We have NEVER seen a wedding like today’s one before. Fact.
Plenty of couples choose themes, and pull them off beautifully, but the level of dedication this couple put into their carnival Jewish wedding is just off the charts. We’re not just talking about a wedding that hints at a fair aesthetic; Talia and Danny actually set up a full-on carnival in the bride’s parents’ backyard. We’re talking a Ferris wheel, games (complete with life-sized stuffed animal prizes!), photo booths, claw machines, a balloon artist and a stilt walker… and that’s just the beginning!
Even more impressive is how much of the work the couple – along with Talia’s family – put in themselves, from artistic details to heavy-duty stuff like wiring. With the help of their multitalented florist, Dawn of Tularosa Flowers – who did so much more than just florals – the pair made their dream into a reality, with everything from the big stuff (that Ferris wheel!) to the smallest details (the floral centerpieces were inside popcorn containers – genius).
It doesn’t hurt that Talia has got to be one of craftiest brides we’ve encountered – so much so that this fall she’s opening an arts and crafts business where people can come and make projects of their own. After seeing the ah-mazing photo props she crafted from cardboard boxes – Zoltar’s head, a popcorn machine, and more – plus her spiffy ticket booths (also crafted from cardboard) we think you’ll agree she’s found her calling.
Photographer Shimmy Lautman and videographer Michael Newman did SUCH a fantastic job capturing all the glorious details (a drone was involved!).
We haven’t even gotten to the carnival cart food, or the Kinder Surprise Egg invitations (yes!) – but we’ll leave it to Talia to tell you the rest.
A Backyard Wedding
Talia, the bride: We got married in my parents’ backyard. It’s the house I grew up in since I was born, and my father also grew up in the house. It meant a lot to me to get married there because it’s where all the milestones of my life happened. From taking my first step, to losing my first tooth, to graduating high school, all of my memories took place there, so it made it extra special to also have my wedding there.
My husband and I realized that all of the weddings that we go to are the same. The entire event always centers around food and dancing. We are both very creative, and we wanted a wedding that would be really fun but wasn’t focused around a dance floor, since we both don’t like to dance.
We love playing games and winning prizes so we decided what could be more perfect than a carnival wedding! And the best part was that it was a complete surprise to all of the guests.
No one knew until after the ceremony when we ripped down a fabric wall and revealed a full-scale carnival: ferris wheel, stilt walker, prize booths, and all. We were trying to replicate a vintage carnival so our color scheme was pale pastels (blue, pink, green, and yellow).
Kinder Surprise Egg Invitations
Our invitation was very unique and reflected us so perfectly. My husband had proposed to me at Circus Circus in Las Vegas. He had put a Kinder Surprise Egg inside of a claw machine and when I won the egg, he had me crack it open and inside was a ring. We used this as inspiration for our invitations. Every guest was sent a Kinder Surprise Egg. They had to crack it open, and our invitation was on a photo strip inside.
First I made a photo booth strip… my husband thought that using pictures of ourselves was too cheesy, so I made muppet versions of us and posed them with signs that displayed all of the information about our wedding. Next I spliced open 200 Kinder Surprise eggs, dumped out the toys from the inner yellow container, and replaced them with the rolled-up photo strips (I used a plastic diamond ring to hold the photo strip in a neat roll). Then I melted the Kinder Eggs back together, put them in cute little boxes, and wrapped them up like presents. People were really shocked when they received them!
Hair + Makeup
I was going for a vintage feel, so I hired the best in the business for vintage hair, Melissa Firestone. And for makeup I used the very talented Elka Moses. I wanted a look that would fit both the traditional first half of my wedding and fun second half.
An Heirloom Dress
I wore my mother’s wedding dress. It was handmade and given as a gift to her by a seamstress who worked for my father. I had no idea that I was going to wear it, but after trying on countless wedding gowns and having no success, I tried it on for fun and immediately knew it was the one. Just like using my parents’ home, this dress was special to me because it connected me to the past.
I had two very dichotomous parts to my wedding, a very traditional orthodox Jewish ceremony, and a completely non-traditional out-of-the-box party. Thus, I obviously had to change outfits in between. So I went from my mother’s traditional wedding gown to a fun pastel tea-length princess dress.
Grandmother’s Engagement Ring
My veil was also my mother’s that was gifted to her with the dress. My engagement ring belonged to my grandmother, so although she passed away, it felt like she was with me on my wedding day.
Mocha Kitten Heels
The shoes I wore with my wedding dress were mocha lacy kitten heels. Since my dress was vintage, it had yellowed a bit, and white and ivory shoes didn’t match. Then I tried it with mocha-colored shoes and it worked perfectly!
