The Ultimate Tented Wedding

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Make your tented weddings wonderful with these tips and ideas

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Following her presentation at the 2014 Conference, Melissa Brannon closed with this quote from Steve Jobs. Given all the complex details related to her discussion topic — tented weddings — it was the perfect choice of words.

As owner/planner/designer with Uncommon Events in Philadelphia, PA, Brannon pays close attention to every event detail and “how it works” for guests. This passionate perfectionism makes all the difference between the success or failure of tented events.

Tented Weddings

The fundamentals…

Before we begin, let’s run through some basics that you may already know:

  • Tented weddings are very expensive.
  • Partnering with an amazing tent company is a must.
  • Subfloors can cost twice as much as the tent, but they’re worth it.
  • Address garbage and gutters before they become a problem.
  • Inspect the ground for gas lines and water lines before the poles go in.
  • If clear sidewall is an option, use it.
  • Figure out the parking arrangement for guests and vendors as soon as possible.
  • Other necessities include a restroom trailer and a whisper quiet generator (or two).
  • The caterer has the hardest job of the day and their work is key to success.

Tented Weddings

The ultimate goal for an ultimate tented wedding? “Do everything you can to make it not feel like a tent,” says Brannon. “Use the natural surroundings of the area as your inspiration.”

So it all begins with choosing a style that suits the outdoor location. Some people love the look of a pole tent, while others prefer a clear frame tent that offers an outside view. The latter is more expensive and can get toasty in the sun, so consider the season. Popular in the northeastern U.S., sailcloth tents have lovely fabric, but they are pricier. Raj tents come in many vibrant colors and make a great secondary space.

Finally, make sure the tent legs are at least 10 inches high. Anything less will make your taller guests feel stifled.

Tented Weddings

Details that dazzle

A dramatic entrance leading up to the tent is a great way to impress guests from the get-go. You can purchase affordable picket fencing, tented arches and tunnels at many home improvement stores.

Your goal is to make the entrance part of the theme, and the creative possibilities are endless. You can even incorporate the sense of smell into the experience, as Brannon did with a recent birthday party for the owner of a chocolate company.

“We created an illuminated walkway out of cocoa hulls, so the whole thing smelled like chocolate.” With Arizona red rock as the natural backdrop, her team used a clear tent for cocktails and entertainment on one side, an octagonal tent for the seated dinner, and an entrance that tied everything together.

If it’s in the budget, you can incorporate a multi-level subfloor for extra wow, such as a second level for the stage/entertainment. Using carpet? Gray is a good choice, but if budget allows, a stained wood floor is especially beautiful.

Consider placing the dance floor in the middle of the tent. This way, guests can surround the bride and groom, who should be the center of attention. If possible, think about using a diamond shape for the dance area to make it cool and different.

Regarding the ceiling, Brannon offers this advice: “Do the whole thing or don’t do it at all. If you hang just a couple of items, it will look out of place.” Many tent companies sell small chandeliers, but Brannon recommends bringing in larger ballroom chandeliers or lanterns.

“You can do so many cool things with gobos, market lighting or uplighting the periphery of the tent,” says Brannon, who adds that if she’s given the choice between flowers and lighting, she’ll always choose lighting.

Tented Weddings

Don’t forget to light up the outside area, too, including trees and bushes, bathrooms, and the valet or parking area. “You’re sitting inside this tent and you want people to see something when they look out. You want it to feel like the outside is with you.”

Other details that clients and guests will appreciate:

  • Special chairs for the bride and groom, decked with garland, grapevine wreaths or signage on the back
  • Fun signs for the bathrooms; make them unisex since women tend to frequent them more than men
  • A designated smoking area away from the tent; this helps to avoid litter and makes guests who smoke feel accommodated
  • Individual bug spray bottles, parasols and fans for summer weddings

Try to set up at least a day in advance and make sure the area is clean after you leave. Ideally, your total timeline will include at least a few days, with mowing of the lawn and bug spray in advance; subfloor installed and tent going up first; rentals delivered; caterer set-up; lighting check the night before — and smooth sailing the day of.

“After everything’s gone, go back and walk the property to make sure there’s no garbage and that everything’s locked up,” says Brannon. “After all that work, the last thing you want is the client to be bummed about that. So wrap it up!”



Since moving to Minneapolis in 1999, Eve has worked as a writer, an editor, a video producer, and a digital content manager/strategist in areas ranging from arts and education to science and technology.



eNews June 2014
Originally published in Catersource magazine June 2014

About the author : Catersource


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