At APW, we’re big fans of the one and done project. When we’re coming up with tutorial ideas, we automatically nix anything that seems like a good idea, but will end up with you in a pile of tissue paper and tears once you realize what it takes to make a hundred items that take fifteen minutes each (a cool twenty-five hours). Plus, wedding media (and damn Pinterest) tends to get important confused with unimportant when it comes to decor. You know what photographs really well for Pinterest? A teeny tiny handcrafted place card. You know what ends up shoved into your purse at a wedding without a second thought? Those same teeny tiny handcrafted place cards you spent twenty-five hours on.
Instead, this month, we’re focusing on large-scale backdrops. We flew our very own wedding designer, Michelle Edgemont, out from Brooklyn and asked her to help us dream up wedding installations. Huge-ass statement pieces that would make you smile and not stop. Our idea for creating these was to come up with something that was worth a little time and money investment (most of these projects averaged around $250 and an afternoon of labor). But the idea is, these projects are big and impactful enough that they’re all anyone will remember of the decor from your wedding—and they’ll make a huge splash in your pictures (a theory we were able to test ourselves, thanks to our awesome staff photographer Allison Andres, and our rad models Janeen and Daniela of Darling Dear Photography). These are the projects you can use as your excuse to ditch centerpieces. And fancy place settings. And frilly decor. They are go-big-or-go-home projects, and APW votes you go big.
We created a variety of large-scale backdrop installations, each with different requirements, because all venues have different limitations. And for each of these backdrops we’ll be laying out the pros and cons, the time estimate, and the cost estimate. These details should help you figure out if a project will work for you before it’s too late and you end up in tears. But as someone who had a venue that let us do… nothing (no hanging things from the ceiling, no sticking things to the wall), I wanted to start with the backdrop that you can use anywhere, because it hangs from a freestanding frame. Plus? It’s so good looking I have a hard time believing how shockingly simple it was to create, and I was there when we made it.
This backdrop was loosely inspired by the stained glass window at The Fig House in LA (because even if you can’t afford the Fig House, you can afford this), but you can modify it to fit any color scheme. And while we’re going to be giving away some of the backdrops we made (stay tuned), I love this one so much, I’m keeping it forever. Plus, it’s so easy to make, there is almost no point in giving you mine.
- Can be used in almost any venue, because it hangs from a freestanding frame.
- Can be used for both a ceremony backdrop and a photo booth backdrop.
- You don’t have to be able to sew! Bam!
- Easy to make well in advance of the wedding.
- Easy to transport.
- So. Pretty.
- If you use this for your ceremony, your guests will see the freestanding frame, unless you affix the backdrop to the wall instead.
- If you’re creating your own color palette, it will take some thought and experimentation, and possibly an artistic eye.
- Acrylic Paint: 4 two-ounce bottles of seven colors (28 bottles total)
- Painter’s Tape: 1 Roll
- Heavy Canvas Drop Cloth: We used a 6′ x 9′ drop cloth. If you want to go really big, get a 9′ x 12′ drop cloth.
- Paint Brush Set
- Gorilla Tape, for affixing the backdrop to the frame, sans sewing.
- Plastic Drop Cloth
ACRYLIC Paint Colors Used
- Neon Pink
- Pale Blue
- Light Yellow
Cost Estimate: $65 for backdrop, plus cost of frame (options below, ranging from $25 to $140).
Time estimate: An hour or two of actual making, plus overnight to dry.
1. Spread the plastic drop cloth out on the (preferably concrete) floor you’re working on, and tape it to the floor. Lay the heavy canvas drop cloth on top of it, and tape it to the floor or the plastic drop cloth. (Note: We didn’t put a plastic drop cloth under our canvas backdrop. Our logic was that paint couldn’t possibly leak through a drop cloth made for catching spilled paint… could it? Turns out, drop cloths are not exactly designed to be painted on TOP of, so paint did leak through. And while acrylic craft paint is generally water soluble, you probably don’t want to have to scrub it up.)
2. Take your painter’s tape and use it to divide up your canvas into triangles. You want a variety of sizes of triangles.
3. Using one color at a time, paint different triangles in different colors (a handful in neon pink, then a handful in plum, then a few in white, etc.). Continue till all your triangles are painted.
4. Let your canvas dry overnight.
5. Remove the painter’s tape. Ooohhh and ahhhhh at your creation.
6. Assemble your frame.
7. Fold over your fabric at the top of the frame to create a temporary pocket, and use the (super strong) Gorilla Tape to affix the fabric to itself. TA-DAH, no sewing required. (And nope, it’s not going to fall down.)
- Seamless Background Frame, $65. If you don’t feel like building a frame, and you don’t need something that will hold a heavy load, a seamless backdrop frame isn’t a bad way to go. It’s light, super portable, and easy to set up. These are used for backdrops in photography, and APW owns one (and used it for this shoot). They’re good little frames, and you can sell it on Craigslist when you’re through.
- Pipe and Drape Backdrop, $139. If you don’t feel like building a frame but want something heavy duty, that you can hang anything off of, this is the way to go. Again, you can sell it on Craigslist when you’re through.
- Make a (pretty) wooden frame, using our wedding arch tutorial. This won’t be considerably less than buying a seamless frame (and it will be way more expensive if you buy expensive birch poles), so only build it if you’re dead set on making something super pretty for the frame itself. Also, make sure you stability test before the day of.
- Make a PVC frame, $25 or so. You’ll want to make a taller frame than this tutorial, and keep in mind this kind of frame will only hold something as lightweight as fabric. But if you want to save money and are up for a little extra legwork, this is a cheap way to go!