With average wedding costs nearing the price of a mid-level car, couples aren’t shy about creating a day that is uniquely theirs. They come armed with pictures from bridal magazines and ideas from Pinterest, and it is up to the tent rental company or event planner to interpret and execute that vision.
Although many decisions are rooted in personal taste and differ based on geographical location, common trends in tents, accessories and decor are emerging for the 2016 wedding season. Industry experts share what’s hot—and sometimes not—in tent selection, design and guest experience.
When it comes to picking a tent, couples work closely with rental companies to determine the best option, even if it wasn’t on their radar in the first place. “We are renting the full selection this year: sailcloth tents, accessorized frame tents with liners and leg drapes, and regular frame tents for more casual affairs or when budget is a larger issue,” says Dwayne Ranson of All Occasions Party & Event Rentals Inc., Kelowna, B.C., Canada.
Clearspan tents are catching the bride’s eye for a variety of reasons. Not only can couples accommodate more guests, “it’s easier to include a dance floor and buffet while still having the tent and decor look cohesive, as the usual poles seen down the tent aren’t on display,” says Nickelle Ward of Wildflowers Events & Occasions, Nassau, Bahamas.
Clearspan tents with clear tops “are also perfect for evening/night wedding receptions because guests can enjoy the soft ambiance of the stars as a complementary accent to their selected tent decor for the special evening,” Ward says.
Even though tents with clear tops are trending, tent and event rental companies let customers know about potential drawbacks regarding clear tops. Clear-top tent selection depends on the season, according to David Platt, senior event consultant for Classic Event & Tent Rentals, McCook, Ill.
“If it’s too cold in the wintertime, the clear-top tent can actually freeze or break like glass,” Platt says. “And in the summertime, especially in the south, it turns into a really hot greenhouse. Even if you air-condition a clear-top tent, you have to blow a lot of air in there to keep things cool.”
Liners and leg drapes remain a popular way to hide the tent framework and create an elegant environment. Although most liners primarily are available in shades of white, couples use programmable LED uplighting and backlighting to change the color of the fabric.
Some couples forgo the full liner in favor of colored fabric swags to partially drape the ceiling. Even then, the color is soft and subtle, such as a light blue or silver gray. “You don’t want to get in guests’ faces with a lot of raw color because it could take away from the centerpiece, the cake, the bridesmaids’ dresses and so on,” Platt says.
Another emerging alternative to traditional liners is transparent fabric for clear-top roofs and gable ends, says Melynda Norman-Lee, J J L Events Inc., Toronto, Ont., Canada. “They can add a unique and unexpected look, especially when one circle of friends is having tent receptions within a couple of years of each other,” she says. “And they let in a lot of additional natural lighting, which adds to the atmosphere of the event.”
Lighting has climbed up the priority list for tented weddings because of the atmosphere it provides. Working across a variety of wedding themes and designs, bistro or café lighting has become standard fare. “It creates a nice mood, and it’s not expensive so customers can use a lot of it in their tent,” Platt says.
Customers who want a formal wedding likely will select crystal chandeliers to replicate the look of a ballroom, while iron chandeliers pair well with rustic accessories and decor.
Couples are paying just as much attention to what’s beneath them as they are to what’s above them. They like the ambience that wood flooring provides, but it’s a pricey—and unnecessary—expenditure, Platt says. A more cost-effective but equally beautiful option is a faux wood floor made of vinyl.
Some brides elect to use the vinyl only as a dance floor surface and carpet the rest of the tent. “They normally go with sisal carpeting in sandstone or white, or a pliable short pile carpet, often in black, to hide any stains,” Platt says.
Rich Mariano with Bangor, Pa.-based Special Events Tent and Party Rental finds that couples are becoming more particular with dance floors. “Black and white is popular, as in years past, but not as a checkered pattern,” he says. “They want designs like rings of black or white, or all-black or all-white floors.” Gobo lights often will project the names of the wedding couple onto white flooring.
Certain themes serve as a jumping-off point for design inspiration in today’s weddings. The desire for a rustic or natural look, for instance, has spurred items such as farmhouse tables, vineyard chairs and vintage dishware. Burlap runners and lace overlays are covering farmhouse tables, Mariano adds.
Rather than selecting a dominant decor or color scheme to define their wedding, many couples go for a mix-and-match approach. Classic Event and Tent Rentals offers a seating option known as the Chameleon Chair®, with a look that can be changed out with cushions and jackets available in a variety of colors, patterns and fabrics. Additionally, couples looking to inject contemporary decor into their weddings are inquiring about ghost chairs made of Lucite®.
Despite the availability of new kinds of chairs, tried-and-true options such as the Chiavari remain a mainstay at tented wedding receptions because of the range of options available, both in material (for example, bamboo, walnut and mahogany) and colors (white, black, silver and gold).
The desire to blend decor elements extends to the tabletop as well. “A lot of people are going green with disposable plates made out of bamboo and other biodegradable materials,” Mariano says. “They might use them for the hors d’oeuvres and dessert but go with standard salad and dinner plates for the main course.”
Norman-Lee has noticed a small movement away from an abundance of florals. In lieu of completely floral centerpieces, couples will accent other items with flowers. These include candle lanterns with petals in the vase or colored bottles with a few simple stems.
Often, the site of the wedding influences the decor. In the Bahamas, for example, “our visiting brides love to take advantage of the location by blending navy and nautical with tropical-inspired decor to create a trend that we’ve deemed as ‘paradise chic,’” Ward says.
For a May 2015 reception held in a clearspan tent at a Bahamas estate, the couple worked with Araxie Avron, senior event coordinator at Wildflowers Events & Occasions, to select vibrant island-inspired shades of pink in the florals and lighting, complemented by more traditional chandeliers.
Ward also notes that the island inspiration also extends to entertainment, as she fields many requests to incorporate native entertainment such as Bahamian junkanoo music and dancing.
In the end, one overarching principle guides couples: No matter the size of their budget, wedding couples want a one-of-a-kind wedding that showcases meaningful touches and pleases their guests.
Holly O’Dell is a freelance writer based in Joshua Tree, Calif.
When it comes to working a wedding off the beaten path, Dwayne Ranson of All Occasions Party & Event Rentals Inc. in Kelowna, B.C., Canada, offers a key piece of advice: Know your resources and limitations at the destination ahead of time.
For a wedding at an old mansion 350 miles from the company’s storefront, workers were told their trucks could directly access the site. In reality, it was 500 feet away. “A narrow heavily treed access road was really not something that was easily negotiable for a 26-foot-long box van,” Ranson says. “Our crew got as close to the site as they could and had allowed more than enough time, so the time setback was manageable.”
The crew also came prepared with a detailed plan for hanging the string lights and positioning the power connections. Another challenge surfaced when trying to find easles so the couple could display family photos. “We had done some early fact finding and knew of a party rental company in the area that we could liaise with,” Ranson says. “And although they didn’t carry the items, they pointed us in the direction of someone who did.” (All Occasions passed the information on to the grateful event planner.)
Even though the wedding took place in September, “it still got very cool at night in this particular part of the province,” Ranson recalls. The crew checked the local weather prior and recommended the proper size of heater and fuel to keep guests comfortable.
Additionally, All Occasions anticipated that the tent would be covered with dew for the takedown and brought plenty of rags along. They were able to thoroughly dry the canopies prior to bagging them.
Says Ranson, “All of these may seem like small things, but they help greatly to increase the efficiency on-site.”