I’ve never decorated a ceiling, yet its one of the most common questions I get — how do you decorate the ceiling? How do you hang fabric from the ceiling? What fabric do you use to decorate the ceiling?
Flickr photo by eugene
I can understand why everyone wants to know how to do this — just look at the above picture. Decorations like this really make a venue look special. (Fabric + lighting = WIN!) Unfortunately, I’ve never decorated a ceiling myself, though I have decorated at venues with permanent ceiling decorations. I do have some thoughts on this though.
Flickr photo by adele.turner
If someone asked me to decorate a ceiling tomorrow, it would depend on a few things. First, do I have a tall enough ladder? Fabric ceiling decorations look really nice in tall, open spaces, so you would need a really tall ladder — if your average banquet room height is 10 feet, I’d say you’d need a ladder that goes to 16 feet and above. Second, what does the room look like? Is it a flat ceiling with nothing hanging down from it? If so, I’d need to attach some hardware that won’t leave a huge hole, yet will be stable (and this may negate the whole endeavor). If not, and there is something like the chandelier pictured above, or railing, or eaves, then hanging fabric is a definite possibility. Third, how does the venue feel about this kind of decoration? Some venues may not want folks hanging off their eaves because of liability issues.
With all that said, I set about looking to answer the original questions. But since I’ve never done it personally, I scoured Flickr for designers who have and asked them to share a few tips.
Flickr photo by eventswithdesign
Carrie of Events With Design, from Central Kentucky, has several photos on Flickr of venues they’ve made to look spectacular. Above, is a gym. Seriously. Here’s what she had to tell me:
Thank you for your interest in our ceiling decorations. You would not believe the number of calls we get from these photos. We are located in Central Kentucky and do not usually travel out of the state to do these. We are usually booked for the date or the client does not want to pay travel costs.
The ceiling cover we do are hung from a wire cable system. Not all venues are right for this type of install. There has to be something to attach the cables to. We usually do these in gyms with exposed metal beams and a track system to allow us to get access with ladders. In some locations we have to rent a lift in order to get up high.
We usually use gossamer as our fabric. The fire codes in our area require all fabric to be fire retardant and gossamer is the most cost effective material to use. However we now have a source for treated fabrics and hope to do some more elegant ceilings this year.
Flickr photo by eventswithdesign
You can see what Carrie and I both meant — not every venue is right for this sort of decoration because you need to have something the strong the decorations can be anchored to. And try as you might, you probably don’t want to drape hanging fluorescent lights — do you really want your decorations to bring down the lights as the party goes on?
Flickr photo by Impressions Decorating
Christina of Impressions Decorating also shared a few of the details behind her ceiling decorations.
I use this ceiling canopy at a certain location here in Kelowna, BC Canada. It is called Summerhill Pyramid Winery and its a gorgeous location except for the long tracks of sprinkler pipes on the ceiling. This canopy has 6 rod pockets with rods in them and sits right on the pipes. It is about 9 feet up so all I need is a helper and a ladder and some zap straps. The venue is great with us, always recommends us to brides which is nice. I have 2 partners that work with me so we can accomplish the entire wedding decor together including all linens, flowers, table decor, backdrops and ceilings.
Flickr photo by Flowers by Alis
I don’t know much about the technique behind the decorations in this picture, but I am familiar with these repeating tray ceilings. You see these kinds of ceilings often at hotels’ main ballrooms. The tray of the ceiling often houses lights, spotlights and other stuff for the hotel to use, but it seems decorators can also make use of these spaces for fabric.
*Mary Carlson of MJ Decorations recently left this comment, which I decided to bring into the blog post:
Ceiling draping is not for amateurs. By the time you buy or rent the fabric, hardware, ladders, lifts, etc…it is quite expensive. I usually use voile and I have it in white and ivory, and have used colored fabric for Proms and parties. I have brides ask me to drape fabric on low, (11′ or lower) ceilings, and it just doesn’t look as good as the pictures of these very high spaces. Venues with ceiling grids are the easiest. You can use ceiling clips or specialty magnets with hooks that are relatively expensive, but are perfect to do this kind of hanging. You must also be aware that many venues do not allow amateurs to do this because of the danger of working up high, and because it is easy to mark up or crack ceilings. If you find a venue that has fabric on the ceiling, look at it carefully. Some venues do not take it down very often for cleaning, and I have seen venues with bugs, silly string, rose petals, balloons, and a thick layer of dust in their draping. Every venue is different, so no one method of hanging works for them all. Part of my job is to evaluate the venue to be sure that I can accomplish the look that the bride wants. And, many venues want the draping taken down right after the wedding. All of these factors contribute to the cost. It is probably not for the budget bride.