THE PLAN­NER

Martha Stewart Weddings - - CONTENTS - TEXT BY CHRISANNE GRISÉ

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).

ASK QUES­TIONS

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.

CHOOSE AVENDOR

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.

AC­CES­SORIZE

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.

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