With all local rental options out, I decided to go for it and plan a wedding ceremony and reception in the back yard of my parents’ Iowa farm house. As soon as I pitched the idea to my parents, they were full of doubtful questions. Luckily, I had done some research and I was full of helpful answers to ease their troubled minds. The conversation went something like:
What if it’s hot? Tent.
What if it rains? Tent.
What if it’s cold? Tent with sides.
What if we don’t all fit? Bigger tent.
What if the tent won’t fit in the yard? Bigger yard.
What if the caterer can’t fit in the tent? Separate caterer tent.
They said all that sounded fine and I started planning in earnest. I had a tough time at first finding resources for managing tent weddings; by far the most useful were the message boards at weddingbee and the fantastic sales associate at my vendor, Classic Tents and Events in Des Moines. The single most useful planning tool I had was a CAD mock-up of the tent that she did for me when I was getting a rental quote. I had sketched out what I had in mind in advance, and she used a CAD program to actually lay out a to-scale model. I used that CAD model at the florist and wrote down where each flower arrangement should go on the tables. Then I photocopied that baby and gave a copy to my caterer, florist, and wedding elves so that they knew exactly how everything should be set up on the big day. If you are having a tent wedding, insist that your rental vendor mock up your design so that you know it will actually work.
Here’s what I ended up renting from Classic Events for a 30-guest wedding ceremony and reception.
- 24 white garden chairs
- 1, 20×40 rope and pole tent
- Tent assembly labor. Completely worth it, and cheap. Do not DIY.
- 6, 20 foot side panels for tent
- 32 Gold chivari chairs with chair pads
- 6, 6×3 foot tables (we used banquet seating and sat 1 adult per 2 feet of table length)
- 1, 4×3 foot tables
- 2, 8×3 foot tables
- 1, 3-foot round pedestal cake table
- Linens for all the tables
- 32 napkins
Here’s what we ended up cutting form the rental order:
- Gazebo. Expensive, needed florals to look good, would have blocked our photographer and/or created a shadow on us.
- Dishes, glasses, and flatware. Serving pieces, punch bowl. We got these from our caterer for free and supplemented with pieces we owned. This was a HUGE help, since dishes from most rental companies need to be washed (by you) before returning. Caterers will typically take their dirty dishes with them.
- Caterer’s tent. Again, we negotiated this from our caterer for free.
- Vases. Our florist provided these for free with her services.
- Table overlays and upgraded linens. I wisely spent this on flowers instead.
- Dance floor. Before we cut it, the flooring was the single most expensive item on our rental estimate. When we cut those items, we reduced the total price by 50%. To give you some idea, to install dance floor under the entire 20×40 tent would have cost 3 times as much as the tent and tent set-up. The grass under our tent was just fine (and free)!