In Jewish weddings, a bridal couple is covered by a canopy during the ceremony. The Hebrew word for this canopy is chuppah (diversely transliterated as huppah, huppah, chuppah, chupa, chuppah, hoopah. Plural: chuppot.)

The idea of setting a bridal couple under their own sheltering sky makes intuitive sense. The tradition thrives in many cultures; Hindu weddings feature richly embellished canopies called 'mandap.' Dutch bride and groom sit under an evergreen ceiling. And in the US, couples of all faiths marry in arbors, gazebos, and even under arches made from brightly-colored latex (ie balloons!)

In the Jewish tradition, the wedding canopy dates back to nomadic times. After the ceremony, the new bride was marched to the groom's tent, for prompt consummation (yikes!). By the Middle Ages, the tent was a piece of fabric suspended over the couple during the ceremony. And so it has remained.

A quilted chuppah - even the simplest - can be  spectacular. It's orders of magnitude more beautiful and meaningful than the tulle, or a rental. It can incorporate  family textiles, like neckties or tee shirts. It can include words, art, and photographs. And, unlike balloon arches, it can last (and serve as a chuppah or home decor) for generations. 

'Invocation, ' made in 2003, features a Tree of Life,  connecting our world with the world to come.  Branches are made from a total of 72 Hebrew letters (chet and yud, spelling "chai" --- 'Life.").   The trunk  is in the shape of a menorah, Judaism's oldest symbol.
The wedding is in a month. You are determined to make a chuppah, but you have a job, family, and need occasional sleep. What to do?
  •  Take a lovely old family quilt, tablecloth, bedsrpead (right), etc., sew ribbons to the corners, purchase four polesand you're done (right). If you don't have a lovely old family textile, go to a fabric store or an antique or thrift shop and acquire one from someone else's lovely old family.  Later, when the wedding is over, you can figure out ways to turn that textile into an heirloom quilt.  
  •  If you are NOT the bride or her most immediate mother, and don't have a zillion other things to do for this wedding, you can think about completing a chuppah quilt in time. If you like stars, proceed directly to the Six-Pointed Stars.  With the easier approaches on that page, you will be able to pound out a simple star-littered quilt top like the one on the right in about a week (assuming a day job, and some sleep). And you'll have a great time doing it.  You don't have to put backing or batting on this quilt before the wedding..  The lighter weight also means you won't have to worry about building a strong frame.
  •   If you're better at drawing (or stencilling, even doodling)than sewing, consider an appliqué quilt. Appliqué means cutting things out and sewing them down. You can design a simple Tree of Life;  a picture of the couple's new house, whatever! Select a background fabric (about two yards at least, plus fabric for the colors you'll want in the foreground . Buy a couple of yards of medium-weight paper-backed fusible web at the fabric store. Following directions, iron the webbing onto the back of any colorful fabric you like. Cut your shapes, and iron to your backing fabric. Zigzag or stitch around the edges of each shape. Finish the edges of your quilt top, add loops, and voila, your huppa is done, just in time. You can add a permanent batting or backing later, if you like, or just leave it as a banner-like wall hanging.
Above: I came to call this 'The Sushi Chuppah'. (They're floating near the edges of the top picture.)I used Marilyn Doheney's fun mandala strip piecing system to piece decorative and novelty fabrics . Images included photo transfers of the couple's cats,  their favorite birdfeeder, and rock band;  as well as foods representing favorite flowers, foods, hobbies, first date and lots more. 

Below is a view of chuppah shortly after the ceremony. For a view of the empty frame, see this page.

 'Fire and Ice' chuppah, 1997.  Made for a pair of skiers. Hiding among the snowy 'log cabin' blocks  and foliage are electric guitars, bagels, olives dolphins, etc.  A photo-transfer of their wedding invitation is in the lower right corner, embellished with pearl buttons.  I owe the central heart-in-hand design to the best (and so far, only) book on Judaic quilting: 'The New Work Of  Our Hands'  by Mae Rockland Tupa (See Links and Learning).

What is the law and the tradition?
  •   Design. The decoration (if any) on a chuppah is not  dictated by Jewish law. Stars, sky, and other celestial themes are popular. So is the Tree of Life, a  creation symbol closely tied to marriage. I have even seen beautiful chuppot with photographs on them. (Note: A few  Jewish communities frown on images of people or animals in synagogue. If in doubt, it is important to ask that the couple's rabbi about their rules.)
  • Suspension . Poles or frames? Ideas here. Some Jewish communities are very particular about making sure that the couple is completely 'covered.' in that case, review your suspension plans with the couple or rabbi.
  • Size. No rules. Start by figuring out how many people will stand under it (Sometimes it's jsut the couple and rabbi; sometimes parents and other attendants join them.  For beginning quilters, a smaller chuppah is going to be much easier and faster! Other couples may want the chuppah to serve as a real bed quilt after the ceremony. I wouldn't go any smaller than 4 feet on a side if just three people will be under it.
What else? This chuppah is certain to become an heirloom. So for historical purposes, I always include a phototransfer of the wedding invitation, and of course, a  label with my name, care instructions, and good wishes. 

 More information and inspiration This page (and the suspension page) shows several of my chuppot. For many more ideas, there are pictures of wonderful chuppot  by other quilters in the  Gallery pages. And there are more links to chuppah makers on the Links and Learning page.

If you would like a chuppah with signatures, learn more about organizing it here.  If you want to include clothing, like tee shirts, read this page. And if you're interested in having people sign the chuppah at the celebration, see my other site, .

My article with more information about quilted chuppot, and many examples of chuppot from quilters around the world, (including famous quilters like Ricky Timms and Paula Nadelstern) appeared in the July/August 2003 issue of Quilters Newsletter Magazine.