My retro-futuristic chuppah

Guestpost by Chris Niederer on Jan. 20th

Photos by Annabelle Reboli.

My fiancée Tracy and I decided right away that our wedding should be unique, costume-friendly, and out-of-this world. We picked the theme of retro-futurism or "atomic age," not only because we are sci-fi fans and love the aesthetic, but also because we felt the forward-thinking optimism of that era was right at home at a wedding. (What is a wedding about if not the future?) It resonated with our notions about what our union could become. We turned our backs on the formal rituals of traditional weddings, and in creating our new family, we created ritual that was new and meaningful to us.

As an architect and experience designer, I understand the importance of a cohesive environment. All the aspects of our wedding fit with our theme: Guests were asked to wear futuristic or silvery costumes, and our tent and table linens were boldly striped in a style of '60s modernism. Tracy's bouquet and our flower arrangements had blossoms encased in plastic domes, and springy bamboo canopies. Our place cards named each guest's planet of origin and came with blinking LED party favors. And of course, we created a new take on the Jewish tradition of the chuppah as a centerpiece for our ceremony.

A chuppah is the structure a Jewish couple stands under during the ceremony. It is normally built of a cloth draped over four poles, and symbolizes the protection and security a new husband offers his wife. Since our wedding had a few Jewish cultural elements but wasn't really religious, I was able to push the look of the chuppah to something no rabbi would recognize. The design was inspired by the Jetsons cartoons, 50s-era "googie" architecture like the Theme Building at LAX, and movies like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Our chuppah, a circular ring open to the sky, with uprights evocative of hands reaching for each other, symbolizes the hope, optimism and transparency that are a union's true security. The chuppah was created to be a stage, framing the ceremony, and a portal into the future.

I designed the piece for manufacture on a computer controlled router (CNC). Once it was cut from fir plywood, Tracy and I spent the last few afternoons before our wedding sanding and staining all the pieces. The structure slots together and breaks down to fit in a compact car, and we drove it to the wedding on the roof and trunk of our Honda Fit. My brother and cousins helped assemble it before the rehearsal dinner, and we had it up in about an hour's time.

I had a lot of fun making the piece and would love to make more personalized chuppahs / canopies / installation pieces for other offbeat brides!


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About Chris Niederer

I'm a freelance architect, furniture and exhibit designer, and I've also done several interactive art installations in NYC (you can see more of my work at -- click on work, blog or shop). I had a lot of fun making the piece and would love to make more personalized chuppahs / canopies / installation pieces for other offbeat brides.