I'm going to say a couple words about fabric in general first, then I'll get to the list.
When looking to buy fabric to decorate for a wedding, you want a fabric that drapes well (not tulle).
This fabric drapes well. It's smooth, and flowy.
This fabric doesn't have good drape. It's stiff, and will create awkward corners and folds.
Also, lightweight fabric is better. It flows and won't seem stiff or heavy, (although there are some heavier fabrics that have good drape).
If you are able to, test out fabrics in person before purchasing. Hold them, feel their texture, hang them over your arm, drape them over something, see how they look bunched up and make sure they are flowy and have the look you want (as long as it's not tulle).
Check if it's flame retardant!
This is super important if you are going to be combining lights with your fabric. Many venues won't allow you to use fabric if it's not fire-rated, especially if it's coming into contact with any sort of light. No one wants their weddings going up in flames anyway, so check!
Fabric width is also important.
Most fabric in the bolts at the fabric store are usually 45", 60" or, if you are lucky, 108" wide. Get the widest fabric you can find. You may need to search online for wider fabric, sold on rolls, depending on what look you are trying to achieve.
Depending on how you decide to hang your fabric, you also may need to consider how much light you want coming through your fabric, and whether you want it translucent, sheer, or opaque.
Now here's the list! I took a little field trip to the fabric store so I could see and feel first hand how these fabrics drape and get some pictures for you.
The 5 Best Fabrics for Decorating Wedding Arches:
Opaque. Can be heavy, so look for 40 denier (denier is the fineness of the fabric- the lower the number, the finer and lighter the fabric). Doesn't wrinkle or crease easily.
Is available in matte or shiny.
My favorite was the crepe-back satin. It was shiny on one side, and matte on the other. Sooooo drape-y and smooth.
Sheer and lightweight. Matte. True voile is made from cotton, which is pictured here. It's very natural and organic-feeling.
I got these crushed 'voile' curtain panels that have some texture to it, but they are 100% polyester, so I don't think they are a true voile. However, they are my fav and I love them for wedding backdrops and fabrics that need to puddle on the floor while looking lovely.
Opaque, drapes very well. Has a little shine to it, but can be found in matte. Used to be made from 100% silk, but now there are less-expensive polyester versions.
Nice charmeuse feels sooo good and is super silky.
Sheer, delicate, gauzy, flowy.
Under a magnifying glass chiffon resembles a fine net or mesh which gives it transparency.
Gossamer (sometimes called tobacco cloth)
Semi-translucent to sheer. Super lightweight and gauzy. Gossamer is a non-woven material, which means the fibers look sort of pressed-together. It's usually flame retardant, and very lightweight, so it's used on ceilings a lot.
My fabric store didn't have any gossamer, but you can see some examples here:
But why not Tulle?!?
Ok, so by now you are probably wondering why I am hating on tulle. It's sheer, delicate, gauzy, inexpensive- it's the first fabric people think of when they are DIY decorating their wedding (it's ok if you thought of it too, I forgive you). But it's awful! It is stiff (usually starched), it doesn't drape, it's usually only available in narrow widths, and it's too flimsy-bodied to create much of anything.
Look at how crumply this tulle is. It's all weird angles and creases.
You need a lot of tulle to make it look decent, and at that point, in my opinion, it's tacky. Don't hate me- I know it's inexpensive, but please please please try to use one of the other above named fabrics before you resort to tulle. If you really must, try and find a tulle that has a finer mesh rather than larger. It will look a bit better.
I hope this post gave you some insight on which fabrics to choose for your DIY decorating. I'm working on a post now with details of how to go about draping and decorating, so if you would like to receive updates on when that's available, sign up for our email list!
If you have questions, leave them in the comments below. Also, we would love to see pictures of your DIY wedding draping! You can always contact us to send us your pictures, and we may feature them on our website!!