Moms

Marry creativity, crafts and a personal touch for wedding-gift box

If you are a rebel with the registries and want to give the bride a one-of-a-kind gift, by all means, box this one up.

This wedding keepsake box not only is beautiful and nostalgic, but can house symbols of the big day and be placed on a shelf to open and relive the memories all over again.

While it looks hand-painted, it's actually created using decoupage. The steps are super simple:

1. Find a hinged box.

Major craft and hobby stores have hinged wooden boxes. I found an old hinged box to reuse. Cigar boxes or jewelry boxes can be recycled. If you are using a cigar box, give the surface a quick sanding to dull the finish so that your new paint and distressing treatments will adhere without peeling. Make sure your box is smooth, with no embossing or engraving, so that your image can be applied to the top.

2. Give it a coat of paint.

Paint the box with a latex, water-based coating with light tones like cream, white, light gray or very light tan. This will enable your bride image to pop and will allow distressing to show nicely. Give it a second coat and allow to dry completely.

3. Track down a bride.

This is the fun part. Go looking online for a bride. (I'm not talking the mail-order kind.)

You can purchase clip and stock art from sites that offer wedding images, but many sites offer free images (without copyright limitations) that you can print off to use on this box. Try the Library of Congress' site, www.loc.gov/pictures.

Print an image and cut out the part you'd like to decoupage. A family photo of a beautiful bride printed on a strong paper and cut out for the main image makes the box even more sentimental. You might like to find an image with a couple, or a cake image, or any other picture that says "wedding."

Print at the highest quality and trim so that the image is a figure rather than a whole photograph.

4. Decoupage time.

There are many decoupage glues. I like to use Mod Podge, which is a glue, sealant and varnish in one. Glue your image to the box following the directions on the glue package and work out all of the air bubbles under the paper by smoothing outward with a damp sponge. You want your image to be very flat and adhered to the box. Let this dry as per the directions, usually overnight.

5. Attention to detail.

If you wish, you can paint the interior of the box or staple pretty lace or silk fabric inside. Hot-glue ribbon trim to cover the staples.

Acid-free clear bags can hold treasures in the box and protect keepsakes. The Container Store carries a package of 25 acid-free bags for $3.99 (www.containerstore.com).

6. Distress the finish.

When the image is dry, rub a little furniture polish into the paint with a dry rag or sponge. Old English Scratch Cover for Dark Wood is oily and messy, but it always does the job for me, and I always have it on hand.

Put on a pair of gloves and protect your clothing. Rub a little polish onto the box. Work it into any cracks or lines in the paint to make those look even older. Then wipe most of it off, leaving just a hue of brown age to it. Let this dry at least a few hours and wipe it once more with a paper towel. Then, seal everything with a clear-coat product. I use Minwax Polycrylic because it's like a hard candy coating.

7. Fill it with treasures (optional).

After the clear coat is dry, fill the box with any sentimental things you'd like to give the bride and groom. These can be precious heirlooms, handmade garters using heirloom fabrics and laces, handkerchiefs, jewelry, books on marriage, photos of ancestors or certificates for a manicure or a special dinner for the couple. Put a note inside to tell the bride and groom to enjoy adding to the archival box and peering into it now and again as they begin their journey together in life.

8. Present it in a beautiful package.

Place the box in lovely white gift packaging with beautiful tissue and wrapping for optimum presentation. Add some of the other bridal images you found to ribbons or glue them onto the cardboard gift wrap box or accompanying card.

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