Tented weddings are a staple here in New England. And with good reason – they are beautiful, they offer so much flexibility, they let you make your wedding truly your own and allow your guests to enjoy the (hopefully) nice weather. However, tented weddings are A LOT of work. There is so much that goes into the execution of the day that most couples don’t even think about.
During the wedding season, it’s typical for 60-70% of my weddings to take place under a tent. I have found that a lot of couples dive right into planning with so much excitement and enthusiasm only to quickly realize they are in way over their heads. After all, this is one of the most important days of your life. It is imperative that it is planned perfectly!
I strongly recommend hiring a wedding planner if you are thinking of hosting a tented wedding. Especially if the wedding is going to be held on private property (like your parents’ backyard, an Airbnb you booked for the weekend, etc.) However, if that just isn’t in the cards for you, this blog post will lay out all of the things you need to think about in order to plan your special day!
Now, most of these steps apply to all tented weddings but I am gearing it towards those of you planning to use a private residence versus a wedding venue that allows tents.
Once you have your location determined, the very first thing you need to know is your guest count. Your guest count will determine the size tent you need, the number of additional rentals you need and so much more. Guest count will also help you figure out a budget. For moderate selections, I tell most couples that a healthy budget for a tented wedding is between $500 - $800 per guest. So if your guest list is 150 people, a realistic budget would be between $75,000 - $120,000. Keep in mind you could likely spend under (with compromises) and you could absolutely spend more than this for high end vendors and design choices.
Contact a local rental company and schedule a site visit. Tent companies will almost always come out to survey the property with you in order to look at the landscape (the ground needs to be flat and clear of rocks!), take measurements and then provide you with a quote. The tent company will go over the various tent styles (do you want clear top, frame tent, sail cloth tent, pole tent, etc.) and can also give you the price points for each style.
In addition to the tent, you will also need to think about all of your other rentals. Things like:
- Chairs (keep in mind you’ll want two sets of chairs if you also plan to host the ceremony on the property)
- Dance floor & staging
- Tabletop items such as flatware, glassware, china, charger plates, etc.
- Bar set-ups
- Catering prep tents & catering prep equipment
- Generators (because where else are you getting electric from in the middle of a field?)
When booking your rental company, ask if they will also obtain the necessary permits. If they don’t, make sure you know what you need to obtain. The last thing you want is the fire marshal to shut your wedding down because an exit sign is missing a light and you didn’t know you should have them check the tent out the day prior to ensure everything was working properly!
You’ll also want to think about the design aesthetic – do you want chandeliers or bistro lights? Are you in love with greenery hung from the tent or would you prefer drapery? Are you going for a glammed out, chic tent or more laid-back, New England clambake style? All of that contributes to the tent style and rentals you order.
Another less sexy rental item to think about is a restroom trailer. But it’s a very important one! Portable restrooms for weddings are actually really nice (we are not talking about those hideous green porta potties you see at the park). Luxury restroom trailers with multiple stalls, sinks, and A/C are the best choice.
This corresponds with step two but make sure you know how things are going to flow on the property. Where will guests park? Is there enough parking for everyone or do you need to hire valet or shuttle buses? Once guests arrive, where will they go for the ceremony? What about cocktail hour? You will want to go over the property layout with the rental company to ensure your vision fits with what can be done. If possible, make sure to know if you have any underground septic or oil tanks along with sprinkler systems. These things can interfere with tent placement and it’s best to know this up front rather than find out two days before the wedding and scramble for a solution.
You will also want to figure out the layout inside the tent. Most rental companies can generate a layout for you but it’s good to have an idea of what you want (for example, do you want guests to sit at round tables or farm tables or a mix of both? Will you have a band that needs a stage or just a 6’ table for a DJ? Things like that).
Other components that affect the property layout are things like water access and electricity.
Have a back up plan. What are you going to day if it rains on your wedding day (IDK about you but all I can think of as I write that is Alanis Morissette’s song, Ironic)? Where will the ceremony now be held? If you had your heart set on an outdoor cocktail hour, what will you do now? What is your plan if the grass is soaked? Did you order sidewalls for the tent? Who is going to install those? Are you going to have a floor in the tent (and if so, make sure you budget for that because they are very expensive)? Or what is your plan if it’s an unusually hot day in July or a really cold evening in October? The weather is the one thing that is always out of your control so having contingencies plans in place is a must. Hope for the best but plan for the worst.
Plan for the installation & break down schedule. A tent cannot go up the same day as your wedding. Well, I guess it could but it’s going to be a shitshow (sorry, there’s really no better term for it) trying to get the tent in, rentals unloaded, catering set up, etc.) Do yourself a favor and do not even consider trying to get everything in and out on the same day. It just can’t happen. Unless you enjoy being stressed to the max on your wedding day, then by all means, go for it!
The tent should get installed anywhere from 2-5 days before the wedding. Then everything else comes in. It’s not uncommon for a tented wedding to have multiple different rental companies, lighting companies and décor companies that all need access and all have their own requests. It takes some serious planning skills to understand what each vendor needs, how long they need access for and how best to stagger load-in to make everyone happy. Breakdown tends to be a lot faster but it’s still something to go over. Many companies charge extra for Sunday pick-ups so if that is a must-have, be prepared to pay for it. Make sure your breakdown schedule makes sense. For example, you do not want to have the tent taken down before the rentals underneath it have been picked up.
Enjoy yourself and have fun! Planning a wedding should be enjoyable. Of course there are some portions that are very stressful and figuring out logistics for a tented wedding may be one of your stressors. As I mentioned earlier, having a professional wedding planner that knows the ins and the outs of tented weddings on your vendor team is a huge asset. We can streamline the process and pair you up with the best rental companies to make planning your wedding weekend a breeze!
If you can’t already tell, I absolutely love planning tented weddings! So if you are newly engaged or in the midst of planning your tented wedding and would like to find out if I’m available, please send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I can’t wait to talk to you!
All the below images are from real tented weddings I have helped plan & design!