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What You Need to Know When Planning a Tented Wedding

Embracing Mother Nature one structure at a time.

There’s nothing more sophisticated (or weather proof!) than a wedding tent. Sailcloth, completely clear, or with open sides, these sturdy structures present a blank canvas for you to showcase your day-of style. To guarantee a seamless tented event from ceremony to reception, we’ve consulted industry experts who know a thing or two about hosting a covered bash outdoors.
If you’re thinking about hosting an alfresco affair on your big day, make sure you consider these tips before pitching a wedding tent of your own.
1Start with a pre-wedding site visit.


“Some tented private home weddings have an incredible setting on a body of water or nestled in between a garden or hillside, but the footprint for the tent is slender or challenging,” advises Aleah and Nick Valley, founders of Valley & Company Events. Be sure to talk with your tenting company and planner and have a site visit (or three!) to take the precise measurements of the space, ensuring the tent can be staked or weighted properly, also taking into mind walking space for guests and water or electrical lines.2Encourage as a backup for your ceremony.


“Embrace your tent as a ceremony ‘Plan B’ if you have an outdoor ceremony or service planned,” suggests Gina Jokilehto-Schigel, owner and creative director of Shi Shi Events. If you consider ways your reception tent can accommodate your ceremony, then it is sure to be flawless regardless of the weather. “Your planner or event designer can help you lay out the space so transitions from ceremony to cocktail hour, dinner and dancing are seamless,” she adds.3Get creative with your design.


“Tents allow for the most custom guest experience because sizes and layouts can be changed to accommodate any number of guests and any design plan,” says Betsy Krug, event director at Rebecca Rose Events. “The fears of a traditional space being either too small for comfort or too large to feel intimate are no longer an issue,” Krug adds. Add greenery along the sides of your tent to create an ethereal environment—along with wood tables and chairs.4Add color with an installation.


“We always love a hanging floral installation,” says Britt Cole and Francie Dorman, founders of 42 North, adding, “and this one done by Lillibet was an explosion of color which was fitting for this couple’s mid-summer wedding!” Create a focal point or add a pop of color to your all-white tent by incorporating a vibrant floral structure into your design scheme.5Gather an expert team.
“Work with a planner who knows tents,” says Chelsey Morrison, owner and principal planner at Gather Together. “With so many logistical factors coming into play, don't leave your wedding up to chance with someone lacking experience and know-how,” Morrison adds. It’s important to hire a team who knows their way around tents, terrain, and unexpected weather.6Define your entrance.

“Tents tend to be accessible from most places around the perimeter,” says Diana Venditto, owner and creative director of Eventi Floral & Events, adding, “It’s important to be sure to define the entrance with décor.” This will help guests know which way the space is designed to be initially viewed from, walked through and enjoyed. Delicate draping and a garland of greenery and florals marked the entrance of this bohemian tented space.
7Focus on lighting.
Lighting is key when designing in a tent. “We like for our lighting sources to also be design elements, i.e., chandeliers,” says Jeannette Tavares, chief creative director of EVOKE, who also emphasizes the importance of lighting outdoor restrooms and transportation pick-up locations. “Lanterns and string lights are great for this!” Tavares adds.8Consider your options.

Jill Remy, planner at Jill & Co. Events, suggests sailcloth tents as an option for both small and grand affairs. “With the perfect attention to detail in lighting, they can be so warm and intimate,” Remy says. Heightened ceilings give the illusion of an even bigger space and create an overall whimsical look.
9Don’t forget the logistics.
“Understanding temperature is key when planning a tented event,” says Allyson Joseph, principal at Bob Gail Special Events. “Make sure to have everything in your arsenal, such as heating and air conditioning,” Joseph adds, as well as the option to add or remove tent walls as you’re budgeting, so that you can account for guest comfort.
10Curate a well-crafted menu.
Cheryl Stair, owner of Art of Eating Catering, wants to advise couples that if you’re planning your wedding during a cooler time of year or the temperature tends to drop when the sun goes down, not to forget about heat—for your food. “Think about the weather and the time of year; there are certain foods that just don’t hold up well in certain temperatures and conditions,” Stair says. Listen to your caterers’ suggestions before having your heart set on anything particular.
11Contemplate a kids tent.
“If you’re planning a tented wedding, give kids their very own sweet space to celebrate with kid-friendly drinks and games,” advises Kara Stutzman, sales manager at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards. We love this tented teepee idea to keep the kids entertained and included!


included!


