- A tented wedding requires a lot of planning, says JoAnn Gregoli, owner of Elegant Occasions in New York City, but it's well worth the effort. "We've all been to a wedding at a ballroom, and they all look alike. A tent is always beautiful, and you know your wedding is different from one that anyone has ever been to."
- To create a magical scene under the big top, first pick the right tent style.
- Create a fairy-tale look with a pole tent. Drape the support poles with chiffon or tulle.
- Party under the night sky in a clear-top tent.
- Get a wide-open party space under a flattop frame tent, which has no center pole.
- Throw a Tuscan-theme event under a slatted-ceiling tent. Drape the grid work with grapevines and flowers.
Flowers are ideal for dressing up a tent reception. Also plan to invest heavily in lighting. Use spotlights with colored gels and twinkle lights to create interesting shadows. Project patterns onto walls, floors, and ceilings. Light up corners and poles to create drama.
"Lighting can diffuse, mask, or take the eyes where you want them," Gregoli says.
Big surprises can sneak up on a bride when planning a tented wedding or reception. To avoid being thrown for a loop, follow this advice from JoAnn Gregoli.
- Check your town's sound ordinances and be sure to follow them. Gregoli also offers this helpful hint: "If you're going to have a wedding on your property, bake some cookies and deliver them while letting the neighbors know a wedding will be going on. Maybe they won't call the cops. A little ounce of kindness goes a long way."
- Have a contingency plan in case of inclement weather. This could be as simple as having umbrellas on hand for escorting guests, or it could mean securing an indoor location as a backup space. "The Weather Channel will become your best friend," Gregoli says.
- Forgetting small details can lead to big disasters. Be sure the space you are using has enough restrooms to handle your guest count. Find out in advance if you need a generator to handle power for the band, caterer, and lighting. Be sure there is enough parking, and that it is well lit (if not, consider giving flashlights as favors). Turn off sprinkler systems. Don't stake the tent over the septic system.
- Don't go it alone. "This is one of the more difficult weddings to do," Gregoli says. "You need a support team that has done this before. Someone needs to give you advice so you're not stressing."