Monday, April 25, 2011

Tips For Decorating Arches

We used four decorative arches in our wedding. The arch used in the sanctuary for the ceremony was a wooden arch we’d purchased at a craft store. Friends loaned the other three arches to us. These were metal garden arches designed to be driven into the ground. My husband fitted rubber feet on the bottom of each leg so that the arches could stand in the reception hall without damaging the floor. These rubber feet can be found at a hardware store.

Tulle covered lights, ivy garland, and silver mesh twined together and topped off by a sequined rose decorated the front of this arch. Tulle swags provided a backdrop.
My daughter and I looked online at countless pictures of wedding arches until we had an idea of what we wanted. Then we went to the craft store and purchased several floral and ivy garlands as well as three bolts of white tulle. A friend gave us a box of Christmas lights in various lengths and shapes. We were ready to begin.

The first thing we did was wrap three separate strings of lights in tulle. This softened the lighting and also disguised the green cord. We were delighted with the results!

How To Wrap Lights
  1. The first thing we did was vacuum the floor. Tulle will pick up every piece of dirt, hair, or lint on a floor, so be sure your work surface is clean!
  2. Lay out a strip of tulle the length of a string of lights. Fold the tulle so that there are three or four layers of fabric in the strip. The strip should be at least 12 inches wide.
  3. Lay the string of lights down the center of the tulle. Plug in the lights and make sure they all work. Replace any that are burned out.
  4. Fold the tulle over the lights. This is easier than rolling the lights in the tulle, in my humble opinion, but it can be done either way. Tuck the tulle under the lights as necessary. The main thing here is to completely cover the string of lights in layers of tulle.
  5. Gather the tulle at each end of the light string and tie it tightly with a short strip of tulle.
  6. Using short strips of tulle or ribbon, tie the bundled lights every couple of feet along the string to secure the tulle to the lights. At this point, be creative! The lights may be tied with a bow or a knot. Tying strips tightly will separate the string of lights into poufs. Tying them loosely will give the strip more of a tube look. The light string is now ready to use!
The broad "ribbon" lights fit neatly over the top of the arch.
The garland at the back was tied on with green ribbon.

In general we discovered that it was best to wrap lights or garland onto the arch first before doing anything else. Everything else that might need to be laid on top of the arch or added in some way needed to go on after the wrapping was done! So, the lights went on first, then we laid a length of tulle over the top of the arch. At this point we were delighted to find some “ribbon” lights in our box of lights -- that is a wide band of lights usually used to wrap around a pole or cover the top of a hedge. This ribbon fit perfectly over the top of the arch! We secured it with twist ties, then added a second layer of tulle over all. This way the arch provided soft but ample light to illuminate whatever we set under it.

The Lark's Head knot as it looks with both a cord and tulle.

I used a Lark’s Head Knot, also called a Cow Hitch, to tie a length of tulle to the top of the arch. This knot is wonderful because it’s not only secure, it’s easy to adjust so the tulle falls evenly from both sides, and easy to untie once the event is over. From that point I could make swags any way I liked. We tied the swags back using both ribbons, separate lengths of tulle, and just knotting the tulle itself onto the arch.

The Wedding Arch
Our aim was simplicity when it came to the arch used for the ceremony. The rustic wooden arch was the color of driftwood. We did not use lights or ivy garland. Instead, we purchased some frosted pussy willows and white clip-on roses. Over the top of the arch we laid a short length of glittery white craft felt, the kind used at Christmas to simulate snow. This would provide a foundation on which to lay the pussy willows so they wouldn’t fall through the arch but would hang from the front of the arch. Then we overlaid the arch and pussy willows with a length of tulle that fell down the sides. Finally, we took another length and draped it along the front. On the front of the arch we tied the fabric in place with short strips of tulle and covered the knot with a clip-on rose. To these we attached strands of pearls and tied a crystal fob on the end of each to weigh it down and to add a touch of sparkle. This arch took less than half an hour to decorate.

The top of the wedding arch as it looked in our living room...
...and in the sanctuary before the ceremony.
Pre-wedding Preparations
We assembled an arch in our living room and played with different decorative ideas for several weeks until we settled on what we wanted. When we achieved the desired look, we photographed the arch and undecorated it. Then, we decorated it again, this time taking notes on what should go on first and other assembly instructions. We made a list of each item that would be on the arch then, after removing the decorations again, we put the list and all the decorations into a 13-gallon trash bag. Finally, we labeled the bag “Cake Table”, “Bridal Table”, or “Photo Board” depending on where the arch would go. We repeated this process for each arch.

When it was time to decorate the reception hall, we had everything bagged and ready for our helpers and could get them going with just a few instructions. Sadly, on The Day, I forgot to bring the pictures we had taken. Despite the lack of that visual aid the arches went up just fine and looked lovely.

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