Vintage Carnival – The Invitations

When we decided to combine our boys’ birthday parties into one bash this year, my original thought was for a “Dynamic Duo” theme. Mason and Isaac are two years apart and best buds. They have a lot of the same interests, play so well together, and still sleep in the same room (even though they each have their own bedrooms). They’re inseparable and really good brothers. Like Batman & Robin, Sherlock Holmes & Watson, Erik B. & Rakim, Hall & Oates, Peanut Butter & Jelly (you get the idea right?)…we thought “Dynamic Duo” would be perfect for a joint party.

But, when they mentioned how much they enjoyed their school carnival and wanted to go to the County Fair, I jumped on this perfect opportunity to do a carnival/circus themed party instead! I have a feeling that we’ll be doing joint parties from here on out. Mason’s birthday is in August and Isaac’s birthday is Halloween, so it seems like I’m planning the parties back to back. As soon as the thank yous go out for Mason’s party, it’s time to send out the invites for Isaac’s…and during wedding season, things can get a little hectic. So we’ll just use the Dynamic Duo theme another year. Besides, I’m completely obsessed with the look of a vintage or old-fashioned carnival and I’ve always adored the romantic notion of running away to join the circus or the leading the nomadic-bohemian lifestyle of the headlining star in a carnival show.

The inspiration for the theme, colors, style and invitations came from several sources: the HBO original series “Carniv├ále”, with it’s visually stunning and historically accurate depiction of a traveling carnival set in the 1930s; as well as Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (namely the gorgeous Vogue feature of Reese Witherspoon, who played Marlena in the movie, shot at the L.A. Circus); vintage carnival and midway games I saw for sale online through some antiques dealers; and several other photo shoots using the props and backdrops of the L.A. Circus (including one that my niece did for photographer Skye Hardwick). LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. Can we please do our next family photo shoot there?!!!

The invitations (and decor) were designed around the vintage look of burlap/hessian cloth, dingy striped canvas tents, brown paper sack/craft paper, natural rope/twine and a color scheme of muted dark red, gray, navy blue, teal/turquoise and mustard yellow. The emailed save the dates, with the adorable silhouettes (that my husband created) of my boys are pictured above. And here’s how the invitations turned out…MAGNIFICENTLY!

A 7" X 10" self-closing box was used for the invitations, which feature the boys' silhouettes on the front flaps, printed on oval label paper with the striped burlap background. The box was tied closed with jute twine.

The full ensemble, showing the box closed, opened and the label side (for addressing/mailing).

For the mailing labels, I modified this really cool illustration by Edward Bawden, 1959 (found via Words and Eggs,

When the box is opened, it reveals a "spinning" midway game, pennant bunting and striped banners with the boys' photos on either side.

A tutorial for the mini paper bunting can be found here:

The image of the spinner wheel is taken from a photo of an antique midway game found via the Griffin Trading Collection,

This photo of "Masemo, The Magnificent" was taken on Mason's actual birthday, at Legoland. All the photos used in the invitation were pictures I had taken with my iphone 3 using the Instagram app.

"Shuggie, The Superb"...this photo was taken on school picture day. I love it because he had chosen to wear a blue-striped, seersucker jacket, with a white, button-down, collared shirt.

I’m completely smitten with these invitations…and the boys are really excited about their upcoming party. They had a blast handing them out to their buddies in the neighborhood and the kids seemed to enjoy them. Some guests are still receiving them in the mail or we haven’t been able to coordinate a delivery to local friends. Besides buying the boxes (which were about 80 cents each from, I already had everything else I needed to print and assemble these invitations. So the main cost (besides all the “sweat equity”, creative energy, and labor to design and put these together), was the postage to mail…which was $2.22 each. So, we tried to hand-deliver as many as possible. We’re all in party prep mode now and I’m filled with excitement for our vintage carnival extravaganza…just hope the party can live up to the awesomeness of the invitations!


  1. Star says:

    Would love to do something similar wiht my daughters 5th bday. Somthing a little more girlie? Do you already have anything made up? Her bday is 6/16 so on a time crunch?


    1. Hi Star,

      Thanks for your comment! I apologize for not replying sooner…it was somehow in the spam folder. I’m sure you’ve already found invitations for your daughter’s party. But to answer your question, I do have some circus invitations that can be modified to be more girlie. The invites from my sons’ party were highly customized and take a some time to put together. Let me know if you need any suggestions for party games, activities and food. I’m happy to help. I haven’t written the post about their carnival party yet, but hope to soon, the party was so much fun! Best, Katie

  2. […] painting for years. Last year, my boys’ silhouettes were the main design element for their Vintage Carnival party invitations…and I recently helped my son’s kindergarten teacher with silhouettes […]

  3. love the clothes your neice wore…the blue outfit! do you know where its from?

  4. Cara Finch says:

    I couldn’t wait to get home and look at these on my computer! My phone couldn’t do them justice! What an awesome job as usual Katie!!!!! Hope the boys both have a magnificent birthday party!!!!

  5. Katie, YOU truly are one creative gal! I HAVE to order invites from you for Liv’s BIG 5th Bday! It’s in January! Love the carnival theme! I want to do something similar but girly/big top? :o) I’ll email ya!

  6. you really amaze me! your boys must be the happiest boys in the world. i can’t wait to see the party photos too! xoxo

  7. Brandie says:

    AWESOME!!!!!!! Simply AWESOME!!! LA Circus is the place I was telling you about I was supposed to be renting props from for our party buy the owner is impossible to pin down. I can’t wait to see party pics. I know it is going to be amazing!!

  8. Solange says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!! Can’t wait to see the party pics! Great job as usual, Katie! ­čÖé

  9. […] And here’s the full post on the invitations… […]