Wedding Tip: Personalize your Wedding Canopy

With the winter’s snows finally beginning to melt (please let it be the last for this season!),it is time to warm up to thoughts of weddings. Though I had a March indoor wedding, I still remember the powerful feelings of standing underneath my own chuppah. Here are the stories I wrote of these brides with their bridegrooms for the 2016 Celebrate! issue of the Detroit Jewish News.

Under Cover


Anna Daniels’ parents, Rita and Alex Yevzelman of West Bloomfield, crafted the chuppah — poles and all — for their daughter’s wedding to Noah Daniels (photo credit: Girl in Love Photography).

Brides and grooms are getting personal with their chuppot.

Stacy Gittleman | Contributing Writer

No matter the number of attendees at a wedding, the most powerful moment of a Jewish nuptial ceremony is one only seen by the bride, bridegroom and the most intimate circle of family and witnesses — from underneath the spread of the chuppah. Contemporary Jewish brides and grooms are designing their own chuppot to match the intimacy of that moment. As they exchange their vows and listen to the reading of a ketubah, sheltering them above their heads are customized canopies woven together from heirloom wedding gowns, a great-grandfather’s tallit or even the cloth napkin from the restaurant where the proposal took place. Understanding the significance and holiness of this moment as the beginning of a new marriage and family, today’s couples seek to bring more personalization into the design of their one-of-a-kind chuppot.

New York fashion designer and Detroit native Traci Kaye, owner of Four Branches Canopies and Chuppahs in Brooklyn, N.Y., created her first chuppah for her own wedding in 2006. She and her husband knew just what materials and items should be included to reflect the intimacy and symbolic significance of the chuppah ceremony.

“In my own chuppah,” Kaye says, “I used parts of a Shabbat tablecloth that my husband’s mother and grandmother created.”

Some meaningful materials that she has pieced into the chuppot she designs for others include the silky fabric that once adorned the cover of a great grandfather’s baby carriage, satin from a grandmother’s wedding gown or antique lace handkerchiefs that belonged to   a cherished relative.

“These objects tell stories of their own, and it makes my work very gratifying that I can create an object that is so personal for a couple’s wedding,” Kaye says.


 When John Kutinsky of Colorado wed native Detroiter Leah Fink, the groom wanted the chuppah to incorporate memories of his late father. The couple worked with chuppah designer Traci Kaye to adorn the canopy with Kutinsky’s father’s bandanas and T-shirts, slipping them into sheer organza to soften the colors.

When Detroit native Leah Fink wed Coloradoan John Kutinsky in 2010, Kutinsky wanted the chuppah’s design to include belongings of his father, who passed away before the wedding. He held onto some of his father’s cotton bandanas and T-shirts and wanted them to adorn the chuppah. The couple worked with Kaye to incorporate them into the chuppah by slipping them into sheer organza pockets to mute the colors for a softer feel.


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In another chuppah, for the 2014 wedding of Lauren Elkus and Sam Surnow of Birmingham, Kaye cut pieces from handkerchiefs and clothing from the bride’s grandmother into shapes of leaves and then scattered them throughout the sheer spread of a silk organza chuppah.

A “highly textile-driven” designer, Kaye says that creating an heirloom chuppah is a great way to bring many family members into the wedding planning. She says many of her clients’ family members were happy to go on a sort of antique textile “scavenger hunt” to find items that best represent the previous generations.

“I love the sentimental attachment and association that people have with the heirloom clothing or Jewish ritual objects of their loved ones,” says Kaye, who is working on designing the chuppah for famed architect Daniel Libeskind’s daughter’s wedding. What can be more personal than parents together creating both the chuppah supports and canopy for their daughter’s wedding? ”

Rita and Alex Yevzelman of West Bloomfield did that when they designed the chuppah for daughter Anna’s 2014 wedding to Noah Daniels, 34, of Holmdel, N.J. Growing up, Anna remembers her father’s handiwork designing kitchen cabinets and resurfacing hardwood floors in their home.

“When it came time for my wedding, it only seemed natural that he would make something that was so central to our ceremony,” says Anna, 31. For the poles, the Yevzelmans chose the symbolic white of birch wood ordered special from Wisconsin. Alex left the branches unhewn and mounted them on short, flat birch stumps. Anna’s mother, Rita, also contributed, creating a handmade tallit complete with tzitzit that she learned how to wind and knot especially for the occasion.  After the wedding, the structure was donated to The Shul in West Bloomfield for use by other couples for their wedding.

“My parents have such a wonderful loving relationship that I value very much,” says Anna, who now lives with her husband in Brooklyn. “Standing under the chuppah which they built for our wedding made us feel very sheltered and loved by them.”

Valerie Efros and Adam Milgrom of Traverse City always imagined a warm-weather wedding surrounded by greenery and flowers, but that was not the reality when the couple decided on a March date. So, Efros brought the outside in and incorporated greenery and flowers into the design of her chuppah.

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For Valerie Efros’ wedding to Adam Milgrom, the bride’s aunt Adrienne Sweet of West Bloomfield personalized a plain white cloth by adding the names of the bride and groom with fabric marker. Their names joined those of Sweet’s children, who were also wed beneath the same chuppah. Every time the chuppah is used, the couple’s names are added with fabric marker. She added crocheted sides, stenciled flowers on with paint and sewed a star onto the fabric



.“We worked with the couple to include the most natural elements possible in their wedding canopy,” says Liz Andre-Stotz of Parsonage Events in Clarkston. Efros chose poles made from birch branches.

The bride’s aunt Adrienne Sweet of West Bloomfield personalized a plain white cloth for the chuppah by embroidering the names of the bride and groom into the fabric. Their names joined those of Sweet’s sons and their wives, who were also wed beneath the same chuppah. The best part, says Efros: There is still plenty of room for more names of future brides and grooms for generations to come.

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a reporter and public relations professional for over 30 years, specializing in profile features and investigative longform writing. During my career I've profiled WWII Honor Flight Veterans, artists and musicians and have written on topics that range from environmental and gun control issues to Jewish culture. Click around on my writing samples plus read my blog on my personal life raising three kids over 27 years and three cities.

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