Portable chuppah/wedding canopy
Finished chuppah, in use at our wedding
When we initially talked to our rabbi, he recommended renting a chuppah. However, we discovered that even the most basic chuppot were at least $80, plus the cost of any decorations we wanted to use on them, and we really didn't like any of the basic ones. The ones we did like were $500 or more, plus the cost of decorations, just for a rental. Notwithstanding the fact that I had last sewed anything in junior high school, I decided I could make a nice one more cheaply than that. Although this was a large sewing project, it was one that ended up looking good even though my sewing skills are pretty much nonexistent.
* Frame from a popup portable gazebo that we purchased on eBay
* 16 yards of ivory charmeuse fabric, 5' wide, from Online Fabric Store
* Floral tape (like Velcro in which the front of the tape will automatically stick to the back when pressed into place)
* Velcro strips (in which one side will stick to the other when pressed into place)
* Two spools of ivory thread
* Eight 108" x 7" gold satin sashes, from Elegant Perspectives
* One ivory pew bow
* Two Wilton White Rose Lighted Bridal Garlands
First step was the frame. We live in DC, were getting married in Massachusetts, and then were having our reception back in DC, so we needed something that was easy to transport. At the same time, we wanted one that we, the rabbi, our maid of honor, and our dude of honor could stand under, with room for a table to put things like the wine decanter and cup on. And because our friends in DC were not going to be able to come to the ceremony, we wanted the chuppah to be something we could also put up at the reception (with our cake displayed under it), so that our friends could feel more a part of the wedding.
One day as I was strolling around the waterfront of a nearby city, I saw a band playing under what I later learned was a portable popup gazebo. I took one look at it, and said, "There is our chuppah!" I found an 8' x 8' portable popup gazebo on eBay. The cloth cover is completely removable, so I was able to use the frame.
One big advantage of using this type of frame was that it could be folded up into a small and lightweight package for transport.
Next stop was finding the fabric for the cover. We ordered several fabric samples from Online Fabric Store, and finally decided on an ivory charmeuse fabric. We ordered 19 yards of fabric. (We actually ended up needing only 16 yards, but weren't initially sure exactly how things would be put together, and wanted to make sure we had enough.)
I used the cover that came with the gazebo as a pattern to cut the fabric, but allowed some extra fabric for seam allowances. I cut four triangles, each one a little over 8 feet wide at the base. I put them wrong sides together, and sewed the four triangles to each other along the sides. (For all the seams, I used a zig-zag stitch, which tends to be more durable if you are sewing a stretchy fabric like charmeuse.) I then folded the cloth back and sewed the right sides together, creating French seams (to prevent fraying). Picture #2 is a picture of the top, made from four triangles.
I sewed a long strip of the floral tape horizontally at each corner of the cover, and also vertically at each place where the mechanism of the frame met the cover. The corner ones were used to wrap around the corner poles to hold the corners of the cover in place. The others were used to wrap around the top part of the frame to pull the fabric tight at the sides. Since they are just Velcro strips, they can be put on and taken off of the frame easily.
I got the gold satin sashes from Elegant Perspectives. I actually got 90 of them, because we also used them on the chairs at our ceremony and at our reception.
I used four of the sashes as the edging for the cover. I sewed them end to end, using about a 6 inch seam allowance so that each 9' sash would be shortened enough to exactly cover the 8' wide frame. I then sewed the circle of sashes to the edge of the cover.
The next step was to make sleeves for the legs of the frame. I did this by cutting a 9' long piece of the fabric, and cutting it in half lengthwise, so that I ended up with two pieces, each 9' long by 2.5' wide. I repeated that step, so that I had a total of four pieces, each 9' long by 2.5' wide. I took each piece and sewed the long edges, right sides, together to form a 9' long by 1.25' wide cylinder. I then turned the cylinder inside out, so that the right side of the fabric was facing outward and the seam was concealed.
Picture #3 is a picture with the sashes and sleeves pinned in place, and four more sashes used as tiebacks for the sleeves.
I sewed one side of a strip of Velcro to the inside of the gold sashes at each corner. I hemmed the top of each sleeve, and sewed the other side of the strip of Velcro to the outside of the sleeve. That way, the sleeves could easily be attached and removed as necessary. I then hemmed the bottom of each sleeve. Because the sleeves are somewhat longer than the poles, they puddle a bit at the bottom. This creates an elegant effect--and also covers up any unevenness in the hem. For the front two poles, I made a little pocket that hung from the corner of the top, just large enough to hold the battery pack for the rose lights. I also sewed Velcro strips to the outside of the front, just above where the sash joined the main fabric, to hold the rose garland in place.
Once I had the whole chuppah sewn together, I tied a gold sash around each pole sleeve. I stuck the battery pack from each of the lighted rose garlands into the pocket, and then used the Velcro strips to attach the garland in swags along the top front of the fabric. Where the two garlands joined, I sewed an ivory pew bow.
Picture #4 is the finished chuppah, set up in our yard. There is a picture of it in use in our ceremony at the top of this page.
My sewing is far from professional quality. The four triangles are of somewhat uneven size, there are seams that are not straight, etc., etc. However, the chuppah is normally seen only from the front, and only from several feet away. Thus, I was able to put the side that looked the best at the front, and not worry about anyone inspecting the seams closely. As you can see, the overall impression is good, even when the craftsmanship is lacking.
For those who have asked, our total cost of this project was $162.02, broken down as shown below. The cost would be reduced some if you bought only the needed 16 yards of fabric, instead of the 19 we bought. Conversely, the cost would be a bit higher if you had to buy the garlands.
$55.00 Portable popup gazebo from eBay
$81.79 19 yards of ivory charmeuse fabric from Online Fabric Store
$1.33 Pew bow
$7.65 Eight gold satin sashes, from Elegant Perspectives
$10.00 Velcro, thread, floral tape
Two Wilton White Rose Lighted Bridal Garlands
$6.25 (Gift from another bride, so we paid only the postage to ship them to us)