How To: Surreal DIY Cloud Wedding Backdrop


Who said it's better to get your head out of the clouds?

by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

How To: Surreal DIY Cloud Wedding Backdrop | A Practical Wedding
Last week we started our large scale wedding backdrop series, and we showed you the best ever no-sew photo booth style backdrop. Today? We’re doing clouds. Amazing magical clouds. Is this my favorite thing we’ve ever made for APW in the whole six-plus years we’ve published the site? UM. Yes. It is. If you are allowed to hang things at your wedding venue, you should pretty much do this and stop worrying about all the little stuff for decoration. You want bonkers-amazing go big or go home? This is IT. And with the help of our very own wedding designer Michelle Edgemont, who we flew out from Brooklyn, we have a straightforward magical cloud-making tutorial for you.

PROS:

  • This takes pretty much no artistic skill to construct, just time and hot glue. Anyone can do it.
  • The prettiest things I’ve ever made.
  • Easy to transport. These clouds look big, but they’re pretty squishy, and you’ll do most of the final fluffing on-site, so you don’t have to worry about ruining them in transit.

CONS:

  • You need beams, or something to hang these clouds from, and permission to hang things at your venue. Sadly, there isn’t a good way around this fact.
  • A little boring and time consuming to construct, if really easy. Also I got a pretty bad hot glue burn making these, because I’m sort of a klutz.
  • This takes a reasonable amount of space to transport (the clouds are not small). But they’re less delicate than you’d think, since most of the real fluffing happens after you hang them.
  • To really make these clouds look magical, and not like giant cotton ball craft projects, you need to get up on a ladder at your venue and tease and puff the balls to look like real clouds. This requires a ladder, someone who’s not scared to climb on it, and about an hour. (If you’re making significantly more clouds, please allow for more people on ladders, or more time.)
  • Did I mention you might need a really tall ladder and someone who’s not scared to be up on it? We ended up hiring a TaskRabbit to come help us out for about $40, because our beams were very high up.

How To: Surreal DIY Cloud Wedding Backdrop | A Practical Wedding

SUPPLIES:

COST ESTIMATE: $240

TIME ESTIMATE: Creating the clouds will take an afternoon (with a friend or two), or a series of evenings on your own. Allow an hour to hang the clouds and an hour to fluff them. If you’re using more clouds, allow more time.

(Magical) Hack:

If you’re getting married or having your reception at night, you can put LED lights inside the lanterns for an extra dreamy set up like this. I know.

How To: Surreal DIY Cloud Wedding Backdrop | A Practical Wedding

STEPS

1. Set up your paper lanterns the same way you would if you were hanging them up normally. Put the small ones aside. You’ll be using a variety of large and medium lanterns to create the base for your clouds.

2. Take a small amount of stuffing and hot glue it to a paper lantern. You want to do a little bit at a time to keep it looking natural. You’ll get a feel for how much to use as you go, but we generally used a cotton candy sized wad of stuffing for each section.

3. Fluff and shape a little as you go, but don’t spend too much time doing this just yet. Most of the fluffing happens after you hang up the clouds. Continue gluing and fluffing until all of your lanterns are covered.

4. If you want to create a more oblong or oval-shaped cloud, add two small lanterns to opposite sides of each of the big lanterns you just covered with cotton. Cover with more cotton and fluff.

5. Hang finished clouds from a support structure in your venue using a really tall ladder, a brave helper, and some fishing wire. Don’t forget a spotter! If you don’t have beams, you can use command hooks (with a little putty on the ends so the fishing wire doesn’t slip off), just test them out first.

6. Fluff until they look like clouds!

7. Add LEDs (optional) for a luminescent cloud.

8. Marvel. Freak out a little. Tell everyone how awesome your clouds look. Wait for enthusiastic agreement.

How To: Surreal DIY Cloud Wedding Backdrop | A Practical Wedding

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.


