How are Wedding Arches, Chuppahs, Mandaps, Canopies, Gazebos, and Altars Different?

On your wedding day, the location where you publicly pledge your love and commitment to your partner is significant. Unfortunately, because most wedding ceremonies were held in churches back in your grandparents’ day, there were few vow area options aside from placing a few flowers near the altar.

Nowadays, many wedding rituals are held outside, usually beneath some arch, Chuppah, canopy, arbor, or structure designed to match the wedding style, decor, and colors.

Though different wedding arches have cultural and religious meanings (for example, denoting protection, divine presence, and the home), couples also embrace the curve for aesthetic and décor reasons. A lovely arbor may anchor and define an outside ceremony, act as a photo background, or provide a new significance to your wedding reception. Arches can become part of your theme with the addition of textiles, floral arrangements, and various builds, not to mention a stunning method to provide a bold new look to the end of your aisle.

What is the Distinction Between These Structures?

The Archway

The arch represents the future home where the bride and groom raise their family—many cultures associate arch significance with initiation and renewal ceremonies. Walking through an archway implies shedding the old and entering a new chapter of life. Arches are frequently built with three posts, with the top post being either straight or curved. They have typically wrought iron or wood lattices, with decorations such as flowers, lights, or cloth.


Chuppah means “blanket” or “protection” for the pair, similar to a solid structure. It is made up of cloth, occasionally a prayer shawl or another critical piece of fabric spread across four poles. A traditional chuppah is held by four persons essential to the couple getting married. A chuppah with self-supporting poles is used at certain larger weddings. This permits more people to gather under the Chuppah with the marriage. Some families have passed down ancestral chuppahs from generation to generation.


The four posts at a Hindi ceremony signify the four mantras and goals of a fulfilled life. Mandaps are also used in other South Asian traditions such as Sikh and Punjabi weddings; some have a groom parade around the building, while others meet their families inside the mandap before the vows.

The Arbor

The arbor is typically an arch-shaped structure covered in vines, shells, branches, twigs, flowers, or cloth and is sometimes known as a “nuptial arch.” An arbor usually includes a trellis, and the design is commonly arched to form a “tunnel” for plants to grow through.

The Canopy

The four-post canopy, a clear adaption of the Chuppah, is typically covered in a semi-sheer white or ivory fabric and embellished with colored swags and/or tiebacks.

The Gazebo

A gazebo is a permanent or semi-permanent building that can be adorned and used properly, typically on one of the regularly arched sides.

Geometric Structures

Another emerging style for a ceremony backdrop is a geometric shape, such as circles, triangles, etc. Del Cabo Weddings has made many of these; see our inspiration page for more information.

You will see that several of these titles are sometimes used interchangeably. Still, whether you choose a Chuppah, Arbor, or Arch for your ceremony, there are numerous ways to personalize it. Allow your personality to come through by adding decor and/or your favorite flowers that are special to you and your fiancee.

Remember to match your venue, topic, and color palette. If you’re stuck for ideas, chat to your wedding designer; if they’re also custom fabricators, they can create a bespoke structure that’s exactly what you’re looking for. It doesn’t get any more YOU than that!