Outdoor wedding venue with greenery over aisle leading to altar

40 Wedding Altar Decorations and Ideas

Jan 22, 2020
By Wedding Spot

Your wedding altar sets the tone for your ceremony, creates a backdrop for your union, and helps you express your overall wedding theme. In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about wedding altar decorations and design. Plus we’ll share some great ideas (with DIY guides and related products) you can actually use! 

What Is a Wedding Altar?

A wedding altar is the space where the most important part of your wedding ceremony is performed. You, your partner, and your chosen officiant will go through your selected readings, vows, and rituals here. This is why wedding altar decorations are such a big deal — they’ll be heavily featured in your photos.

Your wedding altar design should be tall or large enough to be visible to your guests when you’re standing in front of it. It should also reflect your overall wedding theme and use your primary wedding color scheme. The key is to make sure it looks pretty and interesting enough before the ceremony begins (since all your guests will be staring at it while they wait) but not too distracting during your vows. 

DIY Wedding Altar Decorations: Tips and Cost 

Even if you’ve never made altar decorations before, there are lots of ways to successfully pull it off. Here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • Most wedding altar decorations include an arch, which should be about 144 inches tall. 

  • If you’d like to save money on your decorations, skip the fresh flowers and go with some alternative ideas (we have 40 more of them waiting for you below).

  • Keep your set up and takedown strategy in mind if you’re creating decorations for a rental space. Doorway measurements are especially important if you want to bring in fully formed structures. 

  • When it comes to your budget, there is virtually no end to your options, regardless of how much or how little you want to spend. On average though, you can assume that all of your wedding decorations will cost around $1,810. This means your altar decorations will cost a fraction of that price. 

Wedding Altar Decorations: Flowers

Whether you use fresh or fake, here are some of the most popular altar flower options: 

  • Carnations. These colorful blooms are as affordable as they are versatile for garlands, vases, and other arrangements. Here’s a guide for how to use them. 

  • Hydrangeas. Arrange them in a spherical shape for a classic wedding look. 

  • Gardenias. Add some to your bouquet, a wreath, or on top of a table or banister.

  • Roses. Use the entire flower or just the petals (ideas here). 

  • Baby’s Breath. This wedding flower is highly versatile. We love the foam ball idea on this list

How Do I Decorate My Wedding Aisle?

Make sure your altar and aisle decor go well together. Incorporate the same flowers, colors, or elements into both for a more cohesive look. As far as what you use to decorate your wedding aisle, you have a few different options, including candles, garlands, vases, and flower petals. Just make sure you have space to walk and don’t block seating access. Use these beautiful suggestions for more inspiration.

What Can I Use Instead of a Wedding Arch?

Common arch substitutes include:

  • Flower circles. Here’s a DIY guide

  • Giant rectangles or picture frames. Make your own from PVC pipe or purchase one like this gorgeous copper option on Etsy

  • Draped trees. Use real or fake trees and hang garlands, fairy lights, photos, or other sentimental ornaments from the branches. Check out these stunning living tree wedding backdrops

And we have even more ideas for you below! 

What Is the Best Fabric for Wedding Backdrops?

It’s tough to choose the best wedding drapery. A good thing to keep in mind is that lightweight fabrics look more romantic and create magical moments when there’s a breeze. For that reason, sheer voile and chiffon top the list. 

But you can also use muslin — it’s a little heavier and non-reflective, which is ideal for outdoor ceremonies (the added bulk keeps it from flying away) as well as indoor ones (despite the competing light surfaces and camera flashes, your pictures will still look great).  

Our Favorite Wedding Altar Decorations and Ideas 

We’ve selected ideas that look great, can all be purchased or DIY’d, and go with most wedding themes. By the way, these are just links to products and sites we love — we’re not being paid to endorse anything. So from arches to arrangements, here are some of the best wedding altar decorations. 

1. Half Moon Archway 

Cover it with fabrics, flowers, or even streamers

2. Antique Sideboard

Add some candles, picture frames, and any other ceremony necessities to this old-fashioned country look. 

3. Tree Branch Archway 

Attach real or faux branches to an archway frame for a moody and romantic look. 

4. Gold Candelabras

Dramatic yet understated, gold candelabras add a touch of glamour even when you don’t light them. 

5. Greenery Pillars

Instead of having an archway over your heads, why not add a couple of tall pillars (with foam or wire cage cores and plenty of lush fillers) to either side of your altar? Use this tutorial as a base. 

6. Palm Fronds

Group a bunch into tall vases, arrange them into a wall hanging, or just lean really tall and thick ones up against structural beams and columns. 

7. Rattan Hurricane Lanterns

These look amazing on the beach or for a backyard ceremony. Plus you’ll be able to reuse them for entertaining at home after. 

