The only requirement of a chuppah, or bridal canopy, is that it be a temporary structure open on all sides, just as Abraham and Sarah had their tent to welcome their friends and family. So anything is possible from a creative standpoint.
The chuppah — which means “that which covers or floats above” in Hebrew — can be any color, size or design. The four poles can be self-supporting or held by loved ones. The top can be covered with hand-dyed batik fabric, a tallit or a tablecloth passed down through the generations.
Chiffon, cotton, organza or silk? Bamboo, wrought iron, mahogany or willow branches? Deciding on a style can be more challenging than expected. But choosing the right chuppah doesn’t have to be an overwhelming chore.
Today’s brides lean toward fabrics as the “roof” of their chuppah or they find a way to incorporate a tallit amid flowers and a chosen drapery.
Carol Attia of Under the Chuppah is using an off-white silk georgette for weddings in May. Tulle used to be the fabric of choice, but these days, she says, “Brides are more sophisticated and don’t want to be standing under a cupcake,” she said.
One of the hottest colors is deep chocolate brown draped over a dark wooden frame, chuppah vendors say. Also in this season is white organza lined with an additional piece of either gold or blue drapery.
Frames usually are chosen second to complement the fabric or flowers. However, they should be appropriate for the location of the ceremony. The heavier the fabric, the studier the frame must be.
For beach weddings, “It always has to be much more sturdy than the brides typically want aesthetically, but it’s better than having the whole thing collapse during the ceremony due to wind,” said Jen Flowers, co-owner of Happily Ever Chuppah.
Chuppah frames are often rented, and come in sizes that range from as small as 4 feet by 4 feet to an extra-large 12-by-12-foot chuppah. A standard frame size is 7-by-7.
Frames can be fashioned out of wrought iron, bamboo, oak, walnut, white birch, white lattice or any other sturdy material. White birch and tree branches complement lighter floral decorations or simple fabric canopies. Dark-chocolate bamboo and dark walnut have been in high demand recently.
The look of the season is more simple than ornate, with clean, modern lines and natural woods. Decorations should always enhance rather than interfere. The goal is to create a picturesque chuppah without taking away from the beauty of the bride and groom.
Dina Benmoshe of I Love Chuppahs says the company’s Crystal Chuppah, draped in strung crystal curtains, is “really huge this year.”
Many brides and grooms are looking for a unique style that has meaning for them. Creativity abounds when it comes to chuppahs — the fabric can become a tablecloth or the frame converted to support a bed canopy.
When Flowers and her husband married, they had arriving friends and family sign the chuppah fabric instead of a guest book, which was then draped over the frame just before the ceremony.
Some couples opt for one-of-a-kind heirloom chuppahs, including anything from verses from “Song of Songs” hand painted on silk to quilted squares featuring wishes from family and friends.
Wedding expenses loom large for most couples, and vendors say a growing trend toward simpler chuppahs has a lot to do with the current economy.
“Brides and grooms are really cutting costs, especially in extravagant chuppahs and floral décor,” Benmoshe said.
Chuppah rentals typically range in cost from $200 to $500. This price often includes the frame and fabric, delivery and set up as well as a ceremonial table with matching linens. Packages sometimes include ketubah easels and “breaking of the glass” bags as well. These prices can increase depending on the type of fabric used; choices of frame; additional decorations, such as flowers, lights or crystals; and delivery distance.
And for the do-it-yourself bride and groom, vendors are starting to offer economy packages for four poles and a basic fabric cover. These DIY chuppahs come with detailed instructions and start at about $150.
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