Highlights include tent-rental 101, the ups and downs of big-night fireworks, and pre-wedding fitness with guru Jillian Michaels.
Whether it’s your main plan or your rain plan, a tent is a crucial element of an outdoor wedding. This expert advice will guide you through the rental process. PICTURE IT
If your wedding is outdoors, you need to consider a tent—as either a backup or an essential part of your ceremony and reception. You might prefer open air and uninhibited views, or maybe you want the décor opportunities a portable structure provides. “A tent gives you more flexibility than a building—you can construct exactly what you want,” says Kathryn Kieffer of Skyline Tent Company, in Virginia and South Carolina. “Depending on the style, it can truly be an element of your wedding ambience, rather than just something to keep you warm and dry.” Collect photos of setups you like to help make your vision clear to your vendor. And remember: You want to book your tent at least six months out, so start thinking about what you want when considering venues (especially as the expense can be significant).
Before renting, check in with your venue about logistics. You’ll want to know location options, how far ahead the tent can go up, and if there are any restrictions. Also make sure there’s a dependable source of power for lighting, music, and catering. “No one wants paused music if a breaker blows,” says Jen Sperry, marketing director for
Sperry Tents, a sailcloth-tent company headquartered in West Wareham, Massachusetts. You may also need a building permit—many vendors will handle that for you, but you can always check with the town government to find out more.
Venues often work with tent providers, so don’t be shy about asking for suggestions. As you look at options, consider their experience and reputation, and the quality of the finished product. Online reviews are a great start, but you can also learn a lot by talking to the vendor. “Somebody who asks questions—like ‘Where will guests be entering?’ or ‘Where will the flowers be displayed?’— is the person who’s going to make sure you’re getting exactly what you need,” Kieffer says.
PICK A TYPE
There are three basic tent styles—pole, structure, and frame—and each has its benefits (see Find Your Tent Style, right). You’ll want to weigh the pros and cons for your venue. There are also many specialty details and variations—Sperry, for example, crafts its tents from sailcloth (which is more translucent than vinyl), while offerings from Montana-based Under Canvas include luxury tepees. Overwhelmed? Ask for a complimentary site visit with a company rep to determine what best fits your needs and your budget.
Once you’ve got your style nailed down, it’s time to choose addons. You’ll need light sources; they can be as simple as skylights (for a daytime gathering) and as elaborate as chandeliers. Flooring is not strictly required, but it makes dancing easier and is a courtesy to your guests. “There’s nothing worse than stepping into a soggy field in cute shoes,” Kieffer says. Guests may appreciate heaters or fans, too, but think hard before renting an AC unit. “You have to completely wall the tent, which can be costprohibitive and blocks the view,” Kieffer says. Finally, don’t forget to ask about other related expenses that may be needed, like liability insurance, or an attendant on site in case of equipment snafus—you don’t want to be surprised later by extra line items.
PITCH THE TENT
Tents generally go up two to four days before the wedding, leaving time for other vendors to work their magic inside. If the weather looks promising and you no longer need your tent, most companies will let you cancel by a given time (say, 48 hours before setup). Just check the fine print; many require a nonrefundable deposit. “While paying a deposit for rain equipment is yet another expense, it’s better than calling frantically at the last minute because of a bleak forecast,” Sperry says. With your plan in place, you can rest easy, knowing you’ll be covered no matter the weather.
The warm glow of a lighted tent setsa festive scene.
You’ll need to arrange seating around internal poles.