Browse the Carnival Decorations below for my advice and suggestions for how to decorate for a Carnival theme party.
See my separate Carnival Party page for tips and suggestions on Carnival birthday party invitations, food and drink, food presentation and styling and party games.
Buffet / Dessert Table decorations
Below are suggestions for Carnival decorations centered around your food / dessert table:
I think it's a good idea to concentrate the majority of your party decorations around the dessert / buffet table. This creates a great focal point in the room or garden. Unless you've got a big budget for lots of party decorations, they can sometimes get a bit lost if spread too thinly around the room. You're much better off creating one really well themed area around the table that everyone's eye will be drawn too. Approach it like you're creating a display, then use other more general Carnival decorations like balloons, streamers and bunting to add touches to the rest of the room / garden.
I think it would be a cute idea to dress the buffet / dessert table to resemble a Carnival side stall (see photos below for inspiration).
Here's one way you could apply Carnival decorations to a buffet / dessert table. Read below for step by step instructions for how to create this look.
- If you have a gazebo or pop up canopy at home then use this to provide a roof over your Carnival dessert table. You can make this look more Carnival-like by draping with red and white striped fabric by the yard (below left, USA only) or cut sections out of this super strong (it stands up without supports) corrugated decorating paper (below right, USA only) to lay on top or enclose the sides of your canopy.
- Then use a mix of square and rectangular red and white (or yellow and red) colored plates and serving trays to display the food on. I recommend these disposable Premium Plastic Plates (below), they're great value and are really handy if you don't have enough serving platters and trays to match the colors of your Carnival decorations.
- Dress the table top by scattering around a few objects and props that you'd find at Carnival side stalls, ex a row of three coconuts balanced on soda bottles, hoops, goldfish etc. Alternatively, buy a roll of Carnival tickets and scatter these accross the table top or use these small Carnival themed cut-outs as table decorations. Both are available here.
- If you've got a shelving unit or tall dresser, position it behind the dessert table. Otherwise just position the dessert table a few feet in front of an empty wall so that you can hang various props on it to resemble the back wall of a Carnival side stall (see illustration above). Some examples are:
- Stack pyramids of tin cans along the back wall
- Similarly, you could create your own coconut shy
- Line up a row of rubber ducks and targets to represent the duck shooting range
- Draw some large clown faces and cut out their mouths to represent the 'Toss the beanbag in the Clown's Mouth' side stall
These are really just for decoration to make your dessert table look like an authentic Carnival side stall, so don't worry too much about making them practical.
Alternatively, you can buy some cheap Carnival games such as these inflatable ring toss / bean bag toss games (below) to use as part of your dessert table Carnival decorations - then, later in your party you can use them as games.
- Next, hang a few bags of cotton candy or plush toys and other Carnival style prizes down from the roof of your canopy or attached the side poles (see illustration above). Then add a few of these ready made Carnival signs (below) or a chalkboard advertising hot dogs, funnel cake, cotton candy etc (see illustration above).
- You could also make some simple homemade signs to hang inside the side stall that say general things like 'Score Over 8 to Win', '5 Tries for $3', 'Knock 3 Ducks Off to Win a Prize', 'No Leaning' etc, to make your Carnival decorations even more authentic.
- Above the dessert table hang a personalized banner. There are lots of different designs available that fit with these Carnival decorations, such as these ones below (more designs available).
- Finish the display with these cute Carnival cut outs. The directional sign stands approx 5ft tall so will make a big impression and is great value at only $20. Or use the Carnival barker stand up which is also over 5ft tall.
- If you don't want to invest in a tabletop canopy or big top tent for your dessert table, below is an alternative dessert table which uses some of the same Carnival decorations.
- To make this option, use the red and white striped corrugated paper to make a backdrop (see above), then use a solid color tablecover such as red (using a red & white striped tablecover as well as the backdrop will look too 'busy'). Apply Carnival bunting along the front of the table, hang a red and white Carnival banner above, and use a 3ft tall popcorn balloon as a centerpiece. See here for these items.
- You could also use some of these cute tissue pom-pom hanging decorations. Choose all one color, or two maximum (ie red and white, blue and white, or red and yellow depending on your color scheme) and hanging in a cluster at varying heights above the dessert table (see photo below right).
- If you're budget doesn't allow you to use the barker / directional sign cut outs as part of your Carnival decorations, replace these with tall bunches of balloons either side of the dessert table.
- If you're using a gazebo / canopy as the frame for your Carnival decorations you could also hang a string of light bulbs along the front of it.
For food presentation tips to go with these Carnival decorations, see my separate Carnival Party page.
