So you’re searching for beautiful ways to display your carefully designed table plan and wedding sign, or perhaps to hang the gorgeous boho macrame backdrop you’ve painstakingly made (or hired, or bought…) for your wedding ceremony.
You’ve cruised Etsy, Ebay and Google and everything is either too expensive or not the right dimensions, or perhaps you’re not sure about the finish and worried it might look a bit tacky in real life…
Well I’m here to share my favourite option for creating your own DIY frame from simple, copper pipes and fixings, all bought from your local DIY store or plumbers merchants.
DIY copper pipe wedding display frames are the perfect styling for a modern boho wedding day. They are simple with a hint of the industrial vibe, and being that beautiful matt copper tone they really do blend in with a lot of different decor styles. And hey, if you’re not keen on the copper, they’re also pretty easy to paint!
The real beauty of making these yourself is that you can make them to your exact requirements and can have matching frames in all the correct sizes across your ceremony and reception. You can use DIY copper pipe frames for the following:
Ceremony backdrops displaying macrame, fabric hangings, floral displays or signs
Photo Booth backgrounds - either use the same as your ceremony or drape in a fabric of your choice
Hanging table plans, welcome signs and large menus
Creating a backdrop for your cake table
Displaying a sign for your wedding gift drop area
Holding signs to direct guests around your venue
Mini ones for table numbers
How great will your wedding look if you create matching frames in bespoke sizes for all of those areas?
The great news is that making these frames is pretty easy, and each one should only really take you an hour or two, leaving you with plenty of free time to plan and create what you are hanging from them!
And whilst copper pipe isn’t dirt cheap, being able to source and make them yourself really is a very cost-effective way to get exactly what you want. Then after you’ve used them, pass them onto another couple, or if your planning a house renovation post-wedding, you’ll already be halfway there on the plumbing supplies!!
So in the example I will talk you through here, I’m making a medium sized frame suitable for a table plan or small macrame decor piece. The dimensions are 1.8m high x 0.8m wide, and it has a base frame on the floor that is around 40cm deep. I’ve left the front of the base open as you can see in the pick below (so it is a C shape from above), to minimise trip hazards, but this is your personal choice - basically if you join the front of the base (to make a rectangle from above) with a bar across this is much more stable and easy to move, but isn’t ideal if people are going to get close to the front of it (ie, if your celebrant is standing close to it and may trip, or if you are using it as a Photo Booth backdrop). For something like a wedding sign where you’d like it to be stable and people don’t need to walk too close, having the bar at the front is ideal.
Here is what you’ll need to create a DIY copper frame, with the open front as described above, for your wedding:
Copper plumbing pipe - I use 22mm pipe as it’s good and sturdy. A narrower diameter would be perfect for table top signs like table numbers, etc. To make the size of frame I did, I needed 3 x 2m pieces. These were exactly the right amount to make this frame with no waste - keep that in mind when planning your sizes.
Fittings - to make the frame with no front bar, I needed:
2 x Equal Tee joints - these are fitted into the base to hold the uprights
4 x Equal Elbow joints - 2 of these are for the back of the base frame, and 2 to join the uprights to the top bar
2 x end caps - to finish the front ends of the floor frame as otherwise you can see the rough, cut end of the pipes
Pipe cutter tool - something like this . They don’t cost much, are really simple to use and do exactly what you need them to do. It really is worth the tiny investment and I wouldn’t bother trying to cut the pipe in any other way. And if you truly feel you’ll never need a pipe cutter again in your life, either borrow one from friends or family, or sell it on eBay afterwards.
Glue - there are lots of options out there but I opted for Gorilla Epoxy as it is super strong, dries quickly and is also waterproof which is handy if you are using the frames outside. An important note here - I didn’t glue every piece together on this frame as it would have then been quite difficult to transport. If you are making small tabletop frames, glue it all together for ease, but with bigger frames it’s best not to - I’ll explain further down in the make instructions which bits to glue on a frame this size.
A tape measure and a sharpie - to measure and mark where you need to cut
A small spirit level
A note here on sizing your frame -
As I mentioned above, the great thing about making your own frame is that you can decide exactly what size to make it. But you still need to be practical! If the frame is too tall or too wide, it may be unsteady and difficult to set up - the last thing you want is it to collapse on your wedding day! Also think about how it looks proportionately - a good tip is to use low tack masking tape or washi tape to mark the size of the frame on a bare wall so you can see how it looks. I’d say 2m is about the max you could comfortably go to and keep it stable.
And with the base, it may be tempting to make it quite narrow so there is less of a trip hazard, but it’s really important to ensure there is enough depth to maintain stability. I think the 40-ish cm I used here is just enough for a frame of this height and width, and should be increased by at least 10cm for anything taller or wider.
Ok - now to make it!
1. Measure your pieces. You will have already worked out what size your frame will be, and doing a little working drawing like the one you can see here is really helpful as a visual guide to follow.
The sizes and cuts I worked out for my frame are as follows:
1st 2m length - cut into 1 x 20cm piece and 1 x 180cm piece
2nd 2m length - cut into 1 x 20cm piece and 1 x 180cm piece
3rd 2m length - cut into 2 x 80cm pieces and 2 x 20cm pieces
This will give you 2 x 1.8m uprights, 1 x 80cm top bar, 1 x 80cm and 4 x 20cm pieces to create the base.