For my second outfit, I wore sparkly light pink stilettos with big sparkly bows in front.
The handsome groom
The groom worked tirelessly up until 5 minutes before the wedding making sure that all of the details were taken care of. He literally had a hacksaw and was cutting down branches to make room for the ferris wheel and game trailers. He also did all of the lighting in the entire wedding by himself and was climbing trees and fences in order to string lights across the entire span of the carnival. It was so sweet how much effort he put in to ensure that I would be happy with how the event turned out!
I had 12 bridesmaids! I wanted them to wear pastel vintage dresses to fit in with the vintage vibe I was going for. I also wanted a uniform look. The bridesmaids were all different shapes and sizes, and I was having a lot of trouble finding what I was looking for and also something that would be flattering on everyone!
After tons of research, I found a British company online called Dig For Victory. They specialize in vintage dresses, and I fell in love with the old-fashioned designs on their site. I wanted the bridesmaids to all feel great in their dresses, while still looking uniform, so I picked a skirt style that I liked (a 50s flared skirt) and let each girl pick her own neckline, sleeves, and color (out of the four pastel colors of fabric I supplied to the company). I was very nervous to see how they would come out since they were being shipped from across the globe and no one could try them on or anything… but they ended up fitting everyone like a glove and being better than I ever imagined!
A Floral Chuppah
My extremely talented beyond words florist, Dawn at Tularosa Flowers, came up with the chuppah design. She did the absolutely most beautiful job. The wedding took place in three areas that were all interconnected. There was the chuppah area, which was in my parents’ back yard; the cocktail area, which was in the back yard next door (they were connected to each other by an open gate); and the secret carnival area, which was in an empty field behind the house next door. My dad built a 20 x 100 foot fabric wall between the cocktail and the carnival areas so that no one would ever suspect that there would be a carnival behind it.
Since the carnival was a secret and we didn’t want anyone to guess it was coming, we wanted to build up to the fun carnival colors throughout the night. We started at the cocktail hour with very traditional garden party colors. There was plush green grass, and Dawn kept all of the flowers in that area white. Next, there was the chuppah area. There she carefully introduced some of the pastel colors into the chuppah flowers. The finished look was completely stunning. When we had the carnival reveal, there were gorgeous pastel flowers throughout.
An Antique Family Kiddush Cup
My husband’s father makes wine as a hobby, so it was really special drinking the wine that he made at the chuppah. We drank the wine out of my great great grandfather’s kiddush cup from the 1800s that my grandfather somehow managed to smuggle to Israel during the time of Hitler. It was very meaningful to use this cup and know that we were still celebrating the same Jewish traditions that were celebrated by my family so many years ago.
Ketubah as Guest Book
We had gone shopping at many places for ketubahs and hadn’t found any that really spoke to us. Luckily, we found Ginny at Ketubah Arts, who makes plain text ketubahs that you can add your own art to. We thought that it would be cool to have our guests be a part of our ketubah, so I painted a tree trunk and branches around the text, and instead of a guest book we had each of our guests dip their finger in ink and put down their fingerprint on the branches to make the leaves of the trees.
It came out really beautiful and special. I’m currently working on making a mosaic frame for the ketubah out of the wine glass that my husband stepped on at the ceremony, as well as the plates that our mothers broke at the tisch.
During the ceremony, we had very traditional Jewish music. I walked down to Bocelli’s rendition of Boi Kallah. Later, during the reception, we had oldies music to give the carnival a vintage feel. Our grand entrance was us riding on the top of the ferris wheel as the wall was ripped down and our guests trickled into the carnival.
Flowers Fit for a Carnival
Dawn at Tularosa Flowers is not just a florist, she’s a visionary. She helped us with every single visual aspect of the wedding. She always had the best ideas and was always guiding me in the right direction. She came up with the idea to have our centerpieces inside of popcorn containers, which everyone loved. She was able to work absolute miracles with our limited budget. Her bouquets were out of this world!!
I knew how talented she was, so I just let her work her magic with what flowers she thought would look best, and the results were beyond anything I have ever seen from a florist! She also came up with an awesome decoration for the table. When she was a kid she remembered that every time she went to a carnival her mother would always buy her a lemon peppermint drink. It’s literally just a whole lemon with a peppermint stick inside of it. Since the peppermint sticks are hollow, you are able to suck the lemon juice through the peppermint “straw” and it’s a delicious and refreshing treat. We put these as part of each person’s place setting to help decorate the table and also give each person a little carnival treat. It went so well with the field where the carnival was because it was full of fruit trees, and it really tied everything together.
Our fabulous photographer and videographer
Our photographer was Shimmy Lautman. He was recommended to us and has photographed many of my friends weddings.
Our videographer was Michael Newman. I went to film school with Michael Newman at USC, so I knew he would be the perfect person to film our wedding. He even used a drone to capture every detail!
Since the first half of our wedding was very traditional, we stuck with conventional appetizers during the cocktail hour. This part of the wedding was catered by Got Kosher (not only was their food delicious but they were incredibly helpful with the entire event).
Then, at the reception, we didn’t want normal wedding food. We wanted to make the carnival feel like a real carnival, as opposed to a carnival-themed party. We were lucky enough to find a carnival cart catering company that has a kosher branch (this was very hard to find!) called Let’s Have a Cart Party.They were so accommodating and helpful and did a wonderful job! They brought their old fashioned carnival carts, and guests walked around to the different carts and got their own food.
We had a hamburger and hot dog cart, fry and onion rings cart, chicken and waffles cart, salad cart, taco cart, pretzel cart, popcorn cart, and drink cart. For dessert we had a cotton candy cart, candy apple cart, ice cream and root beer float cart, and my personal favorite… the funnel cake cart! We also had a full bar and our specialty drink was a cotton candy cocktail with real cotton candy in it!
Carnival Games and Beyond
Since we didn’t want dancing to be the focus of the wedding, I made sure to have tons of other entertainment. We had 7 different carnival game booths, with very large stuffed animal prizes for our guests to win. We had a stiltwalker/juggler who walked around and impressed the guests. We had a 25’ ferris wheel, a giant trailer game, a claw machine, an arcade machine, two different photo booths, a Polaroid station, a photo opp station, a high striker, two skeeball machines, and an arts and crafts station (where people could make either a flower crown or pinwheel). People were very busy! All of the authentic carnival rentals were from Zebra Entertainment. We also had a balloon artist making balloon animals and balloon hats, Balloons 4 You.
Carnival Game Prize Favors
Our guests had to win their own favors! There were prizes located at every single booth. A lot of people went home with life sized teddy bears! We also had blow-up guitars, and every type of stuffed animal you can think of! From little stuffed ducks to giant lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!).
A Team Effort
We wanted our wedding to be something completely unforgettable and unlike any party that anyone has ever attended. We had a limited budget and had to do a lot of the things ourselves in order to make it work. This meant that everyone in my family and my husband had a lot of jobs, and we were only able to pull this off because everyone worked so hard.
For example, my dad was in charge of getting the house “wedding ready,” making sure to make it look as good as possible by planting flowers, working on landscaping, painting the house, etc. My mom’s job was communication – she was the one constantly in touch with all of the vendors keeping them up to date on all of the latest developments. My husband tackled all of the lighting, electricity, and mapping out of the entire event – which proved to be a very difficult task. He also handmade the giant “carnival” marquee sign that was the entrance to our reception.
While everyone else was covering these things, I was working hard on doing all of the creative stuff. I made whatever I could! I started with making kits for each of my bridesmaids. I made each girl a personalized mug that said her name and “will you be my bridesmaid.” My bachelorette party was at Disneyland, so inside of the mug, I had put handmade Mickey ears, and handmade Disney t-shirts that I had made in pastel colors. It also had a pamphlet on how to order the custom bridesmaid dresses, and pastel nail polish. When everyone wore their accessories to Disneyland for the bachelorette party, it looked really cute!
Staging The carnival
After the invitations were done, my next project was creating two old-fashioned ticket booths. I had an idea that once the carnival wall was torn down, I wanted people to enter the carnival through ticket booths like they would a real carnival. My bridesmaids sat inside the ticket booths and handed people their placecards. The placecards were envelopes that were made to look like “Admit One” tickets with each person’s name and table number on it. Inside the envelope each guest received 10 tickets to use on the game booths. I made the ticket booths out of giant cardboard boxes and painted them. I then screwed in battery powered lights on top to make them look like real ticket booths.
Up next was the Zoltar machine. Growing up, I loved the movie Big and was in awe of the Zoltar machine at the carnival. I wanted to rent a Zoltar machine for my carnival but it was too expensive. Thus, I decided to make my own out of a cardboard box and use it as a photo prop at the wedding. I made the machine but left the part with Zoltar’s head empty, so that guests could put their face in it. I left the costume there too, so that people could look authentic.
I wanted the guests to have many fun photo ops besides the Zoltar, so I also created a giant cotton candy made out of cardboard and spraypainted polyfil. I cut out a space for a person’s head to peep through. I also used cardboard to make a photo frame that looked like a popcorn machine. When people put their heads inside, it looked like they were inside of a popcorn machine with popcorn.
I looked everywhere for bunting flags that were pastel colored, but was unable to find them, so I made my own. I cut hundreds of triangles out of cardstock paper, and then I strung them all together. I made 600 feet of this, and we hung it throughout the carnival.
In order to make the table settings match the fun feel of the carnival, I made it my mission to make it as colorful and playful as possible. Dawn really helped me figure out how to execute this properly. I started by buying table cloths and napkins in all my different pastel colors.
A lot of the carnival equipment that we rented was an old fashioned red and yellow color, so I wanted to incorporate that into the table design to tie in with all my pastels. I made my own table numbers by cutting out cardboard squares and painting them the old fashioned red and yellow to match the decor. I did the same thing for all the signage throughout the wedding so that it would all look uniform.
I wanted the napkins to contribute to the mood of the evening, so I folded all 300 napkins into the shape of pinwheels and pre-set them onto the plates so that they could be easily placed on the tables. I also ordered custom benchers that I designed with a ferris wheel on top so that people would have a token to remember the carnival by.
Since the carnival was at night, we thought it was important to have many things that lit up. We found light up stuffed animals, light up balloons, and the caterers even served light up cotton candy to make sure that everything glowed in the dark.
I had set up a Polaroid station with sharpies, props, and a bunch of Polaroid cameras and film. In the tree above the station I hung string lights that had photo clips attached to them. I didn’t think much of this station, however this turned out to be my absolute favorite thing about the wedding.
After the night was over, and everyone left, and my husband and I walked to the cleared out field where our awesome wedding had once been… feeling very sad it was all over. We saw the most beautiful sight, glowing in the dark hanging from the trees were hundreds of Polaroid photos with nice messages for us! It made us so happy to see what a fun time everyone had and it looked stunning! It was such a cool surprise for us at the end of the night!
Because the entire wedding was outside on the grass, I was worried about women’s heels sinking into the ground. To remedy this problem, at the entrance to the wedding where I had yarmulkes for men (in my four pastel colors!), I also set up a basket full of grass stoppers for women’s heels. My friends told me that they worked great and that they really appreciated that touch!
We needed to rent port a potties for 300 people and we were so fortunate to find Luxury Flush, who provided us with a beautiful 10-station portable bathroom trailer – they were complete with chandeliers and all – the fanciest porta potties I’ve ever seen!
Our rental company, Pico Party Rents, was incredible! Billy was so professional and helpful and gave great advice. We had a pool that we needed to cover with a dance floor, and he did everything he could to work within our budget to make it happen.
The after party
After the carnival was over, we also planned an after party. In the area where the chuppah was, I set up a giant movie screen and projector. I then had a huge basket full of rolled up blankets, a fire pit, a smore station, a popcorn machine, and a candy bar with every type of candy. People then grabbed a blanket, some candy, and watched a movie.
A sunny day
A crazy story that happened during the wedding was that from the start my husband and I knew that we could not pull this wedding off it was raining outside. We had chosen our date based on when we thought it was least likely to rain. We live in Los Angeles where it usually only rains maybe 4 days per year, so we were not too worried about it.
As the date started approaching and the weather reports were predicting rain every day the week of the wedding we were freaking out. We obviously knew we needed some type of rain plan but tenting a whole acre of land was so unbelievably expensive and also would require us to take down all of the decorations and lights that we had already so carefully strung. In addition, we couldn’t tent a 25 foot ferris wheel! Tenting the whole area would totally ruin the mood that we had planned for. Instead our backup plan was to buy 300 cute disposable pastel ponchos and umbrellas for all of the guests and just pray that it didn’t rain. It ended up raining every single day the week of the wedding… by some miracle it completely stopped the day of the wedding and we had perfect weather, and then continued raining the next day and every day the following week. We got so incredibly lucky!
We just got back from our honeymoon in Maui! My husband is trying to go to all 50 states and he hadn’t been to Hawaii yet, so we figured it was the perfect time to knock that one off the list!
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
Make sure to go and get yourself a plate of food at the wedding and eat! I didn’t get to try any of my fun carnival food, and I regret it so much! Also make sure to plan any photo shots that you want! I had a lot of fun photo ideas that I didn’t make my photographer aware of and they never ended up happening.
Talia & Danny’s little white book
Photography – Shimmy Lautman
Bridesmaids – Dig For Victory
Hair + Makeup – Melissa Firestone and Elka Moses
Flowers – Tularosa Flowers
Caterings – Let’s Have a Cart Party and Got Kosher
Ketubah – Ketubah Arts
Band – Spotlight Music
Balloon artist – Balloons 4 You
Carnival rentals – Zebra Entertainment
Rentals – Pico Party Rents
Portable bathroom trailers – Luxury Flush