Introduction: PVC Pipe and Potted Plant Chuppah Frame

About: Quilter, crafter, maker, baker, coder, cook.
My fiance, @natantus, and I are getting married in *ohdeargodholycrapwtfSEVENWEEKS*, and we are officially in massive wedding DIY mode.  From centerpieces to boutonnieres, our tiny apartment is bursting at the seams with wedding-related sundry.  

No DIY Jewish wedding is complete without a homemade chuppah.  I still haven't actually made the cloth part of the chuppah, but this instructable is for the frame--and will be updated once the cloth is made.  Traditional Chuppahs are made to be held or supported by members of the wedding party, but most chuppahs nowadays are freestanding structures.  All that is really necessary is a frame that supports a cloth on the top, and that won't get blown over if you're having an outdoor wedding.  Trellises don't really work because the frame should be open on all four sides, to symbolize hospitality.

Chuppah rentals can run pretty steep, and they're screaming for DIY.  So here's what we did.

For this instructable, you will need:
  • 4x unglazed 12-inch round terra cotta pots.
  • 1x bag of gravel (Two to Three cubic feet)
  • 1x bag of cactus dirt (Three cubic feet)
  • 12x succulent plants or enough interesting succulents to fill four pots (we went to Home Depot)
  • 6x 10 foot of 3/4 inch pvc pipe
  • 2x 2 foot of 1 1/2 inch pvc pipe
  • 4x 3/4 inch joint connectors with 1/2 inch outlet
  • 4x 3/4 inch to 1/2 inch coupler
  • 1x plastic painting tarp
  • 1x can dark hammered metal spray paint
  • 1x can hammered copper metal spray paint
You will also need these tools:
  • 1x wet rag to wipe down pvc pipe
  • 1x hacksaw to cut larger pvc pipe
  • 1x pipe cutter to cut small pvc pipe
  • 1x measuring tape (measure twice, cut once!)

Step 1: Prepare Pots

Now that you've gathered your materials, it's time to paint!

Spread out your drop cloth in a nice flat backyard.  We weighted ours down with all of our recently-purchased succulents.  Make sure you have removed any stickers from your pots.  Then, place the four pots upside down in the center of the drop cloth, leaving enough space to get in between them.  

Take off your shoes, unless you want the bottoms to get very tacky.

Following the instructions on your spray paint can, apply an even coat to the pots, spraying side to side and from the top of the pot down.  I had to re-position about four times per pot to cover the whole circumference.  Don't bother painting the flat part of the base, as nobody will see it and it will waste paint.  

Allow the paint to dry for fifteen minutes if you are patient.  If you are like me, bounce up and down for about thirty seconds after doing the last pot before moving back to the first.  Whatever.

After two coats, your pots should look FANTASTIC!  Let them dry.  Don't move them.  Don't touch them.  Go play with your dog.  Come back in a legitimate fifteen minutes to half an hour.  Using the hole in the base of the pots, lift them up and turn them right-side up one at a time.  

By now your spray can is getting very light.  If you don't want to run back to Home Depot to buy another can, then you have to be efficient.  Spray a layer around the very lip of the pot, blending in with the paint you've already laid down.  You'll get paint in the pot. I wouldn't worry about it, but it isn't the goal.  Focus on getting nice even coverage on the lip.

Once you're done with that, let the pots dry while you move on to step 2.

Step 2: Measure and Cut PVC

We wanted a chuppah 7'x4'x6'.  Get your six 3/4" PVC pipes.  Cut four of the poles into 7'/3' lengths and two into 6'/4' lengths.  This is pretty straightforward:  Get a measuring tape.  Measure and mark the right lengths on the poles.  Use a pipe cutter or a hacksaw to cut the pipe.  