The Info:

Photography: Allison Andres for A Practical Wedding APW Sponsor | Styling: Michelle Edgemont APW Sponsor | Art Direction: Meg Keene for A Practical Wedding | Models: Janeen and Daniela of Darling Dear Photography | Hair & Makeup: Shana of Fox & Doll, San Francisco | Janeen’s Dress: Nicole Miller from The Wedding Party, Berkeley APW Sponsor | Daniela’s Tuxedo Pants: The Artful Gentleman, San Francisco APW Vendor

read the comment policy before you post

  • sara g

    I have been brainstorming trying to think of something to hang inside our reception tent…. this might be the winner.

    • ART

      You know what I think would be a helpful post – how to decorate a tent. Like, what do the insides of tents look like (there are different kinds), what can you tie stuff to, how much do you really need, etc. I figured it out for our tent – we’re doing a hub-and-spoke design with a giant paper thingy in the middle and matching garland radiating out. I had to use the Pythagorean theorem for it, you guys! But I couldn’t really find any helpful guides to tent decoration out there.

      • sara g

        Um YES. I would be all over this post. Seriously, trying to figure out how to decorate a damn tent without spending a bazillion dollars hiring a decorating company to do fancy draping/lighting etc has been a nightmare. We want to put lights up, but… how should we drape them? How long of strings do we need? How do we plug them in without it looking terrible? If we want to hang things from the ceiling… how the hell do we do this without a big ass ladder? (We don’t know anyone with that tall a ladder.) Etc.

        • ART

          here’s how i did ours. could be improved upon but it was actually really helpful (i need 6 22′ers, 4 25′ers, etc.)

          • sara g

            Thanks, this is awesome!

        • tashamoes

          Does the tent company offer light installation when you have them there to set up? Might be worth the cost.

          Maybe it won’t be the look you’re going for, but I saw them done once where they weren’t strung to the peak of the tent and ran the perimeter as well as a grid overhead at about 10ft, along with some bunting and stuff. Looked classy.

          • sara g

            We’re not renting it actually… it comes with the venue. It’s an outdoor venue with a couple tents already set up (which is great since the weather here can be super unpredictable). I believe they have string lights around the edge of the tent but that’s it.

          • tashamoes

            Ah, makes sense. That does make it tricky!

      • Meg Keene

        Interesting project. SUPER expensive for us to shoot, which isn’t to say we wouldn’t do it, but. A shoot like this is no kind of cheap, but renting a tent? Well. Possibly in trade.

        • KC

          Dimly wondering if there’s a mechanism to ask about local APW brides renting tents and then somehow line times up to do decor options and the shoot before the tent’s used? Because that would be a way to get access to a “free” tent *and* some lucky person wouldn’t have to worry about decorating (just… shoot their favorite idea last and leave it up?). :-)

        • ART

          Yeah – I would think that would have to be crowd-sourced somehow. Maybe that’s why there aren’t any tutorials out there already :)

  • Jessica

    I think I need to have a party in a warehouse just to find a reason to make these.

  • Rowany

    I…kind of want this in my house now. Except maybe with googly eyes to make the clouds into sheep.

    • Meg Keene

      It’s in my house. The little ones are in the baby’s room. BANGING.

      • Rowany

        oh snap just saw the illuminated ones. Changing from ‘want’ to ‘need’!

      • BeeAssassin

        I was just going to say, this idea would be PERFECT for a nursery! Now to find a friend with a baby and a hankering to decorate…

      • KC

        Okay, so the thing I think every time when I see interior decorating things that are not just flat surfaces is “how do you people *dust* that???”. Because I know there must be a trick to this that I am just not getting. Curtains: washer; upholstery: vacuum; flat surfaces or ceramics: flannel wipedown. But everything else (including my treasured tiny rough wooden cuckoo clock) totally baffles me. Help?

        • ART

          i don’t know about these clouds but for something like unfinished or rough wood (e.g., ikea pine furniture): lint roller or even tape for small surfaces. works great! something similar combined with a dust buster/flick it with your hands could do part of the job on these, though eventually it may be a lost cause.

