Christmas Designs

Advent Paper Chains

Jake Wandel from The Crossing in Columbia, MO brings us these fantastic paper chains.

This design took them seven weeks to implement – from conception to reality. They got the idea from Pinterest.

Jake met with Brake Printing, their local print shop, and they calculated the amount of paper needed. It was more of a “best guess” decision. They made a sample chain out of one sheet of paper, measured it, and multiplied that out by the square footage of the space they were trying to cover – then multiplied by 3. Total cost for the paper they used was $495. But that included cutting the paper strips and three types to reflect light differently.


  • Get more paper than you think. They ran out.
  • Use staples. Don’t use the lick-and-stick paper or glue because throughout hanging you’ll have a lot of scrap strips of paper that you can re-staple into chains later.
  • To hang in the ceiling between rafters they hung black deer netting and used just under 1,500 zipstrips.
  • You may have to rent a genie lift or two.
  • Get lots of help making chains and the project doesn’t seem as overwhelming.

Check out their blog for more details.

Bethlehem Stage Design The M Project

43 responses to “Advent Paper Chains”

  1. Ryan Spencer says:

    Looks very cool, but seems like a crazy fire danger. I can’t imagine a fire inspector would permit this to stay.

  2. Walter says:

    I can’t imagine it’s much more of a fire risk than wood, cardboard boxes or confetti.

    • Chad Pippin says:

      It’s actually quite a bit more dangerous than wood….it all depends on what state you are in, what your local restrictions are and how “letter of the law” your local fire marshall is. Out here in California, we aren’t even allowed to use corrugated plastic. All wood must be treated with flame retardant chemicals (which are quite expensive) and labeled. We are currently working on a set design for a new series that starts in two weeks. So far we have spend almost $600 on flame retardant chemicals.

      Many of the designs on this site would be impossible for us to implement. I would encourage everyone to talk with your local fire marshall before doing a project to ensure that you are in compliance with local fire code and providing as safe of a worship experience as possible to your congregation.

  3. Patrick Fore says:

    Easily one of the best designs on this site. Fantastic job.

  4. nathan says:

    This is unbelievable! I absolutely LOVE this!

  5. Dede says:

    Can you give me the dimensions of the paper strips? Was it regular copy paper or a thicker stock? I really want to use this at our church.

  6. Adam Neal says:


    Looks really good man! Question: How exactly did you position the LEDs? Is it all front lighting?


    • Jake Wandel says:

      It was mostly all back/top lit, with the exception of a couple Colorado2’s in the front and border lights along the back row on the floor. The more paper you have in front of your light, the more diffuse it becomes. That’s what we did, but try out a bunch of different stuff.

      Side lit may look really sweet or event a combo of different angles at the same time but different hues. Just think about what perspective you’re looking at them from and how each surface will look with light coming from a different angle.

      Hope this helps!

  7. Sickest design I think I’ve seen in CSDI! Really awesome!

  8. How did you hang the deer netting without the edges and the middle from sagging? Thanks

    • Jake Wandel says:

      I guess it depends on what you’ve got anchor-wise in the ceiling. We have rafters about 3-4′ apart so we were able to zip tie the edges and pull really tight. You might try creating frames with PVC piping to make the netting sturdier. When we started to hang the chains it sagged a little but overall it didn’t make much of a difference…hope this helps!

  9. Rachel says:

    Wondering if you mixed the papers within each chain, or used the same type of paper per chain.
    Working on this awesome design. Thank you for such a fantastic share!

    • Jake Wandel says:

      We did each chain the same type but a mix and match might be cool. Honestly, my biggest regret was buying the different types of paper because they didn’t have the impact I was hoping for and we’re hard on the budget. Unless you use noticeably different shades of neutrals like grays, whites and browns, you’re probably better off just getting the cheapest white stock you can find.

      Those are my thoughts almost a year and a half later.

  10. Loriana Daubenspeck says:

    Hi Jake,
    I love this concept! we have floor to ceiling black pipe and drape. Can we use this or is there a reason you used the deer netting?

    • Jake Wandel says:

      Loriana, we used deer netting because it was a relatively inexpensive way to get more hanging area above our stage. I would encourage you to think through your needs, space and budget to assess whether pipe and drape will suit your needs. If it does, go for it! If not, try thinking through ways to solve the problem and see what you come up with.

      • Loriana Daubenspeck says:

        gotcha! I get it now. i didn’t understand that it was hanging from the ceiling . Thanks so much!

  11. Linda Pool says:

    Question: We are doing this stage for 2014 Christmas at our church. How wide was each strip of paper cut and do you think we can tape the paper strips to form the rings. I’ve tested this and find that it works. Is there a reason that staples are better. I also tried the high gloss photo paper to reflect more light and bought 32 lb. If I cut my rings 3/4″ wide by 51/4″ will they be big enough for a stage? Should different size rings be used for a varying effect?

    • Jake Wandel says:

      Linda, unfortunately I can’t consult for you. You know your stage better than anyone! I will tell you that our background is about 40’Wx25’Hx20’D if that helps you with scale. As far as the other questions regarding, tape and zipties, I can only be sure of what I tried and was successful in using. I encourage you to test, try and experiment with your own thoughts on how to do or make this better! I’m sure there are more than one way to accomplish the same look.

  12. Linda Pool says:

    Did you try hanging the chains with anything else besides zip ties?

    • Loriana says:

      The paper gets really heavy I wouldn’t try anything les sturdy. I would also use staples I feel with the weight of the paper eventually while your singing “break every chain,”you may have a visual example. Lol

  13. Linda Pool says:

    Thank you for your responses, Jake & Loriana. No one has mentioned how wide and how long the strips of paper were cut to make the rings for your stage. I like the way it looks in the picture and it is hard to guage how big the strips were to start with. I don’t want to make more work for my volunteers by starting with strips of paper that are too narrow and too short. My stage is wider than yours, but shorter. It is 54′ wide, 15′ tall.

  14. Jake Wandel says:

    I included a screen shot of my paper order in the pictures above. The sizes should be on it…

  15. Can you give an idea of how many feet of chain total that you used? Our stage is similar to yours and we are duplicating it as closely as possible. I just want to make sure on day of install we have enough done. Also I noticed you have 3 “layers”. Con you give a guess how long each “layer” is? The back wall obviously is floor to ceiling.


  16. Linda Pool says:

    Thank you so much for the inspiration for this stage design. We implemented it yesterday. It is truly stunning! We added 4′ bubble wrap panels in the back with white Christmas lights behind each panel, in a staggered effect. (Two wires.) Our stage is almost 60′ wide so needed some extra filler besides just paper chains. The effect is like a giant waterfall. We taped paper chains from 10′ X 3/4″ PVC pipes and attached them to our overhead lights. Using plastic Christmas light hooks, we strung paper chains from two wires at the back of the stage, but not over the bubble wrap panels. If anyone wants a picture you can e-mail me. Thanks again.

  17. Lynn Colvin says:

    Would love to have the picture of what you created!

  18. Lynn Colvin says:

    That email address is
    Thanks so much!

  19. We used the idea for our current series that started on Easter. Our idea is that “paper chains” are those misconceptions/lies which keep us from God’s preferred future for us! Thank you for the ides- we are getting great traction with everyone AND our social media feeds were full of paper chains on Sunday.

  20. Pranav Agarwal says:

    I loved the simplicity in the design I would love to try it in my city.i am from India ,kolkata.i wanted to know is it some special paper used or we can use any paper and give the effect by led.

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