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10 Essentials for an Outdoor Tent Wedding

On the bay, in a meadow, amongst the trees -- wherever your heart desires to get married, a tent can make it happen -- that's the beauty of an outdoor wedding; but, like so many great things in life, a tented wedding requires a bit more effort. Tented weddings are Georgian Roots's specialty. Here are our expert tips for having your perfect day outdoors.

1. Have a rain plan so good, you're a bit sad it's sunny. When designing an outdoor wedding, we always come up with a ceremony and reception rain plan that is cozy and romantic, with a wow factor, so that if it does rain, you'll actually be happy about it.

2. Plan for temperature changes. Really hot weather can be just as bad, or worse, than a downpour. Choose a tent style accordingly. Clear top tents are gorgeous, but best used during the spring or fall, not during the hottest summer months. Heaters, fans, and air conditioners are readily available from rental companies to provide some climate control. Flooring and sealing the tent walls is also an option, but is a lot of work and comes with a price tag to match.

3. Make your ceremony quick -- or provide shelter. Shelter for your ceremony can come in three forms: a small tent, accessories like umbrellas or fans, or a naturally shaded spot. Refreshment stations also always get used at outdoor ceremonies (read about more food and drink ideas here and here). Tip: it is extra refreshing if you make your water 2 parts still, one part sparkling, and add your favourite combo of fruit and herbs.

4. Problem solve for insects and wildlife. Some of our most memorable behind-the-scenes wedding moments have come from insects and wildlife. Like a raccoon that stuck his paw under the side of the tent and pulled a box of desserts out, or the sudden appearance of a few thousand ants. But for the more common annoyances, like mosquitoes and black flies, there are some great solutions. A garlic spray a couple days before your event does wonders for mosquitoes, and cute pails of bug spray placed around the different outdoor spaces for guests, will ensure that everyone is mosquito free.

4. Use the setting as your decor inspiration. Once your tent is up in a spot that both has a view and logistically works for your guests and vendors, enhance the decor by bringing the outdoors in. Think large scale with trees, vines, or large potted ferns, as well as in the details, with a few additional wildflowers, or nature-inspired table elements.

5. Washrooms - order more than you think, and provide the little comforts. A climate controlled washroom trailer can turn the prospect of a porta potty into a welcome oasis, and they are always our first bathroom recommendation. Remember to still order an extra wheelchair accessible washroom for guests with any mobility needs, and to accommodate the bride's dress. If going with a classic portable washroom, add in a small 10x10 pop-up tent, a strand of lights, a dresser, chair, and mirror with a basket of toiletries to make guests feel more comfortable.

6. Lighting, natural and added, is key. Our favourite style of tent is a sailcloth canopy tent. During the day sunlight comes through the tent top casting a warm glow, and then at night, it becomes a giant lantern with the glow of party lights. When adding in light to your tent, layer the lighting sources: strand lighting, uplighting, chandeliers, table top votives, tapers, and runner lighting, detail area lighting like the bar and the guest book table, entrance and exit lighting, kitchen lighting, outdoor cocktail area lighting, pathway lighting, and parking lot lighting.

Photo: Georgian Roots

7. Electricity, know the needs of all your vendors in advance. When booking your lights, caterer, DJ, officiant, trailer washrooms, and photographer, make sure to ask: what are your electricity needs. Add up the watts, amps and make sure whether they need 120 or 220V service. A coffee maker for example, can require just as much electricity as a whole light and sound system that the DJ brings; or if your photographer has lighting equipment that needs to be plugged in, these are both things that can blow a fuse. Whether you're working a generator, several generators, or plugging in to electricity from a building, plan accordingly.

8. Get an accessory tent for kitchen and waste facilities. Check with your caterer what they need to make their magic happen: a tent to table leg risers, or a level surface to install outdoor ovens, a hand washing station, something to keep ice frozen and drinks chilled...these are all important things to have figured out. Garbage, left over food, and empties can also pile up quickly if there is not enough storage and sorting space. Keep it neat and tidy with a facility tent.

9. Hydro lines, by-laws, engineered inspections, and alcohol permits. Checking for underground electrical and utility lines before a tent is installed is easy to do in advance and absolutely essential for safety. Simply contact Call-before-you-dig or the electrical provider in your area, and they'll either be able to tell you over the phone ,or they will send someone out to check. Your area may also require you to have a permit to put up a tent, and those by-laws may also require you to have a third party engineer come in and sign off on the tent's installation. Ensure these are scheduled in advance and in the right order. Getting an alcohol permit and temporary insurance can also protect you and your vendors if anything was to happen. As the host, you are responsible for your guests safety.

10. Don't worry, it's all worth it -- plus, there is help. A tent wedding is the most personalized wedding venue you will find. It is a blank canvas of a space where your dreams can be brought to life. If the nine points above are leaving you at all worried, there is always help. For example, ask a parent to be responsible for managing the alcohol, or designate the best man to look after topping up generators with fuel.

You can also hire a planner or coordinator team to manage these things, and if they are experienced with outdoor weddings, there will be even more things that they make sure are thought about: like back up electric candles in case it is windy and none of the candles stay lit, a mop for the dance floor, or more ice - always more ice.


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