This was probably my first BIG project. My cousin was having her wedding reception in a large gymnasium, but didn't want the industrial duct work behind the head table showing up in their wedding photos. She asked if I could come up with something to put behind the head table. She gave me some guidelines of what she was looking for and I got to building.
This was built years before I knew of any kind of "maker" community, so a materials list and collection of detailed photos don't exist. I did happen to take a few pics along the way, so continue ahead to see if this past project gives you any ideas for something you may want to create in the future.
Step 1: Building the Frame
This thing needed to be as large as possible, but there were a few challenges. First, it had to be built off-site and then transported 20 miles and setup on location. The other challenge was that it needed to be setup on a concrete floor and have the smallest footprint possible. The final size ended up being 20' wide x 10' tall.
The frame was built using three upright supports that were joined together across the top. The outside two uprights were just 2" PVC pipe set into 50# of concrete in 5 gallon buckets. An elbow at the top of each pipe allowed a cross support to be connected.
The middle upright would hold a 4' diameter circle that would be monogrammed with the bride and grooms initials and appear to be floating and backlit. For this support, I needed to run a power cord up through it. I set a piece of 4" PVC pipe into the concrete filled bucket. A few inches above the top of the bucket, I cut the pipe and inserted a sanitary tee. This would give an access point to run power inside of the pipe. At the desired height, I added another sanitary tee and glued all fittings. To get the power out of the pipe at the upper tee, I drilled a hole through the side of the tee. This hole was just a bit larger than the power cord I was using. I already had an extension cord that had a "screw on" plug, so I removed the plug, ran the cord in from the bottom and out through the hole in the side of the tee. I reinstalled the plug. A short stub of 4" pipe out the top and an adapter to reduce it down to the 2" pipe to match the other uprights. I topped it off with a 2" tee at the same height as the other uprights. The cross supports were just 10' long 2" PVC pipe that were friction fit into the top fittings. To hold the monogrammed circle, I glued a section of pipe into the upper 4" tee that was long enough for the light bulbs to have some space without touching the backdrop.
For the mongrammed circle, I cut a piece of 4'x8'x1/4" plywood in half. I found the middle of the 4'x4' square and drew the circle using a small nail through a yard-stick at the 24" mark. A small notch cut into the end of the yard stick helped keep the pencil in place while drawing the circle. I cut it out with a jigsaw. I built a cross support out of 2x4's and then glued and nailed it to the backside of the circle. To provide some space to wire the lights, I added a large square of hardboard over the cross support, which also provided a bit more rigidity to the piece. I wired and attached four plastic light fixtures. I chose the plastic over the ceramic just because of weight. Finally, I used a 4" toilet flange screwed into the cross supports. I wanted the circle to firmly attached, but also be removable so glue was not an option. I opted to drill through the flange and the pipe and used a large lag bolt to hold the two together.
Step 2: Painting the Monogram
I made a few different designs of the monogram and sent them for approval. Once I had the chosen design, I had to make it large enough to fill a 4' circle. Nowadays, there are tons of tools to do this, but at the time I used an online tool called The Rasterbator (rasterbator.net), which basically blows up an image and you can choose to print it out at whatever size you wish based on the number of pages you want to print. It prints everything out in dots.
I sanded and put a few coats of white paint on the circle. Once it was dry and keeping in mind where my lag bolt hole was located, I masked a large section of the circle and applied my now enlarged letters. I used a razor knife to cut and remove the masking for the letters. I took a sample of the fabric that would be used for the backdrop and had the paint store custom color match some paint. A few coats of paint over the masked letters and then removed the masking. There were a few places where paint got under the masking, so I went back and touched up around the letters with white paint.
Step 3: Setup and Drapes
The fabric used for the backdrop was just a cotton cloth that was close in color to the bridesmaids dresses. The fabric was sold in 50" or 52" widths and I bought 30 yards of it (thank goodness for 50% off coupons). There are six panels hanging vertically that overlap which cover the frame. On the ends, I wrapped the fabric around to the backside and pinned it to hide the pipe.
I was able to get in and setup the day before the wedding, which was a bit of relief. The location was 20 miles from anything except a gas station, so if I would have forgotten something I'd have plenty of time to handle it. Luckily all went smooth. I got it setup in no time, got the circle fitted, CFL bulbs screwed in and powered up, and backdrop hung. All that was left to do the next day was to plug the extension cord in. It turned out great. I don't remember what the final cost was but it was well worth the time and effort to have an attractive background in the photos.
I hope some part of this has given you some ideas for future projects. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. Thanks for reading.