Sunday, August 2, 2009

tent info

Every once in a while I get a request from a bride about an outdoor wedding, and she says she doesn’t like or want a tent. My first response is usually “are you from the West Coast?” as many weddings happen successfully without tents in California, where the weather is much more predictable. This got me thinking about tents in general, so I thought I would share some of our favorite tent photos as well as some insight into tents.

In no particular order…

1. If you’re having an outdoor wedding, you always need a tent, no matter what time of year you’re getting married.

2. You should plan on getting the next size up in your tent if you are planning for an outside ceremony or cocktail hour. If it starts to rain, you can always have the ceremony in one section of the tent and wall off the reception area with some fabric. This is a very cost effective way to ensure a rain plan.

3. If you can afford it, floor your tent. There’s nothing worse than a guest ruining their shoes in the grass, or dealing with uneven surfaces to place your tables. Not only will your guests appreciate sitting or standing on an even surface, but your florist will love you even more because they’ll be placing centerpieces on level tables. There’s nothing quite like a tall centerpiece leaning to one side filled with water and flowers….yikes.

4. A tent is a completely blank canvas, so you can add design elements as you please, without worrying about the space dictating your color scheme. There are lots of design elements that will add to a tent, such as:

  • uplighting and washing the ceiling with LEDs
  • addition of a fabric liner or chiffon panels to soften the ceiling and make the space more intimate
  • chiffon side tent panels to soften the perimeter of the tent
  • addition of lights to the poles in a number of different ways

Photos by KPW


5. Tents can be used in the middle of the winter with a floor and proper heating. The tent becomes a semi-permanent building of sorts, with temperature controls and clear sides for viewing while still giving the drama of tall ceilings and unlimited design potential.

There are a number of different types of tents, from the materials they are made of to the way they are installed. Here’s a quick review of your options:

A. Pole Tents (Century): A tension type tent containing center poles, perimeter poles, and guy ropes. Anchoring/staking is critical to insure proper installation, because a 7 foot area on all four sides is needed to anchor/stake the tent. This is the classic wedding tent, with the peaked look from the outside and inside. These tents are made of vinyl and have metal side and center poles. The center poles are usually 20’ apart and most are 40’ wide. They come in 40’ x 60’ to 300’ and can also come 60’ wide. The sides are usually all white, all mesh, or windows. Almost any party rental company will carry pole tents. Photos by Claris Photography, Liesl Clark


B. Frame Tents: A professionally installed tent consisting of a vinyl top stretched over a metal frame and containing no center poles, only perimeter support poles. This tent has a center ceiling spine with two sloped peaks meeting in the middle as opposed to the multiple peaks of a pole tent. These tents come in 20’ to 60’ by 20 to 300’ widths as well. Frame tents are also made of vinyl and have metal side poles. The sides are usually all white, all mesh, or windows. Almost any party rental company will carry frame tents. You can even get a clear top to a frame tent like this image here. Photo by David Murray Weddings, John Santerre


C. Clear Span Structure Tent: A tent with an aluminum frame support structure that eliminates the need for center pole support. These tents are massive and look similar to an airplane hangar -in all white of course. They are covered in white vinyl and have a sloped peak effect inside. Losberger Tents are the most common of the structure tents, and these are often special ordered from your party rental company. Photos from


D. Sperry Tent: A very different type of tent in terms of materials, a Sperry tent has the overall appearance of a pole tent. Instead of vinyl, a Sperry tent is made of sailcloth material. And yes it’s waterproof if it is a true Sperry tent. These tents are rated for up to 70 mph winds, and if the weather was supposed to produce such gusts, you would be rescheduling your wedding for sure. There are tents made of sailcloth on the market today that are not Sperry tents rated for severe weather. These are called fair weather tents and are rated for around 20-25 mph gusts which happen almost every day on the ocean, so be very wary of this type of sailcloth tent. Fair weather tents are not waterproof either. Sailcloth tents are used often on the West Coast which is why a fair weather tent exists. They don’t deal with the extreme weather patterns like on the East Coast.

The other wonderful element of a Sperry tent is that their center and side poles are made of old boat masts, so they’re a completely natural organic tent product. Sperry tents are rounded on the edges, creating a softer inner feeling to the tent. Because they are made of sailcloth, the tent is able to breath and take in sunlight throughout the day and reflect any inner lighting in the evening. They also have smaller completely round tents that can be used for cocktail hour or for your catering tents. Sperry tents have to be rented from a Sperry tent dealer. You can find their locations on their website, Sperry Tents. At KPW, we get to work with Sperry Tents Seacoast and we highly recommend their services. Check out their website at Sperry Tents Seacoast. Photography by Grazier Photography, Matt and Enna Grazier.



More Sperry tents, photography by Stacey Kane Photography



Even More Sperry tents (can you tell we’re a bit biased? ;)) Photography by Mikos Photography, Kristen Conklin



I hope this helps give some insight to the options you have when planning an outdoor wedding. Don’t be afraid of tents, embrace them! We love designing tented weddings, they’re our favorite kind! :grin: