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How To Build A Chuppah


The religious kind. It's easy.

by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

How To Build A Chuppah | A Practical Wedding

So, you want a tutorial on how to build a chuppah. Most synagogues have chuppahs for congregational use, but maybe you’re not religiously affiliated, or maybe you just noticed their chuppah… isn’t the prettiest. For our wedding, we wanted a chuppah that reflected our personal taste, but it also felt meaningful to get married under something we built together. The chuppah is, after all, a sketch of the home you build together as a couple, so as two people who fell in love making things together, it made emotional sense that our chuppah would be something of our own creation.

We opted for a simple freestanding chuppah. Most officiants advise you to make your chuppah freestanding and have your chuppah holders in a more… symbolic… role. Apparently chuppahs are harder to hold up than they look, and more than the odd chuppah holder has fainted, even during a short ceremony.

How To Build A Chuppah | A Practical Wedding

We used a tallis (prayer shawl) as our covering, which was simple, but also gave us an instant family heirloom. Our son was wrapped in the very same tallis for his bris, and one day maybe one of our children will use the tallis to get married under (it seems more likely than them wearing my wedding dress). However! If you’re not using a tallis for your covering, you can still use this same tutorial. You’ll need to attach loops to your covering to hook it on to the frame (a tallis comes with pre-made loops, bless it, pun intended). And if you’re using a heavier cover, like a quilt, you’ll want to use four additional poles to frame the top of your chuppah like so. (See our wedding arch tutorial for an up close look at how you can use zip ties to secure the poles together).

Now, with all that discussion out of the way, let’s discuss building the base (which involves creating four of the same bases that we created for this wedding arch).

How To Build A Chuppah | A Practical Wedding

A few tips from Michelle (our resident wedding designer) and David (my husband) who built this sucker, on making this as sturdy as possible:

  • These silver buckets can be picked up at Home Depot on the cheap, so don’t worry about getting fancy.
  • The stronger your poles are, the sturdier it will be. An alternative to birch poles (which I just sourced for you, so you don’t have to hunt them down like a crazy person, a la my life) are poles made for closets that can be found at Home Depot. PVC pipes, while cheaper, are not recommended as the support beams for this project, because they are too bendy. You also won’t want to use poles higher than eight feet tall (see, top heavy).
  • Buy your poles FIRST then your PVC pipe pieces SECOND. This way, you will definitely know that the poles will fit into the PVC.
  • It’s easier to buy short pieces of PVC that will easily fit in the buckets (can be found in the plumbing section) rather than long pieces that need to be cut down. If you can’t find short pieces to fit in the buckets, you can use a DremelHow To Build A Chuppah | A Practical Wedding or a hack saw to cut through PVC pipe. Please don’t screw around with thinking you can cut this with a kitchen knife. You can put your eye out/lose a finger that way.
  • Buy more cement than you think you’ll need. Each bucket will hold about twenty-five pounds of cement. Also, you are going to be tired of mixing cement. Keep going, persevere, even when your arm hurts from mixing. The buckets NEED all of that cement to be heavy enough to not fall over in the middle of your ceremony. Fill the silver buckets three inches from the top.
  • The poles CAN be cemented right into the buckets, but they’ll be very hard to transport and store. The technique with the PVC pipe means you can strike your arch, and pack it away easily.
  • The PVC pipe is invariably of a larger diameter than the pole. Wooden shimsHow To Build A Chuppah | A Practical Wedding (or cardboard) are needed to stick into the PVC pipe when the pole is inserted to steady the pole into place. Otherwise, the poles won’t stand upright.

The end result ends up looking like this. (We covered our cement in decorative moss.) For this project you’ll (rather obviously) need four buckets and four poles to serve as your base.

How To Build A Chuppah | A Practical Wedding

Then, you’ll want to attach a hook to each of the four poles, put the poles in your stands, hook up your tallis (or other covering), and TA-DA! A beautiful and simple chuppah.

How To Build A Chuppah | A Practical WeddingHow To Build A Chuppah | A Practical WeddingHow To Build A Chuppah | A Practical WeddingHow To Build A Chuppah | A Practical Wedding

Quick Note: Even though we built this chuppah for our own wedding, I’ve dragged my feet for five years before writing this How To post because the chuppah is an important religious and cultural artifact. Since the symbolism of the chuppah—a sketch of a home the couple will build together—is so beautiful, it’s become popular to appropriate the chuppah in non-Jewishly-affiliated weddings. Cultural appropriation is a loaded and complex topic, best saved for its own discussion (let’s not dominate the comments with it). But! If you love the symbolism and are looking for a non-religious wedding canopy, we used the exact same chuppah base to build this best ever bohemian wedding arch, so start there for inspiration and instruction.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.