REMEMBER: measure twice, cut once!!
2. Cut the pieces. Get your little pipe cutter and place it onto the pipe where you’ve marked the cut. Tighten the wheel until it fits neatly on the pipe, then slowly turn the cutter and you will see it start to score the pipe. Every few turns, tighten the wheel up and it will slowly but surely cut right through the pipe. This can take a little while, so keep going! And although I didn’t think to use them when I made this frame, I’d definitely recommend some diy gloves to avoid blisters - ouch! Here’s a little video showing this process.
3. Layout your pieces and check that they all work together as expected, especially the base. Ensure you have them in the correct order, with the equal T joints at the sides with a 20cm piece on either side of them - these will take the uprights. Then 2 x equal elbows at the back with the back bar of the base between them. The top bar of the frame needs to have an elbow on either end, both facing in the same direction so these slot onto the top of the uprights. I suggest at this point slotting each joint together without glue as a ‘dummy run’ - whilst they are all standard parts, you’ll find some joints are a little tighter than other and you may want to turn some bits round to get the snuggest and most even fit.
4. Once you are happy with the layout and that everything is the correct size, it’s time to start gluing it together. But think about it first! As I said earlier, with small frames gluing the whole thing is a good idea because it’s sturdy and less work for set up, but if you are making large frames like this then I’d guess being able to flatpack them for transport will be important! I worked out that the best way to glue it to create enough stability is to glue all the base pieces together, then glue the elbow joints onto the ends of the top bar, and leave the uprights are separate pieces. When gluing, be sure to place the pieces onto an even, flat surface (and protect it with card or similar in case you drip the glue) - if you work on a bumpy surface it will be impossible to ensure the frame is square and doesn’t end up looking distorted. For the base, start by gluing the elbows onto the back bar - squeeze the glue into the elbow, about halfway from the end of the opening, then push the pipe in - this way you shouldn’t get unsightly glue oozing out around the join. If there is too much glue, quickly wipe off the excess. Once both elbows are on, and before the glue sets, make sure the open ends of the elbows are both pointing in roughly the same direction then press down on them on your even surface so you they set at the same angle, both pointing towards you. Next glue the T joints onto the ends of 2 different 20cm side pieces and once set, glue the other ends of these pieces into the elbow joints, using a small spirit level to ensure the ‘leg’ of the T is point straight up at 90 degrees. Glue the other 20cm pieces into the front of the T’s and glue the end caps onto those. With the end caps on this should now sit squarely on the flat surface. Whilst this is setting, glue the 2 other elbows onto the ends of the top bar, using that same technique of pressing it down on the flat surface to ensure both elbows are pointing in the exact same direction.
5. Assemble! Wait until all the bits are fully set, then assemble the frame by placing the uprights into the T joints and adding the top bar. All being well it should fit together easily yet snugly so it feels solid but can still be dismantled when needed. It's easy to rush this bit - I'm happy to admit I have no patience and always want to rush to see the final result, but it's worth giving the glue plenty of time to set so you don't twist and distort the frame.
And that’s all there is to it! Time to decorate with your chosen items, whether that's macrame, signs, streamers, flowers or anything else you have planned.
But before I go I wanted to mention a few other practicalities that you may want to consider when using your DIY copper pipe frames for your wedding.
Firstly, it’s important to consider safety - this is why I mentioned thinking about the size you are making, but there some other common sense considerations for using your frame safely.
They look beautiful outside, but consider the weather and if it’s possible that it’ll be windy (it nearly always IS possible!!) you’ll need to weight it down. Look for photoshoot backdrop weights that you can place on the back and sides of the base to hold them in place, then decorate in front of these to hide them
with floor level planters of flowers or foliage. Another option is tent pegs or U shaped pegs used in landscaping to hold the base down if it will be standing on grass and the venue are happy for you to hammer them in. And lastly on this point, consider what you are placing on the frame - a sign with plenty of space around it, or airy macrame decor would be fine with a little breeze, but avoid covering the whole thing with a sheet of fabric as it’s almost guaranteed to blow down!
Even if your stands are indoors, I would definitely recommend using some kind of weights for steadiness on anything over 1.5m, just in case someone bumps into or leans on it.
Consider also the people who are helping you set up and/or move items around your venue (eg - if you make a backdrop that you plan to use for your ceremony, then later to back your Photo Booth). Ensure that they know how to dismantle and assemble them, so it’s not a surprise if they try to lift the whole thing and it falls apart!
Make sure you check your set up well in advance of the day. Not just for aesthetics, but also for weight! You don’t want to get to the day before your wedding and find the beautiful decor you’ve painstakingly made is just too heavy for the frame. Get everything ready ahead of time, set it up, and leave it standing for a while if you can afford the space. This way you’ll see if it can hold the weight ok over a period of time. On that note I’d definitely be mindful of not attempting to hang anything too heavy, or top heavy on a DIY frame. It might be ok, but isn’t it better to avoid the added stress of worrying about it?
Ok, that's pretty much it I think, so get cracking on your frames! If you'd like to share your takes on this trend, why not tag me over on instagram? @eastfour_wedding
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