Old World Carnival Wedding: Erin + Brent

I have such a treat for you guys today! Remember this adorable couple whose engagement session I shared a few months ago? Well, their wedding was AMAZING. Seriously, it’s one of those weddings you look at photos and really wish you had been there – it looks like you stepped into a movie. Erin + Brent were married in her parent’s backyard in Springfield, Missouri. The wedding was a true labor of love with Erin’s dad (with the help of the rest of the family) building the ceremony benches, all the gorgeous signs, hanging all the lights, and so much more! And she is also lucky enough to have floral + event design superstar Carissa (of JL Designs & Events) as her sister-in-law! Carissa designed the entire event and created all the flowers. And Carissa knew they needed an amazing photographer to capture the day, so Carlie + Gabriel of Gabriel Ryan Photographers flew to Missouri to capture all the festivities. Big congrats to Erin + Brent and thanks so much for sharing your whimsical day with us!

carnival wedding in the woods

red roses bouquet

After visiting many antique shops in Springfield, my sister-in-law, Carissa Jowett of JL Designs and Events, and I brought home our favorite items and tried to make sense of our inspiration. We laid out a vintage umbrella, lace tablecloths, amber drinking goblets and velvet wingback chairs. We decided on a rustic wedding with a European flair. It was during that time that the movie Sherlock Holmes came out. There is a brief scene in the movie in which Robert Downey Jr’s character is chasing Rachel McAdam’s character through the dirty streets of London. She is wearing a satin pink dress, a navy damask jacket and matching hat while carrying a bunch of roses. As she confidently walks through what appears to be “carnie” characters perfecting their circus acts, her appearance changes from sweet and elegant to daring and interesting. Carissa and I leaned forward in our chairs, locked eyes and said “this is it!!!” I felt a connection right away and a theme was born: Old World Circus.

bridesmaids in different dresses

groom with unusual boutonniere

For me, the ceremony was the highlight of the event. The ceremony décor was simple and rustic. It honored our roots, nature and our wedding day. The benches were boards of wood that were stained by my parents and soon to be mother-in-law and nailed to tree stumps that my father had cut from a dead tree. With much help from family and friends he also was able to place over 150 feet of electrical lines underground to reach the ceremony site.

The dramatic look for the ceremony had to be the regal velvet curtains framing Brent and I. Our friend and talented seamstress, Laurinda Cox, sewed deep red velvet curtains with gold fringe that were each ten feet by thirteen feet.  Carissa strung them along a thick wire in the trees and held them open with a gold tassel. Between the curtains were two trees that Brent and I placed in one hole during the ceremony as a symbolism of our growth together.

The real surprise was hearing the vows Brent had written for me. I had never heard him express his love and commitment that way. It was endearing, comical and everything I dreamed of. We exited the ceremony to Coldplay’s Viva La Vida as guests threw birdseed that was placed inside brown paper bags. The paper bags also doubled as a program.

curtain in the woods

wooden frames in the woods

wedding guest with parasol

hanging umbrellas from the trees

The table arrangements were as eclectic as the table linens. Just as a celebration might have been decorated in the past, Carissa used drinking goblets, brass canisters and hobnail vases that we had available (and even flew in some of her own inventory from LA).  The flowers were varying combinations of burgundy dahlias, Black Magic roses, gray dusty miller foliage, burnt orange cone flowers, beige scabiosa pods, green snowberries and orange rose hips.  Carissa than added peacock feathers or brown pheasant feathers to every piece.  Every table’s arrangement was different for a truly one of a kind floral “collection.”

unique wedding flower centerpieces

beer in a bathtub

Signs played a huge role in this wedding. The signs not only directed guests, but also added to the theme. My dad and I thought out each sign. He then handcrafted each one. All of the wood and other materials used were either found on the property or leftover scraps from work. He carefully cut wood, hand painted the signs and distressed them to play the part. One particular sign was made into a game by screwing wooden bowling pins on the board. With the help of friends he made rings out of rope and our ring toss was created. The signs were so impressive that Brent and I are using a few to decorate our home.

unicycle rider at a wedding

popcorn and vintage games

wedding outside in the woods

first dance wedding

umbrellas above dancefloor

fire blower

wedding favor

band performing wedding

For me this wedding was a dream come true. As I looked out the curtains of my parent’s bedroom and over the magnificent display I was reminded of how loved and supported Brent and I are. There is a village behind every beautiful wedding and that village is the family and friends celebrating and supporting you until the very end.

Congrats to Erin + Brent! Your day was AMAZING! You can read lots more details about the day here on Erin’s blog.

This wedding is also featured in the current issue of Real Simple Weddings!

Floral & Event Design: JL Designs & Events
Photography: Gabriel Ryan Photographers
Day of Coordinator & Prop Styling: Sharon Taylor Designs
Umbrella rental: Bella Umbrella
Invitations + Programs: My Blue Tulip Design
Dress Designer: Silver Moon
Cake: Cakes by Darlene
Band: Hey Jimmy Band
Makeup: Makeup by Tabitha
Caterer: Simply Delicious

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  1. This wedding is fantastic fun! I love the hanging umbrellas and theater curtain ceremony backdrop.

  2. So many great detalis in this wedding! Amazing!!

  3. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this!

    I’m planning a backyard wedding as well! Did you have a back up plan just in case it rained?

  4. I LOVE this wedding! It reminds me of the Water for Elephants movie…rustic, vintage, Circus! Great job on the styling and the florals are wonderful. Also the bride has a cute video up on her blog featuring all the great touches! Love!

  5. I just have to say this is the most marvelously creative wedding ever. I love the umbrellas above the dance floor!! AMAZING!! wow! so magical!

  6. One of the most amazing and creative wedding I’ve ever seen!

  7. I wish I had been there, the wedding looks amazing!!!

  8. How fun! Love the umbrellas and the dance photo is to die for!

  9. Absolutely Beautiful. Planning my outdoor wedding now, and so many ideas.

  10. What did you hang the umbrellas with? Wire? Fishing line?


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