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Photography: Allison Andres for A Practical Wedding | Styling: Michelle Edgemont

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  • Em

    Fabulous! One teensy-tiny lazy girl protip: if you’re not down with the concrete pouring (hello: destination wedding with minimal set-up time), just buy 4 umbrella or flagpole stands — and make sure that your poles fit the adjustable-size opening. We had ours shipped directly to the venue, and the chuppah went up in about 10 minutes (including some extra ribbons for decoration)

    • Stacie

      YES! This is exactly what we’re doing! Although I didn’t think of having the umbrella stands shipped right to the venue– DARN. Oh well, granny card and cab to the rescue! We’re using bamboo poles.

      I’m so glad to hear this worked for you! We need the chuppah to come down quickly, as we’re having the ceremony in the same space as the reception.

      FYI, we are using Indonesian Batik fabric as our canopy, since my fiance is part-Indonesian. We’ll use the same fabric to hold our breaking glass (ahem, lightbulb).

      • Sarah

        I didn’t even think about it before, but have you heard that regular, incandesent bulbs are not being made anymore? And you can’t break a florescent bulb, because of the mercury.

        • Stacie

          Oh noooo! I better go buy it now, as I refuse to pay $25 for one of those “breaking glasses” the JWIC (Judaica) pushes. :)

        • Meg Keene

          Oh Heyyyy. David broke a real glass, he was firm about no cheater outs ;) You just use your heel kids, pro-tip.

          • EAL

            Just make sure there is firm ground underneath the glass….hard to break on soggy grass.

          • Red Wedding Shoes

            Another pro tip: If the feminist in both of you says that breaking the glass together is your thing, consider a practice run or you might get your toe squashed by your enthusiastic husband’s giant foot (which I only really understood the magnitude of the next day when I was wondering why my big toe was so sore).

            Bonus pro tip: we found a really beautiful glass at goodwill for a $1 to use instead of a lightbulb.

  • manuscriptgeek

    Oh, how lovely!

    Using a tallit for a chuppah sounds so great to me. I’d love to stand under a glorious multicolored tallit like this one. The only problem is, the really beautiful ones are expensive, which would be fine if we could reuse it in prayer, but we can’t. I wear a tallit to pray, and my partner says she might after we get married (she comes from an Orthodox background, where the young men don’t wear tallitot until their marriages, and the women don’t wear them at all). But we’re short women, 5’2″ and 5’6″. Any tallit big enough for the two of us, our officiant and our parents to stand under would drag on the floor if one of us wore it! Is it possible to make a chuppah by, I don’t know, pinning together two tallitot and some extra fabric? (And at that point, shouldn’t we just get some nice fabric and skip the intermediate steps?)

    (Hello, by the way. I am manuscriptgeek, I have been lurking here for *years*, and I’m finally engaged. *waves*)

    • Em

      We used an heirloom family tablecloth, to which I stitched ribbons in each corner (so we could tie it to the poles). Not great for a bris, but it’s awesome at Thanksgiving (and was a good way to include some family tradition from my husband’s side, since he’s not Jewish).

      • manuscriptgeek

        Tablecloths! I would not have thought of them, but of course they’re the right size.

      • Shiri

        We did the same thing, and it worked out really well. I hadn’t thought of Thanksgiving!

        • Em

          Also, ya know, Pesach — if we ever get to host :)

      • rys

        I’ve made a number of quilt chuppahs over the years, and they’ve been tied to poles in any number of ways:
        1) ribbons safety-pinned (or tacked with thread) to the corners and tied to the structure
        2) poles topped with half-tennis balls (just chop ‘em in half) and the chuppah corner draped over it and tied with ribbon/fishing line/whatever (can also be covered with flowers and such).
        3) fabric loops attached to the quilt and then threaded to rope (loops can later be detached)
        4) draped over a structure and loosely sewn/basted to it (only good inside or somewhere where wind isn’t an issue)

    • Shiri

      First of all, that is SUCH a pretty tallit. You totally could pin fabric together, but I’d worry about it pulling if there’s any kind of breeze or pressure on the fabric. I think having a chuppah that has meaning in it, if that is what you want, is worth the intermediate steps. Mine was an heirloom tablecloth and I loved that.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Our chuppah was 2 talliot pinned or loosely stitched together. I think my parents got the talliot on ebay.

