Every wedding comes with a million details & logistics to consider, but when you’re planning without an indoor reception space there are a few extra things you’ll want to be sure you check off your list. Our neck of the woods here in Central Virginia lends itself beautifully to outdoor, tented receptions that showcase the natural setting of your venue or private estate. A tented reception brings ethereal elegance to your wedding design. It offers an opportunity to celebrate the beauty around you, & lets in fantastic sunlight without being too hot. However, a tented wedding also lends itself to a few logistics you might not otherwise need to consider. I’m sharing my top five tips on the extra details to consider for your tented wedding.
Tented weddings are honestly my favorite, especially in our gorgeous Piedmont region of Virginia. With many stunning venues boasting their own sailcloth tents, & the privilege of frequently planning weddings on private estates, we at LAE Co have a certain expertise when it comes to the logistics & design elements involved in a tented wedding.
The first thing to do is to consider the type of tent you’d like. Most venues that have reception tents use sailcloth peak pole tents, which are absolutely stunning and a classic, elegant wedding look (my personal fave). Another popular choice is a clear top frame tent, which gives you a literally transparent roof to protect from the elements while visually dining & dancing al fresco.
Now here’s our top five tips on which logistics you want to be sure you have covered!
While the sunlight will create a gorgeous ambience during the day (even if it’s cloudy), you’ll want to be sure you have a great lighting plan for after the sun goes down. We love to start with bistro string lights along the perimeter and swagged throughout the tent, then build out a lighting design once we have “eyesight light” covered. A sailcloth tent in particular lends itself beautifully to hanging chandeliers, paper lanterns, or other hanging installations (hello, floral clouds!). We believe lighting should always come from above & below, so we always include plenty of candles in the table designs as well, to fill out that romantic ambient lighting. Lighting is also a consideration as guests leave the tent: You’ll need adequate lighting for the pathway to the restrooms (more on that below!) & you’ll want to be sure the way to the parking area is lighted as well.
Many reception venues offer tents with flooring throughout the tent space, whether it’s in the form of turf, stamped concrete, or wood floors. If you’re hosting your wedding on a private estate, you’ll want to consider the ground under the tent. At the very least, you’ll need to rent a dance floor and potentially a stage if you’re hiring a band. If you don’t add flooring throughout the entire tent, the tent’s placement will become super important–are you down a hill so that if it rains, will the ground under the tent hold water? (No one actually wants a reception floor filled with hay to soak up water–it is a way to triage the situation, but it usually is nobody’s first choice). If the ground will be grass, are you providing heel caps for guests? The dance floor will get pretty dirty with folks walking around on grass & dirt, as well. Overall, we like to opt for adding flooring under the entire tent when possible, but grass can be beautiful, so you’ll just want a plan for how to execute.
Consider your guest list. If Uncle David is in a wheelchair, will he be able to access the reception tent & move around easily once inside? You’ll want to consider any accommodations needed to make your celebration accessible & enjoy
able for all your family & friends in attendance. This takes us to the next big thing that doesn’t always come top of mind for everyone: restrooms. If one isn’t provided by the venue, or especially if you’re utilizing a private estate, the best option is a luxury restroom trailer, which have AC, sinks, and flushing toilets. There are ADA options as well for restroom trailers. You’ll want to ensure that the path from the tent to the restroom trailer is lighted as well.
Most venues with tents will provide a power source, but sometimes additional power is still needed (for example, some bands require a certain amount of wattage in their contract, which may mean you need a generator). If you’re on a private estate you’ll need power for the tent, the entertainment (band or DJ), the ceremony sound (microphone & speaker), and the catering tent (oh yes–a whole other tent!). The best bet here is quiet run generators through a professional event company (our go-to is linked below!)
Of course, the thing that jumps to top of mind is the dreaded…rain. If it rains on your wedding day (hey, it rained on mine & we are celebrating our seventh anniversary with two amazing daughters), you’ll need a plan for the ceremony, as well as potentially adding walls to your tent rental. You’ll also want to consider marquees to allow guests to stay under cover when walking to the restroom, and for your catering team to stay under cover when walking from the catering tent to the reception tent. If it’s going to be chilly, you’ll need tent walls & blow heaters to keep your guests cozy. Conversely, what if it is sunny & gorgeous but also super hot? A transparent clear top tent can quickly become a greenhouse, and a sailcloth tent offers some shade but it is still translucent. Thus, you’ll want to consider fans and potentially bay draping (fabric that gathers like curtains at each tent pole) to offer a little respite from the heat.
That’s all quite a lot to think about, but it is so worth it for a gorgeous tent design! I might be a teensy bit biased, but the real step one is to hire a professional wedding planner who has experience with tented weddings. Our team will think of things that you might not have considered, & help guide you through decisions to ensure the most return on your investment. A professional planner also has a network of trusted vendors & creative partners whom we can bring in based on each client’s budget & design. A few of our favorites are linked below.
A few of our go-to companies for everything you need for your tented reception!
Blue Ridge Event Production for lighting, draping, & interior design
Virginia Tent Rental for tents, bistro lighting, & dance floors
Paisley & Jade for lounge furniture, specialty bars, signage, & design elements
MS Events for all the things under the tent from the dance floor & stage to your guest tables, chairs, & place settings
Stonegate Event Rentals for generators & restroom trailers
Something Vintage for lounge furniture, specialty tabletop, & design elements
Emerson James for gorgeous tabletop options & design details
BBJ La Tavola for fabulous linens to set your event apart
Ready to plan your tented wedding or private estate wedding? Schedule a consultation call & let’s start dreaming together!