There are beautiful events, and then there are unforgettably amazing events. You already know that backdrops can help elevate the look of a room…but what about the area of the room that’s above your guests?
Savvy party planners and event decorators know that an easy way to set-up a jaw-dropping room is to use ceiling drapes.
Ceiling drapes, also called ceiling swags, are exactly what they sounds like: drapes for your ceiling! They create an incredible focal point by covering an otherwise plain, drab ceiling, and they help you create a breathtaking scene from the top down.
Fabric Used for Ceiling Swags
The most popular ceiling swag fabrics are lightweight materials that are sheer (or mostly sheer). Lightweight fabric is often critical, because fabric that is too heavy can be difficult to hang up, and can even pull down ceiling tiles on office / grid style ceilings.
Our Ceiling Drapes and Ceiling Drape Kits use 118 inch super wide Sheer Voile fabric that is light, airy, soft, and flows beautifully. This translucent material pairs extremely well with lighting, but also looks great by itself (even without the addition of lights).
White sheer fabric is the best color to choose if you’ll be accenting the ceiling drapes with colored LED lighting. Even if you’re not using lighting, White is a neutral color that is perfect for everything from a fancy gala to a classic wedding – and it also helps that White goes well with virtually any other colors that are in the room!
If White isn’t your thing, Sheer Voile swags are also available in an array of gorgeous colors, from Champagne and Ivory to Tiffany Blue and Red!
All of the Sheer Voile Ceiling Drapes that we offer, in all colors, are Inherently Flame Retardant (IFR). THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT! We’ll explain why in point #4 below.
Getting Started - How To Do Ceiling Draping
First you’ll want to assess the ceiling and the overall environment. Determine important details like:
1. What type of ceiling is it, and what are the best attachment points for hanging?
An office / grid type ceiling with a metal border is super versatile. You can use Hinged Ceiling Clips, magnets with a hook (assuming the metal border is NOT aluminum, which is not magnetic), or other means of suspending a Ceiling Ring (Hoop) and the drapes.
Don’t have a grid ceiling? There are still ways of hanging, but it may take some extra creativity.
Are there any pipes? Can you install a tension wire?
Visualize where you’ll be hanging it in the room – for example: from the center of the room, out X number of feet in whichever directions you will be draping. Pay extra close attention to potential attachment points in these areas.
2. Are there any major obstructions to consider?
Take note of any HVAC ducts, pipes, and other potential obstructions that will require extra thought into how and where you will be hanging your ceiling drapes.
Ceiling swags should never be installed where they could impede exit signs, fire sprinklers, or any other safety mechanism:
3. How will I get up there to hang the drapes?
You’ll most likely at least need a ladder. For really tall ceilings, you may need a scissor lift. If you’ve determined that you can hang drapes from the ceiling, think about how you’ll get up there to install them.
4. Do you need flame retardant ceiling drapes?
This is important: a lot DIY and how-to Ceiling Drape articles will say something like: “Buy some cheap fabric from a fabric store…”. The problem is that almost any cheap fabric – whether it’s Chiffon, Tulle, Voile, or Satin – is likely not flame retardant.
Is having flame retardant ceiling draping necessary?
If you’re using your swags in a public venue, the answer is almost certainly “YES”.
A fire marshal that inspects the venue will likely require the use of flame retardant ceiling drapes, and may request to see proof that they pass specific fire codes. If you planned on using fabric that isn’t fire retardant, he or she may not allow it to be used at your event.
(Note: our Sheer Voile Ceiling Drapes are Inherently Flame Retardant (IFR), and are tested to pass the NFPA-701 fire code! A Certificate of Flame Resistance is available upon request with an order.)
So even if you’re not sure if flame retardant fabric will be required, it’s probably best to purchase fire retardant ceiling drapes. You’d be covered either way*, and it would be a WHOLE lot better than finding out the day of your event that you can’t use your non-flame retardant fabric!
*Best practice is to consult with the fire marshal who oversees the venue area and check that you can use ceiling drapes, and what fire codes it would have to meet to be able to be used.
5. Lighting or No Lighting?
A fabric like Sheer Voile instantly adds elegance to your ceiling draping, even when it’s used by itself. But it can also be further enhanced with some strategically placed lighting, particularly when using white fabric.
Voile is an ideal choice for illumination…it has a soft reflective quality that helps it carry LED light, or the translucent nature of the fabric makes it twinkle when paired with ordinary string lighting. The addition of lighting can really make your ceiling drapes pop!
No lighting? No problem! Sheer fabric is incredible looking by itself, and with an array of colors to choose from, you don’t necessarily need lighting to get a burst of color for your ceiling!
Map It Out
You may already have a floor plan of the room that maps out things like the table arrangements, dance floor, DJ station, and more. Why not add your ceiling arrangement to that floor plan?
