Tent Weddings: Everything You Need to Know to Pull One Off
You know that one of the biggest to-dos you want to check off when you start planning your wedding is your venue. Once you secure your venue, you can start to plan many of the other details, including your catering, DJ, florist, etc. However, sometimes you don't actually see yourself getting married in a traditional wedding venue, but rather outside in a tent—what's referred to as a tent wedding. Many venues offer this arrangement, which has become quite popular in recent years, especially following the Covid pandemic.
A tented wedding is designed and managed from the "ground up," explains Deliece Knights, founder and CEO of Dhalia Events in New York, which means it usually takes place on properties or in spaces where indoor coverage is either not available or not suitable for the style, headcount or aesthetic of the wedding a couple is trying to achieve. "There are many different types of tented weddings, and they can even typically include 'non-tent' options, including open air and other non-permanent structures such as large pergolas or framed areas," she adds.
This kind of setup is especially appealing to couples looking to create a unique experience that isn't easily achieved with a traditional wedding venue. "Some couples who opt for this option are often personally connected to the location that they have chosen, ranging from a family estate to a country or region where they experience some sentimentality," Knights explains. "Types of locations that are typical for tented weddings include backyards or private estates."
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What Is the Best Month to Have a Tent Wedding?
Since a tented wedding is typically outside, it's most ideal to have this kind of wedding during the warmer months of the year, excluding the hottest months, July and August. In fact, Knights has found September to be the best month for a tented wedding for couples getting married on the East Coast in mostly temperate climates. The temperatures around this time frame are comfortable—not too hot or too cold—so it allows couples to save on the need for either cooling or heating systems.
How Much to Rent a Tent for a Wedding?
As with any type of wedding, a tented wedding can vary in price significantly—and based on several factors, ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 on average, all before labor and delivery. One factor is the type of tent, as this will determine the labor needed to install the tent. "A pole tent is quick to install, so the labor costs are lower than a frame tent," explains Janice Carnevale, owner of Bellwether Events in Falls Church, Virginia. "Installing a floor on firm, flat ground will take half a day whereas a leveled floor with a multi-foot grade will take well over a day to install."
If the wedding will be in the evening, as many are, a tent will also require the addition of lighting. In this case, Carnevale explains that the options there range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on what the couple wants it to look like. A tented wedding may also require generators and even restroom trailers, which can also tack on dollars by the thousands.
How to Find Tents for Weddings
It can be tricky to find the right tent for your wedding, but The Knot Vendor Marketplace helps simplify the process. Through it, you can find the right tent rental company, as well as any other wedding rentals you may be looking for, and filter the list of pros by location, budget and more.
Pros of a Tent Wedding
Here's a look at some of the perks of having a tented wedding.
You can bring your own vision to life.
When you have your wedding in a traditional venue, you don't have much pull when it comes to altering the design all that much—this changes when you opt for a tented wedding. "With tented weddings, couples are more often than not able to control the entire design of the space, how the tent will be used, and the overall floor plan within the space," explains Knights.
You have more control over cost.
With a tented wedding, couples have more ownership of the overall cost of their actual venue, Knights explains. "They can determine what is important for them to spend on as well as areas they would like to cut back on," she says. "At a standard venue or banquet hall, couples are not as readily able to determine how the venue space will be used or what areas of spend are necessary."
You can have a larger guest list.
Most traditional wedding venues have a set headcount, but tented weddings allow more room for an increased capacity. You can opt to have a smaller or larger tent based on how many guests RSVP—or change the infrastructure and additions depending on other elements or circumstances as they arise.
Cons of a Tent Wedding
Here's a look at some of the drawbacks of having a tented wedding.
They are weather-contingent.
While tents can provide you with peace of mind knowing you have cover if it rains, they will require added protection in the event of very bad weather. "In the case of inclement weather, couples are usually required to spend and use sidewalls as well as erect additional tents and coverage options for their guests and vendors to get in and out of the space safely," says Knights. "These additions may result in the spaces not being as beautiful as intended, can take away from the overall vision of the event and can also tack on additional costs for heating and cooling, which may eat away at the couple's overall contingency budgets."
They require additional time for setup and breakdown.
Setting up a tent takes a great deal of time and has to be performed by qualified individuals to ensure that it's safe and secure for your wedding guests. "Not only will you need more time than most setups, but, in many cases, you also need early access to the venue," explains Mango Muse Events owner and destination wedding planner Jamie Chang, who is based in the San Francisco Bay area. "If your venue allows it, this can add to your venue rental costs—and if your venue doesn't allow it, your manpower will go drastically up in order to get it set in time."
They can become expensive.
Some tented weddings can be affordable, but some can actually be pricier than expected mainly due to the additional rentals that are also needed. "Outside of things like tables and chairs, there's also all the catering equipment (because you'll need to build out a kitchen), the bar equipment, power needs, lighting needs, bathrooms and more," says Chang. "And, because it's a tent, usually delivery and labor are higher too in order to get everything out to the site that you're tenting."
How to Plan a Tent Wedding
If you're planning a tent wedding, be sure to follow these expert-approved tips to ensure you pull it off without a hitch.
Establish a budget.
No matter the type of wedding you're having, it's important to start out with a budget—and attempt to stick to it throughout the planning process. "Tented weddings typically involve a higher increase due to the number of moving parts required for execution, which means that couples must be prepared to spend on the things they can prepare for, as well as the items that might come as a surprise to them over the cost of planning," says Deliece. "In many cases, tented weddings include more risk, so it is imperative that couples have an ample budget to be able to respond quickly to any unforeseen topics."
Determine your headcount.
The size of the tent you need is dependent on the number of guests you intend to have. "On average, you'd calculate for about 15 to 30 square feet per person," explains Chang.
- How Big of a Tent for a 100-Person Wedding: For a 100-person wedding would need at least a 30x50 tent (or equivalent).
- How Big of a Tent for a 150-Person Wedding: For a 150-person wedding would need at least a 40x60 (or equivalent)
- How Big of a Tent for a 200-Person Wedding: For a 200-person wedding would need at least a 40x80 (or equivalent).
Hire a wedding planner.
A tent wedding might seem easier than one held in a traditional wedding venue, but that's almost never the case. For this reason, Knights recommends that all couples seek out the professional assistance of a wedding planner who can help them through the process. "A planner would have executed many of these types of events before and is best equipped to advise on gaps while keeping the couple's best interest at heart," she says.
Get a headstart on planning.
If you're having a tent wedding, Chang recommends planning early, especially if you're having a wedding in a remote location or area where there are few tent rental companies. "There are only so many tents and, perhaps more importantly, only so much manpower and trucking, and this is even more important now than ever before, given labor shortages," she says. "Booking your tent early is key to making sure you have what you want and the team to help support it."
Have a good understanding of your space.
Even if you take one glance at your space and know right away that it's "the one," Knights urges couples to do a thorough investigation prior to locking in the date and location." Couples should try to consult with as many potential vendors as possible before making a firm decision—for example, having a tent company visit the venue can help couples understand the maximum size and type of tent that can fit in the space," she says. "You also want to work out any logistical details such as the ability to load in and load out, utility risks, flooring and gradient requirements."