How to make DIY Photo or Sign Hoops for a Wedding Display

One of the latest trends I’ve seen in my, predominantly Pinterest based, wedding decoration research are hoop signs or photo displays. They can be mounted on a stand to surround a cake or other display, hung from a wall or against a photo backdrop or even left free hanging from an entrance or beam to blow and twirl in the wind.

The concept of these display rings is very simple – a circular frame covered in artificial flowers and foliage with strings or ribbons spaced across the centre to hang photos from or a single central line through the centre to display a hanging word(s) such as Bride, Groom, Mr & Mrs, Just Married or Welcome. Given their relative simplicity, the price they sell for can be quite high and as they’re extremely simple to make – why not DIY it?

What you will need

A Hula Hoop. You can get these from a variety of high street and online stores and the prices vary wildly. The cheapest I found were from Poundland but they only had the one size available. If you’d like a range of sizes or are looking to make quite a few hoops then you might be better to look online.

Ribbon, String or Spray Paint in your desired colour. This is personal preference depending on the finish you’re after and what other decorations you have which you’d like to match. For a smoother finish I’d recommend paint but if you’re looking for a more texture approach you may wish to opt for string or ribbon. Buy more than you think you’ll need as it doesn’t ever go as far as you think and it can be hard to find a perfect colour match with a second batch. You’ll also need ribbon or string for the photo lines and, unless you plan to use a hook or stand, to hang the finish hoop from are your venue.

Artificial flowers and foliage. Again this one is personal preference with regards to the type of flowers and foliage and what you’re trying to match this decoration into. I’d suggest opting for a few large flowers to be the focal point of your piece and then a few smaller sprays of flowers. A selection of different foliage options can help to add depth and interest to your piece making it look more realistic.

Mini pegs, velcro dots, split pins or other fasteners for the photos. There are a variety of different ways you could attach your work or photos to the ribbons or strings and these are just a few of my favourites. I love the mini pegs you can get from most craft stores and, being wood, they can be painted exactly the shade you want. Velcro dots are a nice alternative if you don’t want anything to get in the way of your photos and split pins are a nice sleek alternative once again.

Photos. For photos my personal preference would be Polaroid’s/imitation Polaroid’s because they’re square and that symmetry makes me happy but it doesn’t really matter as for other photo shapes you can simply adjust the spacing of your string/ribbons accordingly. For that reason however, it’s useful for you to know which option you’re going for before you start.

Wording. If you’re not going for photos then a good option is laser cut wooden lettering. You can get this quite cheaply online and it can usually be altered to fit whatever size hoop you’re working with. If you aren’t going for a rustic look, you may want to paint the wording prior to starting with the hoop.

Glue gun and plenty of glue sticks. You can pick these up for about £5 from most craft places. It doesn’t really matter about a make or size, as long as it’s the right size for your glue sticks. You might also consider investing in a good pair of gloves if you want to avoid burning your fingers repeatedly.

Scissors. For cutting things, obviously.

Wire cutters. Who knew artificial flowers always had wire in the stem so you can bend them to your will!

So, you’ve purchased your items and are ready to begin DIYing your hoop? Yay!

Step One – Readying your hoop

Depending on where you purchased your hoop from you may find that it contains weights or beads which you might want to empty out before you begin. It’s really personal preferences whether you want to remove this and probably also comes down to where you’re going to use your hoop. Will it be freely hanging, mounted on a stand or steadied against a wall? Will anyone hear it rattle and if they do would that bother you? Perhaps that extra weight in the bottom might actually be useful to prevent your hoop from moving so much in the wind? With my hoop I chose not to remove the beads. Not for any of the reasons above but simply out of laziness and because I didn’t want to risk breaking the hoop i’d searched high and low to find and finally bought.

Steps Two and Three

Once you’re happy with your hoop the next step is to colour or cover it and add the photo string(s), if required. The order of these steps is determined by the decision you make to colour or cover your hoop.

There are three main options you can go for here: paint, ribbon or string.
The first is to paint it. With the hoop being plastic, this would usually be done with a spray paint. Other paint options may work but they’ll likely take considerably longer and if you’re aiming for a smoother finish the inevitable brush strokes other options present may not appeal.

If you are planning to spray paint your hoop you won’t be able to hide the joins on the ribbon so the next steps will be:

  1. Paint your hoop
  2. Add the photo strings/ribbons.
    If you don’t want the strings/ribbons to stop and be glued onto the back of the hoop you could consider looping the ribbons around in a circle as if they were elastic bands.

If you’re using spray paint I can’t stress enough that this should be done outside. As careful as you might be and as much as you cover everything possible in the area things can move and get mess and no one wants a gold sofa leg or a silver streak across the carpet! Place an old sheet or dust mat over the area to spray with your hoop on top. Avoid cardboard or newspaper because your hoop will stick to it when it dries. I’ve also seen people hang their hoop on a string or washing like and spray it that way. Then all sides can be done in one go and the hoop can be left hanging until it is dry. Try to do it on a non-windy day. It might sound obviously but even the slightest amount of wind might mean you spray paint yourself or your roses more than the hoop. Anyway, follow the directions on the can and away you go!

