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What started as a side hustle for two creative, driven sisters has now become one of the Midwest’s premier event planning and design firms. At Elevate, we find pure, unbridled joy in celebrating all aspects of life - big moments, small gatherings and anything in between.

Hosting a Tented Celebration: Tips from the Pros

We’re only two months into the year, but we’re calling it now: 2021 and 2022 will be THE era of tented celebrations all around the country. With a global pandemic only somewhat under control and engagements on the up rise (thanks, #quarantine!), weddings will most certainly live on, but folks will definitely want to celebrate safely and in many cases, ideally outdoors. Enter: the elusive TENTED CELEBRATION!

As experts in the Midwest tented wedding realm, we want to be sure that everyone who wants to pull off a successful celebration has the tools they need to succeed, regardless of whether they are working with our team or hoping to handle the plans themselves. That’s why today, we’ve paired up with Chance Productions to collect some super helpful wisdom on the subject, as well as answer all of your burning questions! See below for some of the most common questions we see, our answers and even some pro tips for pulling it all off without a hitch!

Wisconsin Tented Wedding
Hosting a Tented Celebration: Tips from the Pros
Q: What are the different types of tents out there, and what are the cost differences between them? 

Chance Productions: The two main tent types used in social events are pole tents and clear span tents (no center poles) which tend to be used in conjunction with a clear top option. The cost of these items correlates with the quality of the tent (craftsmanship, aesthetic appeal, function & safety). Just like cars and furniture, there are large differences between the quality of products sold on the market.  One of the benefits of a tent is having a blank canvas to work with. Make sure your tent company is meticulous with cleaning their canopies and only keeps “A” quality product in their inventory.  Spending a little extra on your tent ensures you will not have to spend extra to hide it!  Think of your tent as your venue and the start of the design for your event.  

Bottom Line:  Splurge for the tent you want!  It will be the “First Look” of your event and is the key to your design and décor.  

Pro Tip:  A clear top tent in the summer months (June, July & August) will have an extreme greenhouse effect. Do your best to place in a shaded area, or opt for clear sides and a breathable sailcloth canopy.  You will be glad you did! 

Q: How do tented weddings compare to traditional venues price-wise? 

Elevate Events: A lot of people tend to make the assumption that because they’re able to “build their own venue” with a tent on private land, (or at least very affordable green space), it will be less expensive than working within an existing building/venue and their predetermined prices. Now, of course, site fees at venues already vary greatly (and may include other potential costs such as tables and chairs, bartenders, food and beverage minimums, etc. – check with your venue coordinator!), but just because you may be able to control decisions when building your own celebration doesn’t mean costs will be less. In fact, hosting a well-curated, highly designed tented celebration (of roughly 150-200 guests) tends to run more expensive than the cost of typical wedding venues out there, due to a number of factors, which we will address later on in this blog post. While most Midwestern venues may charge roughly $2,000 to $10,000+ in site fees, a quality tent (and everything that goes with it) may run you anywhere from $4,000 to $40,000+, depending on what type of tent you choose and the embellishments underneath.

Bottom Line: Tented isn’t necessarily cheaper! A lot of factors go into the costs of both tented events and venue celebrations, so do your research, determine your top priorities, and be sure to set your expectations early on to avoid sticker shock.

Pro Tip: When deciding whether to go tented vs. venue, build a list of pros/cons for each and start listing out the benefits and the challenges of each space. From there, you will easily be able to pinpoint your priorities and determine whether you want to go completely custom or work within an already beautiful space!

Wisconsin Tented Wedding
Hosting a Tented Celebration: Tips from the Pros
Q: What sets a Sperry tent apart from other rental tents?

Chance Productions: Sperry Tents are sought after for their quiet luxury, classic detailing, and natural elegance.  The canopies are handcrafted out of genuine sailcloth that breathes during the day and glows at night.  The canopy is complemented by custom milled center and side poles in a stylish natural wood color.  This is the most beautiful of all the tent options giving a “wow” factor from every angle!    

Bottom Line:  If you care about details and style and prefer a super classic look, THIS is the tent for you!

Pro Tip:  Tent companies have a limited number of tents in the sizes you want for your event date.  You can book your tent before you decide on all of the other details (type of chair, linen colors, style of lighting etc.).  Lock it in before someone else does!

Q: I want to make my wedding completely unique, and totally Pinterest-worthy… can you help?

Elevate Events: Absolutely! Creating custom tented celebrations from the ground up is one of our favorite ways to make your wedding COMPLETELY you! We can work with you and preferred rental companies to determine the best style and size of the tent, consider all of the rentals and décor underneath, and any beautiful installations you would like to explore. We offer Full Service Planning and Design packages to ensure that you are supported throughout the entire planning process, and build a dedicated team around your specific event to ensure every detail is covered.

Pro Tip: Be careful about what tented images you are looking at when seeking inspiration. Many of the most “Pinterest-worthy” tented images out there are from celebrity weddings, extremely exclusive (and top dollar) venues on the coasts, or come from planners with minimum wedding budgets in the six figures. It’s okay to aim for a showstopping tented design, but we encourage you to work with your planner (or other design vendors) to educate yourself on everything seen in the image and the costs associated with each.

Q: What flooring options do we have inside a tent? And do we really need a floor?

Chance Productions: When hosting a tented event in the Midwest, a floor is extremely important for function and aesthetic appeal.  The natural ground can be soggy or muddy especially in high traffic areas (entrance to the tent, bar areas, and around the dance floor) and is especially tricky for guests in high heels.  

