How to Create a Draped Tent Ceiling for Your Wedding

I just got married in November 2023, and we opted for the free church building wedding rather than the $4000 venue.

Still, I wanted it to look wedding-y and beautiful, and a draped tent ceiling seemed like the perfect answer.

It turned out to be a much bigger job than I had anticipated, and the resources out there for this were slim. Now that I’ve figured it all out, I’m here to share and stop the cycle of trial-and-error draped ceilings.

This is what a draping tent ceiling looks like.
This is how our ceiling turned out!

The three most important tips for hanging a draped tent ceiling have to do with the materials you use: 1) Fabric in bulk is crazy expensive – use plastic instead (shown below). 2) Use CABLE WIRE, not fishing line, to hang the middle. 3) Attach the draping to thin PVC pipes on the cable so that when you raise the ceiling, they’ll slide naturally rather than bunch up.

Keep reading for more tips and a step-by-step guide to how we did it. Save yourself both money and a migraine!

I took this video at my friend’s wedding because I was stunned by how the ceiling design made the church gym look SO much better!

Use Plastic Instead

My original intention was to buy a ton of white fabric to drape the ceiling. My research quickly indicated that it would cost a small fortune, and the better option was to use a giant roll of soft white plastic. Up on the ceiling, your guests can’t even tell, and it’s significantly cheaper.

Something like this:

An example of plastic that can be used to create a draped tent ceiling.

Check Price!

Cable Wire, not Fishing Line

You might think that some plastic and lights won’t be that heavy, but it really is. No matter how strong you think your fishing line is, you’re better off just using cable wire.

Something like this:

An example of the cable that can be used to create a draped tent ceiling.

Check Price!

PVC Pipes Make For a Beautiful Drape

As we practiced setting up the ceiling a week before my wedding, we ran into a problem: the plastic had a habit of bunching together on the cable rather than spreading and draping like it was supposed to.

To solve this problem, we got some thin PVC pipes and cut them to match the width of each strip of white plastic.

Then, we glued the PVC pieces to the middle of each strip. When we hung the ceiling later, it gave the draping the fluidity to move that it was lacking before. More specific info on this in the step-by-step guide.

Something like this:

An example of the PVC pipe that can be used to create a draped tent ceiling.

Check Price!

Step-by-Step Guide: Before Wedding Day

This was my venue the night before my wedding.

Step One: Measure Venue

Measure your venue to create a draped tent ceiling.

You’ll need to know how much cable, plastic, and lights to buy. Measure length, width, and height of your space.

Another thing to note are the features of your venue. Some things that proved useful for us were the machine-operated basketball hoops on both sides of the room, rings secured into the walls near the ceiling, and grooves in the wall that we rested excess on.

This is what my venue looked like before any decorations.

Step Two: Obtain Materials

Here’s what you’ll need to get:

  1. White draping plastic
  2. Lights (battery-powered, not plug-in)
  3. Batteries to power the lights
  4. Cable
  5. Fishing line
  6. Thin PVC pipe
  7. Clothespins
  8. Clear tape
  9. Ladder(s) tall enough to get close to the ceiling

Step Three: Cut Plastic

After measuring, determine how many feet of plastic you need for each strip. Remember that it will drape, so don’t just measure the width of the room and cut there – add some generous feet.

You might be nervous that cutting and folding the plastic will make it crumpley, which it does, but it doesn’t affect the beautiful draping process much in the end. Cutting in advance will save you lots of time on your wedding day – it’s definitely worth some wrinkles.

Shows how to cut the plastic for a draped tent ceiling.

In practice, the cutting process was a bit of an ordeal. Most people don’t have sufficient space in the house to reasonably lay out and cut that much plastic. My mom and I went to our nearest church building, marked the measurement on the gym floor, rolled out the plastic and layered it about 5 times, cut, then folded the cut pieces back up again. This way is a little more efficient because you can get multiple strips cut at the same time rather than doing each individually.

You definitely need at least two people to achieve this, but three is more ideal.

Step Four: Cut PVC

Shows how to cut the PVC pipe for a draped tent ceiling.

My dad did this for me in the garage. It’s pretty self-explanatory – use a saw to cut the PVC into pieces that are the same length as the width of your strips of fabric. Cut enough PVC pieces for each strip of plastic.

Step-by-Step Guide: On Wedding Day

Happy couple dancing under their draped tent ceiling.

Step One: Form a Perimeter

Shows where to hang fishing line for a draped tent ceiling.

The drapey ceiling needs a cable down the middle for the tent effect, as well as something to hang over on the sides of the room to stay put. Secure fishing line to both sides of the room where the plastic will fall. Our venue had rings secured perfectly into the wall, so we tied the line to one loop and strung it through the rest.

Step Two: Attach PVC to Plastic

Once both the PVC and the plastic are cut to the correct size, attach the PVC right in the middle of each strip. We used double-sided tape.

Step Three: Secure the Cable

Secure the cable down the middle of the room.

My venue was a church gym, so there were machine-operated basketball hoops on both sides of the room, which we used to our advantage. We attached the cable to the thick pole on the backboard of the hoop using a wire rope clip.

Check Price!

Then, we strung the PVC pipes through the cable and attached the latter end to the other basketball hoop.

If you don’t have these basketball hoops in your venue, you’ll need to find a different way to attach your cable to each side of the room.

Step Four: Tape Lights

Put the batteries in your battery-operated lights, turn them on (depending on how soon your reception will start – if not for several hours, you better wait), and attach the not-battery-pack ends to your cable. We just taped them onto the ends of the PVCs so they wouldn’t mess with the draping effect.

Step Five: Raise the Hoops

Now that everything is secured, you can raise the hoops and watch your drapey ceiling come up!

Step Six: Pin the Ends

The next move is clear – you must attach the ends of the plastic to the fishing line on the wall.

Depending on how tall the ceiling is, you’ll probably need to get up really high. We used a construction ladder meant for climbing on rooves because our normal garage ladder wasn’t tall enough.

With a tall enough ladder, you can pull the plastic through the fishing line and secure it with a clothespin. You’ll need to decide how drapey you want the ceiling with the first go. Someone can stand on the ground and ensure that each following drape is draping to the same degree. Do the same thing with the lights.

Unless you’re an absolutely perfect plastic cutter, your plastic will hang down the wall unevenly and look weird. At my church gym, they had grooves in the wall near the top of the ceiling that were perfect for resting the plastic ends on. If you don’t have that, you might consider getting white curtains to hang over the plastic ends to make the room look more cohesive.

This was before we fixed the overhang on the right side

Enjoy Your Gorgeous Ceiling!

Although this was the single biggest project I embarked upon for my wedding, it was well worth the effort. It looked amazing, and doing everything ourselves saved us a ton of money. Don’t book those companies that will do it for you for $2000! It is very possible to do it yourself, and you can save the money for dates.

If you’re reading this, you might also like 11 Low-Cost and Creative Date Ideas:

Recent Posts