3/30 Real Bride Rachel: Committing to Our Carnival

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Affiliate Disclaimer NewIf you had asked me 10 years ago what my ideal wedding style was, I would have said a classy black and white affair. I thought it was elegant and timeless, and completely eliminated the task of choosing colors or decor that might go out of style down the road. Really, I still feel that way. I do not think you can go wrong with black and white … like ever in life (cars, dresses, home decor, you name it). Even so, I gradually began to gravitate toward color when I pictured my big day (which, to be honest, was not that often back then), and black and white was out. It makes sense when you consider that my favorite colors have always been bold and bright shades of orange and pink. B&W was never meant to be.

Fast forward five years to when I was in my mid-20s, and my new favorite was a fall wedding with red, orange, gold and brown to complement the beautiful changing leaves. The whole rustic theme was really taking off, and it reminded me of growing up in a small town and playing in my grandparent’s barns on their property. Autumn in Ohio would have been the perfect setting. The foliage is incredible, and I could visualize endless opportunities for gorgeous pictures. I still swoon every time I see a perfect barn wedding, or pictures of a bride and groom with vivid red or orange leaves in the background. Pinterest was probably partly to blame for my brief obsession with all things rustic and fall, but it was probably also the reason it didn’t last long. I could only see so many photos of the same general wedding idea before it lost its luster. I like to be different, which is especially true the older I get. Just ask my mother — she was thrilled when I dyed my hair purple at age 30, haha. Hi, Mom!


Once rustic fall wedding and I broke up, I kind of floated along in an “I’m going to pin whatever I like even if it doesn’t go together” haze. I figured I could sort it all out if I ever actually got engaged. Every wedding obsession I had had up until then was purely theoretical anyway. I knew Russel and I were in love and eventually wanted to get married, but we never really talked specifics, so it was fine. Once he popped the question, I realized it was time to sort through all of my random ideas and pick a general concept. Similar to our list of “must haves” we used to pick a venue, we did the same thing when choosing an overall direction. These preferences kept leading us back to the idea of having our own wedding carnival. I had seen a few examples of the carnival theme and really loved it, but I was never sure I could really pull the trigger on it. No one I know has ever done anything super nontraditional, so it seemed like such a risk. And could we really pull it off without it looking silly or cheap? Still, any time I thought about *not* doing it, I got really bummed out. I felt like this was our one chance to throw a really fun party that showed people who we are and what we love. Plus, every single one of our top priorities were so in line with a carnival.

Fun: For as long as I can remember, my main objective if/when I ever got married (other than the whole actually becoming man and wife thing) was to have fun. It had to be a blast for my husband and me, and our family and friends. I wanted every little detail to be chosen with that in mind. I’d always wanted entertainment and games during cocktail hour — Ohioans love us some cornhole, plus bocce ball and the lesser-known gem Kubb. And what’s a carnival without games? It seemed like a perfect match. We have some other great stuff up our sleeves involving coloring, and a fun guestbook, too. If only karaoke was feasible … {Eds note: Karaoke can happen when you least expect it. Trust me.}

Laid Back: Formality isn’t really our thing, so we wanted something casual. Don’t get me wrong, there are some traditions I like, but I wanted them mixed in with an overall easygoing vibe. When I think about celebrating our marriage with the people closest to us, it’s while dancing and singing and beating our friends at giant Jenga.

Colorful: After seeing so many pins, magazine articles and professional photos full of gorgeous, bright and colorful weddings, I knew we had to incorporate it into our big day. Could our colors go out of style or completely date our wedding pictures? Sure. But who cares? It’s what we love now, and when I look back on our photos in 20 years, I think our happiness and love is what will shine through. Carnivals are obviously chock-full of color, and one combo that seemed to stand out was red and turquoise/aqua. Something about it just wasn’t working for me. It just seemed too circus-y. Maybe I was nitpicking, but we’re not going the elephant under the big top route. After a lot of searching, I finally found an alternative — light pink and aqua. It was much more appealing to me, even if it does strike some people as super ’80s. Yes, I have gotten that comment, lol. But by mixing different shades of each, I really think it’s going to be beautiful. We’re also adding in some other colors wherever it strikes our fancy.



Delicious: We always knew we didn’t want to go the traditional wedding caterer route. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some phenomenal wedding food over the years, but chicken or beef with a side and salad isn’t really our style. Let’s be real, is there really anything better than fair food? Not in my eyes. Fries and funnel cakes? Yes, please. Not to mention one of Russel’s favorite foods on the planet is corn dogs. We were totally sold on food stands for dinner, and let’s not forget fair staples like candy apples, popcorn and peanuts that we get to incorporate. Honestly, food was probably the clincher when it came down to going all the way carnival on this shindig.

Cheap: Um, duh. We’re broke-asses, so whatever we chose had to be doable with a small budget and my mom’s and my DIY skills. My mom can make anything, so I was never worried about that. After some quick research and price-checking on food vendors and must-have decor, I definitely knew we could run with our carnival theme and stay on budget.

If all of these ideas weren’t reason enough for us to go through with our crazy wedding carnival, finding our fairground venue made it seem like absolute fate. An amazing bonus is the gorgeous barn that is a focal point of the whole site. I get my fun, unique carnival theme plus a barn wedding all rolled into one. So, we’re all in, and so far I have not regretted it for a second. You can ask me again a couple decades, but for now we are super happy with all of our choices. Oh, other than not getting a Ferris wheel … I really wanted that sucker. Does anyone have a couple grand they’d like to throw our way?

How did you decide on your wedding theme? Are you going a traditional route or are you going with something a little more left-of-center? Share in the comments!




  • Julie

    This is awesome! I wish I was invited to your wedding because it sounds like its going to be a ton of fun! Good for you for finding something that fits you best!

  • Lisa

    *high five* It’s great that you are taking a risk. I’m sure your guests will have lots of fun!
    I went the black and white (and Champagne) route that you mentioned early in your article. I’m happy with my choice though!