Are you dreaming of having a wedding in scenic, historic gardens, surrounded by sunshine and flowers? Or maybe being married in the yard where you grew up or the grounds of the camp where you spent your childhood summers. Some of my very favorite weddings over the years have been highly personalized tented weddings in unique locations.
Though an outdoor wedding is ultimately a stunning and classic option, there is no way to guarantee that the weather will cooperate. Or, perhaps, your wedding venue doesn’t have the right indoor setting for your dream wedding reception.
In both cases, having a tented wedding is a sure way to create exactly what you are envisioning. And with the blank canvas of a tent, you are in control of the entire look.
Why a Tented Wedding
Having your wedding ceremony and or reception in a tent allows the ultimate creative control over the look while having a safe place to host in any weather. This control comes at a cost since you will need to bring in everything – flooring, seating, lighting, etc. However if you want to create a completely unique wedding design, tented is the way for you!
What To Do For Your Tented Wedding
1. Take Weather Into Consideration
When planning any sort of outdoor event, weather is always a factor. Of course the ideal day wouldn’t have rain in the forecast, but you must plan for the possibility. Having a second tent reserved might be a good idea. Tent company policies vary but some allow you to pay a deposit and make a “final call” a week before.
Depending on the time of year your tented wedding is happening, it’s important to consider what accommodations you’ll need to have regarding regulating the temperature for the comfort of all.
You will need to budget for fans / air conditioning / space heaters if the weather isn’t consistently moderate. Keeping the temperature right for your guests is key to being a gracious host as well as looking the best you can in pictures. .
Consult with the tent company and be sure to get the necessary rentals on hold as soon as you have your wedding date settled. Wedding planners and event designers can advise you on being prepared for all instances.
Consider Walls For Your Tent
Side walls are great way to block out unwanted weather conditions. Having this option can be a lifesaver if the weather is unexpectedly warm, cold, or wet. And consider that the weather will often change throughout the day. You may not need the walls until later in the evening (and then you’ll be so glad you have them). When it comes to pictures, you’ll want to keep the walls rolled up as long as possible as they aren’t the best background for photos of the space.
2. Understanding the Added Costs of a Tented Wedding
Tents always come at a cost beyond the tent itself, including labor for tent setup/breakdown, flooring, amenities, and decor. And unless you are right next to a building with plumbing and a kitchen, you’ll need a catering tent and a bathroom trailer as well. In general, if you are doing a tented wedding, you will need to bring in every fork, every chair, every-THING, so get ready to make lists.
Have I mentioned that you need a planner for a tented wedding? You do! I can’t stress enough how they will anticipate all your needs and help you budget for all the elements to ensure a flawless event.
3. Determine Your Tent Model
Beautiful wedding tents come in all shapes, sizes, and materials to suit a variety of events and aesthetics. Here are a few of the different types of tents to consider.
Frame tents come in all shapes and sizes, and are a great option when considering your weather related needs! There are two types of frame tents: hip ended or gable ended.
Hip end frame tents slope in all four directions. They create an elegant and uplifted space for weddings. Though it is important to note that because of the structure of hip end frame tents, water may run off in the event of heavy rain. In which case, subfloor or flooring is a requirement to prevent mud.
Gable end frame tents have two vertical flat ends which will eliminate the possibility of water runoff. These tents are great options when needing extra protection from the elements. Gable ended tents are easier to install and allow for added decor such as paneling.
True to their name, pole tents are held up by poles. The structure of the tent creates unique, high peaks on the ceiling. Though because of the poles, the decor of the tent will need to work around the structure.
Pole tents are suited on top of grass or soft ground. Flooring is also an option if needed. If you decide to forgo flooring, however, you’ll want to inform your guests prior to the wedding so they can come prepared with proper shoes. I’ve seen many beautiful shoes ruined in a tent without flooring (my own included).
Pole tents are often also called Sailcloth tents because of the material. They cut a very beautiful shape both inside and out. I’m personally a fan of this kind of tent because of how beautiful they look in pictures.
This wedding at Sankaty Head Golf Club beautifully showcased a pole tent in use, with simple design and string lights to light and access the space.
If you like the unique structure of a pole tent, but don’t want to design a floor plan around the interior of the structure, a marquee tent is a great option! These tents have a similar framework found with frame tents.