    • KC

      I’d probably baste with button/carpet/craft/quilting thread (heavier weight thread than normal) to avoid the thread breaking, and baste twice to avoid any “pulling” spots, but that should hold fine and it’s easy to remove. A whole *ton* of very small safety pins would also probably work. :-)

    • Caroline

      I have a friend who silk painted her chuppah, and then after the wedding, cut a portion of the fabric and turned it into a tallit. If you or someone you know can sew, what about buying fabric big enough for the chuppah, and then after the wedding, turning it into a tallit? You could even get a peice big enough to make two tallitot so you each have one if you want.
      Hey wait a sec, are you Andrea? It’s Caroline from Netivot. Congrats!!

      • manuscriptgeek

        *grin* Indeed I am. Hi, Caroline!

  • Shiri

    I’m super jealous of people who get to use this tutorial, because figuring out how to make our chuppah two years ago took a lot of (other people’s) work. Yay for family members with spacial reasoning skills. And borrowing poles from a random Jewish family – my mom asked around at her synagogue. Sharing is caring, people!

    We used a family tablecloth, because my husband isn’t Jewish (even though it was a Jewish wedding) and we needed a pretty big chuppah, and it worked out really well.

  • LM

    So nice! My chuppah needs have already been met, thanks to my super-crafty FIL who builds really lovely wooden free-standing ones. I’ve been very in favor of the free-standing chuppah after being a poleholder during a friend’s wedding where I spent the whole ceremony adjusting the pole. We also used a family tablecloth, although I also liked the idea of getting a new tallis to start our own family.

  • Liz

    Love! My fiance is half Jewish (dad’s side) but is not at all a practicing Jew. I’m not Jewish, but really like the chuppah idea. I kind of want to knit the covering myself, although I wonder if it would be too heavy. Sometimes I get a little too ambitious about knitting things but right now, it sounds sooo awesome and fun! Then it would make a beautiful blanket after the wedding.

    • http://www.Eclectic-Unions.com Jessie

      My best friend knit my chuppah for me (it was especially meaningful bc I made a quilt that was used as her chuppah when she got married). She used the pattern “Bridgewater” by Jared Flood, and I believe sized it up by knitting it with slightly heavier yarn and larger needles. It was a LOT of work (she called me the week of the wedding in tears bc she thought it wouldn’t be done in time), but is an amazing heirloom to have. I think most square shawl patterns would work well as a chuppah, just work with slightly larger yarn and larger needles – you’ll still get the laciness, but it won’t be too heavy.

      • Liz

        That’s so cool! Would love to see a photo if you have one. I was also thinking of Jared Flood patterns–he has some gorgeous lacy blankets and shawls that would seem just so perfect for this if sized up. What an amazing gift from your friend.

        • http://www.Eclectic-Unions.com Jessie

          She is the best. You can see her standing slightly behind the chuppah pole in the pictures, too :)

          If you’re in Ravelry, her project notes are here:

          http://www.ravelry.com/projects/lindseyrose/bridgewater

          I also think his Girasole would make a beautiful chuppah. I really want to knit that!

          • Liz

            So gorgeous. I think I’m sold! I’ve knit Girasole and LOVE it, but I’m not sure mine would be big enough as it is. I’ve got 9 months to pick something else and get started though…

          • http://www.Eclectic-Unions.com Jessie

            Good luck!! Starting early is the best advice I can give you. It is absolutely worth all of the time though!

  • Hope

    Our friend built our ‘chuppah’ from driftwood we collected while cleaning up the local beach. I bought a sheet to attach to the top to shade us during our midday July wedding. However, the wind had different ideas. The sheet flew into the river and the poles fell over before the wedding began despite the pretty plants hiding the bases. I was waiting backstage, wondering why we hadn’t started the ceremony yet. So we chose four friends to hold the poles and the process became even more symbolic for us.
    One friend, holding a pole, is Jewish and for her chuppah covering she had family and friends donate white fabric that held a special meaning. She pieced together the fabric she was given that came from many places including prom dresses, christening robes and wedding dresses.

    • Shiri

      Ok, so not the point here, but I *love* your dress.

