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DIY Tutorial: Wooden Map Letters

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We made our first decision after getting engaged to have our wedding near where we both grew up. Western Illinois holds a special place in our relationship, so naturally, we wanted to incorporate the geography of the region wherever we could.

Every month or so, my husband-to-be and I travel four hours southwest of Chicago to visit our friends and family in addition to taking care of wedding business. On the way back during our last trip, we stopped at a rest stop before approaching the Chicagoland area. While waiting for Travis to meet me in the lobby, I noticed a freshly stocked stack of complimentary 2013 Illinois maps. Without another thought, I grabbed a stack of them, unsure of how I might use them, all the while knowing I could turn them into something special.

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While scouring Etsy, I had seen many shops selling map themed wedding and home items, usually with the prices marked up considerably. When I came across a set of personalized Wooden Map Letters, I knew it was something I could pull off for a fraction of the asking price.

We purchased nine inch unfinished wooden letters for about three dollars a piece from a craft store as well as a bottle of Modge Podge for about four dollars. Obviously this project didn’t call for the entire bottle, so I’m not even sure how to figure that into the cost of materials. The total cost for this project was under $12 while Etsy sellers price theirs at about $30 a pop. That makes each letter only four dollars a piece, saving over 80%!

Here’s how I did made the Wooden Map Letters!



  • 9″ wooden letters
  • 2 full sized road maps
  • Sponge brush
  • Mod Podge (I recommend reading this helpful information on Mod Podge before starting your project)
  • Pen/pencil
  • Scissors
  • Paper plate for a palette

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  1. Make sure the surface of each letter is clear of debris and dirt
  2. Place each letter against the region of the map you want to appear on the letter (We chose our hometowns for our initials and Chicago for the ampersand) and trace carefully
  3. Slowly, and I mean slowly, cut out your traced letter.
  4. Cover the surface of each wooden letter, one at a time, with Modge Podge, using a sponge brush.
  5. Very carefully align the corresponding map letter to the wooden letter and press down as you align. Watch our for air bubbles. Do these one at a time because the glue will become tacky very quickly.
  6. Let each letter dry for about 30 minutes.
  7. Using your sponge brush, brush Modge Podge over the paper map and along the sides of the letter in an even layer. Press down the sides if there’s overhanging paper.
  8. Let dry for another half hour.
  9. Repeat steps 7 and 8.
  10. And voila! Personalized map monograms!

I absolutely love the way these turned out. The light sheen the Modge Podge adds is quite lovely in the light. Since these aren’t as wide as I’d hoped to find, I plan to use plastic photo easels to keep them standing upright. I’m still not quite sure where these Wooden Map Letters will go–perhaps on the head table or maybe on the cake table? Regardless of where they go, I know our guests who know us well will appreciate the little details that tell our story through geography!

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Has anybody else incorporated maps in their decor? How did you use them? I still have three maps left over plus the scraps from the two I used for the Wooden Map Letters, and I would hate to see them go to waste.

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is a farmland transplant and former corporate coffee minion living in Chicago. She got married in 2013– you can read her wedding planning posts here.