They can be set on most surfaces, and are generally smaller than the tents previously mentioned, making them ideal for cocktail hour and intimate spaces. However, multiple marquee tents can be used to create a larger, more customized structure.
Clear tents are a great way to achieve flowing open air spaces. They can be set up however you need in order to hold up to the elements. These tents are perfect for venues with a view. They also let in a lot of natural daylight, which is terrific for photographs.
Be forewarned that clear tents trap warm air. They can quickly become saunas that will wilt flowers quickly if the right cooling precautions aren’t taken.
4. Prioritize the Guest Experience
Luxury weddings heavily rely on designing unique and enjoyable guest experiences. A tented wedding allows for ultimate customization, creating the sophisticated wedding of your dreams. This can be the perfect space to try something new and to wow your guests.
However, remember that your guest experience goes beyond just visuals. Your guests should be comfortable and able to be fully immersed in the experience of your wedding.
5. Consider Your Utilities
The “behind the scenes” of how your event operates may not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning a tented wedding, however, things like the location of your tent is vital to the functionality of your vendors and staff. Accessibility to kitchens, electricity, lighting, and proper ventilation is important to a well run event. If your catering staff does not have easy access to an indoor kitchen, an outdoor kitchen tent will be necessary. You may also need generators for various functions and as backup. Don’t skimp here!
6. Get the Right Size
The tent you choose will be vital to creating a luxury experience. Depending on your guest count, decor, vendors, and venue, you may need to consider multiple tent options.
Functionality is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing your tent. I am not an expert on this but I can say for certain that size matters. Too big and the reception will lack energy. Too small and guests will feel cramped. Both scenarios have people leaving early, which you don’t want. Tent rental companies and wedding planners can advise you on how to determine the best tent size and dance floor for your particular event.
I’ve shot hundreds of tented weddings and I can honestly say that adding flooring is the most considerate option for your guests. Grass and turf can quickly ruin formal shoes and long dresses (yours included).
While there are many options available I always love seeing carpeted areas in a tent, which lend a soft, homey feel. Don’t forget to pre-arrange to have the used carpet donated to an organization like Habitat for Humanity after the wedding.
Location, location, location. A tented wedding allows for a seamless transition from indoor to outdoor and vice versa. You want the surroundings of your tented luxury wedding to work in tandem with the design and flow of your wedding.
Because of the flexibility they offer, your options range from an elegant backyard tent wedding, to a wedding at the foot of a mountain. Getting the position of your tent right will only enhance your photographs. Be sure to touch base with your photographer to make sure the tent is in an optimal spot for pictures to ensure it’s not blocking a good backdrop or vista.
9. Understand the Venue Rules on Tents
Before you commit, it is important to understand your venue’s regulations and timing limitations on tents.
Setting your tent up in advance can protect the site from rain leading up to the wedding and give the team plenty of time to load in. However, some venues may not accommodate advanced setup. You might end up paying more in labor for a tight install of decor and amenities.
Don’t forget to check sound ordinances at your location, which will limit how late you can play music.
10. Creating a Tent That is Photo Ready
A good event designer can help you transform the tent into the sophisticated design of your dreams. Be sure to consider the whole space and don’t forget the ceiling. Draping and florals can be used as a decor element as well as to hide the unsightly nuts and bolts of the tent itself. Remember you are creating both a space for people to party and also the background for all the pictures.
Lighting is also key in a tented wedding. Many of my clients install chandeliers or cafe lights to add interest to the ceiling as well as provide light to the space. As a photographer, I appreciate having supplemental lighting that provides pockets and variations of light throughout. Resist the urge to use “warm” LED lights as this becomes a color balancing nightmare for your photo team. A clean light of about 5500K (color temp) is ideal for pictures. If you want some variation in the tent, I personally like the band to be lit in cooler colors such as purples and blues are great. Don’t forget a few spotlights on the dance floor.
11. Reserve Your Tent Early
The best time to reserve a tent for your wedding will be right after you decide the size and style. You literally cannot commit too early as long as you are secure in the type of tent that is right for your event. Plus, getting a big decision like this crossed off your list will mean you can focus on other more fun and creative decisions such as the decor and design of the space itself.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope this article points you in the right direction for having the ideal tented wedding and reception.