Decorating the ceiling with fabric

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.

27 thoughts on “Decorating the ceiling with fabric

  1. i wana know how you do all that, i mean seriously you can’t just take a plain fabric hang it on the ceiling and bang, you are done.

  2. Hi there,

    I am also a wedding decorator. Ceiling lights and draping is one of our clients most favorite things to have. But again, like said in the above statment not every venue can handle this. They either need to have had installed hooks or a pulley system or open beams. We use sheer fabric 10ft wide for our fabric draping but we also use tulle. Tulle can still look nice and doesn’t have the weight of sheer fabric. Ceiling lights and draping are a lot of work, but worth it if you can have it at your venue. Ceiling draping has the biggest impact in regard to the look of your venue.

    With the costs of the farics we only offer this in white, sometimes the clients would like to have sheer fabric but because of the venue we may need to use tulle. For example, if the room has a drop ceiling you can install lights and tulle but sheer fabric would be to heavy as the tracks are only intended to hold up ceiling tiles.

  3. I help run a wedding event facility in Birmingham AL and would love to have someone use fabric but the brides who have even considered it were turned off by the cost. Is there a (relatively) inexpensive source for the fabric?

    Also, in order of preference, what are the 3-4 fabrics of choice?

  4. I work for an event rental company and we do tons of different cieling decorations in our tents, but I have a venue I do a lot of work at the has a simple drop cieling. I was wonder if anyone had any ideas for a minimally destructive way to install the drapes, even at wierd angles.

  5. @LadyJ, you asked “does anyone knows anybody that can install ceiling drapes for my wedding in a church .”

    I would try Angies List first. They probably have wedding/event planners on that site with customer testimonials. You don’t want to hire someone out of the blue for a big event like that. Make sure that the work that they do is up to par. Hoped that helped!


  6. Pingback: Wedding Decorations: Fabric Drapes on the Ceiling |

  7. I have been looking to do this at my wedding as well. The reception hall that I plan to use is extremely large and would be very expensive to get the look Im going for. I’ve searched online for the best draping fabric and found one event planner that swears by plastic table cloth rolls. These would really open the door for beautiful colors and they are extremely cheap. 1 roll of 40 in by 300 ft was under $12. I am willing to try this as the ceilings are extremely high so no one would notice they are not actually fabric and some of the rolls can be very close to fabric like material. I just wonder of the safety of these. They could be heavy and and not flame resistant. Has anyone tried this before?

  8. i am getting married this december 2012 but the reception place that i fell in love with said “THAT WE CANT ATTACH ANYTHING TO THE CEILING”. but i always pictured my wedding with a ceiling drape!! can this be accomplish???

    • How about using 4 8feet pillars and place them in the corners of the room to create a canopy use sheer voile drapes to create swags of your desired length and hang fabic across the four corners to each pillar to give you the covered look. Hope this was helpful

  9. Decorating a ceiling with fabric is a great way to cover up an ugly ceiling and dramatically change the look of an entire room. There’s no need to fix cracks in the ceiling or paint over stains–you simply cover them up. Because you don’t have to spread and smooth patch compound or deal with paint splatters, you don’t need to cover furniture with drop cloths or deal with paint fumes.

  10. Dont forget that the fabric MUST be flame retarded AND you MUST have the certification on site.
    Also if the room has a sprinkler system, you are probably breaking fire code by draping anything that could block the sprinkler from working to capacity.
    Please call your fire marshal before spending the money or time on a project like this!

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