Bride to Bride: Tented Receptions

October 2, 2013

I know I’m not technically a bride anymore, but I wanted to start a wednesday blog series that’s all about advice TO brides, FROM a bride. Since I WAS a bride, I can do that right?! (And I guess since it’s my blog, technically I can do whatever I want, ha!!) 🙂 So here’s the first Bride to Bride post…TENTED RECEPTIONSHaving a tented reception is absolutely beautiful!! It’s a great way for you to be able to make the space your own (i.e. no ugly wall colors or carpet colors and no non-removable venue décor to worry about); and it’s also really versatile. Because it’s truly a blank space, you can incorporate whatever theme you want (nautical, rustic, elegant, etc.). When Matt and I looked at our wedding reception venue, we could picture a tent. It would fit so well & work so well with our personalities and I loved the “blank slate” it gave me for decor. Of course, you have the weather to worry about (and believe me, I worried!) but we decided the benefits outweighed our rain-fear.

Now, when we began looking for a tent I didn’t realize just how many OPTIONS there are! It’s crazy! I began to feel really overwhelmed trying to figure out the difference in size, cost, and overall look of each one. When I was planning, I couldn’t find a simple list (or blog post) that broke it all down – so, I thought I’d do a blog post for you!

First off, tents are expensive. Some brides have this idea that a backyard wedding with a tent will be cheaper than a hotel ballroom… not necessarily! Because of family connections, we were able to rent our venue for free (yippee!), BUT the cost of the tent, lights, a generator, tables, chairs, linens, etc. made it so we spent the same amount of money we would have if we had paid a venue. (We used one company for the tent, lights, generator, tables & chairs because he came recommended by the venue & it was a “one stop shop” for us. HE WAS HORRIBLE. Do not, under any circumstance, go with Trainham Tents. I should have used Big Top Entertainment for everything, or used Sperry for the tent & Big Top for the rest.)

There are A LOT of tent options; I’m going to talk about three basic tents used for weddings: Sperry Tents, Pole Tents & Frame Tents.

In order to stay in-budget, we knew we could not afford a Sperry Tent. If we could have, I would have 100% gone that way. (Looking back part of me thinks that maybe other things should have been shifted around to MAKE the Sperry Tent work, but hind-sight is always 20-20 right?) Sperry Tents are absolutely stunning. Incredibly classic, well made, and they come in several sizes. I have also heard incredibly good things about their customer service, too. Take a look at a few of these Sperry Tent receptions:

((Katelyn James Photography))

((Katelyn James Photography)) ((Katelyn James Photography))

Pole tents are another option. They have a similar style to Sperry Tents because both tents have poles that are inside of the tent. (They remind of a circus tents, or the huge tents you see in car dealership parking lots!) I love how the center poles give the top of the tent dimension. Matt and I did not go with this style because, for the size of tent we were renting, we felt the poles would get in the way of our guests mobility under the tent. Check out a few pictures:

((Katelyn James Photography))

((Katelyn James Photography)) ((Katlyne James Photography))

Frame tents are simple & sweet; a single frame around the tent, no poles in the middle. Matt & I opted for this style even though it was not my favorite. Now, don’t get me wrong, our reception was amazing… At the end of the day, there were other things we decided to splurge on that we felt would impact our guests experience more than the style of the tent (example: an historic trolley acted as a shuttle for guests and our food was absolutely amazing). Frame tents may seem kind of boring (they’re not quite as dimensional as a Pole tent and not near as pretty as a Sperry tent), but for our space and our budget, it worked really well! I love the chandeliers we were able to add; and the string lighting outside of our tent really gave our space little something extra. Here’s a few pictures:

((Katelyn James Photography))

((Katelyn James Photography)) ((Katelyn James Photography))

Tent extras: If you know the weather is going to be bad, you can add sides to practically ANY tent. It will help if it’s a windy-rain! You can also add chandeliers, Chinese lanterns, pole fans (for those hot, VA summers!), fabric draping, professional lighting and a dance floor. And, if you’re going all-out glamorous, add a tent liner for an incredibly elegant feel! (I was in-love with this option but it was going to double our tent cost – ouch!)                                    

black & white dance floor... and doesn't this reception look so fun?!  ((Annamarie Akins Photography))

black & white dance floor… and doesn’t this reception look so fun?!
((Annamarie Akins Photography))

professional draping, lighting & chandeliers by Big Top Entertainment

professional draping, lighting & chandeliers by Big Top Entertainment

String lights over a dance floor  ((Jillian Michelle Photography))

String lights over a dance floor
((Jillian Michelle Photography))

If I could do it over again, knowing ahead of time we would have had a gorgeous July evening, I would gone with string lighting throughout the whole reception. No tent, no chandeliers (gasp)…. just pretty lights & night sky. However, in reality, I would NEVER have done that for fear of rain!!! I was too afraid of the rain when we HAD a tent so I would never have risked the weather without one!!! So, here’s my consensus: if you have it in your budget, Go Sperry Tent all the way. I have a feeling you definitely won’t regret it! But if it’s not in your budget, don’t stress. We didn’t get a Sperry or Pole Tent and our reception was amazing! I do recommend talking to several rental companies – don’t just settle for one because your venue recommends them (like me!). Make sure you TRUST them. I had a funny feeling from the beginning about our guy, yet we hired him anyway because he was highly recommended by our venue. Guests would NEVER have known the issues we had but he definitely added to the stress of wedding day for me. As a bride, you don’t want ANYTHING to do that! Take your time. Do your research. And weigh all the pro’s and con’s. Your wedding will be amazing regardless of whether a Sperry, Frame or Pole tent make an appearance.

xo, kat


(( Photo Credits: Katelyn James Photography, Annamarie Akins Photography, Jillian Michelle Photography, Big Top Entertainment ))



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