A blank slate

Whew! It's been too long since my last post. After a few weeks of crazy hours at the office, and two weddings later, I'm finally at home taking some well-deserved days off. I have so many new topics I want to cover, and hopefully, I'll be able to get off my lazy backside and write a bunch of them up.

Last Saturday, we did a tented reception in the backyard of the brides' family home. Their backyard was large enough to pop up a tent for at least 250 people, and their stone patio played the role of cocktail hour. Unfortunately, at this wedding, I learned that my stilletos, even with footpetals could not stand up to the soft grass and many stone steps. But on the flip side, I learned what it was like to work a tent wedding. It was interesting to learn what it may of been like for the staff that worked our tent wedding in the Outerbanks.

It's difficult to be a server at a large ballroom, catering to over 250 guest at 1 time, but doing it while trying not to trip over cords, slip on grass, or work in an tented kitchen with generators and gas tanks was definitely not easy. However, many guests came up to me to give the staff many accolades and the bride and groom seemed to be having the time of their lives (take goodness I had my emergency suitcase with me; the groom needed advil to get rid of his headache after the ceremony).

Anyways, what's a blog entry without pretty pictures?

Eventricities was the production company that designed the wedding reception, but I'm not sure which tent company they used. However, here are some Philadelphia-local tent companies...

This website has a great tool to design your tables. They offer tents, in addition to linens, silverware, stemware, and china - anything and everything you may need to design your reception.

Another place is Celebration Rentals/Event Quip.

They seem to win a lot of rewards for their events, which is pretty neat.

And the classic Party Rentals.

I'm sure you've seen one of their trucks on the highway.

The great thing about a tented reception is that it's a completely blank slate and allows your creative mind to wander and go beyond the limits you would experience in a ballroom.
Take for example the QuicTrak tent we used in the Outerbanks from Distinctive Event Rentals:

I hated it how it looked like an airplane hanger inside, but I loved how it didn't look like a circus tent either from the outside. The great thing about this tent was that there were not interior poles for support, so it allowed more room inside for my guest to be comfortable.

What we did inside:

We use the white matching fabric lining to give some classiness and depth to the tent. Plus, I wanted to hide the hideous poles, and the idea of hanging over 200 paper lanterns seemed too daunting. We then hung two antique chandeliers to light the tent, and this was enough to illuminate the tent for the rest of the night. Actually, we turned them off when it got darker so we could let our candles create the romantic atmosphere we were looking for. The rental company did forget to include the dimmer for the lights... We also added french windows for the back and side walls, and left the front completely open so everyone would have a nice breeze and could look out to the garden and pool area. The only flooring we added was the dance floor and the rest was grass. We were going for a minimalistic, romantic flair, so we didn't use too many colors (just blues and greens on the tables).

Just to give you an idea on how many servers and bartenders you should have for your occasion in a tent:

Last weekend's wedding : 250 people: 25 tables - 7 servers - 4 bartenders - 4 bussers - 1 maitre d

For our wedding: 12 tables and 6 servers - 1 bartender
Some tips for having a tented reception:

1) weather : tent holds in the rain and wet ground should not be a problem if you have the tent up a few days before the reception.
2) price : not necessarily cheaper - because separate tent for kitchen may be needed, plus all equipment and rentals of linen, stemware, china, etc. Also keep in mind that you may need
3) heat : open up all the sides of the tent to create a moving breeze
4) cake: talk to pastry chef / cake person about creating a cake that will withstand the heat. Last weekend, the cake was tilting from the high and humidity and we had to move up the cake cutting. Think about possibly moving the cake inside the house/venue along with dessert. This will also keep the flow of the reception moving and keep guests from lingering once the band stops playing.
4) lighting : Even in the summer, once the sun sets, it will get dark. Remember to get spotlights, chandeliers, or use lots of candles inside the tent, so it doesn't feel like you're camping. Also, have a clearly lit path from the tent to the parking lot, house, venue, etc. This will keep from your guests tripping on loose stones or slipping on grass.
5) wheel chair accessible : This is something most brides and grooms don't think about. Usually wheel chair accessibility is the responsibility of the venue, but with a tented reception, the couple and wedding coordinator should always think about this. We had a guest last weekend in a older wheelchair, and there were only stairs from the house, to the patio, and more stairs to backyard where the tent was. Also, because the driveway down to the backyard was a dirt road, the guest was warying of traveling due to her rickety wheelchair. In the end, the groomsmen rolled the chair down the dirt driveway, but they also had to be very careful with her wheelchair. It was an uncomfortable situation, and it could be avoided if well thought out.
Martha Stewart's latest Wedding magazine has a nice spread on tented reception. It's worth checking out!

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