The right size for a wedding arbor will depend on what it will be used for, where it is positioned, how it will be kept in place and how it will be decorated. The typical wedding arch is 7 to 8 feet high (about 2.5 metres) and about 4 to 6 feet wide (about 1.3 to 1.75 metres).
How will you use the arch?
At a wedding an arch looks beautiful as a frame for the couple as they take their vows or ( for example in England where they must do this under a roof) as they kiss or exit the wedding after the signing of the register. An arbor looks great in photos. Beach weddings often have the arbor framing the sea offering guests a wonderful view before the bride walks down the aisle. If your garden has a lovely view over hills or rolling landscape then make the most of this by situating the arch to frame it.
But the arch could also frame the couple simply for the photos. In which case it might be affixed to a wall.
Other weddings use the arch as an informal entrance to the ceremony. Guests walk through it to take their seats. This works well for an outdoor wedding. In a way it prepares the guests for the importance of the ceremony. This is because you will not want the arch so wide that lots of people can flood through at one time. You want it to allow 2 or 3 people through at one time so a small queue is formed of guests waiting their turn to enter the special ceremony area. If the archway allows too many people through at the same time nobody will notice it.
Where will the arch stand?
If the arch will frame the couple during part of the ceremony then it simply needs to be tall enough to allow for the taller of the couple to be able to stand within it without his or her head being tickled by the decoration. So be sure to measure just how much space those balloons, garlands or flowers take up when you are calculating the height needed.
If the couple will not actually walk through the arch then it doesn’t need to be as high. If the arch is purely decorative and will be attached to a wall as a backdrop to the couple then 6’ tall is fine.
To decide on the best size do a little bit of planning before you buy. Ask a couple of friends to stand in front of the wall or other structure where you intend to place the arch. Then stand back and visualize how your guests will see the couple and how the photos might look. If your guests are sitting down then you might want the arch higher on the wall to frame the standing couple. Make a few chalk marks on the wall then step back again and imagine the photos. Remember to imagine the decoration too.
Finally, ask yourself, does the archway need to reach right to the ground or could you position it a bit higher to give you the height you need? That space at the bottom could be disguised by placing one or several pots of flowers at each side.
When you use an arbor as a sort of gateway to the ceremony then it will need to be minimum 7 foot tall. Whilst the bride and groom will take their time to stand beneath the arch making sure they are right in the centre, guests will not be paying so much attention. They may be chatting or holding hands as they walk through so the arch has to be high enough to allow then to get through easily even if they are not right at the centre.
How will the arch be kept in place?
An arbor will need stability. At the very least a metal bridal arch will need to be pushed into the grass. The more stable it needs to be, the deeper you need to push it in. So add those hidden inches to the height needed.
If you hope to stabilize the guest arch this way then be very careful about the gauge of metal poles that are supplied. A half inch wide pole can often buckle with the force needed to push it into the ground. An arch sold with thin poles made of thin metal is really only useful for indoors or fixing to another structure such as trees or a wall as a purely decorative feature.
To give good stability plan to sink the arch uprights into tall narrow planting pots. These are easily available today. Buy lightweight pots so they are easy to move around but once you have them in position fill them with sand or earth. They will be camouflaged by the decoration. Use this method indoors or outdoors.
This method avoids having to add extra height because none of the arch is below ground.
This is safer than using ‘feet’ or a low stand such as are used to hold a Christmas tree upright. Anything that is on top of the floor or the ground is a potential safety hazard. Children will be milling about and the women will be wearing heels so tripping over a metal foot jutting out from the arch is easily done.
Wood framed arches sold for the garden are usually sunk into holes filled with concrete. This is fine as long as you will use the pergola afterwards as a part of your garden design. Wooden arches tend to be sturdier than metal and they come in a good range of heights.
For both types of arch you’ll need at least four uprights to give some depth as well as stability. However, if the arch is fixed to a structure then it could be a single shape either with two uprights or fashioned as one piece.
As an entry arch you could consider adding more uprights to make the entrance more dramatic.
How will you decorate the arch?
Look through Pinterest to get great ideas for making your arch special. You’ll notice that a lot of arches have simply a twist of tulle or net around the top with balloons, foliage or flowers fixed to the side and, if using pots or something to camouflage the stands, larger displays around the base. Now that you’ve calculated the height your arch needs to be for people to stand under it you’ll know why the top tends to be less lavishly decorated. Anything that hangs down will mean the arch needs to be taller. So choose a design that emphasises the sides and base.
DIY the arch or purchase one?
There are some good videos on YouTube showing how to construct a wooden arch. If you decide to DIY it then of course you can make the arch exactly the height and width you want. They are not difficult to make but they are unwieldy so you’ll need plenty of space while you are working on it and you’ll only be able to do the final putting together outside in situ.
If you’re going to put this much work into your arch then make sure you can use it to support plants afterwards in the garden or decide to put it up for rent or sale to other brides immediately after the wedding.
Both metal and wood arches are easily available at garden centres and on Amazon. But beware of anything that looks incredibly great value – it might be flimsy and only useable as a supported frame on a wall or where nobody will actually need to pass under it more than once.
I would suggest spending at least $100 or £90 for a temporary arch that needs to stand up and under which people will walk. These can support lightweight decoration such as tulle (net) and balloons, flowers and small amounts of foliage. They can be used later to support growing plants such as clematis, sweet peas and passionflowers. Ones that will be useful in the garden afterwards to support climbing roses or other strong or heavy plants may cost above this.
For more about holding a wedding at home and what you need to take into account before agreeing to do that, take a look at this article: 20 questions you absolutely must answer before you decide to have the wedding reception at your home.