Options for flooring are determined by the grade of the land or surface you are tenting.  If your surface area slopes or is not flat, you will need a subflooring system to create a sturdy, safe and flat surface to install your floor.  If your surface is flat (think graded space, large patio, basketball court etc.), you will likely be able to install your flooring directly on the ground or surface.  In the Midwest climate, it is smart to avoid vinyl/linoleum flooring which tends to curl in humidity causing tripping hazards.  These are often made to look like wood and may even have wood in the title (don’t be fooled).  Wood floors are the most common choice for both function and design aspects.  Both stained wood panels and wood plank options should be available in your market.  Some companies will allow you to upgrade to a custom color wood floor for a fee.  

Bottom Line:  If a full floor is in your budget, it is a must!  At a minimum, secure a large dance floor where most of your foot traffic will take place.  

Pro Tip: On even ground, you can install wood flooring in your bar and dance floor areas (high foot traffic) when budget does not allow for a full floor install! 

Q: What additional rentals and décor elements should I consider when planning a tented celebration?

Elevate Events: The cost of a beautiful tent is only a fraction of the total rentals you will need to consider. When building a blank slate wedding, you’ll also need to factor in tables, chairs, linens, standalone bars, lounge spaces, and of course, all of the beautiful finishing touches and floral. Then, there’s tent lighting, table lighting (candles) and perimeter lighting to consider – how will you ensure that your guests can not only see their dinner, but thoroughly enjoy the tented space through the use of strategic lighting installations? You’ll also need to think about your guests’ comfort – which restrooms will they use, and will you use a standalone trailer? Even among bathrooms, there is a very wide range of the options you can explore. Finally, you’ll need to consider water supply (both potable and non), a hefty electric supply, and providing a prep space for the catering team at a minimum. Lastly, there are our favorite finishing touches to think about, such as showstopping installations, signage to guide your guests, custom displays, and creating that ultimate “wow” factor.

Bottom Line: Uf! There are a lot of moving parts to think about when planning a wedding from the ground up. Do your research, book quality vendors (and a top-notch planner!) and determine your priorities, and you can create the tent of your dreams!

Pro Tip: Don’t worry about decking out the entire tent in greenery or placing custom signage in every corner. Choose specific focal points (tent entrance, head table, cake table, bars) that will be heavily photographed to create the biggest “bang for your buck!”

Q: Can tents be placed on dirt, or is grass needed? If so, what types of tents are best for non-grass surfaces?

Chance Productions: Any tent can be placed anywhere you have the space.  If grass is not available to you, installing a quality flooring system will solve this without a problem.  A dirt floor on the best day will leave you dusty and on a wet day, wallowing in mud.  

Bottom Line:  A flooring system can cover any surface including a swimming pool!  A quality event production company will be able to find a way to make most spaces work for you.  Start with an in-person walk through (socially distanced of course).  

Pro-tip:  Dirt can be easily leveled eliminating the need for a scaffolding subfloor.  Save money with some landscaping before your event!  

Wisconsin Tented Wedding
Hosting a Tented Celebration: Tips from the Pros
Q: How do we determine the size of tent that is needed?

Chance Productions: The recommended size tent for occupancy is a great starting point to determine which tent is best for you.  Another detail to determine is the shape of tent that fits your design and space.  We offer round and oval tents in widths of 24’, 32’, 46’ and 66’.  For 80 guests, you could choose a 46’ round tent, or a 52’x32’ oval.  Many of our clients are choosing to “upgrade” to the next size for extra spaces (2 bars, lounge area etc.).  For larger engagements, you may choose to graduate to a 66’ wide tent.  This adds plenty of extra space and an aesthetic flair of a double row of center poles, peaks and Sperry Flags!  To figure out the best size for you, have your planner help you determine the flow and design needs of your event.  When in doubt, upgrade to the next size.  You will be glad you did!  

Bottom Line:  Your venue space will determine the size tent you can use for width and length.  Because all spaces are different, we carry narrow and wide tenting options with a variety of lengths.  

Pro-tip:  Always choose one size bigger than you think you will need.  Just because your guests can “fit”, does not mean they are comfortable.    

Q: What can you tell me about permits??

Chance Productions: Every county and municipality has different requirements.  It is important to understand what permits (if any) are needed early in the planning process so you have a clear understanding with time to spare (e.g. temporary structure permit, noise ordinance permit, parking permits).  Other important items to have on your checklist include calling Diggers Hotline to check for underground lines (gas, electric etc.) and to clearly mark any other underground systems like irrigation that were privately installed.  Tent stakes can go up to 5’ deep into the ground.  

Bottom Line:  Your tent provider along with your planner will help with this process doing most of this on your behalf.  

Pro-tip:  Have everything figured out except your one pesky neighbor who might spoil your event?  Offer to put them up at a nice hotel for the weekend so they do not have to “deal” with the extra traffic and noise.  

Hosting a Tented Celebration: Tips from the Pros

We can’t WAIT to see what gorgeous fetes are dreamed up this year and next – though they may be a lot of work and require a large amount of planning and preparation, custom tented celebrations are some of the most unique and memorable parties out there, because the options are seriously endless! Work with vendors you trust and set those expectations early on, and we promise, you’ll have a blast planning your backyard soiree. And of course, should you decide that a planning and design team make the most sense for you, contact us today to find out more about how we can make your tented dreams come true!

If you’re hosting a tented celebration in the near future, comment below and let us know how your plans are going! And of course, don’t hesitate to reach out to Chance Productions or your favorite local rental company for recommendations and quality products. We want to extend a huge thank you to Jason and the team at Chance for providing such excellent expertise, and always being such a pleasure to work with – cheers to many more beautiful events!

Wisconsin Tented Wedding
Hosting a Tented Celebration: Tips from the Pros