#SMPWedding101 - How to Ensure A Successful Outdoor Event
August 12, 2016
Outdoor celebrations can be tough. While full of customization opportunities and the pure beauty of becoming Mr. and Mrs. among the great outdoors, they also run the risk of bad weather, lighting issues and more. But that doesn't mean we're giving up on them any time soon (one look through our Vault and you can be sure outdoor weddings are here to stay). So we have Sperry Tents here to go over the 10 areas to cover (some, quite literally) to ensure a fantastic outdoor "I do" celebration.

1. TENT STYLE


It's vital to choose wisely when selecting a tent for your wedding - remember, it is your principal backdrop. Your tent will feature prominently in your wedding photos and deserves just as much thought as you would give to assessing the décor and style of an indoor venue.

Since the beginning, Sperry Tents have exemplified craftsmanship and aesthetics with graceful sailcloth canopies, nautically inspired pennants atop each peak, and solid wood support poles. They are designed to be equally attractive from a distance and close up, and are visually striking on their own and yet subtle enough not to compete with various décor styles. Plus, they do not require additional drapery to hide shiny white vinyl or aluminum poles.

Described as pole tents, Sperry Tents have both center and side poles and require stakes in the ground. For sites that do not accommodate stakes, or for hard to reach places such as decks and patios, frame tents are a smart alternative. Clear-top tents are another popular choice for starry night views but keep in mind that they heat up in the sun (like a greenhouse) so are best for spring and fall dates.

2. TENT PLACEMENT


One of the prime considerations in siting a reception tent is level ground: this is just as important for table and chair functionality as it is for guests’ footing. When there’s no way to avoid a sloping or uneven grade, consider full flooring. It’s a bigger budget item but assures comfort for all.

It’s always best to meet with a representative from the tent company in person at your event site to decide on the exact placement of tent(s). Keep in mind that an experienced tent professional can typically address a variety of issues, from recommending covered walkways to keep catering staff dry to creative problem solving such as tenting over small trees and fences to even covering up pools with flooring. You don’t know what can be accomplished until you ask!

3. CREATE DESTINATIONS


One trend in recent years with real staying power is the use of multiple tents to create event “destinations.” This is a great way to get creative and impress guests with unique experiences. We’ve seen almost everything: tents for ceremonies, cocktails, escort card displays, dancing, bridal prep, kids’ activities, dessert/candy stations, cigar rolling, and more. They can be grouped together in one tent “village” or spread across a large property.

However, if budget is a concern, consider creating “destinations” inside one large reception tent. Use lounge furniture to create swanky hangout areas or arrange cocktail tables with whimsical linens near the bar.

4. STAR POWER


You’ve seen white and ivory tents before but have you ever seen a navy tent dotted with translucent white stars? Sperry’s signature blue star tent is a showstopper and always generates oohs and aahs! A smaller round blue tent makes for a fun, buzz-generating cocktail tent companion beside a more traditional ivory reception tent.

5. LIGHTING


We can’t emphasize the importance of lighting enough! Your lighting selections play a big role in the style and general atmosphere of your wedding, and they also impact the dusk and evening photography greatly. Sperry Tents begins with standard lighting options that mount on the center poles, such as copper onion lanterns or wrought-iron chandeliers. Other popular options include Asian lanterns or bistro strings strung between center and side poles. And we always complete each of our tents with bulb lighting around the perimeter that contributes to its romantic nighttime glow. But there is so much more to consider: LED lanterns along a path leading to your tent entrance. LED candles in votives hanging from a tree. Bistros strung above a porch or an outdoor dance floor. Club-style lighting for the band stage and dance floor. A colored wash on the tent ceiling. If you want to get really serious, consider hiring a specialty lighting company.

6. LAYOUT


In general, your tent provider will recommend a tent size to accommodate your guest count, dance floor, and/or band stage. But typically, this recommendation is based on the assumption that you are placing standard five-foot-round tables of 8-10 guests in an efficient pattern. Speak up if you need room for a lounge area or if you are choosing extra-large round tables, have standalone farm tables, or are mixing banquet and round tables, etc. You want to avoid miscommunication and a cramped layout!

7. DON’T FORGET YOUR CATERER


You’ve thought about your guests’ comfort, but remember that your caterer has needs too! For smaller events a caterer may be able to work out of the house or a garage but for most events they will require a tent. Handily enough, experienced caterers have worked many outdoor events before and know exactly what size cook tent they need, so just ask. In some cases, specialty caterers like barbeque or clambake companies do not require tents, but double check!

8. WEATHER


No couple wants to think about rain on their big day, but rain preparedness comes with the territory of planning an outdoor event. The good news is that most tent companies allow for what is called a rain plan – equipment that is put on hold via a deposit in case of rain but that can be cancelled a day or two before based on the weather report.

Typical rain equipment includes a ceremony tent (for outdoor ceremonies that get rained out), connectors in between tents (particularly between the catering and reception tents), and a cocktail tent so guests don’t end up under the dining tent for drinks. Rain is not the only weather consideration, however. Outdoor wedding in July? Consider fans that mount on your tent’s perimeter to keep everyone cool. And since the temperature can drop at night in spring and fall, heaters are a wise decision. Propane heaters can comfortably heat a fully sided tent while patio heaters are nice for cocktail hour.

9. POWER


Almost every vendor who makes an outdoor event happen requires power. The tent lights, catering equipment, portable bathrooms, and the band or DJ are the principal power users, and keep in mind that a couple extension cords and the available outlets in your garage might not suffice. Be prepared for each vendor’s power usage and ask how many dedicated circuits they require. As a general rule, it’s smart to have an electrician install a special panel for the wedding’s power use (that can be removed afterwards). Or, if the tents are placed in a field or lawn away from a power source, a generator will be required.

10. EMBRACE THE OUTDOORS!


You chose an outdoor event for a reason, so maximize its potential! Bring the outdoors in and infuse your décor with loose, wild garden-style floral arrangements or even potted herbs, plants, shrubs, and small trees. Encourage guests to move beyond the confines of a tent with lawn games (croquet, anyone?), lawn furniture like Adirondack chairs or even hammocks, boat cruises, and golf cart rides. The more guests interact with the natural setting, the more memorable your big day will be!
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