flattery will get you everywhere

Give your guests a warm welcome with luminarias that carry a greeting. Here’s all there is to it:

1.) Figure out what you want your message to say. Pay tribute to the guest of honor with "Happy B-Day, Bob!" Or blow a kiss to all your guests with a general message, like this one I made for an upcoming cocktail party: "Good evening / You look great." Just remember, the more letters, the more work it’ll be — each one takes about four minutes to make.

2.) Get enough lunch-size brown bags and white bags to make double-layered luminarias (brown on the outside, white on the inside) spelling out your message, making sure the white bags are the same size or slightly smaller than the brown ones so they fit inside. You can buy brown lunch bags at any grocery store. White bags are harder to find — I got mine at Smart & Final — but the white background will make your messages really light up and stand out.

friendly fire

3.) Sketch out your letters in pencil on the brown bags, making letters
like "O" and "R" stencil-style so you don’t inadvertently cut out big
holes in the bags. Don’t cut the white bags at all.

4.) Cut the letters out, using nail scissors on curvy letters to make cutting along the lines easier.

5.) Put white bags inside the brown ones for each letter. If any of
your letter cut-outs start flapping in the wind, use clear tape to
affix them to the white bags underneath. For any spaces in your
message, simply slip
a white bag inside an uncut brown one.

6.) Fill your luminarias with a couple of inches of sand, which you can
get at a hardware store and later donate to a parent with a sandbox.
Got a cat? Substitute kitty litter and reuse it once the party’s over.

7.) Nestle a tea light in the sand and put the luminarias in position.

8.) Light the candles and wait for the glowing compliments to come in.