The Jewish Chronicle - JC Magazine - - The Chupah -

HE WED­DING canopy, or chu­pah, is a metaphor for the new home-in-the-mak­ing and, in keep­ing with its sym­bol­ism of a new stage in life, de­mands its own cel­e­bra­tion and dec­o­ra­tion. How this is done de­pends on bud­get, sea­son, style and, above all, venue, since your chu­pah can be any­where from a gar­den to a syn­a­gogue.

Both canopy and poles may be carved and sculpted wooden shapes; you can even get Per­spex poles. Oth­er­wise, it’s plain me­tal cov­ered with fab­ric and laced with ivy, into which the flow­ers are tucked.

Rachel, of Bud, en­joys the freedom of a non-shul set­ting. “A ho­tel chu­pah will be built by a pro­duc­tion team. It can be pleated and draped. I have made a com­plete frame of flow­ers and elab­o­rate cor­ners with trail­ing or­chids mixed with crys­tals.” She also likes to hang ama­ran­thus, with its catkin-like strings of flow­ers.

But a shul chu­pah has its charms, too. “It has to be more tra­di­tional, to suit the set­ting,” she says. “Pas­tels in, say, white and green can be breath­tak­ing.” One of Rachel’s favourite com­bi­na­tions is the dark green of small-leaved glossy rus­cus, var­ie­gated ivy and scented eu­ca­lyp­tus, mixed with white pe­onies.

Gaby, at Jen­nie Mann in East Finch­ley asks clients about the size and con­di­tion of the chu­pah. Com­pli­cat­ing fac­tors in­clude hand­held poles — the four stal­warts in­volved won’t want to be weighed down with ex­cess botany — and pre­cious but frag­ile an­tique chu­pah ma­te­rial, as at Be­vis Marks Syn­a­gogue, which calls for min­i­mal han­dling.

A shul chu­pah tends to rely for its ef­fect on tuck­ing flow­ers into a base of wind­ing ivy. A ho­tel chu­pah can take the full works — “ruched fab­ric and flam­boy­ant flower groups,” says Gaby. At Kristal in Tem­ple For­tune, San­dra gen­er­ally aims at a soft look with gen­tle pinks, pas­tels and blush shades in roses, pe­onies and hy­drangeas. But she re­mem­bers vividly the warm-toned chu­pah she cre­ated for a Sephardi wed­ding. “It had red and or­ange roses with cop­per beech. It looked gor­geous,” she re­calls.

Jen­nie Mann’s Gaby says “A com­bi­na­tion of flow­ers gives a more re­laxed feel. For a cleaner, more mod­ern ar­range­ment, we use just two va­ri­eties.” Her most-used flow­ers are hy­drangea, rose, lily and orchid.

Rachel starts from a favourite flower or colour. “Brides are usu­ally far more def­i­nite about their bou­quet than about the chu­pah,” she notes. “I have had mothers as clients for the chu­pah and never met the bride.”

Flow­ers can be sourced at any time from some­where on the globe. But stay­ing in tune with na­ture adds a sym­pa­thet i c di­men­sion. For early spring, Gaby uses tulips, hy­acinths and ra­nun­cula as well as blos­som such as li­lac. Later, she might use pe­onies and sweet peas. San­dra likes to in­cor­po­rate sweet-smelling win­ter-flow­er­ing jas­mine and hy­acinths. Pussy wil­low gives a vel­vety soft touch. Rachel likes blos­som and twigs, as well as ra­nun­cula and tulips. In late spring, Rachel turns to pe­onies, sweet peas and hy­drangeas, now start­ing their long sea­son. Gaby brings in sweet peas and pe­onies as well as herba­ceous bor­der plants like phlox and lacy gyp­sophila, to­gether with early roses.

As sum­mer set­tles in, San­dra con­cen­trates on roses, es­pe­cially the per­fumed off-white Norma Jean, Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe’s orig­i­nal fore­names. Roses can stand the heat, so will go on look­ing good right through the event.

Her favourite flower is the mis­lead­ingly named gelder rose, which looks like a mini hy­drangea but is ac­tu­ally a type of vibur­num. Like hy­drangea, it wilts in ex­treme heat, so avoid us­ing them in sum­mer heat­waves.

Late sum­mer into au­tumn is the time for hy­drangeas and dahlias. Gaby likes mix­ing hy­drangea with flame-coloured au­tumn fo­liage and berries. For a stand-out win­ter flower, you can’t beat amaryl­lis against ever­green fo­liage. And since roses have such a long sea­son, you can also count them in.

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