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Backyard space presents challenges for tented wedding

Project Briefs | June 1, 2011 | By:

Expertise and attention to detail transform a complicated backyard space.

When J J L Events Inc. in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was contacted to provide tenting and decor for a backyard wedding, the team knew they were in for a challenging project. The yard and gardens were lush and inviting, so ambiance wasn’t a problem. But the space was complicated from a design and installation standpoint. It had multiple sloped levels, mature trees, fencing, a gazebo and a pool with a waterfall.

Best laid plans

Inspired by the “secret garden” atmosphere of the yard, the crew took on each challenge the space offered. The main tent incorporated a designated welcome area, cocktail reception area, dance area and dining area—spaces that, while separate, maintained continuity and flow. Every detail to accommodate the varying slopes was meticulously planned into the design.

However, the crew met with a surprise on the first day of installation that meant creative problem solving and time-consuming adjustments. A main gas junction near the house obstructed the place where the first upright was supposed to be installed, and because the gas company couldn’t get to the site to locate lines until then, the crew didn’t know until that moment. “That really slowed us down,” says Melynda Norman-Lee, event designer and consultant for J J L Events. “We had to move the main tent by only a matter of inches, but that meant adjusting the heights of all of the uprights.” The modified 20-meter structure stood on uprights varying in height from 12 to 17.5 feet, with the peak extending to 25 feet.

Incorporating the landscape

To work around the abundance of mature trees, a 40-ton crane was used to install arches, with a 50-foot lift booming out 80 feet to the arch placement location. And because there were no sight lines, the crew navigated the process of installing the arches—which took 12 hours to complete—through radio communication. The walls for the tents were modified to fit in and around trees, allowing as many as possible to fit inside the tent.

To build the floor over the pool, sloped, weighted supports were built to support the floor beams, with an opening in the floor for the waterfall. The water level was lowered to allow for the beams but enough flow was left to keep the waterfall running.

Since the gazebo was a permanent structure and could not be moved, it was incorporated into the main tent, with tent floor being cut out around it. Fabric was wrapped around the gazebo’s exterior so it would blend with the cream and ivory color scheme, and—voila—the gazebo became a bar at the back of the dining area.

The interior design and decor also included crystal chandeliers, beaded shimmeliers and pinspot lighting for the table centerpieces. The clients wanted the luminescent and elegant dining area to remain hidden until the dinner hour, so a 60-foot sheer fabric “wall” was installed to separate the dance floor from the dining area. John J. Lee, MFC, owner and president of the company, fashioned a pulley system by which the staff could pull back the wall at the proper moment for the “big reveal.”

“And it was a big reveal,” Norman says. “The guests gasped with amazement, and the clients were thrilled.”

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