      • Hope

        Thank you :) It was loved twice as I bought it from preownedweddingdresses.com

  • Caroline

    Thanks! I haven’t decided if we will make our chuppah or rent it. (We’re using my tallit for the actual chuppah, as I sewed it for that purpose, to be my tallit as well as an heirloom for life cycle events, but what we will do for the poles is the question.)

    One of my big questions is once you have the poles and stands, what do you do with them after the wedding?

    • manuscriptgeek

      Give them to the synagogue, to lend out to other people who need them?

      • Caroline

        I could see giving them to the Shul, or giving them away. Definitely don’t have the space to store the poles and bases to lend them out. Maybe I’ll see if our shul would want them if we made poles and bases…

        • manuscriptgeek

          I bet they would! But in a close-knit community like ours, you might even be able to set up a hand-me-down scheme: You give the poles to the next couple getting married, who passes it along to the next one, and so forth.

          • Caroline

            True.

    • Meg Keene

      We were going to give our our shul, but then we decided we wanted to keep it. Our poles live in our house now.

      • SeahorseGalaxy

        Meg, any chance you are interested in renting or lending your chuppah out to another Jewish Oakland couple? (Not the tallit of course – the structure!)

    • Ellen

      I have a friend who uses them to build a sukkah in her yard!

  • Lindsey d.

    My fiance designed ours to be very pergola-inspired. And hopefully he and his dad will find time to build it soon (we’re seven weeks out). His dad already made the bases, so at least that step is done. We are hanging his tallit under the roof slats. The tallit doesn’t have loops, so we’ll lay it over a piece of string on each side.

    • Lindsey d.

      Should have added — the idea was that the chuppah would live in our yard after the wedding, but it doesn’t look like it will be strong enough to do that. I suggested we make a more permanent replica later on.

  • http://www.devabydefinition.com/ Deva C.

    My father-in-law built our chuppah for us and we ended up using chiffon to cover it. My favorite memories of the day before the wedding were from watching my father, grandfather, now-husband, and father-in-law assemble the chuppah. It was really awesome for me to see how something so simple but so significant could bring so many people together, and it was great the next day to hear the tale of the construction of the chuppah).

  • Jen

    It’s also worth it to ask your florist if they have something that would work as the stand or poles. We got married in Stowe, Vermont and we were able to get 4 birch poles cemented in pots from a florist (the only thing we used her for…we purchased flowers straight from a flower farm and did them ourselves). The best part was that we didn’t have to transport them and also didn’t have to figure out what to do with them after!!

    We used my husband’s grandfather’s talit – something that my husband had decided on long before I came along, but perfect and meaningful for me as well (even though I never met him).

  • MM

    Tip for the PVC… Home Depot will cut down a longer piece of PVC for you for free right in the store.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    Not chuppah related, but I love using wedding items for other life-cycle events. Our baby wore one of our wedding flowers (I made them out of ribbon) pinned to her hat when we brought her home from the hospital. And the scraps from my wedding dress were used to make her dress for the ceremony in our religion to welcome new babies.

    • Meg Keene

      Yes.

  • NicoleT

    Thank you!! A thousand times thank you. I have been scouring the internet and, while I eventually got a general idea of how to do this, I really appreciate the clarity and extra tips. My sister is tie-dying the cloth for our chuppah and making butterflies to hang off of the back of it. I’m so excited now that I have directions!

  • littleone

    If you have any kind of relationship with a synagogue (or have friends/family who do), it’s worth asking if you can borrow things. The synagogue where we got married lent us four big, heavy, four-poster-bed-type wooden poles with square bottoms (this sounds kind of ugly in writing but actually looked gorgeous). Our chuppah bearers had to be there holding onto them, but there was basically no effort involved. There were hooks on the poles, so we borrowed the biggest tallit in the synagogue’s collection (they always have a bunch for people who want to use one and don’t have their own) and hooked it all up. Free!

  • Anon

    We used my grandfather’s talit to wrap us during the seven blessings, so we had to find something else that would be suitable for our huppah cover. We used an antique lace tablecloth that my now mother-in-law found for $0.25 a few days before the wedding. One of my favorite memories was of my fiancee, my best friend and I spending an evening picking out and harvesting aspen poles down by the river. Our huppah was actually held up by members of the wedding party, which worked great. My one suggestion is to practice raising and lowering the huppah beforehand if this is the case so that there isn’t any huppah untangling during the actually ceremony.

