Ask any planner, and they won't beat around the bush on this topic. A planner with tented event experience is an absolute necessity when it comes to your outdoor affair. Anyone who tells you that a planner is optional or a luxury has not lived through enough of the complexity or witnessed the things that can go terribly wrong when a tented event is not properly planned and executed.
If you are new to the world of tented affairs, you're probably wondering why. How hard could it be? You hire a tent company, they install the tent, your caterer takes care of rentals and the reception timeline flow, it's as simple as that.
There is so much more to tented weddings than placing a tent order and calling it a day. If you really pause to think about it, you are opting to construct a wedding venue where one does not already exist. And not just any venue, but a comfortable, logistically sound, and aesthetically pleasing one. There's a reason why event venues exist, and it's because you get all of the necessities and many of the amenities provided to you under one roof.
Before I dive into all the reasons why you'll need a planner for your tented affair, I want to dispel a huge tented wedding myth: that tented weddings will save you money.
In most instances, a tented wedding will not save you money. If you are truly having an casual, DIY, backyard affair, it's possible that a tented event may be more cost effective for you. But when most people describe their tented wedding vision, it's not that. And it will cost more than hosting at a venue. If you are envisioning a tented wedding but are worried about the cost, my advice is always to seek out a venue that installs a three season tent that's on-site throughout the entirety of their tented rental season.
Let's talk about the pros of tented weddings: you get to enjoy an outdoor setting, customize the look and feel of your blank space, and celebrate in unique and non-traditional locations.
The trade-offs are that they are logistically complex, a significant investment, and a bit more risky when it comes to having a completely weather-proof wedding.
But with the help of an experienced tented wedding planner, you can enjoy a personalized, comfortable, and logistically sound tented affair.
OK, let's get into it!
Your planner will manage:
Tent size and style: There are many different sizes and styles of tents, and you want to make sure that the one you order is appropriate for your location, time of year, guest count, and desired aesthetic.
Layout: The overall layout of the tent and property will need to be carefully diagrammed to-scale to ensure everything will fit and flow nicely.
HVAC: Heating units or fans. No one wants to be shivering under an unheated tent or sweating with a space with no breeze.
Tent sides: Making sure they're on the order + making the call on whether to have them on or off. If tent sides are installed due to uncertain weather, understanding how to secure them or open them up, and/or arranging to have a tent tech on-site to assist.
Power: Needs for lighting, HVAC, entertainment, restrooms, catering, and more. Output and location of the generator to ensure there's ample power supply and that the location is both accessible and discreet.
Restrooms: Many tented events, especially those at home, will require a restroom trailer. Needs include a large enough footprint for install, coordination on the install, water supply, and ample power. If the restrooms are being installed ahead of the event and in-use by vendors, coordinating a service on the day-of so that the facilities are fresh for guests.
Permitting: Planners will work with your tent supplier, caterer, bar service, and city or town on the steps needing to be taken for proper permitting of your tented event.
Mosquito treatment: Always recommended for outdoors events, and must be coordinated alongside plans for landscaping and pre-event install.
Landscaping: Coordinating with the property owner on landscaping schedule so that it doesn't interfere with load-in and so that the grounds look fresh and pristine before the event.
Access: How easy or difficult is the event site to access? How many vehicles can access the area at once? Is there a narrow driveway where arrival and departure times need to be carefully coordinated?
Rentals: Where there is a tent, a full scope of rentals are needed. Evaluating all needs for chairs, tables, linens, service wares, and all off-site catering equipment. For example: if you only order enough chairs for your dining tables but your string trio requires three chairs, you'll need to make sure you put that on the order!
Design: When working with a tented space, it's an absolute blank slate. Anything is possible, and that can be an exciting yet overwhelming feeling. A planner will help you design your tented space thoughtfully and with budget in mind, including: chairs, table shape and size, linens, floral design, lighting, draping, dance floor, place settings, bar, ceremony, cocktail reception, sense of arrival and more.
Rain and inclement weather: Tented events are gorgeous, but what about when mother nature strikes? If you'd like to reserve additional tenting in the event of rain, a non-refundable deposit will need to be placed on all rain-plan equipment and a decision will have to be made before the truck gets packed up for install.
Vendor needs: In a traditional venue setting, there's typically ample space for vendors to store their gear, take a quick break, and eat their vendor meal dinner. When you're celebrating outdoors and in non-traditional spaces, where will your photographer and cinematographer store their gear? Where will the band store their cases? Where will they sit to eat dinner? If there isn't a location for this already, you may need to add tenting, tables, and chairs to your order so that vendors have a location to stage their gear and eat dinner.
Flooring: How muddy and saturated does the ground get when hit with heavy rains? No one wants to be walking around in mud without the right footwear, so ample flooring installation might be needed depending on the property, budget, and desired guest experience. If full flooring is not an option, installing proper dance flooring is a must.
Parking: If this is a non-traditional tented space or a private home, parking is usually limited and must be coordinated carefully. We'll think through use of public lots and shuttling for guests so that parking doesn't create a headache or a traffic jam.
Load-in and load-out: This schedule must be crafted carefully. There's a certain order in which vendors must work in order to complete a tented event install and removal with efficiency.
Off-Premise Catering Operations: If you hire a licensed, insured and experienced off-site caterer, there will be fewer things to oversee here. But, it's important to understand that not all food and beverage service providers are well versed in tented weddings. In many cases for tented weddings, an entire field kitchen needs to be constructed on-site. A planner will work seamlessly with your caterer and bar provider to make sure that all tenting, lighting, fans, equipment, power, ice, water supply and more are addressed ahead of time.
Emergency supplies: When you're not at a venue, you may be lacking basic supplies that come in hand in a pinch. Electrical tape, extension cords, zip ties, umbrellas, cleaning supplies, and more. Think about the amenities available to you at a hotel function vs. in your back yard. A planner will arrive fully stocked with supplies, or will be able to run out to purchase what you need in a pinch.
To give you a quick sense of costs, I am currently planning a wedding that moved (due to COVID) from 200 guests at a country club to 100 guests under a sailcloth tent at a private home.
The country club wedding was coming in at around $80,000 for 200 guests. The tented wedding is coming in at around $70,000 for 100 guests. The tented wedding is giving us the opportunity to celebrate outdoors, at a sentimental location (a family home where the bride's parents were married), with complete design customization. However, there is a whole new scope of logistics involved, and that scope comes with a new price tag.
So, now are you convinced? Have you learned something new about tented celebrations? I hope so!