Tents are a part of the journey for veteran destination wedding planner JoAnn Gregoli.
For wedding planner JoAnn Gregoli, professional satisfaction comes from “the moment.” That is, that one moment before an event when everything comes together.
“The tent is up and the lighting is in place, the tables are set, and you get this sense that you’ve created something that wasn’t there before,” she says. “It’s a really great feeling of accomplishment because, even though it’s temporary, you’ve built something that makes the bride and groom cry.”
Gregoli is the creative master behind destination wedding and special event planning company Elegant Occasions, based in New York and New Jersey. About half of the company’s events involve tents, and Gregoli spends more than two-thirds of the year at event destinations around the world. But her favorite spots for tented weddings are close to home—northeastern U.S. locations such as Newport, R.I., and the Hamptons—even though those locales can be tricky because of the weather.
“To me, it is the most beautiful of all because we are able to bring the beauty of the ocean inside the tent; you look outside and that’s what you see,” she says.
Gregoli prefers tents as a wedding venue because of the way the structures fit into the event experience she creates for couples and their guests.
“We like to take people on a journey,” she says. “The start of the ceremony, that’s one part of the journey. Then the next part of the journey is the cocktails. And then we take them on the ending journey, which is the ‘wow’ effect of the tent, and I think that’s the best part. We like to create different experiences along the way.”
A recent event in the Hamptons, for which most equipment had to be brought in through the house on the property, became one of the biggest logistical challenges she has ever taken on and really showed off what Elegant Occasions is capable of. She says that skilled planners for tented events have a good team in place and develop solid contingency plans.
“You have to be able to think on your feet,” she says. “Anything can happen. That comes from experience—it’s not something someone can teach you.”
When she needs to hire a tent rental company at a destination where she hasn’t worked previously, she relies on referrals from tent installers she trusts.
“You really have to ask the right questions,” she says. “What kind of heating system do you have? Let me see the tents, let me see pictures of the tents. Are the tents clean? How often are they cleaned?”
While Gregoli takes inspiration from some of the world’s most spectacular locations—from Tuscany to the Caribbean to Paris—she says it is ultimately the couple that provides a wedding’s blueprint.
“Every person has a different sense of what their wedding is going to look like, so every tented wedding is different,” she says. “I think that’s the best part of a tented wedding—you are taking the personality and the dream and vision of a bride and bringing it to fruition.”