Decorating With Ribbon? You Need to Know About Flagging Tape


Inexpensive ribbon decor, nine ways

I remember when I was getting married back in 2009 and had this crazy decor idea that involved a million yards of ribbon. Guess what? Ribbon is affordable to wrap a gift in, but it is definitely not affordable when you need to purchase enough to make a large impact in a large space. My crazy ribbon wedding decoration idea didn’t happen because I did not have a million dollars and I had yet to learn the magic of flagging tape.

You are probably all, “What the heck is flagging tape?” I was too. If you live in NYC, it’s the pink stuff that they use to rope off the subway when it’s not in service. It’s also used in construction sites and to close off crime scenes. Since we aren’t marking the foundation for a building or keeping onlookers out of the evidence, we are going to use it for decor. It’s the industry’s best-kept secret when it comes to affordable ribbon wedding decoration. And you are all now in the circle of trust. While you can probably scrounge up some coupons and grab spools of ribbons at Michael’s for around $1 a yard, flagging tape is $.02 a yard. Two freakin’ tiny cents.

Flagging tape is not technically ribbon nor tape. It’s made of plastic, easily wrinkles, is not sticky, and although it comes in a variety of colors/stripes/polka dots, it’s not available in every color under the rainbow. When using flagging tape I like to keep things simple. Black, white, striped, and polka dots are my go-to choices. I buy mine on tapebrothers.com. Yes, that’s a whole online store completely dedicated to thousands of kinds of tape. You can thank me later.

Here are my top few ways to use flagging tape in your wedding decor. There are much, much more complicated and dramatic ways to decorate with flagging tape, which I’m not going to get into here. Say you want your ceiling covered in yards and yards of the stuff? Please leave that to professionals. If you are familiar with cherry pickers and twenty-foot ladders and support beams, be my guest and cover your whole venue in it.

If not, google “flagging tape decor,” pin the shit out of some of those amazing images, send them to me (or your local event designer) and I’ll make it happen for you. This post is all about practical, fast, and easy ways to incorporate this magical supply into your decor as a replacement for ribbon, thus saving you big bucks. The following images are from weddings where my clients wanted a lot of ribbon decor. To save them money, we went with flagging tape and got the same effect.

1. Ceremony Program Flags: Attach a few strands, mixed with a strand of sequins (because, DUH, sequins), to your ceremony program flags. Miranda and Doug led their guests to their reception by way of parade, which was perfect for each guest to wave a whimsical flag.

2. Cover a Ceremony Structure in it: Decorate the sides of a chuppah or mandap with strands of flagging tape. Mix in a few strands of more expensive, wider, fabric ribbon to create a nice mix of textures. Don’t make yourself crazy tying them all on one at a time. Make a group of five strands of flagging tape twice as long as you want, like sixteen feet long for an eight-foot tall chuppah. Fold them in half over the top bar of the structure and tie. Keep tying on groups of five strands until the whole structure is covered.

Create a Curtai3.n: Using a pipe frame, tie the flagging tape to the top bar. Tie half to the left bar and half to the right. Use as a pretty ceremony backdrop. I used some hand made paper flowers to cover the top bar as well.

Back of Chairs:4. This one takes some time and some labor, but each chair decorated with a few strands of flagging tape is a fun way to add some pops of color. Or, just do your chairs. Cover the whole back of your chairs with tons of flagging tape. That would look awesome.

5. Create Table Runners: Seriously, so easy. Take a few rolls of flagging tape and run it down your tables. Cut. This would look amazing with multi-colors of tape all layered on top of each other. To do this super fast, put five rolls of flagging tape onto a PVC pipe. Have one person hold the ends of the tape at one end of the tape. The other person pulls the PVC pipe with the tape rolls on it all the way down the table. Cut. Do the next one.

6. Hanging Chandeliers: Grab a few embroidery hoops. Tie long strands of flagging tape all around them. Hang from the ceiling.

Flagging Tape Back7.drop: There are two simple versions of this backdrop. The beginner-friendly version starts with a rod or dowel cut to the length of your backdrop. Measure the flagging tape to the appropriate length and add two inches to account for a knot. Cut as many pieces as you need to create the desired pattern. The flagging tape can either be evenly spaced or bunched closely together. If you’re looking to achieve a consistent solid stripe, plan for at least twenty pieces of each color. Hang the dowels above the line of the camera, so the knots are out of the picture.

The more advanced version uses a heavy gauge chicken wire instead of a dowel to create rows of layered fringe. The depth of the chicken wire will depend on how many rows you want to use. Cut to the desired dimensions. Start at the back (longest) pieces and work your way to the front. Changing the length by at least a foot between rows will make a big impact. Each square gets one piece of flagging tape tied to it. Layer different colors or create visual interest by cutting the layers at different angles. Mount it flat against a wall, or suspend it from the ceiling. (Styling by Michelle Bablo.)

