We know you have that perfect location picked out to say "I do" but have you thought about what you might do if the weather turns on you? A great way to stave off the classic wedding weather stress is to plan on tenting your wedding day. Even if you just have something set up for your reception and keep your ceremony out in the open air it provides a great safe haven should the sky starts to darken.
But more than just a place to hide away from rain, tents have become a fabulous wedding addition to give your wedding day a unique and exciting look. It allows you to fully customize your wedding venue from the style, the lighting even down to the flooring! So what all should you be thinking about when planning on a tented wedding day? We teamed up with Sperry Tents to bring you night exceptional outdoor tent wedding tips plus some fabulous tent styles that you won't want to miss.
1. TENT SIZE
The initial step in a tented wedding is figuring out the right tent size for your reception. First, your tent provider will ask for your guest count, dining style (seated, buffet), whether you need a dance floor or a stage for a live band, and if you have any additional space requirements (lounge area, etc.). One large reception tent to hold dinner and dancing is a classic arrangement; however, some couples choose different size tents for different purposes, creating a series of destinations for their guests.
2. TENT STYLE
Your tent is your venue, and its style plays a huge role in the look and feel of your wedding, particularly in photographs and videos. You’ll want to assess the canopy’s material. For example, a sailcloth tent is a
of tent but only a Sperry Tent is crafted from genuine sailcloth, not vinyl.
Lighting is an important factor in your wedding’s overall style. Classic choices include copper onion lanterns, Asian lanterns, chandeliers, and bistro strings. For higher-budget weddings, it’s not uncommon for a couple to bring in a specialized lighting or décor company to create a truly customized look. I personally recommend thinking about day and evening: pick light fixtures that look pretty in the daytime, but create a different mood for the evening and dancing with some colored uplighting on the canopy or downlights on the dance floor.
You’ve seen it and you want it: the fully floored tent. It’s the ultimate in luxury for an outdoor wedding and ensures comfort underfoot for everyone in attendance. A full-floor is a high budget item, and the highest of all is a raised floor installed on an engineered platform to position a tent perfectly on a sloping lawn or coastal bluff. We’ve floored over uneven lawns, tennis courts, even pools…but keep in mind that most couples have their receptions directly on the lawn with plenty of wooden dance floor to spare.
You’ll want to consult with your caterer on all aspects of your tent plans. First, figure out where the catering staff will work during the reception, whether it’s in a venue’s kitchen, a residential kitchen, or a garage. If an indoor setting isn’t possible, then you’ll need a dedicated catering/cook tent near the main reception tent. Joining the two via a covered walkway in case of rain/wind is a good idea. Overall, caterers are familiar with tented events and will offer suggestions as to their ideal cook tent size: usually about 400 square feet or more. Involve them in the process to make sure their needs are met.
Almost every vendor who makes an outdoor event happen requires power. The tent lights, catering equipment, portable bathrooms, and the band or DJ are the principal power users, and keep in mind that a couple extension cords and the available outlets in your garage might not suffice. Be prepared for each vendor’s power usage and ask how many dedicated circuits they require. At a private residence, it’s smart to have an electrician install a special panel for the wedding’s power use (it can be removed afterwards). Or, if the tents are placed in a field or lawn away from a power source, a generator will be required.
As a general rule, you want the tent up before the party rentals and décor arrives, and you want the party rentals and décor gone before the tent comes down. Check with your venue on when your tent can go up and when it needs to come down. You never know—it might require a quick turnaround depending on how many weddings it’s hosting on a given weekend. Planning all of this out in advance is well worth the effort to avoid last-minute headaches and fees.
8. GET CREATIVE
Some ways that couples have gotten creative with their outdoor weddings is by creating a show-stopping tent entrance. Our Sperry Arch makes for an elegant gateway into the tent and is the perfect blank slate for florals and drapery. Another unique detail is to apply drapery curtains to perimeter poles, which results in a softer, more romantic tent silhouette.
For the ultimate in creativity, couples can hire a décor company to make their vision come to life. I’ve seen waves of ribbons dotted with paper butterflies, disco balls grouped over dance floors, and custom light displays projected onto canopies. I personally love—in addition to a large reception tent—using smaller tents to act as fun destinations for kids’ crafts, cocktails, lounging, and more. Successful wedding décor is all about what makes you happy.
9. PARTING ADVICE
Consider investing in an attendant from your tent company to be onsite during the reception. Yes, it’s an extra line item, but the benefit of having a professional roll the tent sides up or down upon request or attend to equipment snafus immediately is priceless.
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