Draping columns with wispy tulle bundled with sparkling lights is an ethereal and inexpensive way to decorate. Be it an eyesore that must be covered or a decorative piece just begging for some shimmer, any column can become a cohesive part of your decor. Sparkling, frothy and delicate—the combination of tulle and twinkling lights is a simple and lovely way to disguise or glamorize columns.
Tulle is a finely-woven cloth that is sheer and lightweight, comes in a variety of colors and can be purchased at fabric stores. If you are decorating many columns or have a very large space, make sure to purchase tulle by the roll—not by the bolt—as tulle comes 6 feet wide, and a roll will give you around 50 yards to work with for your event. Tulle comes in both matte and shimmering versions; the latter will beautifully reflect the lights secured inside.
Twinkle lights (also known as sparkle lights, holiday lights or mini lights in the United States and fairy lights in England) are available year-round in a variety of different forms. Strands can be as short as 3 feet long or as long as 50 feet, and they can be simple strands, fringe- or icicle-style, mesh squares or even oversized curtains of light. Strands of light are designed so that you may hook multiple pieces together, end-to-end, and seamlessly decorate your venue. These are the best choice for a project of this type, as it eliminates the need for extra extension cords.
Basic Column Decoration
Simply unroll the tulle and place a strand or two of lights along the center of the fabric. Now, either roll or gather the fabric together around the lights and drape or swag the column with it. Tulle can be swagged easily by hand when you gather the material and pin it together with straight or safety pins--or sew it--to create the effect.
As you reach the end of your 50-yard bolt, note that shorter lengths of tulle can be sewn together, by hand or by machine, to reach your required length.
Once the columns are fully wrapped, look up. Measure the distance between the columns and the center of the room, chandelier or center column. Unroll more tulle, gather it together with more strands of twinkle lights and create swags that connect the columns to the center point of the room. Draping the ceiling with tulle and lights will create a spectacular effect that incorporates the columns into the decor of the entire room.
When it comes to hanging your decor, first consult with the coordinator of the venue. Many venues will not allow staples, nails or other items that will leave holes in the walls. Tape can also be a concern on painted surfaces. When in doubt, take a moment to measure the circumfirence of each column and purchase enough elastic to create a band that will hold your creation in place, top and bottom. However, do consult your coordinator before purchasing any items with which to hang your decorations.
Are your lights twinkling too much for your taste? To stop a strand of lights from flickering, simply unplug the strand and look for the bulbs with red-tinted tips--they make the strand flicker. Remove these bulbs and replace them with clear bulbs. Plug your strand back in and see if the flashing has stopped. If not, make sure you didn't miss a red-tipped bulb somewhere.
To make lights flash, it's just the opposite. Remove a normal bulb and insert a red-tipped one in its place. Generally, extra flashers and normal bulbs are included in plastic bags within the packaging of the lights.
No twinkling at all? Give it a few moments. The flashing bulbs usually start their light show after they have heated up. If they still aren't twinkling after you've waited, double-check that all red-tipped bulbs are secure, then replace each one and retest until you find the broken flasher.
Other Ideas and Tips
Combine two or more colors of tulle, and wrap the columns diagonally with the colors alternating. You can also use lights of colors other than the traditional white. Another idea is to bundle your tulle and lights together by wrapping faux ivy or colored ribbons around the outside of the material before wrapping the columns or using as swags.
Decorate the columns in “Grecian style” by securing tulle at the top of each column and letting it fall into puddles of fabric at the bases. For this idea, instead of using strands of light, wrap each column in mesh Christmas lights (designed for small bushes or trees) prior to draping the tulle.
An important tip from Wedding-Flowers-and-Reception-Ideas.com regarding working with tulle is to either drape the tulle or leave it on the roll to transport it or store it until you can decorate. Do not fold or cram the material into a storage container or other small space, as tulle crushes very easily.