Perhaps the best part of outdoor weddings is the opportunity to add your special touch. For example, something as simple as choosing a tent can be an entire adventure.
If you’re having a tent you’ll have choices over the tent size and style, type and amount of lighting, size and shape of tables, style of chairs, color of linens, to name a few. You’ll have carte blanche over the décor, allowing you to pick a theme and decorate in a number of ways.
As co-owner of a party rental business I’ve discovered and shared a number of tips with brides-to-be on planning an outdoor wedding. I hope these will help you with your big day.
Top Tips For Planning the Perfect Outdoor Wedding
1. Planning for the weather. Depending on what part of the country and time of year you’re getting married, weather could be a factor. As I mentioned in my last blog entry on picking a venue, tents can be remarkably good at keeping your guests cool in the summer heat and warm on a chilly night. If you anticipate rain or high winds be sure and reserve sidewalls for your tent. If the day turns out to be perfect you can have the tent rental company remove them (or even take them down yourself).
2. Keep your guests from melting. If you’re expecting a real scorcher of a day have plenty of bottle water available and sunscreen on hand. Guests will appreciate a program to fan themselves with. One chic bride has paper parasols available for her guests. If you’re inside a tent consider large electric fans to keep air moving, and don’t forget a generator if there is no power source available.
3. Don’t let your guests freeze. If you anticipate temperatures to drop to chilly levels the day of your wedding be prepared. Guests will leave quickly if they are cold. With a tent, side panels (consider clear panels if you have a view to enjoy) and appropriate tent heaters you and your guests will stay warm through the night. I suggest 1 heater for every 1500-2000 square feet. This means if you have a 30’x40’ tent you’ll need one heater; if you have a 40’x60’ tent you’ll need two. And don’t forget the generator if you don’t have access to electricity.
4. Let the sun be your guide. If you have your pick of locations for your ceremony consider the time of day and where the sun will be. If you’re planning a ceremony in the late afternoon determine if the setting sun will be in guests eyes, or soft enough to provide a beautiful backdrop for your ceremony. If your ceremony is early in the afternoon, is there a location that will provide some tree coverage from the sun’s harsh rays?
5. Keep the bugs at bay. Mosquitoes, flies, gnats—keep those pesky insects at bay with the use of citronella candles or a bug zapper. If flying creatures are especially heavy perhaps have a natural bug repellant available for guests to spray on themselves.
6. Spruce up the surroundings. If your location is not used frequently for outdoor events you may need to drop by the week before the wedding to ensure the lawn has been mowed and the ground raked. You might want to ask a friend or a member of the wedding party to stop by that morning to even do a last minute check. If the setting lacks color you might bring in pots of flowers or flowering shrubs, or consider using an arbor for the ceremony and weave fresh or silk flowers among the trellis.
7. Flaunt the view. If you have a view or prefer a more open, airy feel in your tent, you might have 10′ side poles installed, as opposed to the industry standard 7′ sides. This elevates the tent making it easier to see out. If you are planning to use sidewalls, many tent rental companies can supply clear panels so your view is not obstructed.
8. Make sure your guests feel involved. If you’re planning for a large group, a long narrow tent can put a lot of distance between your guests and food tables, bars, dance floor, toasts and photo opportunities. Guests can start to feel cut off from the action (maybe your 90 year old grandmother won’t mind, but most guests do). Increasing the width of your tent to 50 or 60 feet will provide a squarer layout and bring your guests closer to the activity. For example, rather than go with a 20’x100’ tent, opt for a 40’x50’. Same square footage, but a much better layout.
9. There’s no need to shout. Visit your wedding site beforehand at the same time of day as your ceremony and take a moment to listen. Are there sounds that may make it difficult for guests to hear you or the officiate? Boats going by, waves crashing, airplanes overhead, screaming kids next door? Consider renting a sound system with clip mikes for those who are speaking during the ceremony. Your DJ or band may be able to supply this for you.
10. Don’t leave guests wondering where to go. If your outdoor location has limited or non-existent bathrooms you will need to rent a portable potty, or risk having some guests relieve themselves in the bushes (yes, this does happen). Don’t be put off by the picture as there are many rental companies who provide dressed-up portable restroom trailers specific for outdoor events. They feature flushing toilets, running water, ac/heat, lights and even decorated stalls.
11. Make sure your guests can move. There is nothing worse than getting squeezed into a table with too many people. When planning your seating arrangements, a 5′ round or square table seats eight comfortably and a 6′ round table seats 10 comfortably. Also, dressing your table with long linens may look beautiful in magazines, but the reality is that chairs and feet often get caught in the “puddle.” If you can’t get linens for your tables that hit at or just above the ground, consider going with shorter linens rather than longer ones.
12. Make Sure You’re Powered Up. Depending on your venue or how far your site is from a power source you may need to rent a generator to supply extra electricity….especially if you have a band, catering ovens and extensive lighting. Your rental provider should be able to supply you with the necessary equipment.
13. Create a Surprise. If you have the space you might consider using a cocktail tent to provide an intimate setting for guests to mingle before being seated and allow you to preserve the surprise of your decorations in the main tent. This can also double as the buffet serving area and allow you to use a smaller main tent.
14.Plan an Appropriate Menu. Does your caterer have experience with outdoor wedding menus? Make sure he or she is planning things that will keep well outdoors in the heat. Avoid items with mayonnaise or dishes which must be served cold. You want your wedding to be memorable; food poisoning is not a good memory.
15. Light the Way. For an evening wedding or if the festivities will continue even after the sun has set, be sure to include twinkling votives, tea lights, lanterns, or strings of small sparkly lights into your decorating plans. In addition, be sure to illuminate walkways, steps, paths to the parking area and restrooms, and other potential night time safety hazards. If string lights are not practical, coffee cans partially filled with sand can house a candle and create a glowing path for guests.
16. Invest in a Good Tent. Take no shortcuts here. As I mentioned previously, you want your wedding to be memorable; having your tent blow away or leak during a storm is not the memory you want. In addition, a cheap tent makes an entire wedding look, well, cheap. There are a variety of models – frame tents, pole tents, and sail cloth tents – that work best for different settings and budgets. A quality tent rental provider will have a different styles and sizes and work with you to determine the best tent for your event.
Research Rental Agents. Outdoor weddings can require a significant amount of rentals–tables, chairs, lights, tableware to name a few. Finding a quality rental agency is of the utmost importance. Don’t let price be the driving factor. Among our local competitors, the “cheapest” supplier also has some of the shabbiest tents and dirtiest rentals (consider that a cheaper rental price often means no one is being paid to clean items in between events). On your big day the last thing you want to be thinking about is wiping down chairs and removing dirt from tent sidewalls.
Good luck with your big day and I hope these tips have (or will) be helpful to you.
By: Nora FosterLakes Region Tent & Event is a tent and party rental provider located in central New Hampshire. Whether you’re hosting 50 or 500 guests, they offer a variety of tents, tables and chairs, tableware, linens, lighting and more to fit any wedding style, size and budget. They can be found at lakesregiontent.com.