8. Decorative Fireplace Mantel 

Allow some flower and greenery arrangements to spill over the side for a romantic boho look or use any one of these great ideas

9. Room Divider Screen

Need something beautiful but also portable? Room divider screens come in a wide variety of styles and colors. And they can easily fold up and fit into most vehicles. 

10. Macrame Paneling

Woven tapestries add some texture to your wedding altar wall without distracting from the other decor items. 

11. Mini Trees

Birch and pine are popular options. They look great with simple strands of fairy lights or flowing ribbons. Check out these other great examples

12. Side Tables with Bouquets 

This look is especially nice outdoors. Use cinderblocks to make it more industrial chic. 

13. Lace Curtains 

Tie them to the side or artfully wrap them around a structural element. Here are lots of other ways to use drapes for your wedding altar and decor. 

14. Artificial Hanging Leaves

There are both simple and intricate hanging leaf designs out there. 

15. Paper Heart Strings

Upcycle old books and use a heart-shaped stamp puncher to DIY. Or save some time and buy it!  

16. Driftwood

Hang it on the wall and tuck some medium bouquets into its crevices or grab this beautiful arch

17. Dried Flower Garlands

Drape these along your aisleway and behind your alter for a slightly colorful yet lightweight backdrop. 

18. Plastic Ivy Trellis

Faux ivy looks especially romantic when you add strands of pearls or some hanging votives to it. Here’s a DIY guide

19. Floating Paper Lanterns

Use an invisible string to make them look extra magical or use any one of these practical ideas

20. Faux Angel Wings

This artsy idea makes your officiant look heaven-sent. Wayfair carries a variety of styles to choose from. 

21. Fabric Tapestry

Choose from designs like an ombre color, tarot cards, or solid colors. Or get one custom printed with your initials. 

22. Fairy Light Strings

You can add fairy light strings to pretty much any piece on this list but you can also create a wall of them by draping them vertically behind your altar space. 

23. Decorative Wooden Ladders

Rustic ladders look great with matching fabrics, greenery, and candles on them. 

24. Layered Streamer Wall 

Add some visual interest to your backdrop with a monochrome color scheme and varying streamer depths. Check out this helpful video

25. Origami Heart Garlands

Here’s a pretty DIY version. Cranes and flowers are also really popular. 

26. Lightweight Chandelier

Add a chandelier to your archway or living tree background. Put some candles in it. Even if you don’t light them, it will still look classy. A beaded version like this one will look great outdoors when it catches the light. 

27. Rustic Farm Doors

You can find rustic farm doors at auctions and online. Repaint them all one color or leave as is. 

28. Stacked Wooden Crates

Fill the crates with vintage glass bottles, flowers, and candles. Or, try any one of these clever ideas

29. Glitter Backdrop 

Glitter fabrics in silver and gold look classy without overdoing it. Here are some other fabric ideas and draping tips to help you get started. 

30. Mismatched Fabric Bunting

This boho style wedding altar decoration is fairly easy to DIY if you know your way around a sewing machine. 

31. Pearl and Flower Garlands

Add pearls (large and small) to your flower garlands for more texture and interest. Versions like this one have roses and lights too. 

32. LED Light Curtain

Purchase one of these great options from Amazon

33. Twisted Organza 

Create backdrop designs with it or use it sparingly to create more texture. Here’s a simple way to drape a wall with fabric

34. Giant Wooden Letters

Prop extra-large cut-outs of your initials or last name along the back wall of your altar. 

35. Antique Family Photo Wall 

Use temporary poster tack or command strips to arrange a photo wall complete with mismatched frames and black-and-white pictures of loved ones. 

36. Disco Ball 

Keep it classy by surrounding it with flowers and fabrics in soft hues. Here are some other creative disco ball wedding decor ideas

37. Edison Light Bulbs

These unique and recognizable bulbs look amazing without shades and can be hung at varying heights in a row for a modern industrial vibe. Here are some additional examples to inspire you. 

38. Ornate Picture Frames

Even empty frames can make a statement. Lean some in varying heights against a structural element or use one very large frame to outline your faces in your photos. Sets like these are uniform yet interesting. 

39. Word Balloons

Use the word love, create your initials, or get number balloons to write out your wedding date. 

40. Geometric Archway 

Triangles, squares, and hexagons provide a boho twist on the classic wedding arch shape. Follow any one of these 45 DIY version instructions to create something unique. 

UP NEXT: As you plan your wedding decor, consider learning more about the different types of wedding venues and what each has to offer your overall design choices. 

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Wedding Spot

Wedding Spot

The Wedding Spot blog is designed to help couples navigate every step of the wedding planning journey. From before the engagement to after you say “I do,” our goal is to give you the tips, ideas, and inspiration to prepare for your big day — and all that comes with it.