Before I talk about the Wedding doors, I would like to give a big shout-out to Tim, my brother, my buddy. Without him, this furniture painting hobby would not be possible. He is the muscle, the repair guy, the builder, the hauler, and sometimes the voice of reason, that I need to make all of this happen! He has dropped everything at a moment’s notice on more than one occasion to run out and pick up a hot piece of furniture I found on Marketplace! I appreciate him so much and value his opinion, advice, and expertise on my projects. Thank you, Tim, for all your help and for just being a great brother in general! Dad would be so proud of you! ❤️
When my son’s fiancé, asked if I could make her some “first-look” doors for the wedding ceremony I said yes, knowing Tim would really be the one stuck with the task of building the frame for the doors!
My picker-friend, Merl, found this pair of vintage doors which he generously donated as a gift for the wedding. It completely slipped my mind to take pics of the finished doors before the ceremony with all the chairs set up and the floral arrangement on top. So the images you see of the finished doors are from the day after the wedding when we were preparing to disassemble and take the doors home. It was pretty breezy so the florals had taken a beating by then!
Before we started the project, Tim and I searched the internet for any kind of plans for free-standing doors and surprisingly there were none to be found. We saw a lot of images of wedding doors but nothing on how to build the frame and set it up so it wouldn’t fall over. We also needed our doors to be easy to disassemble for loading into a pickup and hauling to the venue. I decided to log our project step by step as we progressed so that maybe we could put our instructions out there for others to use. This is the link to that post if you are interested in building your own doors: DIY freestanding wedding doors As for this post, I’ll just tell you how I painted the doors and frame after it was built.
I started by removing the rusty old hardware from the doors but not before I gouged my leg on one of the rusty hinges and had to have six stitches! 😬 My original plan was to have white doors and I thought all I would have to do was freshen the existing white paint on the doors. But then I decided a rich dark wood stained door would be a better backdrop against the bride’s gown and contrast nicely with the bride’s flowers which were blush-pink, cream, and ivory.
My first thought was to strip and stain them. Since these vintage doors had chipping paint on them I tested them for lead before stripping, scraping, or sanding them. Unfortunately, the paint on them contained lead. Since stripping them would be a dangerous and lengthy process I decided to paint over the existing lead paint and try to make them look like wood-stained doors. I used a damp rag to wipe away any loose chips, disposing of the rags and the newspaper I was using as a dropcloth. Since I was going for a vintage distressed look anyway, I didn’t need the surface to be perfectly smooth.
The products used are listed at the end of this post. I started with a base coat of Sea Otter. When I applied the second coat of Sea Otter I blended in small areas of Muslin Cloth to create a layered look.
The next step is to rub a water-based stain over the painted surface. The Varathane stain I used did not work the same way as other water-based stains I’ve used for this process in the past. It didn’t soak into the paint so I had to brush it on and try to thin it out with a brush. When it dried it was much darker than I had anticipated and had almost a purplish hue. It also had a glossy sheen to it which I definitely didn’t want.
I tried using a 50/50 mix of flat finish Tricorn black and water to try to dull the glossy look. The blackwash helped reduce the glossiness but still looked very dark and purplish. I tried using a whitewash of a 50/50 mix of Muslin Cloth and water but that looked too chalky. I corrected the chalkiness by applying Antique wax. The wax is dark brown but has a more yellow tone to it. It did seem to help balance the color out somewhat.
It was still a much darker look than I was going for but with the wedding only about a week away at that point, there was no time to make any more changes. Since the doors would be set up the night before the ceremony I decided to put a finish coat on to help protect it from the elements. I used MinWax Polycrylic in clear matte. When it dried it was very glossy. 😑 I don’t know why it says matte on the label because it is most definitely glossy! We were going for a vintage look for these doors and glossy finishes do not appear vintage so to say I was disappointed is an understatement. I researched ways to de-gloss the finish and it sounded like using steel wool was going to be my best option. I scuffed the entire surface of the doors and frame with steel wool. It took enough of the gloss off that I felt fairly satisfied. It did rain overnight before the ceremony and I worried I would arrive to find peeling paint but they held up great!
For the doorknobs and plates, I used Rustoleum flat finish Burnished Amber spray paint. I gave the plates a tarnished look by using acrylic paints, blending, and layering to get the patina I wanted. I used antique wax to create an aged finish and sealed them with matte spray sealer.
When my son saw the doors he asked why I hadn’t painted the base. I had thought about that and decided it would be sitting in the grass and not really that visible so I chose not to paint it. Apparently, I should have painted it! 😉 If you are reading this and thinking of building some wedding doors yourself, keep that in mind!
The guests came through the doors to reach the seating in front of the gazebo. Once the wedding party came through, the doors were closed. Two ushers held the doors closed so the bride could arrive unseen and wait for her big moment when the doors came open and my son got that “first look” of his stunning bride!
The doors may not have turned out exactly how I wanted them to but they served the purpose well and after they were glammed up with some florals I think they looked pretty good! If you stuck with me to the end of this long post, Thank you! The products used are listed below.
- latex flat finish Nautica – Sea Otter
- latex flat finish Dutch Boy – Muslin cloth
- latex flat finish Sherwin Williams – Tricorn Black
- Varathane water-based stain – Dark Walnut ( a better choice might be Dixie Belle Voodoo Gel Stain in Tobacco Road).
- Rustoleum flat spray – Burnished Amber
- various colors of acrylic paints for the doorknob plates (turquoise, teal, yellow, rust, dark brown, ivory)
- Waverly wax – Antique
- Minwax Polycrylic sealer Matte finish (a better choice might be Rustoleum Chalked clear matte finish)