12Don’t skimp on elegance.


The bride and groom for this summer wedding wanted a chic black-tie affair, so Laurie Arons, owner of Laurie Arons Special Events, crafted a tent design that was elevated and elegant. “The bride loved rose gold, so we used that metallic as an accent to keep the design formal,” Arons says. The warm-toned taper candles down the tables, along with the upholstered dining chairs, reminded the couple of an intimate dinner party.
13Keep the weather in mind.

When planning a tented wedding, it’s very important to think through all weather-related obstacles. “Yes, a beautiful sunny day is the perfect setting for an outdoor tented wedding, but what will the vibe feel like if it's freezing outside or pouring rain?” says Kristin Doggett, co-founder and creative director of Bellafare. For this affair, white-washed wooden tables and chairs, and touches of airy décor were the perfect foundation for an ethereal event, despite the uncertainty of gloomy weather.
14Consider a covered ceremony.
Stephanie Cole, founder of Cole Drake Events, emphasizes the fact that tents provide options to offer visuals above the guests. “Height is the name of the game, so here it’s go big or go home,” Cole says. Remember to create a dramatic backdrop (whether it’s draping or florals) for your nuptials if you are hosting your ceremony under the tent.15Disguise unsightly poles.
Incorporate the interior tent poles into your design! “Adding floral to the base of the pole ties them into the overall aesthetic and adding the greenery helps draw your eyes up,” says Brooke Keegan, owner of Brooke Keegan Special Events. “Now rather than being an obstacle, they enhance the wedding vision!” Keegan says.
16Embellish your ceiling.
Just because you’re working with a tent doesn’t mean you have to approach it decoratively differently than other more conventional venue spaces. “Draping and lighting suspended from the ceiling of this outdoor tent created an added layer of refinement to the overall design,” says Isabella Sikaffy, owner of Florabella. A hanging installation of greenery complemented the arrangements of loose greenery on each tablescape.17Promote clear-top tents.
"Clear-top tents allow you to embrace any outdoor setting while also creating a dedicated space for the reception,” says Lindsay Merhege, event planner at Fox Events. Showcase your environment and highlight the stunning aspects of your venue’s surroundings. “For example, this reception showed off the gorgeous Alley of Oaks and truly made it a part of the design,” Merhege adds.18Spotlight a less-is-more design.
Bridget Frizzie, creative director of Kehoe Designs, suggests embracing a minimalist design that still packs a powerful design punch. “Nordic-inspired; pared down with natural details,” Frizzie says in describing this contemporary reception. “This design embraces soft beauty in florals while keeping a sophisticated almost masculine interior effect with deep blue paneled walls,” Frizzie adds.19Go with a focal point.
Creating a design focal point will not only draw help to draw your guests’ eye to design elements you want to showcase but will add a unique feature to your final photos. “White, round lanterns hanging from the ceiling of this grand tent created a whimsical backdrop for this couple’s reception,” says Jane and Michael Shauck, owners of IRIS Photography. “This concept was elegant enough to complement the event’s refined design, but also subtly playful,” they add.20Stick with your design aesthetic.
Don’t get overwhelmed with the grandness of your structure when finalizing features of your design. “Your wedding style can still be showcased throughout your tent using the right mix of decorative features including lighting, draping, and florals,” says Christen Ryan, founder of Ryan Designs, adding, “play with the height of your tent, adding a lighting component helps make the space more intimate while adding a decorative touch.”21Boost your tent’s surroundings.
“When considering a tented wedding, remember the opportunities are endless as you're essentially creating your own venue from the ground up,” says Lori Stephenson, owner of LOLA Event Productions. Embrace not only the inside of the tent, but also utilize the opportunity the outside of the tent can provide. “Adding some simple lighting, a bar, and a lounge grouping just outside of the structure, can create a nice, quiet and cozy space for those guests that may want to escape the dance floor for a moment or two,” Stephenson adds.22Plan a sundown strategy.

“At this wedding, with guests arriving after sunset, Mindy Rice Design and I created a path of glowing lanterns, grouped beautiful floral arrangements and gorgeous trees around a lit draped opening to invite guests into the next stage of the evening,” says Rosemary Hattenbach, creative director of Rosemary Events. Uplighting on the tent canopy and on the draped tent posts—as well as an area wash on the surrounding landscape—provided a warm inviting glow drawing guests in to a magical evening.
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