Photographs of colorful & vibrant carnival-themed weddings are popping up all over Pinterest. I’m in love with this idea and decided to create unique reception items for a North Carolina State Fair-themed wedding.
I’ve been attending our fair state’s fair (in my hometown of Raleigh) nearly every year since I was a toddler. The smells, tastes, sights and sounds are rich & abundant: Roasted corn-on-the-cob, cotton candy, boiled peanuts, barbecue with vinegar-based sauce (is there any other kind?), funnel cakes, and deep-fried ____ (just fill in the blank with anything from Oreos to bubblegum, from Reece’s cups to Coca-Cola). Wee baby ducks & chicks. Fat mama pigs resting in the hay, surrounded by a dozen squealing piglets. Miniature donkeys (a personal favorite). Humongous Angus cows and draft horses. Whirring rides that make me dizzy just looking up at them. A gazillion displays of ribbon-winning baked goods, canned goods and every type of homespun creation. Displays of artwork from hundreds of kids from dozens of schools across the state. The loud & raucous Midway with seasoned barkers (I think I’ve been finagled out of eleventy billion dollars over the years). Let’s not forget the historic Spanish Mission Revival style architecture of the 1928 exhibition halls (remarkably still in use today). And, of course, our iconic Dorton Arena.
I hope you enjoy looking at the invitation envelopes and wedding reception place cards, escort cards, favor tags, garlands & table signage that I created, all inspired by the one-of-a-kind North Carolina State Fair!
Once again, my daughter Hannah drew a picture for my blog post. The drawing above is her rendition of a NC State Fair bridal couple, with a nod to Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.” I shall call this “Rural Hipsters.” I adore these people. I totally want to hang out with them. Don’t you? (And that’s the Dorton Arena in the background.)
I love it when brides use table names instead of table numbers. I think NC State Fair landmarks would make great table names: Village of Yesteryear, The Grandstand, Dorton Arena, Kerr Scott Building, Jim Graham Building, Holshouser Building, The Midway – and many more. For the “Dorton Arena” sign shown above, I used 12×12 scrapbook paper printed with a hay design. I folded the paper in half to make a tented sign. I layered country (gingham-y) papers for the matting (affixed with double-sided tape). The table name was written in my “Curly Contempo” writing style in thick red ink on lovely linen paper (I tore the edges by hand – see detail photo). Just for fun, I added a cow to the lower right corner (a scrapbook sticker). Super easy. I can imagine a whimsical assortment of landmark table names, using a mix of different papers & ink colors. These signs are the perfect accompaniment to the escort card tags & gingham place cards below.
I found these large Kraft tags in the clearance bin at a fabric & craft store and thought they would make great escort cards. The completed cards could be pinned to a rustic display board (covered in burlap perhaps?) or even clipped to a clothesline or wooden fence. Perfect for an outdoor, fair-inspired reception. I also found the wonderful stamp depicting a glass bottle & single flower at the same craft & fabric store. I stamped the image on the front of the tags using black ink – and then colored just the blooms with watercolor markers. Using a green watercolor marker, I wrote a guest’s name on the front of each tag and his or her table assignment on the back. I looped green raffia through the hole in the tag and added a small twine bow to the front.
To make these adorable square tented place cards, I cut ivory linen paper 3” x 6” and folded in half. I layered gingham printed scrapbook papers, cut to size, and affixed them with double-sided tape. (Gingham always reminds me of the fair!) At first I laid out the papers so they fit exactly in the square, then I turned them diagonally, and I loved how they looked. I cut rectangles out of Kraft paper for the names (written in slick black gel ink in my “Petite Contempo” writing style) and affixed them in the center. Finally, I added the farm-themed scrapbook embellishments. You’ll see lots of pigs, chickens, tractors & wheat stalks at the fair!
To make this table number sign, I cut colorful striped scrapbook paper into a flag shape (essentially a triangle, when folded in half). I folded the flag over a bamboo skewer & affixed with double-sided tape (so there’s a front & a back). I hand-cut the number (in this example – “6”) out of linen paper and glued it to the front of the flag. The number was a little plain, so I added “stitching” with a thin orange marker. I added a green raffia bow to the top. I stuck the flag skewer into a decorative glass bottle that I bought at the local craft store for $1.49 – along with some colorful gerbera daisies and other non-highbrow blooms. I added a green raffia bow to the glass jar as well.
I totally didn’t know this, but raffia is da bomb! I’d never worked with raffia before. You can take a piece of raffia and pull it apart into smaller & smaller strips until you have little wispy raffia streamers. It’s addictive, I tell ya.
These adorable tiny white envelopes (shown above) hold 2¼” x 3¼” flat cards. I also found these in the clearance bin at the local fabric & craft store (a pack of 8 sets for $1.00—I kid you not). I thought they would make adorable escort cards. I lined the tiny envelopes in gingham and striped papers – cut to size, and affixed with just a dab of glue stick. I truly adore the look of a lined envelope. I hand-cut the table assignment numbers out of the same decorative papers (to match the envelope liners) and wrote “table” with a watercolor marker in a complementary color. Lastly, the guests’ names were written on the front of the wee envelopes. The beauty of this type of escort card (small envelopes with separate table assignment cards tucked inside) is the table assignment cards can be switched around as often as necessary before your event.
To make the “Mr. & Mrs.” chair garland above, I cut Kraft paper into triangular flags, and decorative papers into slightly smaller flags, which I affixed with double-sided tape. I punched super tiny holes (with a specialty hole puncher) in the upper corners and used colorful brads to connect the flags. I found die-cut circles & hearts at the craft store (super cheap). I wrote “Mr. & Mrs.” using a thick black sharpie. I punched more of the tiny holes in the top of the flags, to affix the circles & hearts. I looped twine in the holes on the ends. This garland looks like something I would definitely see at the state fair, but instead of “Mr. & Mrs.”, the flags might say “Corndogs & Candy Apples.”
I found this lidded jar (shown above) at the craft store and thought it would make a great wedding favor. I filled the jar with candy (in this case, Good & Plenty – the oldest branded candy in the United States, which you will find good and plenty of at the NC State Fair). I tied the green raffia (which I carefully pulled apart into thin strips – which is obviously my new favorite thing to do) around the jar. I affixed a white cardstock tag decorated with gingham paper & linen paper. I wrote the bridal couple’s initials, their wedding date, and “Thank You!” in slick black gel ink. I can imagine an old wooden picnic table with gingham cloth and a colorful assortment of jarred candy favors displayed on top.
I decided to try my hand at using a hand-dipped calligraphy pen. (Most of my writing styles are done with monoline pens & artist markers.) For the sample envelope below, I wrote the lines free-hand, without a guide – for a looser, less formal look. I found images of both vintage & modern stamps on the internet for this fair-themed postage stamp montage. I sized the stamps, printed & cut them out, and affixed with a glue stick.
The Dorton Arena was the inspiration for this envelope below. Super fun to do. I printed out a copy of a vintage NC stamp with our state bird, the cardinal.
As you can see, I love our state fair. October can’t get here soon enough.
Thanks as always to my daughter Hannah for taking the pictures. She is an illustrator, not a photographer – so I really appreciate her willingness to help out her mama! Hannah & I really wanted to shoot the photos at the fairgrounds, but it was 108 degrees outside. We opted for burlap taped to the living room wall and a bale of hay (hey, what can I say?). Hitch was also quite helpful, as evidenced in the photo below.