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How To: Carnation Backdrop


Lots of fancy, on the cheap!

by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

How To: Carnation Backdrop | A Practical Wedding

This project started when we ordered this super cheap, super cheesy (fairy light netting, anyone?), wedding archHow To: Carnation Backdrop | A Practical Wedding off of Amazon. Since we were working on a tutorial series where we turned kitschy wedding decorations into something good, we thought it was worth a go. Also, it was $20. Long story short, we had no idea what we were going to do with it. But then Brooklyn Wedding Stylist Michelle Edgemont suggested that we do something with carnations. Since Michelle is the artist behind this insane upside down fuchsia carnation installation, when she suggests carnations, you just blindly sign on the dotted line. It’s a good thing we did, too.

While we created this project with a truly terrible $20 wedding arch, our goal was to provide inspiration for those of you getting hitched at venues with old school gazebos, or super traditional white wedding arches. Sometimes the universe throws you a white wicker structure, and you just have to figure out how to get your style on. Funnily enough, we ended up creating a project that looked so cool that I’d go out and buy a cheesy wedding arch just to make it. It would be a killer backdrop for saying your vows, and/or a killer photobooth backdrop. Plus, it’s easy (if a little time consuming) to make, and can be made well in advance. Carnations are the cockroaches of flowers—it’s really, really hard to kill them.

How To: Carnation Backdrop | A Practical Wedding

The basic supplies you need for this project are these:

  • Fifteen to twenty bunches of Carnations (you can go multi-colored or monochromatic). Carnations usually come in bunches of about ten, and will run you between $0.30 and $0.40 a stem at a flower market, around $0.75 a stem if you order wholesale online (for ease), or you can get them last minute from a grocery store or bodega.
  • Fishing line
  • A few heavy-duty embroidery needles
  • Scissors
  • A wedding arch, gazebo, etc. (Note: The $20 arch we used was one of the most unstable things I’ve ever seen. Do yourself one better and splurge on a $50 one that might actually stand up without having to be tied to a tree.)

For those of you doing the math at home, this is a crazy hip looking backdrop you can make for $100 or less (way less, if you’re just fancying up a pre-existing gazebo at your wedding venue).

How To: Carnation Backdrop | A Practical WeddingHow To: Carnation Backdrop | A Practical WeddingHow To: Carnation Backdrop | A Practical WeddingHow To: Carnation Backdrop | A Practical WeddingHow To: Carnation Backdrop | A Practical WeddingHow To: Carnation Backdrop | A Practical WeddingHow To: Carnation Backdrop | A Practical Wedding

Photos: Allison Andres / Styling: Michelle Edgemont

For this project, you need to allow time and hands. Do you have family coming in from out of town that want to hang out, catch up, and help you out? This is the project for them. The beauty of this project is that anyone can do it (you don’t need people with a particularly artistic eye), and carnations can easily last for four days strung (and up to eight days intact if you have the stems in water), so it can be done well in advance. Set aside an afternoon, gather a handful of people, and proceed to making some pretty.

Also, please remember that the numbers of flowers and strands needed will vary, depending on the height and width of the space you’re looking to decorate. Luckily carnations are cheap, and fishing line is forgiving, so this is a “make it work” kind of project.

  1. Cut stems off your carnations, and divide them into piles of about fifteen flowers.
  2. Roughly measure fishing line so it’s slightly longer then the length you’ll need for your backdrop. Allow space at the top of the line to tie it to the structure, and tie a knot at the bottom of the line. Push your needle through the stem of the carnation, and out through the center of the flower. Then tie a knot on the other side of the carnation to fix it on the line. You’re line should sequence like this: Line—knot—carnation—knot—line. Repeat this, stringing all fifteen flowers at randomly spaced intervals on your line.
  3. Create fourteen or fifteen lines of flowers. (Remember that this number will vary depending on the size of the space you’re decorating.) Feel free to store or refrigerate these flower lines, trying not to tangle them, before transporting them to your venue a day or so later.
  4. Hang lines of flowers on your wedding arch or gazebo, cutting off excess at the bottom.
  5. Pose in front of your creation, looking hip and fabulous. (Don’t tell anyone you got the idea from us, so you look extra creative and thrifty.)

How To: Carnation Backdrop | A Practical Wedding

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Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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  • Nina

    This is SO pretty, you guys! I don’t even like carnations but they look gorgeous here.

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      I think Michelle could teach me how to love carnations. Because I certainly haven’t appreciated them this much before. (Except for that hanging installation. That was amazing.)

      • http://www.michelleedgemont.com Michelle

        I was turned off from carnations by watching Sex & the City in it’s prime years – Carrie almost dumped a guy because he brought her a bouquet of carnations, or as she said, “filler flowers.”

        My top tips for loving carnations:

        1. They are cheap.
        2. They come in a gazillion colors.
        3. They are as frilly as garden roses.
        4. Hundreds of anything, especially one type of flower, will always look chic and tasteful.
        5. They last FOREVER (compared to other flowers that die the second you look at them the wrong way)

        • http://werewritingabook.com Breck

          Carrie loved carnations! Charlotte called them filler flowers.

          …She said as she hid away the DVD case of the entire Sex and the City series.

          • http://www.michelleedgemont.com Michelle

            Wow, you know your Sex & the City facts, I’m impressed.

          • http://werewritingabook.com Breck

            Thank you! Sex and the City is my mindless, background noise for folding laundry.

        • meg

          Because OMG, you could not really afford to do this with most flowers, plus, they would never last.

  • Rose

    This is super cool, guys. I really love this series, you’re making this whole crafting thing seem much less intimidating. If you’re taking requests,- I would love to see some cheap ideas for Chuppahs. My dad is weaving our actual canapy but I’m a little stuck on how to make the frame and decorate it without spending the $1,300 that florists seem to charge.

