Pass it on: Homemade wedding card box goes from event to event and has witnessed 65 new beginnings
From custom cupcakes to Mason jar vases brimming with baby’s breath, the friends and family of Allison Hogg and Andy Auld pitched in to make the couple’s 2016 wedding unique. While browsing ideas for card boxes on Pinterest, Hogg fell in love with a little wooden house with a peaked roof. “I love miniatures so I was instantly obsessed,” says Hogg, a writer on the Baroness Von Sketch Show and actor on The Boys.
Using the photo as reference, Hogg’s aunt Roberta Cayen built a house, painted it white and strung a ‘Just Married’ banner across the black roof along with a sign: Ali and Andy, Est. April 23rd, 2016. A tiny rustic wreath hung on the small red door.
The card box was a hit at the couple’s reception at Enoch Turner Schoolhouse. Hogg herself loved it so much that after the last slice of cake had been eaten, she couldn’t bear to tuck it away. “It’s such a cool thing and so useful,” she says. “It’s nice when design and function meet so perfectly. It would have been a waste to keep it for myself.” So along with a few other items from the wedding, she offered it up on the Bunz Wedding Zone Toronto (now Palz Wedding Zone Toronto) trading page on Facebook, with one condition — that it be passed on when the recipient was finished with it. “Our culture is so disposable, it’s nice to try to give things a second life.”
Six years later, the box has witnessed 65 new beginnings — and counting. “That’s a lot of weddings!” says Hogg. “Think of all the money that’s been inside of it! It’s probably enough for a down payment on a (real) house.”
The enfianced have been keeping the card box busy with the help of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Card Box, a Facebook group started by Alison Gothard. “It was built better than most real houses, and I felt the warmth of the builder just from looking at it,” says the Kitchener resident, who used the box in her wedding to Shin Huang in September 2017.
Despite the name of the group, “any gender can be involved,” says Gothard. “The only rule is that whoever accepts the box takes good care of it, and passes it along to the next person on time and in good condition. We want to keep it circulating for as long as possible, and since it’s a very sturdy wooden structure, it should last for many more years.”
Users have made it their own, changing the nameplate, the door hanging, “and occasionally, someone paints it,” says Gothard. Toronto bride T.C. Gibbs added a small notebook for couples to record their names and wedding dates. “I knew I had to contribute to it in some way,” says Gibbs, who married Dan McDonald in November 2017. More than four years later, Gibbs still follows the box’s journey via its Facebook page. “I hope that one day I’ll attend a wedding and get to see the box again,” she says. “Honestly, if I did, I think I would cry a little.”
Carmen Tan has encountered the box more than most. The Markham-based wedding planner has booked the box three times — and has requested it a fourth — for her clients. “People are always looking for personal touches on the wedding day,” she says. “The house is beautifully created, and the (idea) of people putting gifts into a home is very cute,” she says. “My brides love being part of a tradition and the idea of reusing.”
With “a passion for the environment,” Louisa LaBarbera says she tried to “incorporate things that were borrowed or upcycled,” in favour of single-use items for her 2017 wedding at Berkeley Church to historian Jamie Bradburn. “I liked the idea of not buying a lot of new things for my wedding, and incorporating things that had history,” says LaBarbera, a jewelry designer who got engaged with her grandmother’s ring, incorporated vintage pieces into her wedding jewelry and donned a previously worn dress acquired at The Brides’ Project, an organization that raises money for cancer charities.
Toronto residents Mandy Lo and Graham Yiu also tied the knot in 2017. “It was a very busy year for the box,” says Lo, who now volunteers as an administrator on the Facebook page. “There were some back-to-back weekends. The weekend before our wedding, we picked up the box from a wedding at Fantasy Farm in Toronto at 10 p.m. It felt like crashing someone’s wedding.”
Following the (wedding) feast was a famine, as COVID-19 postponed gatherings where the box would have been used. “There was a very long span during the pandemic where weddings were cancelled, and the house remained in storage at someone’s home,” says Gothard. “We are just starting to get new requests for the box, and people who had to postpone their weddings have been able to request the box for their new dates.”
Having only recently heard about the number of weddings it has been a part of, Cayen says: “it warmed my heart. It was made with love,” says the Collingwood resident, “and that love grows every time it is passed along.” The longtime crafter spent between 10 and 15 hours building the box, and hasn’t made another one since. “That is not to say that I would not,” she says, “but the story behind this box is magical.”
Yusra Khan is another believer in that magic. “Being part of that continued legacy felt really special,” says Khan, who married Jesse Elliott in 2019. “(The box) made us feel that we were part of a bigger community, and that we would have the collective good vibes and energy from all the people that used it before and that would be using it after us. I felt connected to all the previous happy celebrations it was a part of, and also felt the love and time that had gone into making it,” she says. “I felt that it would be like a lucky amulet at our wedding. I loved reading the notes in the little book from the people who had used it before, and loved reflecting on my own experience as I left my note for others.”
“Receiving and then passing on the card box was like a sacred rite,” agrees Gothard. “Both were brief interactions with strangers with whom I had only exchanged emails, but there was a big smile and excitement in the handing over of this lovely object.”
As for the original bride, Hogg says she’s “thrilled it has lasted this long. This little box… gets to travel around and be a part of everyone’s big day. It’s nice to know that a little piece of our wedding day still lives on.”
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