This DIY County Fair Wedding Is Everything
When it came to our wedding, my husband and I were determined not to break the bank. We simply did not feel comfortable going into debt for a single day’s festivities. For our wedding theme, I chose an old-fashioned County Fair; I wanted our wedding to be playful, quirky and laid-back while also giving me lots of opportunities to get creative and show my love for everything vintage. I envisioned a day of colorful, over-the-top decorations, lawn games, scrumptious food and oldies music. We were able to save major dollars on all of our big-ticket items by getting a little creative and doing things ourselves, but the day would have been impossible without our many friends and family who helped us out in a million different ways.
1. Admit One Invites: I had a blast designing our invitations and print elements, especially our save the date, which spoofed the classic painting “American Gothic.” I managed to get by using only free fonts from dafont.com and had them printed at Copymat in San Francisco. I bought rustic envelopes and printed my own labels. I also included little vellum envelopes (attached to each invite by a piece of red gingham tape) labeled “Admit 1,” “Admit 2,” etc. Inside were vintage carnival tickets, one per invitee.
2. A Casual Outdoor Venue: For our venue — both ceremony and reception — we booked a large, grassy picnic area in Tilden Park in Berkeley, California for just $200. I was a teensy-bit worried about rain. We could have set up fancy tents for a pretty penny, but we decided to save money and live dangerously…
3. Garland Hack: I found an unfinished quilt made up of multi-colored cloth rosettes and snapped it up for $15 with no clear picture of how I would use it. My mom and I decided that we needed to somehow create an aisle in the grassy area leading to the altar. By disconnecting the rosettes and then stapling them back together we created a long multi-colored garland. We spray-painted a few simple stakes, strung the garland along them and created an adorable walkway.
4. DIY Bunting: For the bunting, I used a bunch of inexpensive fabrics of various colors and patterns, cut into triangles, starched and ironed and sewn directly onto the strings via sewing machine. A little colorful bunting really went a long way. I love how they look in the ceremony photos, fluttering in the breeze!
5. The Country Bride: My boots were bought at an antique fair for about $25, and my peach petticoat was purchased from an Etsy vendor. After many months of searching for my perfect vintage wedding dress, I finally made a trip up to Portland, Oregon to visit family. While there, I checked out a popular vintage dress store, called Xtabay Vintage, which has its own separate bridal salon. We had a private appointment, and were surrounded by vintage bridal accessories and tended to by a woman in an outfit from the 1920s. It was fate: The only tea-length bridal gown in my size fit perfectly and was the exact style I wanted. And it cost less than $200! My seamstress added an underskirt, capped the long sleeves and adjusted the length of my petticoat.
6. Hair Up to There: I spent the morning getting ready at my mom’s house. A talented family friend did my hair, and I have no words to describe how marvelous it looked. I asked for something retro and fun with volume. He really outdid himself.
7. Boogie Down the Aisle: Our processional song was “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything” by Barry White. The guests chuckled as the bass line started and Barry’s deep baritone smoldered, “We got it together, baby.” I beamed as our wedding party paired off and boogied along the aisle. Then Barry faded away and our musician friend Sean Krausz strummed and sang “Stand By Me.”
8. A Mismatch Made in Heaven: I fell head-over-heels in love with Sohomode’s vintage-inspired tea dresses while browsing Etsy. My bridesmaids and I chose five fabrics that fit my vision and suited their style. They were also able to choose their sleeve style and dress length.
9. Prize Ribbon Boutonnieres: For our prize-ribbon-inspired boutonnieres, I bought cute crimped paper circles with button centers and ribbon in various colors and patterns. Then I used pinking shears to cut larger circles (from the same fabrics we used for the bunting), cut short lengths of forked ribbon, glued everything together with a hot glue gun and then glued simple metal fasteners on to the backs. I used contrasting colors to give the boutonnieres the same mismatched, colorful look used throughout our wedding. The whole project cost about $35.
10. A New Spin on an Altar: Which came first, the idea for a “kissing booth” altar or the wedding theme itself? I’m pretty sure it was the kissing booth. This may have been my single favorite DIY element of our wedding. I designed it in Adobe Illustrator and printed it out in three pieces (the top, the struts and the base) at my mom’s office. (She has access to a large-scale printer and foam board-mounting equipment.) Then we assembled an inexpensive PVC pipe and duct tape structure to hold it up, and I attached a string of our handmade bunting as a final touch.
