top halves together and make a fluted base with the bottom halves. “Fluted base,” doesn’t that sound classy? Now, if you would like your table number holder to be taller, just keep adding more pipe cleaners and twisting them around until you have reached the height of your floral arrangements. Then stick the numbers in somewhere. Easy, huh? And pipe cleaners come in every color, so you’ll have no problem finding some that match the groomsmen’s cummerbunds or whatever. I only wish it were so easy to make Gimp stand up straight.

5. Wedding Present table number holder. There are two ways you can approach this one. You can assume some guests will bring gifts to your wedding, so just appoint a helper to set them up on your reception tables and sit a foldable number card on top of each gift box. No sweat! But I like this second approach better, because it shows your friends and family that you really are putting your gifts to good use. Open up the gifts you receive in the mail before the wedding and place them on tables as centerpieces, displaying the table numbers on top. I’ll bet you never thought that coffeemaker or that butcher block had more than one function! Suitcases, vacuum cleaners – anything tall and noticeable is fair game. Your aunt will be delighted to see the 36-quart stockpot she bought you, taking up the entirety of Table 15. Just make sure she gets to sit there too!

6. Birthday Candle table number holder. I don’t mean the little birthday candles that come in a 24-pack; I mean the big number candles that the older crowd gets to blow out sometimes. You will need to find tall candlesticks to hold them in place (I recommend searching thrift stores; for some reason department store candlesticks cost the average American a full week’s pay), unless you have a better idea. Then put the corresponding birthday candle number(s) on top and light them. For this method, timing is everything – you don’t want them to melt while everyone’s still at the cocktail hour! Other than that, this idea almost makes me want to pat myself on the back. I hope BHLDN doesn’t steal it.

7. Litterbox table number holder. You knew I was going to go there, so I did. But don’t be silly – I’m not saying you should bring 20 giant litter pans to the reception and put them on the tables where people are going to eat. That would be absurd. Just use cute little metal buckets and fill them up with cat litter (or sand, if you are a dog person), then pick up some sticks in your yard, use twine to tie the number cards to the sticks, and place the sticks in the cat litter. It’s a rustic touch that can do double-duty as an ashtray.

8. Handcrafted Wire table number holder. Of course, one can also channel his or her inner Alexander Calder. Just buy some wire at the hardware store and sculpt it into shapes that are capable of both standing up and displaying a cardboard number. You could get really inspired and attempt to mold the wire into figures that resemble the newlyweds themselves or their different interests and activities. I can see it now, at our tables: an old Buick, a cat, a badminton raquet, a frying pan, a pinball machine, and of course a potato. In the meantime we’ll have to start pursuing 15 new interests and also master the art of wire sculpture. No problem.

Readers, I’d love to hear your ideas! Postmaritals, what did you use for your table number holders, if you had them? Where did you buy them/how did you construct them? And, uh, can I borrow them from you? I know sometimes it’s hard to tell, but I’m being serious this time.

Above image stolen from It’s a very strange site and I’m quite confused by it. 


10 Comments on “It’s the little things that count”

  1. M. says:

    Candles? Legos? Not as crazy as you think.

    Slinkies set up like this:

    With a card in the middle?

    And then… SLINKIES. YOU GET TO KEEP THEM ALLLLLLLL….! You and Special Someone can hold races down the stairs of your new house! While you wear your barefoot sandals, of course.

  2. Shae says:

    We are lucky in that we aren’t having assigned seating and therefore teeechnically don’t need table numbers. However, we’re having a cocktail reception and are therefore putting the menu on each table to allay guests’ fears of going home hungry. We’re using these frames from Ikea — they’re super cheap, functional, and look pretty cute when all is said and done:

  3. Kate says:

    You sure they don’t provide them? I actually like the cat litter idea…minus the cat litter! You could do the sand or gravel, but use twigs with leaves on the ends. Don’t know how to attach the cards… Clothes pins maybe? Hmm, actually, you could just slice the end if the stick and slide it in. Or I guess you could even use driftwood if you wanted to make it beachy.

  4. Just do whatever you love and is easiest and within budget. People will not leave your wedding raving about the table number holders. And, of course, daydream about table number holders only as long as you want to. 🙂

  5. Eliza says:

    I too have faced this dilemma and am not even getting married! The world of non-profit fundraising events is faced with the same need for creative outside of the box thinking. Personally I like the long stick shoved into an apple (or any piece of fruit). Rustic, ‘organic,’ with just the right amount of ‘hipster’

  6. Danny says:

    From my favorite online restaurant supply shop. These are deluxe and electro-polished

  7. kathleen says:

    I found (via weddingbee) awesome 99-cent footed frames. They were perfect and super cheap! Only problem is that they are not available online, so if you don’t live close to an IKEA it’s not the easiest solution. I sold my table numbers to another bride after the wedding and then helped out another who wanted the frames for hers, so I’d be happy to help you as well if you want. See them in action here: & here:
    and here’s the store link:

  8. Ellie says:

    I realize you may not be looking for a practical solution, but I can offer the following:
    1) Ask your venue. I’ve been to several weddings where the venue provided the table numbers. You do not have to be creative about these.
    2) Ask your friends. We have 9 table number holders if you want to borrow them, if you have another friend who has a few, you can probably compile a set. They won’t match, but ours didn’t, and nobody cares.
    3) Ikea. Margaret’s table number holders came from there, I believe (they are marketed as picture holders), but I have also seen a ton of people use these as table number holders – – they are cute and extremely cheap. It actually doesn’t matter if your table number is up very high, people will still figure out where to sit.

    I got way more obsessed with what to name our tables – should they be places we’ve been together? Should it be buildings from UMD where we met? Movies we’ve seen? Plants, since we got married at a nature center? I went with numbers. It’s just so much easier to keep track of.

  9. skepticbride says:

    M.: Whoops, hope no one thinks I ripped off the Offbeat Bride! I need to start searching that site every time I do a new post just so it doesn’t look like I’m a plagiarist. Luckily their Lego numbers are a lot more inspired than mine. Slinkees is a good one. And I’ll FINALLY live in a house with stairs!!!!

    Shae: I like those frames, thanks for the idea! And 99 cents is awesome. I wonder if it matters if our flower arrangements are taller than the table numbers…

    Kate: I better check about that – maybe the Club does provide them. But they’ve just been soooo busy with the U.S. Open blah blah golf blah, that I’m ready to be all “DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM? I AM THE SKEPTIC BRIDE!” As for cat litter (or sand or whatever), I had really wanted the rustic look initially but our flowers are going to be in those silver bowl vases so I might need to go for a more classic look (like the wedding present table number holder!).

    Angi: Hi! How’s the West Coast! Very true what you said.

    Eliza: See Danny’s link below.

    Danny: Thank you!!!!!!!

    Kathleen: Yay, your blog! I will read it. Thanks for the frame recommendation!

    Ellie: I’m starting to question my sanity (again): the venue probably DOES have them. WHY oh WHY did I not think of that before spending half a day dwelling on this issue? I really do want to do the “practical” thing! But thanks for offering to loan too – you may be hearing from me if our venue doesn’t have the table number holders.

  10. Rachel W says:

    What about just having a table map where you pick up your name tags? (If you’re doing name tags! If not, forget my idea) But with 20 tables, people can figure out where they’re supposed to sit if there’s a map.

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