The second option (and the one I went for) is ribbon. The main perk of ribbon being the HUGE range of colours, shades and styles available to suit any theme and budget. Think anything from a Disney or sports theme to wanting multiple colours wrapped in alternating sequences. It’s all a possibility.

Finally, option three is to cover your hoop using string. You can use white/neutral string or for a rustic look a gardening string such as the brown or green natural fibres. You could even use the blue string Bridget Jones wraps around her veg to make her famous blue soup! Basically any string you fancy is a go-er.

For options two and three the process is basically the same:

  1. Add the photo strings/ribbons
  2. Cover the hoop

Adding the photo strings

Adding the photo strings before covering your hoop with ribbon or string means the joins are not visible and will give you a much more professional finish.

Measure the diameter of your hoop and mark the central points top and bottom. Measure the length of the photos you want to display and add two centimetres. From the central markings you made measure this distance either side and add another marking, top and bottom. This will be the place of your next ribbon. Depending on the size of your hoop you can repeat this process again.

Begin by gluing the centre ribbon first at the top and then pull it tight to the bottom and glue it in place. Be careful not to pull too tight – you don’t want to end up with an oval hoop (or a pointy edge from too much tension).

Option: I chose to alternate the side of the hoop I connected my ribbon to give the hoop a fluid feel and to avoid having an official front and back. If the top string connected to the front of the hoop then when I fixed the bottom I’d connect it to the back. On the adjacent strings I’d reverse the order so they alternated like the illustration below.

Adding the ribbon to the hoop illustration

Tip: I would recommend that your photo ribbons are vertical. Horizontal strings will sag under the weight of the photos and may merge with your flower display. The horizontal lines are already tense so should be able to cope much better.

Covering the Hoop

Covering the hoop with ribbon

Here’s where your glue gun comes in! I started with a small blob of glue on the end of the ribbon to fasten it to the hoop. Then I wrapped the ribbon round the hoop pulling it as tight as I could. I found it worked best when I used small strips of ribbon – approximately 2m in length. It’s hard to hold a whole reel of ribbon, not get into knots and to pull tight enough to prevent the ribbon from rippling.

What is rippling?

As you wrap the ribbon around the hoop the angle changes but the fibres that make up the ribbon cannot flex in the same way and so you get tiny ripples, or bumps in the material as it wraps around. This is the unfortunate downside of working with ribbon.

However, rippling can be minimised by working with short lengths of ribbon. With every new strip of ribbon you reset the angle of the fibres and therefore reduce the ripples. I found it helpful to work slowly, pulling the ribbon tightly as I progressed. I also found the finish was best when I heavily overlapped the ribbon. It’s a tad annoying as you’ll end up using more ribbon but the finish you achieve will be smoother than if you simply wrapped the ribbon edge to edge on each turn. Try to use a thin ribbon. I started with a 10mm ribbon and changed to a 6mm ribbon on later hoops which worked a lot better.

Tip: As tempting as it might be, don’t glue the ribbon to the hoop as you go. It seems an ideal plan because if you accidentally let go of the ribbon your effort will be lost and you’ll have to start again with that strip. However, gluing as you go leaves lumps and bumps which will ruin the finish of your hoop. Short strips and glue at either end is definitely the best way to go!

Covering your hoop in string works much the same as covering your hoop in ribbon but, as it is not the woven fibre, it does not ripple. You may also find gluing as you go works with string!

Step Four – Attaching your photos

Attaching your photos

Again there are a number of different options as to how you can do this. I chose to use tiny wooden pegs because they’re adorable, easy to attach and being wood they can be painted to match your colour scheme – which let’s be honest is what every bride cares about most! You can pay slightly more and buy them painted (assuming they have your desired colour and shade) or you can buy plain ones and paint them yourself. This option is tedious (and your fingers will end up covered in whatever paint you choose) but it’s the one I chose because 1) it’s cheaper and I was on a budget, and 2) you really can just mix whatever colour you need.

Pink pegs

Don’t fancy adorable mini pegs?

There are plenty of other options out there. From bulldog or other stationary clips, to split pins (you can get mini ones) or Velcro dots.

The photos you’re attaching are not too heavy so a small blob of glue on the back of your clip should be more than sufficient to hold it in place. I’d go for the glue gun again but super glue or PVA (if you’re patient enough to wait for it to dry) would work too.

In terms of spacing your clips, this will all be determined by the size of your photos and the length of your vertical strings. I’d recommend placing your hoop flat on the floor (or any other flat surface) and position your photos how you’d like them. From this you can then stick each clip one by one to build your piece.