11. No Sunglasses Allowed: I found six vintage parasols and umbrellas on Etsy. They were a little bit of a splurge (the most expensive was $60), but worth every penny when I look back at the photos. Not to mention, they were incredibly useful for protecting my fair skin from the sun!
12. Fete-Worthy Food Truck: Hiring Le Truc to feed our wedding was significantly cheaper than hiring a regular caterer. Plus, guests didn’t have to decide ahead of time what they wanted to eat, and the food was YUMMY. Le Truc even agreed to use the charming red food baskets and red and white checked paper liners I had bought for serving.
13. Barnyard Table Themes: We decided against the usual table numbers. Instead, each table had a theme (rabbit, horse, cow, rooster, radish, sheep, pickle, pig, peas and strawberries). If your name was listed on the “rooster” table, you found the table with the corresponding vintage rooster sign. Each table housed other items corresponding with its theme, vintage animal figurines, fresh produce and — for the pickle-themed table — home-pickled carrots and cucumbers.
14. Oil Cloth Table Runners: We bought long lengths of oil cloth from a discount fabric store and used them for table runners. I was able to find oil cloth in a range of vintage-style, theme-appropriate patterns, which made for a lovely, cheerful and affordable option for DIY tables!
15. Quilted Photo Booth Backdrop: The backdrop for our photo booth was a gorgeous, hand-crafted granny-square quilt made by my aunt as a wedding present. I love, love, love how the colors made our photos pop.
16. Insta Guest Book: I bought a vintage scrapbook on Etsy and set up a table with paper props (also from Etsy) and a Fuji Instax Mini camera ($60). Guests took their own instant photos and taped them into the guestbook, writing messages and adding stickers at their leisure — way cheaper than renting an actual photo booth or hiring an extra photographer.
17. Where’s the Cake?: Saving money elsewhere allowed me to order a cake from the ultra-talented Jasmine Rae, a friend of a friend. I told her I wanted our cake to be disguised as a pie, and what she created was beyond my wildest dreams. We had a host of other desserts on hand, so not everyone tried our cake. After the wedding, I spoke with multiple guests who were amazed at “the size of that gorgeous pie” never guessing it wasn’t a pie at all!
18. An Old-Fashioned Pie Off: What’s a county fair without some healthy competition? In addition to games like bocce, horseshoes and corn hole, we also invited the guests to bring a homemade dessert to enter into our old-fashioned pie-off. With the invitations, I included a card inviting people to bring a dessert. I designed the back to be a blank recipe card, asking people to share their favorite recipes with us.
19. Prizes as Party Favors: Next it was on to the prize table, consisting of various old-school candies, toys and trinkets. We had several county-fair-style games, such as “guess the weight of the bride and groom.” We even had a prize for the best hula-hooper of the day. Additionally, every guest had been given a raffle ticket. We tied the tickets and name tags onto each guest’s personal drinking jar. We raffled off the rest of the prizes, pulling numbers until the prize board was empty. It was great fun and felt totally unique and special.
20. A Completely Free Wedding Video: The biggest surprise bonus of our wedding weekend was undoubtedly our wedding video. We didn’t hire a videographer, but a few weeks before the wedding our photographer asked if her brother-in-law, Chris Sithi, could come and film some of our wedding — for free! I, of course, said yes, and he was there throughout the wedding, waving various cameras in our general direction. I had no idea the result would be so breathtaking… and emotional. The video takes me right back to the day in a way nothing else can.
The biggest lesson I learned from our wedding was this: it’s possible to have the perfect day without everything being perfect. Yes, there were things that threatened to mar the day — an unreliable after-party venue and the chilly wind that picked up in the afternoon, knocking over table decorations and sending our guests running for blankets and coats — and yet, I’ve heard more than a few of our wedding guests use the word “perfect” to describe our day. When I look back, I remember one big, colorful whirlwind of smiling faces, whimsical decorations, delicious food and my vision coming to life. It was the perfect wedding for us, perfectly true to who we are.
Photographer: Connie Sithi
Flowers: Steve Snyder
Caterer: Le Truc
Hair: Garry Bailey
Day-of coordinator: Tabitha Colie
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