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Pulling off the dream wedding

Event Production, Features | April 1, 2013 | By:

Island, beach, horses, dinner in the woods: pros talk about what they’ve done to help couples pull off the tented wedding of their dreams.

When people dream about their wedding, they don’t think about logistical details, like how all of those tents, equipment, people and food will get out to that small island they love. They don’t work out the role their beloved horses will play in the ceremony or ponder how hundreds of guests will dine in the woods or on a remote, windswept beach. Those questions are left up to the pros who, entrusted with a dream, apply skills and expertise to creating an event that will be remembered for a lifetime. How do they do it? Read on and find out.

Island dream

It was a fairy-tale setting for a wedding, a New York family’s summer home on Little Cranberry Island off the coast of Maine. The big challenge would be getting everything to the island and installed for the event. Christopher B. Starr, vice president of Starr Tent in Mount Vernon, N.Y., was brought into the project by Marcy Blum Assoc., and aided by event producer Lea Brumage, who handled the bulk of logistics for all vendors, including Stonekelly Inc., Peter Callahan Catering and Bestek Lighting & Staging. “We had everything shipped up on six tractor trailers from our warehouse in Westchester County just outside Manhattan,” Starr says. “The logistics of the remote site, narrow driveway and small staging area called for lots of communication and team planning, which was largely handled by my father [Christopher H. Starr].”

Before being taken to the island, everything was stored in a local boatyard. “Even getting to the island was a challenge,” Starr says. “We had to rent a barge for four weeks to get supplies and equipment back and forth. We had crew on the mainland, the barge and the island and the ride out there took about an hour to an hour-and-a-half one way, depending on the water that day.”

Starr’s family is from the area, so he was able to get help from an uncle, who worked with locals to arrange the barge and figure out how to get trucks in and out of the property with the least disruption to local residents. Five Losberger clearspan tents were used to accommodate 400 guests for each part of the event, including the ceremony, cocktails, dinner, dancing and the after-party. “We chose those tents because the designer and lighting company wanted everything suspended in the air and that style tent has great weight-load ability,” he says. Fabric was used for the dancing and after-party tents to help obscure cords and other apparatus. Flooring in the main tents was the rustic Starr Special decking in a wide-plank style, and existing natural stone walkways connected the tents.

The island was a tranquil setting, but the swanky, red-hued after-party tent resembled a Manhattan nightclub. “The designer brought up everything in that room, including the replica artwork behind the bar. It was the perfect end to the evening,” Starr says.

Natural wonder

A unique ceremony setup in the backyard, dinner in the woods and a tented reception in an open field across the road was the realization of the dreams of a bride and groom who married in Gates Mills, Ohio, in the summer of 2012.

Zane Gloer, director of business development at Aable Rents Co. in Cleveland, Ohio, and Cleveland-based wedding planning company Heidzillas, developed a two-pronged plan for sun or rain, installing tents large enough for the entire event or, hopefully, just a lounge for dancing, dessert and drinks. Gloer opted for two Anchor clearspan tents connected in a T-shape, 66-by-165-feet and 66-by-66-feet. “We wanted this event to be perfect, so we bought new clear vinyl walls and tops,” he says.

On the day of the event, nine 30-ton AC units were no match for the 90-degree afternoon. Fortunately, the tented portion of the evening started after sundown. “I learned that when cooling a clear top tent, you must look into all potential weather aspects including the exact time when the guests will be entering the tent and the average expected temperature at that time,” Gloer says.

Glass double doors created an elegant entrance to the main tent. Inside, 17,046 square feet of plank and plywood flooring was topped with neutral carpeting. Floral design company Plantscaping and Blooms brought in tree branches for the bar backdrop and an array of shrubs, flowers and other plants. Rock the House created a lighting design that made the tent stand out against the dark sky.

Gloer designed a spiral chair setup for the ceremony, which allowed the groom, bride and her father to walk
past each guest before arriving at the center. “I spent about eight hours putting each chair into the CAD design,
and it took two guys five hours to install,” he says. “It was all worth it when I walked the bride’s mom through the spiral before the rehearsal and she just started crying and saying how
wonderful it was.”

United visions

One of the things Elizabeth Veal, design director and project manager for Beachview Event Rentals and Design in Woodbine, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla., remembers most about a recent wedding is how many differing visions had to come together. The mother of the bride wanted a formal and traditional look while the bride was dreaming of a fun, Miami club vibe for later in the evening, Veal says. They also wanted to bring golfing into the design because the couple attends PGA tournaments and the groom had proposed at the Masters golf tournament.

The setting for the 400-person reception was the bride’s family’s oceanfront vacation home. The evening was intended to be relaxed and fun, with buffet-style dining and dancing.

Working around the existing trees and landscaping, Veal used nine frame tents of varying sizes from Olympic Tent and TopTec Event Tents to create a cohesive layout that protected guests from the expected rain. Furnishings in the 50-by-75-foot main tent included rattan lounge furniture accented with pillows screen printed with sketches by the bride. A large, plantation-style rectangle barfront that could be accessed from all sides anchored the space.


To create the Miami aesthetic, Veal covered the pool with an acrylic cover and used action lighting, white leather furniture and white draping and table linens with aqua accents. For a Southern feel, Veal used traditional crystal chandeliers and comfortable furniture outfitted with linen slipcovers on the porch overlooking the dance area. The golf theme was brought by the caterer, who gave each food station a Master’s-related name and topped each one with artificial turf.

“It all came together nicely, but it was definitely challenging,” Veal says. “I was fortunate to work with so many talented people on this project, and I was thrilled when the client said it was everything they had dreamed of and more.”

Country chic

Challenges aren’t a requirement for a dream weddings. Sometimes, says Ashley Parkin, vice president of Exeter Events & Tents in Exeter, N.H., relatively easy can be absolutely wonderful. This was the case for a wedding at the bride’s parents’ horse farm in Brooklyn, N.H.

“She grew up riding horses, and it was not only a beautiful setting for a tented wedding, it was a place where she had a lot of special memories,” Parkin recalls, adding that the bride even brought her own horses from Pennsylvania to be part of the festivities. “She wanted a New England wedding with a little bit of country chic, but the focus was always on the beauty of the surroundings.”

Because the bride lived out of state, Parkin worked primarily with the bride’s mother and wedding planner Andrea Ryan of AER Wedding Services. The goal was a relaxed atmosphere for 120 guests. The existing bluestone patio served as the lounge area where guests enjoyed cocktails under the stars. But because rain was predicted, Parkin had two Aztec sailcloth tents installed, a 44-by-83-foot reception tent and 20-by-37-foot tent for the bar. “Sailcloth tents are still the most popular tents in the area because they go along with the nautical feel, and people love the lines you get and the beautiful star pattern along the folds,” Parkin says.

The skies were clear for the ceremony, held in a field under a stone pergola. “We had to scramble a little bit when it started to rain, but we had enough tent space to accomplish everything they wanted to do, and it didn’t rain long.”

Grass served as the primary flooring inside the tents, with
a vinyl wood-grain dance floor
from PS Furniture installed on one side of the reception tent.
The decor was simple yet stylish
with paper lanterns and eggplant
linens. “Everyone stayed safe and dry, and the bride and groom were absolutely thrilled with how everything worked out,” Parkin says.

Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.

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