April 22, 2020
There is nothing more beautiful than tented weddings. They are a stunning way to create a completely custom venue. It’s also a way of “inserting” a venue into some of the most gorgeous landscapes. They create a blank canvas for couples to create a completely customized wedding day design. And you can host it any day or time of year, you’d like, because you’re not limited by venue availability. But tented weddings are logistically challenging and expensive. In fact, contrary to popular belief, tented weddings are always more expensive than weddings at established wedding venues. Tented weddings will involve significantly more time to plan and more wedding vendors will be involved when compared to a wedding at an established venue. They are always going to cost more than a wedding at a venue or, in a space that specializes in hosting weddings. I love one of the recent trends where couples are looking for “back yard” weddings. I get tons of inquiries asking for “something simple, just a tent.” And truly, it is anything but. It’s completely do-able, but it is not a money saving venture! There are a lot of considerations to be made. Trust me, in much the same way that beach weddings are not for everyone, neither are tented weddings! But don’t worry, if you have a tented wedding dream, I have all the information you will need to make a thoughtful and informed decision.
If the property you are considering tenting has never hosted a wedding before, then every aspect of the planning must be carefully and thoughtfully managed by the couple and property owners, or a wedding planner with experience in planning tented events. Think of tented weddings being hosted on a private pice of property, or even a public park, as requiring you to build a venue from the ground up. Even existing infrastructure under the ground must be considered. You must know the location of gas lines, electrical systems, sprinkler systems and other underground obstacles. The existence of these types of obstacles do not mean you can not tent the location, but they may dictate the location and type of tent you can chose.
The land itself also must be considered. Is it large enough for the size tent you will need. Is it the right shape and proportion? Is is level? What is the ground surface covered with? Grass, stone, dirt, shell, asphalt. All of these materials will need to be handled differently by your tent company. Sometimes, a tent can be placed on land that is not level, but more often, a property that is not level will require a base for the tent with a floor, significantly increasing the cost. In addition, you will need to consider the number of tents needed. Do you need a tent for ceremony and cocktail hour, and a second tent for the reception. Do you want to try fitting all three into one tent (this is very difficult to do)? Typically two tents are needed, one for a rain plan ceremony and cocktail hour, as well as a second larger tent, for the dinner & reception.
The best way to handle permits is by first reaching out to your local municipality to make sure that they will grant a permit for the tent and location you are considering. Then next thing would be to work with a tent company and a full-service catering company. They will help you to rent the correct amount of items, and not leave you guessing with regards to functionality and quantity. You will want to allow the the tent company will work on procuring the tent permit on your behalf, often they will include the permit and fire protection materials required by local law in your invoice (emergency exit signs and fire extinguishers are required by law and are for the safety of you and your guests). If you do not see these items listed on your invoice and in your contract, you must ask about them.
You will also want to make sure you have purchased both event insurance and liquor liability. Both of these can be purchased through an insurance company. The cost of these policies will depend on a number of factors including your guest count, location and the time of year the event has been planned on. The insurance you cover should be enough to cover you for lost monies due to any number of factors, but you will want to speak with an insurance agent to make sure you have everything you need. I have worked with two companies in the past, WedSafe and EventHelper. Coverage for bad weather, hurricanes, flooding, high wind (most tents are wind proof up to a certain mph, and you will NEED to know what that is!), etc. In addition, you will need liquor liability to cover your self in terms of guests over indulging in the liquor you have provided them. Lawsuits are a horrible thing and an awful way to begin a marriage and if you can’t afford to throw your event twice, purchase insurance that will protect your investment.
