If you are Jewish or Jew-“ish” (aren’t most New Yorkers?) you probably know that a Jewish wedding ceremony is performed underneath a chuppah, a Jewish marriage canopy.  In Hebrew the word “chuppah” means canopy or tent, and the chuppah symbolizes the wedding couple’s future home together. A chuppah or any non-Jewish marriage canopy transforms the space below into an intimate, sacred space, and creates a beautiful frame and threshold for the ceremony.

A basic chuppah consists of a fabric covering attached to the tops of four vertical poles. The four sides of the chuppah remain uncovered, which symbolizes the welcoming of guests. The poles can either be hand-held or freestanding.  Following these basic parameters, you can personalize your chuppah in both design and materials*.

For me, the chuppah has tremendous symbolic, sentimental, and aesthetic meaning and potential.  As a sculptor, designer, and the founder and creative director of Chuppah Studio, I strive for beautiful, modern designs that are fun and romantic, as well as clean and smart in their design values. But whether your tastes are modern or traditional, you have budget big or small, there are options available. Here are some suggestions for creating a simple hand-held chuppah:

For the canopy:

  • Buy a large piece of sheer beautiful fabric approximately 4 feet by 6 feet, and hem the edges or finish the edges with lace or other decorative trim.
  • Ask each guest to decorate a square swatch of fabric with a personal wedding sentiment, and then assemble them into a quilt-like canopy.
  • Attach ribbons to the corners of the canopy to attach it to the poles. The ribbons can be slightly inset from the corners to create a small valance.

For the frame:

  • I recommend 7-8 feet tall bamboo poles, or found branches.  1”-2”diameter wood poles from a lumber or hardware store will do nicely, as well.
  • You can add an eyehook to the top of each pole to secure the canopy ties.
  • Don’t forget to ask four of your dearest guests to hold your chuppah.

If making your own chuppah is not your thing, you can rent or purchase the canopy and frame. Huppah.com offers simple, complete and inexpensive hand-held chuppahs for rental on-line. Local chuppah suppliers offer a selection of freestanding models and provide delivery, set-up and removal services. They or your florist can adorn it with flowers to add texture, color, softness, and romance.  Many florists and event designers offer their own chuppah designs, which can range in effect from simple and romantic, to enchanting and dramatic.

For the design-minded, there are now fresh, romantic contemporary alternatives. Visit four-branches.com, where designer Traci Kaye offers lovely custom canopies that incorporate a family heirloom. Also, BHLDN sells the “heavenly haven” canopy, which has a bright, vintage, romantic feel.

You’ll always cherish your wedding day, so I recommend finding a chuppah that you absolutely love.

*Different branches of Judaism may have slightly different guidelines for canopy design, so if you have questions it is a good idea to consult your rabbi.

Andrea Cohen