    • meg

      Coming up next-ish (already shot). That post is mostly technical, to be honest. We didn’t do a floral version, but maybe we will in the future.

      • Rose

        Yayyy!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I’m sure APW’s will be great.

      Another idea: Our chuppah was made of PVC – 4 standing posts, 4 connecters pieces at the top, and 4 corner joints. It was rigid enough that it was free-standing on a wood floor without anything at the base. Dad got the pipe from Home Depot, and Mom just draped tulle on each of the posts, and tied it with ribbon. I was blissfully out of the process, but think it cost less than $50.

      I’m not sure if PVC, especially connecting it at the top, was chalakically correct, but it sure looked right.

  • AmandaS

    Trying to decide if I like/love/admire this enough to try and do it for my wedding in 29 days?

    This is absolutely beautiful, but I’ve reached the fuck ‘em phase in my wedding planning. All the things need to get done! Probably shouldn’t add one more thing.

    Please someone do this.

    • http://writemeg.com Megan

      Woo! I’m 30 days out, so you must be getting married that Saturday. :)

      I’ve definitely started to hit my “just do all these things” phase where I’m relying less on creativity and “ooh we should do this!” and more on “this is what we’ve already planned, just stick to the plan.” That being said, I really like this! And we have no backdrop for the ceremony or anything of that nature. Hmm . . .

  • Elizabeth

    I LOVE that dress! It’s exactly the style I’m looking for. How can I find out the source?

    • meg

      I got it for $19 at Target.

      • Elizabeth

        Fantastic!

        • Ella

          I have the same dress in navy. I wore it to my bridal shower, actually! It’s really comfortable, too.

  • Emily

    Gorgeous! Stunning! Make me one for my office, please.

    • KC

      Maybe out of *paper* flowers instead of live carnations, though, for a longer-term office installation… ;-)

      • http://www.marbleryephotography.com melissa

        might need to do that for a corner in my bedroom..

  • http://karynthiandesigns.com M. Richards

    ok, so just how long did it take you guys? Is it the sort of project where if you have more people it will go quicker or should I just stick with my 3 helpers for ease?

    • http://www.michelleedgemont.com Michelle

      For four people, I’m going to estimate 3 hours. Plus an hour of set-up at your ceremony location. I always plan more time for set-up than I think, because it always ends up taking longer and I don’t like to have that rushing around feeling.

      Each strand of carnations takes 30-45 minutes. Use that benchmark to calculate how long it will take you depending on how many strands of carnations you want.

    • meg

      We sort of did it on and off all day while we were working on other projects. Someone was always over in the corner stringing carnations. I’d get a bunch of hands, if that’s an option. You can do it with three, but this requires no particular skill or taste level, so it’s a great project for everyone. Women generally love a chance to get together pre wedding and do something with their hands and gossip and catch up. I’m speaking for myself here ;) (I’d love to say guys do too, but I’ve never seen much evidence of that…)

  • Moe

    I have no wedding or event to plan, but dammit I need an excuse to craft this now!!

  • http://www.greensnapdragon.com Emily

    I’ve done this with chrysanthemums before (they last about as long as carnations) and with plumeria flowers. It’s a time-consuming project, so many hands or many hours will be needed to complete. Also, if you plan to store/transport the flower lines before hanging, I recommend keeping each one in a separate paper bag or something because they tangle SUPER easily. I would scotch tape the top of the line to the bag so you don’t lose it.

    • KC

      Durable flowers are the bestest for DIY projects – I love not having to discard as many due to mangling (either pre-assembly or due-to-assembly) – and as a bonus, mums are so colorful!

      Did you skewer the way the carnations are, or sideways through the base? (most chrysanthemums are sort of flatter than carnations, yes?)

      • http://www.greensnapdragon.com Emily

        I’ve done mums both ways; each has its merits. Yes, they’re flatter than carnations so you can kind of go up through the hollow stem if you do it like the carnations here; or you can have more of the color show if you do them sideways. They’re also cheap and come in a million colors, but are often smaller than carnations. So it depends on the look you’re going for.

    • meg

      Yes! Try to keep them un tangled!

  • Kate

    I love seeing crafts with the bastard stepchildren of floral arrangements, carnations and baby’s breath. Be still my cheapskate heart.

  • http://www.koruwedding.com Koru Kate {Koru Wedding}

    I was obsessed with Michelle’s incredible carnation installation! SO cool to see a DIY version :-) & although I have worked with countless brides who said they would absolutely freak out if a carnation was used for their wedding, I’m a carnation fan! I even used them for my wedding.

    • meg

      I think they are officially kind of edgy and hip right now. Using carnations in a cool way makes you a bad ass.

  • thegoose

    I WISH I LIVED IN AMERICA! Shipping ANYTHING to Australia is either 1 million dollars or impossible. No $20 wedding arch for me.

    • thegoose

      Oh god, I just looked at it on Amazon. Perhaps it is a good thing.

  • http://www.bloomsbythebox.com Diana from BloomsByTheBox.com

    Meg, this is incredible! We have had a couple of our DIY brides make hanging decor for their receptions. Carnations are the perfect flower to keep in budget and create a high impact look!

  • Vee

    This is awesome! I feel like this is something I could actually afford to do! I’m so happy I found this site.

  • Lucia

    Do you think this would work with peonies? Too big and boofy?

    • mimi

      I think peonies might get too wilted. Plus, I would feel major guilt over stabbing lovely and expensive peonies with a needle and stringing them up.

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  • Callie

    For those of you who buy the arch anyways like me, you can make it sturdy by taking a metal “for sale” sign and hot gluing a wooden rod in the center (3/8 inch). I cut and glued a rug gripper on the bottom of the sign as well for extra support. Works great!