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Southern couples are just plain lucky. In addition to having access to some of the most beautiful venues in the world, we have delightful weather most of the year AND gorgeous outdoor spaces – the two main necessities to throw a tented event! If, like many of our readers, you’re thinking of dining and dancing al fresco on your big day, you’ll want to read up on the ins and outs of renting a tent. We’ve broken it all down for you in Tented Weddings 101 with the help of our friends at Sperry Tents!

If you refer to the timeline at the front of your Southern Weddings Planner, you’ll see that “renting a tent” should be checked off right after or alongside “secure a venue.” You’ll want to take into account the cost of a tent AND your venue cost right from the start to make sure you’re getting an accurate picture for your budget!

Sean Money + Elizabeth Fay

The two main types of tents are pole tents and frame tents. Pole tents tend to be prettier right from the start (they’re the ones with the swooping skyline!), but they do have center poles you’ll need to design around and they require 5-8 feet of clearance on all sides for staking into the ground. Frame tents can be set up on any surface (like pavement), can be configured into more shapes by joining multiple tents together, and do not have center poles. However, the frame is visible from the inside (and if you don’t like the look of the frame, an expensive liner is required to cover it up).

A gorgeous Sperry tent at night from Lauren + Rob’s wedding (photo by Jen Fariello)

A Sperry tent is, in my opinion, the ultimate pole tent: thanks to their hand-milled support poles, genuine sailcloth ceilings, unobtrusive side walls, and cheerful pennant flags, they are the epitome of effortless elegance. Their classic aesthetic pairs perfectly with any landscape, from a beach to a sculptured garden. And because their tents are made from sailcloth, they are equally attractive adorned with decorations or left simple and clean. It also means their canopies are translucent, allowing natural light to seep in during the day and electric light to glow out during the night.

How cool is this?! Sperry center poles are milled by the company founder in the historic saw mill on his property.

To determine the right size tent, you’ll need at least a ballpark figure of the number of guests you’re expecting and a rough idea of the type of meal you’re serving. In general, in terms of square feet per person, the order goes: cocktail party (about 6-12 square feet per person), seated dinner (about 18), buffet dinner (about 20). Those numbers can easily change based on the type of tables you rent, your other decor, the size of the dance floor, and whether you’re hiring a band or a DJ, so it’s best to work directly with your rental company to determine the right size and shape.

And be sure to review your rental contract for the change or cancellation policy – you’ll want to be able to size your tent up or down if your plans or guest list change over your engagement!

Here are a few add-ons you might want to consider:
— A catering tent: Even if you rent a Sperry for your main tent, ordering a simple frame tent from another rental company for your catering tent can be a great way to save money – nothing fancy needed there!
— A clear top or a liner: If you’re not ordering a Sperry, these are two options to consider. Just remember, a clear top is not a great choice if your event is taking place during the day (it will heat up faster than butter melting on a biscuit!), and a liner can add three times the cost of the tent to your budget (though they can be lovely!).
— Flooring and lighting: Not all sites require flooring, but if you’re worried about uneven ground or rain in the days leading up to your event, laying down flooring is smart. Renting just a dance floor is a good intermediate budget option. And make sure you have a plan for lighting – Sperry retailers offer a variety of beautiful options, from cafe lights to classic fisherman-style lanterns.
— Heating and cooling: Very important considerations in the South! The best options are large portable fans for cooling, and a tent furnace for cooler months (portable heaters can be fire hazards and are square footage hogs).

Ira Lippke Studios

If you’re pitching your tent near an existing structure, you might only need to rent tables and chairs. If, however, you’re not near a fully-equipped venue, your rental list might run considerably longer, from a generator to portable restrooms to flatware, glassware, china, and a complete bar set up.

Even the smallest details on a Sperry are gorgeous, like these handcrafted support patches that allude to their sailing heritage! (Photo by Snap! Photography)

When you start receiving quotes from tent companies, make sure they cover the basics: fees for delivery, set-up of the tent and accessories, and breakdown, as well as any costs associated with fire or zoning permits. Also, be sure to go over the timing of the set-up and breakdown with your venue, as many companies will want to set up the day before and breakdown the day after your event.

Any other questions? Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer!

Sperry Tents are only available through a network of licensed providers and are available for rent throughout the South. You can find out much more on their website here! I personally guarantee you will not regret your decision to go with a Sperry :)

This post is brought to you by Sperry Tents – thanks for your support of the brands that make Southern Weddings possible!

emily Written with love by Emily
1 Comment
  1. avatar Anne reply

    Emily, whenever I think of Sperry tents, I think of your wedding! Beautiful! I love this post (and all SW posts), but am REALLY missing Southern Newlywed posts on Fridays… are they coming back or gone forever? (Say it ain’t so!) Happy weekend to you and your loves!

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