The best tents and hottest trends make backyard events more popular than ever.
For some reason, everything just tastes better outside. Picnickers know it, corporate party planners know it and backyard wedding enthusiasts know it. To meet the need of alfresco party aficionados, today’s tent professionals offer an array of outdoor party opportunities that go far beyond the simple scattering of tables and chairs on a backyard patio.
According to Mike Holland, president of Chattanooga Tent in Chattanooga, Tenn., there are several benefits to hosting a backyard event. For instance, venues have time restraints on the event but at a home, the homeowner sets the timeline. “Most venues have a restricted list of caterers, florists and rental companies, but at a private residence, the host decides who to use,” Holland says. “A major benefit for the host is that he or she will continue to create memories at their home and its surroundings.”
Frame tents and pole tents are most commonly used for today’s backyard events, which include receptions, graduations, birthdays and anniversary parties. However, according to Jill Ivey, event designer at Beachview Event Rentals & Design in Woodbine, Ga., the frame tent seems to be the most popular for the smaller backyard parties. “There are no interior poles for the client to work around,” Ivey says. “The tent installation is fairly quick if there are no obstructions.” However, swimming pools and landscaping can be challenging when working in backyards, along with underground utilities and irrigation systems.
“The benefit of a frame tent is that it can be used as an extension of the home and can be secured with ballast rather than stakes,” Holland continues. “The challenges for either style of tent are providing the correct size to fit existing landscape and getting equipment to the site. Due to landscaping obstacles, we oftentimes must use several smaller tents to work around trees, fountains or stairways. The equipment must be carried by hand to home sites. Pole tents require additional space for lines and stakes.”
For one backyard wedding reception, Chattanooga Tent began by building an extension to the existing pool deck. “The floor level went from 0 to 15 feet tall and was built around two trees,” Holland says. “Four tents were installed over the deck to accommodate 250 guests and a band for dinner and dancing.”
Terry Turner, owner of All Occasions Party Rentals in Knoxville, Tenn., is seeing a lot more bridal showers, anniversary parties, larger and more upscale birthday parties and smaller private weddings taking place in the backyard. “We are doing more custom setups with different elevations and coverage areas,” Turner says. “Customers are always wanting to use their patio furniture or to cover a crazy-shaped deck. We try our best to work with them, but we make sure they are aware if there are safety issues related to what they want to do. For tents over trees and landscape projects, we do our best to accommodate them.”
The uniqueness to orchestrating backyard tented events can be both a challenge and a benefit. Ivey points out that backyard installations can be as difficult as building a tent in a different area and walking it into place or as simple as using taller legs.
Often these types of events are the first or only time a client has worked with a tent rental company. “That’s why it’s important to treat the client as an intelligent individual who is new to the tent and party industry,” Holland says. “From the first meeting, we feel it’s important that the client understands all aspects of hosting an event at their home. Restrooms, power requirements for band, caterer, lighting, parking and traffic are just a few considerations in planning the event.”
The placement of the tent is an obvious point of discussion. But what the host may not have considered is the ease of access for guests, the levelness of the ground, drainage and proximity to the home in case of inclement weather. “Knowing the inventory and understanding the capabilities of the staff also allows for a better designed event,” Holland says.
The upswing in the economy is also affecting the prevalence of backyard parties, allowing clients the means to have their dream events. “People are becoming more apt to spend their money on the decor of the party rather than a complete focus on food and entertainment,” Ivey says. “They want to include the ‘wow’ factor for their guests. The food and entertainment are still important, but the party needs to look good as well.”
Urban, rustic, farm and vintage design trends are extremely popular, as are “soft seating” elements. “Creating social areas with couches, chairs and end tables is being requested a lot,” Ivey says. “Building beautiful bars with shelved bar backs, complete with bar stools is also popular. And many people are using acrylic pool covers to provide a dance area.”
One of Beachview’s most recent challenges was a backyard wedding for 120 guests. A 20-by-70-foot patio was covered with tents. At one end of the patio was a 10-foot-tall pergola, and a 3-foot brick wall surrounded the patio. “We used a 30-by-30-foot gable tent and a 50-by-30-foot gable tent,” Ivey says. “Each tent had to be built on top of stage sections, then put on 12-foot legs to cover the pergola. We hung Italian globe lights throughout the tents and created three 32-foot feasting tables using classroom tables as well as two other tables.”
Flowers lined the center of each feasting table with tea lights hanging overhead. And a dance floor was surrounded by soft lounge furniture. “It was very cozy but beautiful,” Ivey says. “Simple elegance.”
Chattanooga Tent has been asked to cover trees, pools, fountains and decks—each of which creates its own challenges. “By covering a pool, one can add a significant amount of space but it does affect price and time needed for installation,” Holland says. “We have built decks around existing trees and then covered the deck with tents.”
Moss Duvall, owner of Pelican Tents and Events in Shreveport, La., says that because of its location in Louisiana, the company tents a lot of backyard crawfish boils, barbeque cookouts and family events. “The trends of country chic, farm to table, and rustic designs are very popular now in North Louisiana,” Duvall says. “Our string lighting, whiskey barrels and farm tables have been very popular. They are a great add-on to your basic rentals and add a lot of style to the event.”
No matter what the clients’ needs are for their special event, with the right tent rental company, some imagination and flexibility, the space outside their back door can be transformed into the stuff dreams are made of.
Based in Plymouth, Minn., Maura Keller frequently writes about applications of
Because of the upswing in the economy, tent rental companies are finding that customers are not complaining quite as much about the price of certain items. And upselling new and trendy items isn’t as difficult as it used to be.
So how can tenting companies upsell backyard soirees? Begin by putting the clients at ease. Let them talk through their plans and then ask as many questions as you can.
“Questions not only help with the coordination and logistics but also avail themselves for the opportunity to upsell,” says Jill Ivey, event designer at Beachview Event Rentals & Design in Woodbine, Ga. She also stresses “pictures, pictures, pictures.”
“Listen to the client and look at their reference pictures to pick up on what they are looking to accomplish,” Ivey says. “Then you can offer better suggestions. You never know where their priorities lie until they tell you.”
Terry Turner, owner of All Occasions Party Rentals in Knoxville, Tenn., focuses on upselling decor. “Whether it is our bistro lighting, lounge furniture or our draping, we encourage all of our customers to look at the possibilities,” Turner says. “We also try to sell flooring for the nicer events.”
Pelican Tents and Events of Shreveport, La., strives to get to know its customers so the team knows which upsell items could best benefit the event. As owner Moss Duvall explains, each customer is different, so you have to examine their visions.
“It is easy to upsell them on a higher quality chair,” Duvall says. “Or upsell them from basic PAR lighting to string lighting. Suggest using whiskey barrels instead of cocktail tables. Depending on the size of the event we try to take care of each detail for them to make it as easy as possible for them. It really is the little things that count.”