One foul-weather option is to arrange for a dinner tent, then put ceremony and cocktail tents on standby, says Steve Frost of Stamford Tent and Party Rental in Stamford, Connecticut. Also reserve connecting canopies so guests stay dry when moving from the dinner tent to the restrooms, for example. As your wedding day approaches, keep an eye on the forecast. Your vendors will tell you how much time they'll need to install and decorate the tents-and when you'll need to decide whether to have them. It may be one day in advance or one week, but if rain looks like a possibility, it's best to put up everything. If equipment is installed and the sun comes out, the tent company may be able to pull some or all of it down (though there's a limit to how much can be done on short notice). Reserving additional tents will cost extra, and if tents go up, you will have to pay for them even if the weather clears. A less expensive option would be to use a tent twice: A ceremony might be moved into the dinner tent with the tables pushed to one side and screened off, says wedding planner Ann David of David Reinhard Events in New York City.
When you call a tent company, the first thing they'll probably do is schedule a site inspection. Then you can begin to discuss what kind of tents you want, how many, and where everything will be situated. "Always get a rendering of how tents will look from the outside and inside," advises Abbracciamento. For example, some tents have interior poles, others do not; some are solid vinyl, others are clear. When planning the basics, think about where the service areas will be as well. "You want the kitchen and restrooms behind the scenes," says caterer Marcey Brownstein of Marcey Brownstein Catering & Events in New York City, "but close enough to be convenient."
The tent company can also provide a floor, whether or not you have a tent (you might have a dance floor on the lawn, for example). "A lot of people think you don't need a floor," says David, "but it's often worth the added expense, especially if you're planning a more formal wedding." Without a floor, dress shoes are likely to get dirty, guests may have difficulty walking, and chair legs may sink into the ground. A floor is also important protection against wet weather, says Chris Starr of Starr Tents in Mount Vernon, New York. Even if it's sunny the day of the wedding, rainfall earlier in the week could leave the ground soggy. Finally, make sure that someone from the tent company will be on-site during the wedding to take care of any last-minute adjustments.
Of course, rain is not the only reason to have tents. They also offer protection from the sun, wind, heat, and cold. Add air-conditioning or heating, and a tent can be as comfortable as a hotel ballroom.