8. Flagging Tape Swag: The swag uses the same technique as the above “advanced” backdrop. Except to create the shape of the installation you use a thin-gauge chicken wire that will bend easily when hung. This result is very similar to the swags of The Color Condition. Design-wise, there are so many possibilities. You can make multiple swags, hang them at different heights or even crisscross them. (Styling by Michelle Bablo.)

9. Flagging Tape Ribbon Installation: This technique is similar to the simple backdrop, except used as a ceiling installation. You need two dowels for each end of the ribbon, plus a strong tape (like gaffing) to secure the ribbon to the dowel once it’s tied. The trickiest part of this one is getting the measurements correct for the length. Whatever the length of the area you’re covering, multiply it by one and a half. This will give you a nice dip in the ribbon once it’s hung. Make sure you secure the flagging tape to one end and then keep it flat (untwisted) as you connect it to the other. This obviously gets more challenging, the longer the area you’re covering. (Styling by Michelle Bablo.)

I hope you are as excited about flagging tape as I was about Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Before you start your amazing project, figure out how much flagging tape you need buy. Then buy twenty percent more than that. It’s cheap, and the last thing you want is not having enough.

Michelle Edgemont

When Michelle was a child, there was a local newspaper article written about how all of her crafts won in the adult categories at the state fair. She has been a crafting superstar ever since. After working as a textile designer in NYC for six years, she combined her love of creating, mixed with her love of weddings, and launched a company that has a purpose—to design modern weddings with artistic, custom decor and colorful florals. APW was her dose of sanity in an insane wedding world while planning her wedding in 2009. Her work has been seen on all corners of the wedding blog world, and she is a regular contributor to HGTV. When she’s not creating artistic wedding decor, she likes to veg out on the couch and marathon watch TV series while eating candy.

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  • KateS

    that ceiling installation in the last photo. phew! so rad.

    • Lauren from NH

      RIGHT! I’m all like how do I do that outside?? (Only partly kidding…)

      • KateS

        um, i’m thinking you could totally do this outside with rows of weighted poles (like so: http://likeasaturday.com/2014/04/24/hang-patio-string-lights/) and something strung between them to support it in place of rafters…

        (might be a lot of work, but….worth it?)

        • Lauren from NH

          So this is the garden where we are having the ceremony…

          https://www.dropbox.com/sc/g5kxi08tg9614q3/AAB3ryXSsVPxSOwGVJqGHDJTa

          I feel like it wants some kind of pillars on the sides, some kind of shaping or delineation, but otherwise it’s not really speaking to me yet. (And for some reason the bushes seem to have died closest to the pergola, grrr! lol)

          • KateS

            not EXACTLY the ceiling installation, but i think rows of poles along each side of your ceremony space, parallel to the aisle and you could string the different strands with slightly more or less swag to get a little dimension vertically instead of horizontally, if that makes sense? (like on the right of this pic: http://cache.elizabethannedesigns.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/May-Pole-Streamer-Inspiration.jpg)

            it would be super rad if you could do it by stringing a support (heavy twine or cable of some kind?) across the seating area between poles on either side and then running your tape above/along the aisle like the indoors one in the article, but not having ever done any of this, i really have no clue how one would ensure that it’s secure enough (e.g. from wind, clumsy guests etc). maybe if we’re lucky michelle will jump in and batman this for you. :)

            (looks like a beautiful spot, btw!)

          • Lauren from NH

            Haha batman…

            Thanks for the input! I like where this is going. We could have a lovely breeze, but would rather not completely obstruct the view so I feel like some kind of streamer concepts is the way to go.

            PS. having a little trouble with the link – I blame DISQUS…

          • KateS

            maybe this will work better…
            i so want to see pics if you do this, so keep us posted in HH threads if you’re working on trying it!

          • Kelly

            That’s really beautiful spot! Not ribbon/flagging tape related, but have you considered renting potted plants or shrubs? My MIL suggested that for sprucing up our outdoor ceremony space (that was also in front of a pretty water view) and just a few plants made such a huge difference. We had a few pots of tall shrubs to take up space and some smaller pots of flowers to fill in and add a pop of color. Once the space was all filled in with people it looked really nice and cohesive. The pots were rented from a local nursery and I don’t remember the exact cost, but it was pretty cheap.

          • FancyPants

            This is what we’re doing for center pieces, I think. Or something close: we are getting ferns from a nursery (hopefully Maidenhairs) and spacing them wide on long tables w/ possibly kraft paper table runners. Then, we will gift them to our friendors as ‘Thank you’ presents.
            If a nursery let’s us rent the ferns, we may do this.

