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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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I get so excited every time I see a wedding from A Bryan Photo pop up on our blog schedule–without fail, it seems, his couples are undeniably classic, beautifully thoughtful, and as Southern as can be. Kameron and Brian fit this description to a tee! Their farm venue evoked a backyard feel that was perfect for their family-focused celebration, and from Kameron’s gorgeous Heidi Elnora gown to the bottle of bourbon they buried to keep away the rain, there was no shortage of sweet Southern touches at their Alabama wedding.

Thanks so much to A Bryan Photo for sharing this gorgeous day with us!

I stumbled upon Heidi Elnora’s Instagram and immediately fell in love with the Clara Louise dress from her fall 2014 collection. Just two days after Brian and I got engaged, I made an appointment to try it on at the Heidi Elnora Atelier in Birmingham. My Mom was the only one to come with me, and it was such a special experience. The first dress I tried on was the Clara Louise gown–I was immediately in love with it and did not want to take it off. I cried, Mom cried, even the consultant helping us cried! I was the first bride to ever try it, which made it feel even more special! The dress has a removable tulle skirt that goes over the more form-fitting dress, and I loved the versatility and style. I tried on a few (like two) other dresses to make sure, and there was just no comparison! Our consultant sealed the deal when she put me in a cathedral veil and I had a total “bride” moment.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? The whole time during wedding planning I was only concerned with one thing: the weather. Having a mind full of Southern traditions, I knew we had to bury the bourbon to ward off rain. I went out and buried it at the ceremony site thirty days before the wedding on a perfectly sunny day, and prayed hard. Come our wedding morning, the skies were looking gloomy. Brian went out that morning and dug the bourbon out of the ground, and wouldn’t you know, the skies cleared up. Now I credit the good Lord for blessing us with a beautiful sky on our special day, but a little Southern tradition never hurt anyone.

Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? No. Brian and I both agreed we wanted to keep our wedding as traditional as possible, and that included not seeing each other until I was walking down the aisle. Our photographer loves getting images of the genuine moment that happens when a bride and groom see each other for the first time. The emotion was so real and I will never forget how Brian looked at me (and cried) when I headed down the aisle toward him.

I loved the moment of having my mom walking me down the aisle and giving me away to Brian. Having her support and encouragement meant the world. I was focused on Brian and smiling ear to ear, but I could still feel her give my hand a little squeeze as I let go to take Brian’s hand.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Pursell Farms in Sylacauga, Alabama was the perfect venue for us. We wanted a timeless setting with a home-y feeling. The beautiful plantation home, complete with a white picket fence, where we said our vows made it feel like a backyard wedding. Our families stayed in the stunning cottages on the grounds, so we were able to enjoy the special time all together.

Our photographer was hands-down the best decision we made during the whole wedding process. We both wanted classic images that will still be timeless when our grandchildren are looking at them. A Bryan Photo is unparalleled when it comes to wedding photography. The uniqueness of film photography in a digital age sets them apart in the best way. Bryan made us both feel so comfortable in front of the camera, and he really captured the emotion of the day.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Our wedding cake was made by a family friend, and it was so chic and simple. Brian and I both decided that we wanted a “wedding cake” rather than bride’s and groom’s cakes. It was placed on a classic white cake stand and topped with a gold script “R.” We did not get to taste much, but from what we had, it was delicious! I can’t wait to eat the top layer on our first anniversary!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. As much as I hate to admit it, our mothers and my aunt actually set us up. They all went to high school together and have stayed in touch over the years, so at a get-together around Christmas in 2012, they conspired to get us together. Brian and I both found ourselves single and willing to meet up for a date around April 2013. Our first date was one for the books–Brian had planned a nice dinner at a restaurant in Birmingham, but the wait was two hours, so we decided to head to a more casual restaurant next door. We sat outside so we wouldn’t have to wait for a table. Everything was fine until we actually got to our table and realized it was freezing outside. I was too nervous and shy to say anything, and I think he was mortified! We now laugh about the fact that he made me sit outside in the freezing cold on our first date! Brian soon took a job in Scottsboro, Alabama, about two hours from Birmingham, but he came back every weekend to see me. We’ve been inseparable ever since!
Tell us all about the proposal! After visiting Brian in Scottsboro a few times, I discovered a beautiful park that overlooks the Tennessee River and planned a surprise picnic date for him after work. I brought my great-grandmother’s quilt and picnic basket, along with lots of homemade goodies to snack on. We watched the sunset and everything was perfect. A few months later, Brian told me that he wanted to go on another picnic. He was always doing romantic things for me, so I didn’t suspect anything when he told me he would take care of the details, and that I just needed to be ready. When we arrived at the park, I went around to the trunk of the car to help unload, but then he grabbed my hand and led me to the picnic that was already set up. I immediately began to cry when I saw my great-grandmother’s quilt surrounded by flowers, candles, and a beautiful spread of treats. Brian got down on one knee and vowed to love me forever if I’d make him the happiest man in the world by becoming his wife, and then he presented me with a ring I could have only dreamed of. I don’t remember much, but I think I managed to say “YES!” I was overwhelmed with emotion, and when I saw my mom and future mother-in-law come out, the tears kept coming. It was a perfect day!
When did y’all get married? May 10, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 100
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? No, Brian and I both wanted to say the vows that couples have been vowing to each other for centuries. I love the simplicity of traditional vows.
Describe your wedding flowers. For my bouquet, I carried all-white peony blooms. It was a small bouquet, which fit perfectly in my hands and did not overwhelm me or my dress. The bridesmaids carried bouquets of white and blush pink peonies and garden roses.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Our favorite detail was the moment after we were finally married, and we turned, hand in hand, to face all of our loved ones. It was so surreal. We were both so giddy and could not stop smiling or kissing!
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! My something borrowed was my beaded headpiece I wore above my veil, which my two sisters had both worn in their weddings. My something blue was a beautiful tulle garter I ordered from Etsy. My something old was so special to me–it was my great-grandmother’s handkerchief that my mother had saved for me. My something new was a beautiful David Yurman bracelet that Brian gave me as a wedding present.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We have moved to Huntsville, Alabama and are settled in with our two pups, Bailey and Harry Winston. We are looking forward to exploring this new city and enjoying life’s daily adventures!

Photographer: A Bryan Photo / Planner: Janet Naramore / Venue, Catering, and Coordination: Pursell Farms / Florist: Dorothy McDaniel’s Flower Market / Cake Baker: Kathy McCurry / Rentals and Lighting: Special Events / Band: Park Band / Garland and Table Flowers: Fifty Flowers / Paper Products: Minted / Bride’s Gown: “Clara Louise” by Heidi Elnora / Bride’s Veil: Heidi Elnora / Bride’s Earrings: BaubleBar / Hair and Makeup: Tori Crocker of The Beauty Bar / Bride’s Shoes: Betsey Johnson / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Bridesmaids Inc. / Men’s Attire: Jos. A. Bank

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar Laura reply

    The black and white photo’s are absolutely gorgeous. The one of the bride in front of the open doors is breath-taking.

  2. avatar Wedding 101 reply

    Absolutely love the details of this wedding!

  3. avatar Elizabeth reply


    Curious where the flower girl dresses are from for this wedding?

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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