Many people will think that they have a kitchen that will work for a catering staff. But the location, stairs, and distance between the point of cooking and service will be a huge factor when it comes to serving and cooking for a large number of guests. If your kitchen is far away, does not have warming ovens and is lacking items that might be required to serve the food you would like, a cooking tent is likely to be required for your event. In my experience, a cooking tent is almost always needed for parties with more than 50 people. While this likely depends on the venue, or property, you will want to know if this is something your caterer will require, and where it will be located pretty early on in the process. Don’t worry, this is an added expense, but it it not the same type of tent needed for the wedding itself. I would factor an additional $800-2000 for a cooking tent and the equipment needed to prepare food. But your caterer should be able to give you a fairly accurate budget range for this, if needed.
Worst case scenario here is an overflowing toilet. Right!? If you want to use the bathroom in a private residence to fulfill your needs, you will want to have the septic system inspected before the wedding. You will want to ensure that it can handle your guest count without resulting in lines for the bathroom and in terms of overflowing. Most often, I suggest that couples rent a bathroom trailer (they come with upgrades like marble sinks and chandeliers–they are defiantly not porta-pots!).
One major consideration for private residences is parking. Where will your guests park? Consider this: a wedding with 100 guests will have ~60 cars. Where will they all park? Do the streets surrounding the location allow for double-side parking? Is there a parking lot that you can use to shuttle guests to and from? Most likely, you will want to have a parking lot and local street parking and use a valet to assist guests with parking their cars.
In addition to guest parking, you will also want to ensure that you have parking considered and accounted for your vendors. You will want to be sure to discuss the delivery needs of each vendor prior to the wedding day. And you will also need to know where they can park their vehicles after unloading. Many will arrive and need to unload quickly. Some will have large trucks. This should be a part of your timeline and you will need to make sure that deliveries (and pick-ups after the wedding) are staggered to allow for loading and unloading of trucks and vehicles.
Your tent will need lighting that allows for dimming. This is easy, and a good tent company will add a dimmer switch to your order without even being asked. Just be sure to test it once the tent is delivered and set-up. In addition, you will want to make sure that the path to the tent from the point of guest arrival includes a clear path that is well lit for the end of the evening (especially for those guests who may have drank). You will also want to account for lighting in the catering cook tent and for the lath to and from the bathrooms.
You will want to ensure that you have an adequate power supply for the tent, catering, band/DJ and any other vendors who might require power to fulfill their role. Generators are usually purchased through a tent company. Your tent will need one for lighting and for additional environmental controls you might add, like heat or air conditioning. In addition, you will need power for your caterer’s cook tent, band/DJ or photo booth, just to name a few. Each vendor should be able to give you very specific power requirements.
Water supply is most likely required for catering and bathrooms. Should you be bringing in a bathroom trailer, bathroom trailers often have a tank, but will need additional water sources. They will tell you exactly what they require when you rent them.
Depending on the time of year your tented wedding is occurring you may or may not want to include heat and air conditioning on your rental order. For the vast majority of my experience, dropping the walls of a tent have been enough to accommodate for cooler/windier conditions. But in the event of heat, your only option for guest comfort is to air condition a tent. Imagine how difficult this will be to get if you wait for the weather forecast. Everyone in your tent supplier’s region will be looking for the same. You will want to discuss including these in your initial tent contract and noting when you will be able to drop them and pay less. Often the reservation requires a 50% investment. But if you’re not sure, this is worth it.
One thing to keep in mind is the need to landscape for aesthetic concerns. Also the need for clear safe pathways for guests to walk along to get to the tent, the bathrooms, and for catering staff. An equally large concern is the impact large trees, low hanging branches, and shrubs might have on the placement of a tent and the comfort of guests. For example, I have a large row of hydrangea bushes. They are beautiful and grow and bloom every year. But they also attract black flies (thankfully not the biting kind) when in full bloom. This would be an issue for guest comfort and food service. Just something to keep in mind. In addition, you will want to make sure that the property is properly sprayed for pests such as mosquitos and ticks.
If you are thinking about a tented wedding, let me know. I would be more than happy to schedule a free consultation to discuss your plans with you. If you would like that, your first step is to inquire with BWE right here.
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