Looking at the photographs from the wedding and reception, no one would ever guess just how difficult the installation was for Houston Tents & Events in Houston, Texas. “This couple had the dream of hosting their wedding behind the original ranch home on their 110,000-acre property in South Texas,” recalls Darren Randle, the company’s founder and president. “This home hadn’t been occupied in many years, so they restored it and then did landscaping behind it so that we could make the tent fit in a designated location.”
Location, location, location
One of the first challenges was figuring out how to include multiple landmark points around the ranch within the event so that it all made sense logistically. The couple’s dream wedding (plan A) meant hosting both the ceremony and reception behind one of the properties on the ranch—near meaningful landmarks. But in case that wasn’t possible, they created a plan B, which would have meant doing the ceremony more than a mile down the road on another part of the ranch, and then returning the distance to accommodate the reception behind one of the homes.
Thankfully, the landscaping enabled them to go with plan A, setting the ceremony under the canopy of a tree where many other family members had been married and the reception within view of the family pond, which also had great significance in their lives. Not only did this make the family incredibly happy, but having both sides of the event in proximity also made the vendors’ jobs easier.
To create a visual connection between the house and the ceremony site beneath the tree, as well as ensure the bride’s dress wouldn’t get dirty on her walk down the aisle, the Houston Tents & Events crew built a fruitwood-colored walkway from the home to the tree. And to ensure that the more than 5,000-square-foot tented space didn’t block the view of the pond during the reception, the crew built it with clear tops and sidewalls, featuring a small patio on the two sides of the tent that were nearest the water. The thoughtful design allowed the family to incorporate both meaningful visual elements into their special day.
But the biggest challenges to overcome were the time of year and the distance to the installation site from the company’s warehouse and office.
“We had to be methodical about our planning because it was three hours travel one way to Refugio, Texas, which is just north of Corpus Christi,” Randle explains. “We had to have enough daylight to complete the day’s objectives and then drive the three-hour trip back.”
Randle initially thought about housing the setup crew in the nearby area but quickly realized that wasn’t an option. “It was in November, which is very much our busiest two to three months of the year. We needed that truck and crew for the next day’s installations and deliveries locally in Houston. Sub-renting from another vendor wasn’t an option because it was the same distance from any other rental company that had the appropriate equipment.”
Fortunately, the family was flexible and the company was able to split up the installation process into alternating days—one day in Refugio and then one day in Houston making local deliveries.
In addition to the LIRI NHT 12-by-30-by-3-meter clearspan structure tent, the company was responsible for providing wood flooring, chairs and seating, tables, heating and cooling equipment, generators and temporary power distribution, table settings, dinnerware items, event lighting and chandeliers, furniture, bars and a restroom trailer. But despite the many challenges of distance and logistics, the team of 20-plus members was able to complete the installation in just two weeks.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Although the event was a great success, the crew encountered one small glitch on event day. “In the event business, you can do everything perfectly and unfortunately some things are just out of a tent or rental company’s control,” Randle says. “Throughout the months of planning, weeks of installing, etc., we knew there would be something unforeseen come up on this scale of a project—but I wouldn’t have guessed it would be that half of the light strands would short out right when the reception was starting.”
While the crews were unable to get the lights in the dining tent working during the event, the vendors and family accepted the reality and problem-solved as best they could. They worked together to quickly wrap up the dinner portion of the reception and move guests over to the dance floor where they celebrated into the night. Mysteriously, the lighting strands returned to working order during teardown, have been successfully used at many other events, and are still in inventory today. “This experience showed me that there are good, understanding people in the world … and that this couple, family, planner and vendors were all focused more on the importance of the day than this minor lighting issue (albeit we viewed it as anything but minor on the day of the issue),” Randle says.
Randle is quick to share credit for the event’s success with all involved. “The entire group of vendors worked as a team and, more importantly, the planner was one of the most incredible people I’ve worked with in the industry: Skylar [Caitlin] with Chancey Charm Weddings.
“Everything had to be fully customized to fit the space and the couple’s vision, but the end result was 100% worth the logistical challenges,” he continues. “We felt connected to the family and although it was challenging, it was truly one of the best event experiences I’ve been a part of in the industry.”
Sigrid Tornquist is a Minneapolis, Minn.-based writer and editor and former InTents editor.
Tenting: Houston Tents & Events, Houston, Texas
Planning/design/coordination: Skylar Caitlin & Chancey Charm, Houston, Texas
Photo/video: WildLifers TV, Refugio, Texas
Linens: Decor by Dulce and Linen Rentals, Houston, Texas