  • SeattleKallah

    My favorite objects at our wedding were our borrowed chuppah poles which had previously been used at 40+ weddings across all sectors of Seattle’s Jewish community (see here and here). (Note: I am not 100% sure they are still available for borrowing, but defiantly worth looking into for interested Seattle couples.)

  • YetAnotherRachel

    Oh man, this could have saved us so many headaches a month ago! Building our chuppah ended up being one of the biggest obstacles we encountered in the days right before our wedding. We got married in my husband’s hometown, far from where we live, so we only had about a week to get everything in place before the wedding. My husband scoured the local hardware stores for bamboo poles, to no avail. He decided, at the last minute, that he would go cut down four small trees on his (non-Jewish) grandparents’ property. His brother and “groomsmaid” helped him saw down the trees and trim off the extra branches, and then his grandmother offered him a beautiful, square tablecloth that belonged to his (also not Jewish) great-great-grandmother. My man of honor stitched a small loop of thread onto each corner of the tablecloth, my husband screwed hooks into the top of each pole, and we had the most beautiful, meaningful, inter-cultural chuppah I could have imagined. What started as a disaster ended up being one of my favorite parts of our ceremony. It even gave us the opportunity to honor two more of our friends as chuppah holders (I had originally been opposed to holders because I fainted the only time I was one – pro tip: don’t lock your knees).

  • Karen

    Come on, it can’t be THAT hard to hold up a pole! I want a nonfreestanding one! (half Jewish so ok)

  • Alyssa M

    I know that I’m A) a little late to the discussion and B) Meg didn’t want this to dominate the comments, but I have a serious question/concern about the cultural appropriation of chuppahs that I hope to get an opinion on.

    We’re not Jewish, at all, even a little. Our favorite possible venue has a beautiful chuppah made of fallen trees and already set up in the ceremony location(free standing, top frame). My partner thinks it is ridiculous to make our own arch and have them move the chuppah, when there’s already something beautiful there… I’m uncomfortable using a part of a religion we have no ties to. If we don’t use a covering, is it still a chuppah? Is there a way to approach this and use the chuppah that is less brash cultural appropriation? Or should I be standing my ground on making our own arch? Maybe I should just “Ask Team Practical” about this…

    • anon

      I think you don’t have to worry about this if you don’t use a covering. Chuppah literally means “covering” and its main defining feature (at least traditionally) is the cloth canopy.

    • Cleo

      Standing under something to get married doesn’t = cultural appropriation.

      If you called it a chuppah and/or talked about “isn’t it so cute how Jewish people stand under this thing when they get married? It’s so pretty,” then yeah, it’s a problem.

      But if you like how it looks and want to stand under it…go for it!

      • laddibugg

        I’ve always loved chuppass, but I’m not Jewish. Of course I wouldn’t call it a chuppah, nor do I think it’s just ‘cute’, but is it ok to stand under a structure that looks like one for the reasons Jewish people use them for (being symbolic of your future home)?

        • Cleo

          I won’t pretend to speak for all Jewish people, but in my opinion, if:

          1. You don’t call it a chuppah

          2. You don’t introduce it as a Jewish tradition (even if you don’t mean to, referencing the fact that it is cultural appropriation by saying, “Here’s this Jewish tradition we’re using” can make it unintentionally fraught and can go into the “isn’t this cute” area)…

          I say go for it. The symbolism is awesome and they can be quite pretty. And it’s not like Jews have a patent on the wedding canopy concept.

          For me, at least for the chuppah, the line is using language that draws attention to its religious/cultural nature.

  • Annie O

    What size buckets do you recommend? i would like to make these with the smallest buckets possible, but I would like them to be safe. Thanks!

    • Jesse

      Yes, please! What side buckets? I’ve gotta build my chuppah in a couple weeks, and will probably just pick up the largest sized, nice buckets they have at Home Depot (unless someone can give a recommendation here).

  • Victoria

    I will be building my chuppah, most likely using this tutorial (thanks!!!), but the whole point of building my own portable one is so that I can include 4 people close to us that didn’t make it into the wedding party. I was wondering what the logistics are of getting the chuppah holders to the chuppah? Do they just walk down the aisle and stand there? I’m a little confused/concerned. Since this tutorial has the chuppah in the buckets, it seems a little pointless to even have people holding it…. My wedding will be indoors in a ballroom, so I don’t want to make them carry the thing down the aisle either. Just wondering how other people might go about including the chuppah holders in their ceremony.

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