Since the PVC we used for the poles was so small, we were able to get away with using the pipe cutter for everything but the big anchor pipes that we buried in the plant pots.  These were 1.5", and @natantus had to get out the hacksaw.  While I sipped sparkling water and watched him try to cut his leg off, I got a damp washcloth and wiped down all the PVC poles and, once he was done, the anchor pipes.  This got the debris off of them so that we could paint.

Originally, we laid the pipes down on the drop cloth and tried to paint over them, let them dry, roll them over, and paint them again.  But the spray paint stuck to the drop cloth and didn't end up looking great, so we ended up waiting on painting them until we completed the following step: filling the pots.

Step 3: Fill the Pots

By now the pots should be dry, so you can start planting!  First, put a paper towel in the bottom of each pot to cover the hole.  This will just help keep the gravel from spilling out.

Now, put some big handfuls of rocks into the bottom of each pot.  Think about an inch of gravel.

Now place your anchor pipe on top of the gravel.  It will try to tip over.  Put another inch of gravel around the pipe to hold it in place.  

Time for dirt!  Get your cactus soil and heap in a few inches on top of the gravel.  Work your first succulent out of its plastic bucket and measure it against the dirt height.  You want the succulent to be right at the lip of the pot, so adjust the dirt height accordingly.  Loosen the root ball of the plant a little by gently squashing at the dirt around the roots until it is no longer plastic-bucket-shaped.  Then, squash the thing right down into the pot.  Repeat with the other two succulents, so that your anchor pipe is hollow and surrounded by cacti.  and fill in around them with more cactus soil.  Finish it off with a little of your leftover gravel in the gaps between the succulents.  It does wonders to help complete the look!

Repeat with the other three pots!

Step 4: Paint the Poles

We were dumb and planted the succulents before doing this step.  It worked fine, but may have been easier if we'd put in the dirt and come back to the succulents later.  Either way, the idea is the same.  The anchor pipes have been anchored by dirt and gravel and possibly plants, and it's time to spray paint the poles.  

Place the poles into the anchor pipes.  Pull up the ends of the drop cloth and tape them around the anchor pipes, so that the cloth covers the planters, plants, and everything except the very tippy top of the anchor pipes, and the entirety of the poles are exposed.

Running from top to bottom, apply a nice even coat of the copper spray paint to the poles, overlapping top-down strokes all the way around until you've got a first coat.  Our poles needed 2 coats--3 in some places--in order to get them to look even and cover up any words stamped into the white PVC.  But they came out pretty nice.  Let them dry for a while, then pull back the drop cloth to see the finished poles and anchors.

Step 5: Paint the Joints

Now that you're high on paint fumes and really ready to crack open a beer, remember that you have to paint all the joints!

Screw the adapter into the threaded part of the three-way connector piece.  Do that 4 times.

Lay the connectors out on the drop cloth, corner-out, and get it the heck over with.  Once one side is sprayed, get that beer, and in fifteen minutes wander back over to flip the joints and paint the backsides.  Let them dry.  

After we did this step and assembled everything, I decided to have my brother lash the supports together instead of using these joints, but I am leaving this step in here because I don't know how to lash and it was the original construction.

Step 6: Construct the Frame

Assemble the frame so you can admire it, and then disassemble it so you can store it.  

To assemble, put the joints onto the ends of the 6' crosspieces, and attach those to the support poles.  Then slide the 4' crosspieces into the remaining holes.  Lift the frame into the anchor pipes in the pots, and step away!  

We ended up having my brother lash the crosspieces together instead of using the joints because it gives a little extra visual interest.  The choice is, of course, yours.

Buy 20 yards of tulle in whatever color you want, and cut it into two 6-yard and two 4-yard pieces.  Place the 6-yard pieces across the top of the chuppah the long way, and the 4-yard pieces facing the other way.

Note:  I would actually buy a slightly greater amount of tulle and measure to make sure the hanging ends match--as you can see in this picture, the ends don't entirely match up with the lengths given.

Use ribbons to secure the hanging ends of tulle at whatever height you think looks good.

Mazel Tov!