Step Five - Choosing the artificial flowers

You can use a variety of different types of decoration. I used artificial flowers which matched others used in my decoration – the welcome sign, the flower arrangements and the centre pieces for the tables. But you could use feathers, more ribbon, little figurines or shapes, even fairy lights can work! The possibilities are endless.

For artificial flowers I’ve found it’s generally best to opt for a few larger ones and then a few smaller ones or ‘sprays’ with many smaller flowers (think sweet peas, freesias etc). This will give your piece a centre and then allow your arrangement to extend from that point around the hoop. I chose dusky pink peonies as my main, large flowers and white freesias and pink sweet peas as my secondary, smaller spray flowers. Select a variety of foliage too. I chose two different types of eucalyptus as my main foliage because I really love the colour and shape of the leaves and added the foliage which came attached to the sweet peas, peonies and freesias too.

Before you can begin, and really before you buy your flowers, you need to decide where you are going to place the flowers on your hoop. My photo hoops with the strings had two smaller displays of flowers – one offset at the top and the other offset on the opposite side at the bottom, while my plain hoop just has one larger display across the bottom. You don’t necessarily need more flowers for two separate displays as they will likely be smaller. Once again it’s personal preference as to how you display your flowers and the numbers you use but here was my strategy.

For the single display at the bottom of the hoop. I used 4 large peony flowers in the centre of the hoop with an additional smaller one on either side. Between the peonies I added a few sprouts of different foliage pointing upwards and down to add some depth to my arrangement. I then added longer strips of foliage around the hoop which I curved to follow the ring. Periodically I added the sweet pea and freesia sprays and additional foliage – again to add more depth and make the arrangement seem more realistic.

For the double displays offset top and bottom. I used a single large peony flower in the centre of each display. For the top one I added another smaller peony at the side, a few freesias on the opposite side and a few, shorter lengths of foliage either side. For the bottom spray I added freesias to both sides to keep it balanced and then topped it up with foliage again.

Tip: If your hoop is going to hang freely (for example from a beam in a barn) you may want to attach an artificial flower display to both sides so that there isn’t a ‘behind the scenes’ ugly bit.

As with attaching the clips, I’d recommend placing the hoop on the floor (I possibly need to invest in a desk?) and your flowers and foliage around where you think it will go before you start cutting and gluing to get an idea of if your design will work. Take a photo of your plan – it’s a good reference to come back to once you get started in case you forget what you had planned!

Tip: if your artificial flowers are misshaped from storage try steaming them over a boiling kettle and then reshaping them how you want them before leaving them to dry.

Step Six – Attaching the flowers to the hoop

Attaching the flowers to the hoop

Start with the large flowers first. Cut the stem about 1cm from the base of the flower (using a pair of wire cutters). You don’t want to remove all the plastic stem because that’s what holds the layers of petals together but you need to remove enough that it isn’t sticking out the back of the hoop. A general rule I’d go for is about the thickness if your hula hoop – that way it’s a nice size for the glue to fix it in place. Repeat this step for all your main flowers.

If you’re doing multiple displays (e.g one at the top and one at the bottom) start with one first and then once that is completed do the second. This will allow you to alter the design of the second slightly if the first is bigger/smaller than you expected. Even with planning the design out first, I found that sometimes I changed it slightly based on how big I cut the foliage or where it attached best (where it was best to attach it so that the glue couldn’t be seen).

Get the glue gun! Start with your central flower(s) and work your way outwards. It helps with symmetry. Place a sizeable blob of glue where you want the flower to go and fully sink the stem into it (this is where you might want gloves to protect yourself against fingertip burns!). While the glue is hot, manoeuvre the flower into the position you want and hold it steady until the glue cools. This doesn’t take too long and will ensure the weight of your flower doesn’t result in it moving as it dries. Repeat for the other large flowers.

Tip: I stuck my flowers to the inside of the ring as, assuming the ring is going to be reasonably high up, glue and stems below the ring might be visible. The size of the flowers means that inside the ring the stems are completely hidden.

Once the main flowers have been placed add the foliage. I started with the small sprigs between the main flowers. Blob some glue onto the end of the piece and tuck it deep in between the flower petals against the hoop. The foliage needs to be stuck to the hoop, not the petals, as they won’t be strong enough to hold the weight by themselves. Repeat this same process for the large sprays of foliage coming out of either side of the flowers and gently curl them around the shape of the hoop. The smaller sprays of foliage and flowers can then be added in the same way but further out, along the large foliage spray. Remember to hold each piece in place until the glue sets to avoid it moving from your perfect position.

Tip: You want your flower sprays to stand out so make sure these are placed in front of the foliage to prevent them from being lost.

And there you have it! Your very own decorative wedding photo or sign hoop!

Finished photo hoop

The method I’ve shown here is only one way you can do it based on my preferences and the materials I chose. The options really are only limited by your imagination. Think adding lights, dangling tassels or ribbons, weaving ribbons in all directions like a dream catcher or adding little Lego or other figures. I’d love to see what variations you create!

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