Threads of a New Tradition Creative Touches Add Family History to Ancient Wedding Custom
Daday, Eileen O., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Eileen O. Daday Daily Herald Correspondent
Renee Kahn of Wheeling has carved out a unique specialty in the wedding business, that is drawing everyone from florists to brides and their mothers. In fact she describes interest as "exploding."
In a bedroom that doubles as her sewing room Kahn takes vintage wedding gowns, often from the bride's mother, and uses the material and embellishments to design a custom chuppah, or canopy for a Jewish wedding.
"I dismantle the entire wedding gown, using as much of it as I can, including the buttons, lace, beading, petticoat and even the veil," says Kahn, who calls her business Arkay Chuppah Creations.
She tries to preserve as much of the dress and skirt for the canopy itself, using the embellishments for added creative touches.
The use of a chuppah is an ancient tradition in the Jewish marriage ceremony that symbolizes a couple's home. In Hebrew, the word literally means home or covering.
Chuppahs have evolved to become very elaborate in modern day hotel weddings, but in ancient times when ceremonies were held outdoors, the canopy was held over the bridal pair symbolizing the sacred space where they entered the covenant of marriage.
There are no rules about the use of the chuppah, though generally it is a white covering measuring seven feet high and six feet across. The canopy stretches across four poles that either are installed or held by attendants, and the sides are open so the guests can observe the ritual.
Earlier this month Kahn worked to transform Audrey Friedland's dress into a chuppah for her daughter Julie's July 3 wedding at the Westin O'Hare in Rosemont. The gown was made of chiffon with flounces and ruffles, and embellished with lace.
Kahn saw the lace and immediately envisioned appliqueing it to the top of the chuppah as a design. She also designed the canopy to feature a chiffon ruffle, taken directly from Audrey Friedland's gown.
Julie Friedland fell in love with the idea right from the start.
"My mom's dress had just been sitting in a closet for 30 years," she says. …