Below are some ideas for the dining table:
- When it comes to dressing the dining table, I suggest you stick to a few primary colors for your Carnival decorations. Red and White, Red and Yellow, or Blue and White strips are the most easily recognisable Carnival color combinations. So you might want to use a a red and white striped table cover (see above), or just use a solid color tablecover and add some Carnival bunting around the edge of the table (as shown below).
- For a centerpiece create your own Coconut Shy running down the middle of the table by gluing them to milk bottles. Or apply the same principle to the Hoopla and have a series of small soft toys raised up on small blocks with hoops half placed over them.
- Use popcorn boxes as vases and arrange yellow and white flowers in them to look like popcorn.
- Create caramel apple place settings: Tie caramel apples up in clear cellophane and place one at each setting with the guest's name tied onto the stick like a flag. Alternatively you could do the same with a stick of cotton candy (stand these up in shot glasses).
- Put one of these paper Carnival masks at each place.
- Tie balloons to the back of each chair
- If you want to give your party a really professional look, make sure all the chairs have a uniform look. Often, if you're using mis-matched chairs or the color doesn't fit with the theme of your party it can really detract from the overall aesthetic. The reason the table styling always looks better at professional weddings or events is because the chair covers match the tablecloth. If your budget allows, use these stretch fabric chair covers which are approx $7 each in black or white. You can then add a splash of color (say red to match your Carnival decorations) by adding a colored sash (below left) or band (below right).
General Carnival Decorations
Below are some general decorating tips for your party:
Always start your party decorations outside so there's a bit of a build up to the entrance. There's nothing worse for your guests than arriving at a bare front door. For Carnival decorations you could just have bunches of balloons starting along the pavement and leading guests up your drive to the front door, a personalized yard sign (below left, USA only) or banner (below right).
- Alternatively you could chalk the pavement, hang a sign saying 'Carnival This Way', or make you own fake Carnival posters and position them along the route to your party.
- It's great to have someone great people at the door, so see if you can, get a sibling or other family member to
dress up in a Carnival costume (ex, Clown, Strong Man, Fortune Teller etc).
- Alternatively, you could print a life-size cut out (below left) of your child dressed in a Carnival costume to position at the end of then drive or at your front door. These are add a motion-activated voice recorder (USA only) for around $10. You just have your child pre-record a short welcome message which then starts to play as people walk past the cut out.
- Another option is to tie a clown shaped Airwalker balloon holding a bunch of balloons to the front door to greet people. The Airwalker balloon itself is 4ft tall, so once you tie some other balloons in it's hand it will make quite an impressive display.
- Bunting and pennant bannners are perfect Carnival decorations so use plenty of these around the party. This red and white tissue bunting is nice, as are these hanging Carnival decorations. See here for both.
- Use old Carnival posters to decorate
- If your budget permits there are some really great Carnival cutouts (USA only) such as ticket booths, fortune tellers, ferris wheels, and even concession stands.
- Make your own signs / booths by using these Popcorn and Ticket wall decals (below, USA only). Cut a rectangle of red and white striped corrugated paper (see top of page) then mount the decals onto it to create impressive looking signs.
- Alternatively, use this customizable Carnival sign kit (below, USA only) to make your own. It comes with 4 blank signs and a selection of letters and numbers so you can add your own text.
- Pick up a roll of Carnival tickets and turn these into homemade curtains to hang over door frames. Just stick them onto long strips of string or ribbon, each one an inch or so apart, then hang a series of strips together to create a curtain of tickets. These can also be used to create cheap abstract backdrops to decorate large areas / empty walls.
- If you're holding the party in your backyard, use a curtain of tickets to create an entrance. Screen off the main party area by creating a long curtain of tickets with a gap in the middle to create a doorway for guest to enter through. Then hang a 'Tickets' sign (see above) over the gap to complete the look.
- Music is an integral party of creating a Carnival atmosphere, so check out the CD 'Mechanical Marches: The Marenghi Fairground Organ' (below, here for UK visitors) which contains lots of classic Carnival music. Leave it on repeat to give your party an authentic soundtrack.
More Carnival Party tips
If you found these ideas for Carnival decorations useful, check out my other page of Carnival Party Ideas which includes tips and suggestions for Carnival theme party invitations, food and drink, and games.
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Matt James is a professional party planner and owner of event agency DNA Productions, which has produced events for Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kevin Spacey, Stella McCartney, David LaChapelle, John Waters, and Elvis Costello & Diana Krall. Since 2004, DNA has won 24 industry awards for excellence including Production Company of the Year.
Matt James is a professional event planner and owner of event agency Left Field Productions, which has produced events for Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kevin Spacey, Stella McCartney, David LaChapelle, John Waters, and Elvis Costello & Diana Krall. Since 2004, Left Field Productions has won 30 industry awards for excellence including Production Company of the Year.