            I think renting living plants is brilliant for an already existent living, green space such as the one for your reception, Lauren from NH- can add color and depth. It looks rad, btw! :)

          • Lauren from NH

            I had wondered if that were possible! That could be a great way to highlight the beauty of the garden rather than compete with it. I have also had the idea for a while that if they don’t have water lilies growing in the fountain this summer, we could try to float some carnation heads or something. We’ll see :)

          • Lawyerette510

            Lauren, everyone else has great ideas, but I just want to say: that space looks awesome! And has so much POTENTIAL and the water and the pergola and agh! It’s great!

          • Lauren from NH

            Ah that just tickles me! The venue is the primary piece that is so meaningful to us. We met when we were in school together and before we were sure we wanted to get married we knew it had to happen here. Because I can’t help myself I am going to link our website. I just finished it this weekend. All the pictures in the homepage gallery are of sunsets at our former school.

            http://www.ltsmcmwedding.com/

  • BKet

    AMAZING. Fellow APW-ers, how would I use this to delineate a dance “area” in a wedding/dessert reception all being held in one room?

    • Sarah E

      You could do the ceiling installation, like the last photo, only over the dance floor.

    • KateS

      yeah – what is the shape of your room? just one big square/rectangle?
      if so, i agree with Sarah – the ceiling installation and/or artfully placed swags would be a good way to do it, just across/around the dance floor. or you could use some of the hanging chandeliers about halfway (or however far) down the space along the edges to help delineate. if you’re having any kind of tables/seating, that will be a natural delineation too, so i wouldn’t worry TOO much (but def do the tape deco anyway because it’s awesome).

      • Bket

        It’s a square, with two sides completely made of windows. Chairs & tables will be in a V shape, and there’s some leftover room towards the back near the outdoor pavilion that would make a good dance area. CRAZY-high ceilings, though, and we’re doing setup ourselves, so I don’t think we could swing the ceiling installation. Maybe the swags around the dance floor would work?

        • KateS

          yeah, i would think so! even just a couple swags across the room where your dance area starts would do the trick, i think, if you don’t want to go all the way around.

    • Kayla

      Will you have a DJ? Will you be dancing? If so, people will just dance in front of the DJ/near where you are dancing. You can still delineate an area, of course, but you don’t /need/ to.

      • BKet

        No DJ. Spotifying it up.

        • Lawyerette510

          Are you renting speakers/ sound equipment? If so, that can help delineate it. We did a spotify playlist (well actually 4 of them for different parts) and that worked great, but I wish we would have rented better speakers than the built-in stuff the venue had.

    • KC

      This is *not* a flagging-tape idea, but you know those dance-step footstep guides? You could cut dance footprints out of paper in colors that contrast with the floor and repositionable-spray-adhesive them down salsa-ing or whatever-ing along the edges of your dance floor…

  • emmers

    So cool! You’re right– ribbon is uber expensive. Early on, when we were planning to have a tent wedding, I thought about having ribbons drape down from the tent, which would have been crazy. This is such a great alternative!

  • KiwiJess

    I live in New Zealand – went onto tapebrothers website – would cost me $61 in postage to buy five rolls of $2 tape! argh!

  • Elizabeth

    Come to my apartment, craft with me and be my best friend? Is this creepy? I really don’t care. I mean it. You are spectacular.

  • Meleyna

    I didn’t want to spend a ton on decor. My big installation piece was my 1000 paper cranes. I also wanted ribbon. Which I ended up just biting the bullet and paying for since I just really wanted it. I still have SO MUCH left because I didn’t need nearly as much as I had anticipated plus I bought way more than I needed.

    It’s all sitting in a box in my garage that I refused to look at. I am hoping it just evaporates into thin air one day.

    • Lawyerette510

      “It’s all sitting in a box in my garage that I refused to look at. I am hoping it just evaporates into thin air one day.”

      This is me with a box of colored parasols (purple, light purple and white) and little brown paper goody bags that were going to be for people to use to take cookies but everyone just ate them when the party kept going late.

      If anyone in the SF Bay Area wants to make those things evaporate from under my desk at home, let me know…

      • Audrey

        Heh, I had this! Mine were fancy glass squares (like you might put in a bathroom) that we used for centerpieces. Pretty, but so, so heavy.

        The happy ending is we ended up Craigslisting them and got almost half of our money back!

      • meleyna

        Oh yes, we also have the parasols. Our day-of planner forgot to put them out so they were never even used.

  • Kelly

    These all look SO awesome, but I my initial instinct was concern over all of the plastic being used and then likely immediately thrown away. A lot of flagging tape is made of PVC or vinyl, which can have pretty icky chemicals. There is biodegradable tape out there, though! Here’s on example, although it apparently still has its own MSDS sheet, so… http://www.gemplers.com/product/52273/Biodegradable-Flagging-Tape#TAB-MSDS
    I hate to be a wet blanket, and I really do think this this is a cool way to have awesome, cheap decor…just something to consider.