Sketching the room & ceiling beforehand can be a huge help by giving you a visual map of how you’ll be setting up the entire room, ceiling included!
You don’t have to be Picasso…even a rough drawing will work for outlining your ceiling drape game plan. Here’s my
This less-than-artistic drawing shows my starting point (hoop, chandelier, etc.), states how many drapes I’ll be using (even though they’re not all shown, I at least jotted it down), and how many feet I want to cover in each direction.
This type of action plan would make the actual set-up go so much smoother!
What Size Ceiling Drapes? (Would You Like Swag With That?)
Using my drawing above, I’d know that I want to cover 21 feet of space, going in 6 directions.
But, this doesn’t necessarily mean that I would need 21 foot long ceiling drapes. If I used 21 foot long drapes to cover the 21 foot long area of the ceiling, the drapes would be completely taut / pressed-up against the ceiling.
Most ceiling drapes have a degree of “swag” to them. Swag is the amount of fabric that droops down toward the floor between the starting point and the end point.
You probably don’t want the drape to be taut along the ceiling…instead, you’ll likely prefer some amount of the fabric to swoop down (“swag”) between the two points.
As a general guideline for calculating swag:
Ceilings 20 feet tall or less = 25% swag
Ceilings taller than 20 feet = 30% swag (or more*)
*You may want even more swag on super tall the ceilings, though it is a matter of personal preference.
To calculate swag, multiply the portion of the ceiling that you’re covering (in feet) by the amount of swag you’d like to have (as a percentage). The formula is:
FEET OF CEILING BEING COVERED x 1.PERCENTAGE = CEILING SWAG LENGTH YOU NEED
Example: An 18 foot tall ceiling, and you want to cover 24 feet of ceiling space. Since the ceiling is less than 20 feet tall, you want to have 25% swag.
→ Take the 24 feet being covered and multiply it by 1.25 (that’s 25%).
→ 24 x 1.25 = 30
→ So in this scenario, your ceiling drapes should be 30 feet long to account for 25% swag. An example with a taller ceiling:
Now let’s suppose the ceiling was 28 feet tall, and you want to cover the same 24 feet of ceiling space – only this time, since it’s a taller ceiling, you want 30% swag.
The same basic formula applies:
→ Take the 24 feet being covered and multiply it by 1.30 (30%).
→ 24 x 1.30 = 31.2
→ So your ceiling drapes should be 31.2 feet long to account for 30% swag.
If you have a different preference for the amount of swag, just follow the same formula to figure out how long your ceiling drapes should be.
Hanging Your Ceiling Drapes
Now that you’ve mapped it out and know what size swags to use, you’re one final step away from having an amazing setting -- you just need to hang them up!
There are a lot of ways to hang ceiling draping. If you’re using one of our Ceiling Drape Kits, you would:
1) Lay the Ring (Hoop) on the floor, underneath the starting point for your swags. This is typically in the center of the room, though not always – it will depend on where you decided the starting point will be for your ceiling draping.
2) Remove the nut & bolt to open the hoop. Sleeve one of the drape rod pockets onto the ring (and do this for each ceiling drape panel that you’ll be using). Spread the drapes evenly, and position them to your liking.
3) Once all drapes have a rod pocket sleeved onto the ring / hoop, close the hoop by re-fastening the nut and bolt.
4) Slide a clear acrylic rod through the other pole pocket of each ceiling drape panel, and keep the fabric in place by using a positioning pin on each end of the rod.
5) At this point you will hang the ring / hoop and the acrylic rods however you determined you will do so in the “Getting Started” section.
You may not be using a ceiling swag hardware kit or a ring / hoop method. Maybe your starting point will be securing the drapes to a chandelier in the room. No matter how you plan on hanging them, have your idea in place before the event begins.
There are many ways to hang your ceiling drapes, though it often takes some creativity. You may need to use chains, fishing wire, magnets with a hook, tension wires, zip ties…in other words, you may need to think outside of the box to ensure that they’re properly hung.
Be sure to allow enough time to install your ceiling drapes. If you’re the evening booking at a venue that's hosting back-to-back events that day, having your game plan in place will help tremendously.
If you’re using a ceiling draping kit with a hoop / ring, think of ways that you can get a head start (before the actual installation time). This can be anything that would help minimize the time that you’ll need to set up, such as already having your swags on the hoop, or the acrylic rods & positioning pins already in place...or both!
If you will only have a brief time frame for installation, try your best to get your ceiling drapes set-up before the room is reset for your event -- it’s much easier to move around before the room is filled with tables and chairs.
After the Event
The room looked great and everyone had a blast, and by using ceiling drapes you created an unforgettable setting from the top down.
Be sure to keep these tips in mind for next time, because you now have another way to elevate the look of any room that you’ll be setting up in the future.
For now, go ahead and take down your ceiling drapes and keep them handy for the next amazing event that you create…it may be just around the corner!