          • KC

            Lint roller and tape! My sad little dusty cuckoo clock will be forever grateful (once I pull it out of storage and resuscitate it)! Trying to wipe it down or brush it off only made the dust clump in the crevices more, so stickiness is a genius solution!

            (if anyone has tips for those awesome-but-oh-so-many-crevices origami-like lantern shades, that would be great. I always sort of suspect with some objects that the super-fancy interior designers just keep changing things up often enough that they don’t have to figure out a dust solution, but I could be wrong. They’re gorgeous! But at this point, I will not buy something that I cannot clean, because I am *not* on the redecorate-every-three-months plan.)

            I’m now wondering if the “use a knee-high stretched over the vacuum cleaner hose to find small objects” would work for dusting but not otherwise totally slurping up a cloud? Maybe?

        • Sarah E

          Thank you for echoing my dusting concerns. When I was a kid, I loved tschochkes. Now, every decorative object I see, I say to myself “So pretty! I do not want to dust that. Next.”

          My mom says the Swiffer duster things that are all fringe-y do a nice job on her mini-blinds, maybe they would work for your clock? Otherwise, what about a keyboard air-duster can? Blow all the dust off, then vacuum it up.

          • KC

            Ditto on the decorative-objects thing. I’ve gotta *really* love it for it to earn a spot in the Making Cleaning Take Longer list.

            Keyboard air duster can is genius – I’ll try that if the tape/lint-remover doesn’t do the trick…

        • Meg Keene

          Um. You can’t dust this you guys. It’s a lightly teased together wad of stuffing. When it gets for real dirty you best throw it out.

          I’m not any kind of fussy in the cleaning department, and that’s the trick you are missing.

          • KC

            Thank you for the One Stupid Trick.

            Knowing that a project like this is “when it gets definitely dirty, throw it out” disposable is, oddly, a lot less frustrating and a lot more freeing than thinking that it ought to be cleanable somehow and I’m just missing the boat on a whole raft of handmade home decor items… (see also tissue poms, fancy paper garlands, etc.) So now, instead of “how do I clean it! oh help I don’t know! it’ll be looming over my head!”, it can be “am I willing to put in X amount of time and money for something that will last approximately Y amount of time”, which is an equation I *can* do.

            (that said: totally taking the tape-and-lint-roller to my childhood cuckoo clock, hooray! and then following it up with a can of air if that doesn’t get all the nooks and crannies. :-) )

  • Caitlin_DD

    This is magical.

  • Amanda L

    Maybe it’s just me but does the hot glue not melt the paper?

    • ART

      I would have been more concerned about the stuffing, but then I remembered polyester is the second-highest setting on my iron. I hot glued fake flowers for our cake toppers and those were fine, too. I’ve never had a problem on paper.

      • Lauren from NH

        Styrofoam was the challenge of many a high school project, that does melt when in contact with hot glue. Not a problem here, just a blast from my crafting past lol.

    • KC

      Paper conveniently doesn’t melt with glue gun heat – you’ve got to get it either a) near scorching heat or b) wet to have integrity problems.

      (plastic that melts at a lower temp than glue gun glue, yes, that can be a problem [that can sometimes be fixed by swapping from high-temp to low-temp glue gun]; but metal, most fabrics, paper, etc. are not a problem at all.)

      Glue guns: I love them.

    • Meg Keene

      No, it doesn’t. But you also can just put the glue on the batting, your choice.

  • JSwen

    Yay crafts!

    But more importantly, where did that fantastic necklace come from on your suited model?

    • Daniela

      a gift from my father to my mother in the 80′s, says the suited model :-)

      • JSwen

        Awesome. I’m a sucker for sweet geometric jewelry!

  • ART

    I’m laughing thinking of that TaskRabbit gig – “come climb a ladder and fluff up clouds”

    • Meg Keene

      OH. We’re not any kind of lazy. We fluffed the clouds ourselves, for an hour. He just hung the fishing wire from the rafters.