    • Lauren from NH
      • Kelly

        That is LEGIT.

      • LFB

        WHAT! I know them (peripherally), that’s crazy.

    • FancyPants

      I think everyone has their own approach, but no need to feel like a wet blanket, IMO.

      As someone who uses flagging tape out in the woods, it makes total sense that there are biodegradable options in this case (commonly tied on trees to mark a certain location and then….left there sometimes). Thanks for pointing some options out!

    • Jess

      Not to say that you shouldn’t consider the things used in products, because you totally should, but the engineer in me has to point this out.

      The presence of a MSDS isn’t an indicator of “ickiness” – things like NaCl solutions (Salt Water) and Acetic Acid (Vinegar) also have them. MSDS are often required for any substance brought into labs or plants, and just indicate possible safety concerns and methods for proper disposal.

      You should always use a MSDS to understand what that particular chemical could do, but it’s existence doesn’t necessarily mean evil, just that it is used in industry.

      /gets off soapbox/

      ETA: Way to find a biodegradable option, btw, that’s way cool.

    • Meg Keene

      The real honest issue is that decor gets thrown out and wasted, PERIOD. Ribbon does too, balloons do, it all does. I think the real issue is that you need to figure out what you are willing to, and not willing to, throw out after your wedding. Parties with, say, 100 people, have a HUGE amount of waste, unless you’re willing to put a large amount of time/ effort/ money into making sure that’s not the case.

      That doesn’t mean one way or another is better, but it is really good to face upfront. Having struck a lot of weddings, I know how much garbage there is. But I think that’s not something most people think about up front. If you care, you’re going to need to put resources up front into solving that problem. If you don’t have those resources (or time), you need to either make do with less (we had no decor, so less waste there, but still PLENTY of other waste), or just decide fuck it. All options are ok, just choose what’s going to work for the two of you.

  • Vanessa

    This tape is awesome, but I’ll probably never be as excited about something as I was about Gilmore Girls on Netflix ;)

  • Allison

    Dammit! My dad is a surveyor and last year, before I was engaged, he got rid of a dozen rolls of this stuff! Well, he gave it to his work, so maybe he can steal a few rolls back for me?

    And note: it’s not sticky, but it does have a sort of texturey/clingy quality that means that it stays really well once it’s tied. And the default colors are neon, so road crews and surveyors can spot it easily, so if you’re having a neon-colored wedding (well, first off, you’re my hero!) but secondly, you could probably find some very easily! We’ve gotten it at Wal-Mart before.

  • FancyPants

    This tutorial has me SO excited and wheels spinning! RAD!!!

    Our wedding is May Day (May 1st) out in a field and we wanted to have a May Pole for the chittlins to dance around (and…probably adults, let’s be real). Because adorable.

    With this post, I think we might switch from ribbons to flagging tape for the streamers! Yay! And then use flagging tape everywhere else, because it’ll match.

    Voila: decor. Stoked.

    • lncotts

      I’m stoked to find another May Day
      bride!! Half the fun of the date is having everything dripping in ribbons!!

  • Apples

    In the fruit industry, flagging tape is used to mark trees that need to be checked on, where to start/stop a job, and where to turn to find something hidden in the middle of the orchard. I’ve had this stuff in my life for YEARS and it never occurred to me to decorate with it like you would ribbon!

  • Allonsy

    Very cool!

    In case some of you are still pining over actual ribbon, though, I wanted to share a source: Store Supply Warehouse (which is exactly what it sounds like) has *huge* rolls of fabric ribbon for like $7.95 apiece. I got four for our wedding, used them in everything I could think of, and we’ll still have enough to wrap presents for the next 20 years. http://www.storesupply.com/c-613-ribbons-and-bows.aspx

  • Stacy {Woodsy Weddings}

    I love that polka dot ribbon, it adds a nice punch to the design. That ceiling runner is amazing, the colors and the texture. If it were my space, I would leave that up year round!

  • AGCourtney

    This is awesome! I’d never heard of this before. I will definitely have to check this out. (And that site has it in purple! YES.)

  • Cayla Mella

    My husband has abandon me and the kids for the the past 8months now, and refuse to come back because he was hold on by a woman whom he just met, for that, my self and the kids has been suffering and it has been heel of a struggle, but i decide to do all means to make sure that my family come together as it use to, then i went online there i saw so many good talk about this spell caster whose email is camaralovespell@live.com so i had to contact him and in just 3days as he has promised, my husband came home and his behavior was back to the man i got married to.I cant thank the spell caster enough what what he did for me, i am so grateful. I even spoke to the spell caster over the phone, to confirm his existence. His email again is: camaralovespell@live.com

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