Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An Altar-native Backdrop

Our wedding venue for both ceremony and reception was a brick-walled loft space in downtown Chicago. The large open room was divided in half by drapery for the ceremony, which was then removed for the reception while folks were enjoying cocktail hour (and a half) in the next room over. Typically, the venue coordinators said, brides and grooms were wed with the drapery as the backdrop. Here's a photo from Loft on Lake's website (this isn't us):
We wanted to focus on the brick wall as our backdrop and opted to arrange the chairs 90 degrees from the curtain. However, a brick wall can only say so much and doesn't provide much of an anchor for the ceremony. Pinterest strikes again.
Bob and I would love to put a sliding barn door in our house - best option is to replace the coat closet doors, and our thought for a bit was to find our dream door, use it in the ceremony first and then always have the reminder in our house. However, when my parents offered up a pair of antique french doors that were hanging out in their basement with nowhere to go we quickly snapped them up.
Just a bit of manuevering to get them home in the Escape!
That same trip up north to grab the doors also gave us our side piece. I had a vision of spending only $50 on our altarpiece, but after weeks of empty handed craigslist searches I had almost given up hope. Then we wandered into a little antique shop in my hometown. A sad looking commode was in the back room - missing a drawer and dinged up. But, it was the perfect size and the sign "$75 - what could you make out of me?" was quite tempting. We only had $34 in cash that day between Bob, my mom and me so we made our offer. Accepted!
I chose to ignore the fact that the piece of furniture was actually a commode (where the chamber pot may have been kept) and continued to call it a dresser. We got the pieces home and gave them a little love. First up, how to get the doors to stand up on their own? Bob's wheels starting turning and suddenly our garage space was turned into a makeshift workshop.
A few pieces of scrap wood adding up to about $14 starting creating this:
The door would wedge in between the front piece and a stable back. I had my doubts, but we let them stand up in our garage up until the wedding and they never wavered thanks to lots of nails and screws (only in the base, the doors remained intact and completely removable).
We dragged the dresser out to my sister's house one weekend to sand and paint him. We decided to keep the inside unpainted as opposed to covering the whole thing in blue. Our paint color was more grayish blue than navy blue, and until it fully dried we were nervous it was too muted, but once dry it fit our needs perfectly.
We picked up a few new drawer pulls from The Home Depot and sanded/re-drilled the drawers, with touch up paint added.

The door bases got the same color treatment and afterwards the "styling" began! I played around with some tabletop decor before coming up with the following elements:
- one of our lanterns in the open bottom shelf to echo our centerpieces. This one held a block candle.
- a framed photo from our engagement session
- a hurricane filled with yellow rocks and a candle
- a few of our navy blue votive candles
- a small stand I made out of a plate and a candlestick, holding dried flowers from the bouquets Bob got me on the day he proposed. (for a run down of how I made the plate/candlestick stand, check out this post)
The missing drawer proved a bit of a challenge with how to use the left hand side space. We decided to stick a bouquet of flowers through the opening so they would look like they would be growing out of the dresser. I had a shriveling bunch of flowers ready to be thrown out, but they did their job as stand-in well that day.
In the end, we tweaked a couple elements: the hurricane with yellow rocks was replaced with the much simpler white vase and 3 billy balls (flowers we used heavily in our bouquets and boutonnieres). We loved the look once they got set up in the space! I was glad I kept the top rather empty because it ended up holding our readings and Bob's journal that contained his vows. After the ceremony, the caterers moved the doors to flank the cake table which was a great use of them during the reception.

I had thought about putting lights across the back of the doors to shine through or to decorate it with flowers, but simplicity won out and they were kept as plain ol' doors.
You can see the doors and dresser acting as our backdrop in this action shot.
photo by GReyes Photography
The best part? We decided to use the dresser as a bar in our library area, which will soon be home to 2 new armchairs on order from Crate and Barrel! It looks insanely full right now because of all the extra liquor we have leftover from the wedding (anyone need a handle of vodka? Cuz we have 5...).  We will plan on adding a shelf in the space of the missing drawer to make that space usable to hold a few glasses and the artwork leaning against the sides will be up on the wall soon - I promise!
Here's how things are shaping up in our library, with a sneak peek of my fall mantle, established 9.16.12.
What ideas have you been seeing on Pinterest for backdrop ideas? There are certainly a lot of creative ideas out there for the non-traditional wedding location. Here are a couple favorites that I only wished I could have put together:

From hitchedsalon.typepad.com (not positive the original source): I read this is receipt paper spooled out!

From Style Me Pretty:


  1. Hello! I recently picked up an old farmhouse door from a junk yard and have been trying to figure out how to make it stand upright. I'm then going to mount shelves and use it for seasonal decorations. I'm so glad I found this post. I was wondering if you still had this backdrop around? If so, and at your convenience, I'd greatly appreciate some dimensions for the base that was built. The plywood base and two by fours would be very helpful! Thank you! Have a great day!

    Chelsea in CentralTexas

    1. hey there - sorry for the delay in responding. I don't have it anymore unfortunately. I'm guessing the base plywood was around 20 inches deep and the two by fours a little less than that. Good luck!