  • Class of 1980

    Really cool.

  • Class of 1980

    Wait.

    “Add LEDs (optional) for a luminescent cloud.”

    I want to see!!!

  • Helen

    Just wanted to say how much I like your baben models in this series. Go lady loving! Go pants suit! Go undercuts and faux hawks! And finally, go salt and pepper hair! I die/dye.

    • taoshka

      Dude, right?! I totally swooned!

  • KC

    Wondering what happens if you lightly spray paint these in ombre colors…?

    • Meg Keene

      I’d actually use colored hairspray, which we did over here: http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/09/tissue-paper-balls-bells/

      • KC

        Thank you! I am a spray paint novice (or whatever the level below novice is). I could just see wanting, say, purple/blue/whatever clouds if you had a white tent and was not sure whether there was any way of accomplishing that. Hairspray!!!

        • Meg Keene

          Also, at the end some of the batting we used was kind of grey. You can’t see it in the photos, but the one I have in the house I styled with grey at the bottom so it looks like a rain cloud. MAGIC. So a slightly grey batting would look awesome and natural and rainy.

          • KC

            Ooooh. Is that a “when buying, look at the bags in the store and see which ones are off-color” sort of thing? White on top, heavy-with-rain on the bottom just sounds so fantastic.

            (also: is this whole series a sneaky way of getting pros to help decorate your house? Because if so: awesome plan!)

          • Meg Keene

            Totally!

  • Megera

    I like these so much I just emailed my venue to check if I can hang things from the ceiling. I cannot :(. Any suggestions for how I can hang them off the walls and still get a good effect? They are SO gorgeous, especially the LED ones…

    • scw

      I’m not sure about how to hang these on a wall, but it might look cool to have a few hanging from a freestanding frame.

    • Sarah E

      I mean, as long as you have a hanging device (command hook, tape, nail), just make the fishing line super short so the cloud covers it, and only put fluff on one side, and probably extra on the bottom, so the fluff covers the hook and lays better against the wall. Some tape at the bottom of the cloud to keep it from rolling to the non-fluff side might be helpful, too.

      • Megera

        I didn’t think of that! I guess it would be possible to make them flat, and hang against the wall. Thanks a ton for the suggestion.

        • Meg Keene

          You would need to make them flat though, which would mean flattening the side of the lantern. Otherwise the round cloud against the wall looks awful, trust me.

          • KC

            Would it be better at that point to cut shapes out of posterboard/foamcore and cover them with batting instead of using lanterns? Or is the depth really key to the look, even if the clouds are against the wall?

          • Meg Keene

            I think you probably need the depth, but you could play around with building it out with the batting… but that would make it REALLY hard to transport.

    • Bets

      Here’s a suggestion for an alternative to hanging: fill up a helium balloon inside the lantern, and use fishing line for the string. As long as the cloud isn’t too heavy for the helium it could work.

    • tashamoes

      If you have two walls that aren’t far apart, you could try putting 3m sticky hooks about 10 ft above the ground (or screwing hooks into the wall, doubt they’d let you), running fishing line taut between them, and hanging the clouds off the fishing line. The clouds are light and those hooks are strong, but of course you’d want to put it up nice and early and make sure it’ll hold.

  • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.ca/ Jenny/Adventures Along the Way

    So now I am totally curious about TaskRabbit. And wondering if that exists in Québec. ‘Cause throwing a little money at some single-girl repair problems looks like what I might need to break down and do sometime…

  • Allie

    These are gorgeous!
    I think it’s possible to reduce the price for making these. JoAnn’s, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and most other craft stores that I know of have polyester filling, and frequently/always have 40-50% off coupons on their websites. I know I made 12 throw pillows for my bed (I don’t know why I assumed one bed needs a dozen throw pillows), and all the stuffing ended up being around $30 with coupons.

  • Pingback: Dreamy DIY Cloud Wedding Backdrop | Weddingomania