Everything You Need to Do if You're Having a Tented Wedding

Renting a tent without a basic understanding of what's involded could land you in over your head (pun intended).
The Knot
Updated Sep 28, 2018

Whether your dream venue is a backyard or beach, pitching a tent is the perfect way to shelter your guests at an outdoor wedding. Not only can a wedding tent be ultra elegant and romantic—we're talking white sailcloth, not campground khaki—it's also sure to provide you with peace of mind knowing you have cover in case the weather doesn't exactly go your way.

So if a chic party tent strung with twinkling lights and garlands sounds ideal to you, read what needs to be done in time for your wedding day, below.

1. Decide on a style.

You'll probably want something that's quick, safe and easy to install—not only will it reduce the cost of labor, but it'll also make your day (and day-of schedule) less stressful.

Tents are typically available in a variety of sizes and styles, so your options will run the gamut. Some styles have no interior poles (which means no obstruction of table setups or sight lines), offering both maximum space and flexibility, which is ideal for a large wedding. Having a small, intimate reception? An upscale capri-style party tent is probably perfect for you.

You can also select from a wide range of vinyl fabric choices––from peek-a-boo translucent to total opacity, the choice is yours.

Freestanding or frame tents work best if you plan to set up on asphalt, concrete, wooden decks and balconies, or any other surface where stakes and center poles can't be used. (Basic installation fees usually apply only to level ground or grass. If the tent needs to be installed on an irregular surface, these fees will be probably be higher.) When measuring your location, remember you must add 10 feet to both the length and width of the foundation area to allow room for staking.

2. Figure out your numbers (and dance floor).

To determine the number of square feet needed for your tent, you'll need to turn to your guest list. A helpful equation is to multiply your number of guests by specific numbers based on what the setup will be inside your tent. For a sit-down or buffet-style dinner with round tables, multiply your number of guests by 12; for a sit-down or buffet-style dinner with banquet tables, multiply your number of guests by 10; for a cocktail party with some seating, multiply your number of guests by 8; for a ceremony with rows or cathedral seating, multiply your number of guests by 8.

Similarly, there's an easy formula to decide on dance floor specifications. Divide your number of guests by 4 to find the number of couples you can expect to see dancing at any given time. Next, multiply that number by 10 for the total number of square feet you'll want for your dance floor.

3. Read your vendor contract.

Once you find a tent you love, you'll likely sign a rental agreement and pay a deposit to confirm your reservation. (Your deposit will probably be around one-third of your tent's rental fee.) Read the details of your rental agreement carefully and know the cancellation fee—in some cases, your deposit may be nonrefundable if you cancel within 2 weeks of your wedding date. Net-net, be sure about your tent before signing on the dotted line.

Also, keep in mind you can simplify your party planning by ordering a tent package. Many vendors will include the installation fee in the total price—and you can get the tent of your choice plus tables, chairs and coordinated linens.

4. Visit the site with your tent vendor.

It's also a good idea to make an appointment to visit the wedding reception site with your tent vendor well in advance of your wedding date. Along with your venue's representative, you should inspect the proposed tent location, ask about the stability of the ground (especially if you're setting up a tent on or near the beach) and inquire about any underground hazards like sprinkler systems, wells or septic tanks. You want to ensure the safety of the structure and your guests.

Pro tip: If the tent site is a large grassy area, confirm with the location management that the sprinkler system timers won't turn on the waterworks in the middle of your lovely celebration.

5. Think about tent accessories.

Tons of rental stores and tent vendors can incorporate accessories like sidewall lighted window styles, installation of wooden tent floors, stages and accessories (think: chandeliers, chuppahs, gazebos, latticework, wishing wells, columns, aisle runners, candelabras, special-effects lighting and more). The options truly are endless.

6. Decide on your heating and air-conditioning situation.

This is important. Depending on the location and season of your wedding, you'll likely need to rent some equipment if you think the temperature could be a cause of discomfort at your outdoor wedding or reception. Lots of tent vendors can provide you with the necessary equipment, including portable air-conditioning units, outdoor heaters, tall patio heaters, floor heaters, misting fans and more. Just make sure to do the legwork, ask the right questions and select what's best for your needs.

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