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Carnival Themed Wedding: Fun With Vintage & Rustic Style

The Circus Is In Town!

Doesn't matter where you're from...when the fair rolls into town, there's an undercurrent of excitement racing through folks from young to old. The cool night air, the lights on the Midway, the smell of cotton candy and elephant ears...brings back happy memories for just about everyone. Well...maybe not that time you threw up after you got off the Tilt-A-Whirl, but every other time! Fairs and carnivals are fun and nostalgic...and a really amazing wedding theme that combines romance and excitement with lightheartedness and out-and-out joy!

As if that wasn't enough to like, a carnival themed wedding can be pulled off for a pretty reasonable price, using some clever creativity and simple DIY ideas. Of course, you could go all out and rent a mini-carnival complete with ferris wheel and carousel, but the carnival feel and excitement can be accomplished without all that and be twice as much fun!


How To Incorporate Vintage Carnival Colors Into Your Wedding

Let's start with carnival colors. Think about the classic popcorn box...red & white, right? The red and white combination can be paired with any number of circus brights, but one that really pops is aqua. You can also use a bright yellow, or any other vibrant color can coordinate, even cotton candy pink. Now before you go out and buy an all-red wedding gown (although with this theme, you certainly could!), why not incorporate the colors in a more subtle way? A vintage short white lace or taffeta wedding dress with circle skirt would be perfect with a red, aqua (something blue?), or yellow crinoline underneath. Your bridesmaids can rock some vintage circle skirts as well in some retro print brights. They could coordinate in a single hue or really go for all out color with different color petticoats or the same style of shoe (peep toes, of course!), but in different colors. Your groomsmen are going to be the happiest campers in the bridal party, because they can ditch the stuffy tuxes and go with roll sleeve white shirts, khakis, bow ties, and matching suspenders!

Stationary Ideas For A Carnival Wedding

The stationary and paper goods for your wedding can really give your DIY creativity an opportunity to shine. There are so many awesome programs now like Printmaster and tons of other that can help you turn out a quality product for so much less than if you were ordering them from a stationary company. Look for paper that has an old feel and texture to it that will really give your Save The Dates and invitations that nostalgic look you're after and scour the internet for antique handbills for fairs, carnivals, even the circus, to give you ideas. A little scanning and some maneuvering of images can help you create an amazing piece of work. Your invitation suite will also tip guests off as to what they might expect and that possibly this may not be your typical black tie and tails affair! Some interesting and vintage looking fonts (downloaded for free from DaFont) can give your paper goods that little extra that will have your guests buzzing about your wedding way beforehand and dying to return their RSVP cards. Include a special ticket or a handful of tickets in the invitation that guests can use to be redeemed at the wedding for all sorts of cool stuff...more tickets, carnival games, cotton candy, a candy apple, popcorn, etc.

Carnival Themed Wedding Invitations


Food For A Carnival-Themed Wedding

One if the most fun parts of a carnival-themed wedding is the food...of course! How many people go to the fair or a carnival for just the food alone?! You can have a blast with any number of food stations: a candy or popcorn buffet, a make your own chocolate or caramel apple station...and don't forget the cotton candy! Mini corn dogs would be awesome finger food, but if you really want to leave guests with a smile on their faces,set up a create-your-own hot dog station complete with chili, onion, relish, cheese, and all the toppings. The best part of these kinds of stations is décor can be kept to a minimum and is simply done. Make your own tables with crates stacked on each end and plywood laid on top. Layer with gingham check in fun colors and use small crates and baskets to display food items. Don't forget some old-time glass drink dispensers that can be filled with lemonade or other variations on lemonade with your own adult-themed twist. Be sure to include mason jars and paper straws for guests to drink from and plenty of old chalkboards for signage. Can't find chalkboards in the size or shape you want? Make your own! Did you know you can buy chalkboard contact paper now and can use it to cover virtually anything and make it into a write-able surface? Or find old pallets near a loading dock, rip them apart, and use the weathered wood to paint your own signs.

Carnival Games

Now it wouldn't be a carnival wedding without silly games, would it? You have to have some fun games of skill to continue the theme. Some easy ones to make yourself for a minimum amount of money and maximum amount of fun are games like Ring The Bottle where you have a fishing pole with a line with a ring on the end and you try to stand up a glass soda bottle that's lying on it's side. Some other retro carnival games could be a penny pitch or a duck pond, both easy and inexpensive to set up. Who hasn't seen guys drive themselves (and you!) completely nuts at the fair shooting basketballs into hoops or tossing softballs into bushel baskets? Men love this stuff! Your groom and some of his groomsmen will have a ball thinking up games of chance that could be built or constructed inexpensively and your guy wiill thank you for not making him help you choose bouquets and corsages and the like!.

Under The Big Top! Décor For Your Carnival-Themed Wedding

Following the same color palette you used when you picked colors for your wedding party, choose circus brights, vintage prints, and retro themes when planning your décor. Gingham is cheap and has a fun outdoor picnic look as well as burlap which has the rustic feel you're after. Milk glass, Depression era glass, or Mason jars can be used as casual vases for your flowers and can be scored at thrift stores or flea markets for as little as $1.00 a vase. This is where DIY flowers can rule and spending a lot of money for expensive blooms is really not necessary. Big showy flowers like sunflowers, daisies, zinnias, and dahlias can make a huge colorful impact and are so easy to arrange, you don't need to be a professional. Use wildflowers as filler and twine or raffia for bows tied casually around the vases and you're set! Stack up rolls of colorful tickets and place your vases on top to elevate them and create different heights on the table. You can even mix lengths of tickets in with ribbon to make fun garland for draping. Classic and easy to make pinwheels are another fun element that can be included in your décor...to line an aisle, instead of flowers, even mini-versions in your bridesmaid's bouquets. And don't forget classic bunting that can be made easily from fabric or scrapbooking paper to liven up tents, tables, and wherever you need a blast of color.

Popcorn For Buffets Or Wedding Favors: Perfect For A Carnival Themed Wedding


DIY Flag Bunting

Can't Get Enough Of Retro?

Your carnival-themed wedding is sure to be a blast and one that will be talked about by friends and family for years to come. Keep it rustic, inexpensive, retro, and sweet and it'll be a really simple theme to pull off. Just remember, stay away from that Tilt-A-Whirl!



DIYweddingplanner (author) from South Carolina, USA on October 13, 2011:

Thanks, RC. If only I could have a do-over!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 13, 2011:

This is such a fun idea for a wedding! I love the color combinations, vintage themes, and bouquet ideas.

PMCustomWeddings on October 13, 2011:

Love it! Such a fun idea for a casual wedding! I tweeted & posted on our facebook page.

lucymcbees on October 13, 2011:

I love this. Nice and creative.

Kristen Burns-Darling from Orange County, California on October 13, 2011:

Love this idea, and my brain is now popping with ideas....too bad my wedding was 20 years ago! Wouldn't this also be a great theme for a Sweet 16? Especially for the family on a budget....Wish I had thought of this one when my daughter was struggling for a theme for her own sweet 16 that wasn't just like all of her friends.....Great hub with a fabulous idea... Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting!

Sarah Kolb-Williams from Twin Cities on October 13, 2011:

Love this! Really great ideas here. My fiancé was talking about getting an inflatable castle set up on the grounds for anyone who feels like jumping...I like his style. :)