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Wedding Tents

Martha Stewart Weddings, Volume 7 1999

Do You Know?
When considering tent size, take your guest count seriously; a dozen extra people could force a leap to the next, more costly size.

A tent can provide you with the flexibility to have your wedding where, when, and how you want it, providing extra shelter in popular sites such as gardens, public parks, and historic sites.

Renting a Tent
Ask the caterer or event planner to refer tent-rental companies in the area. Be sure that the company carries liability insurance and that one of the installers will remain at the event to make adjustments. All of the company's tents should be certified as flame retardant, and the tent company should be willing to find out which permits and notices are required to put up a tent at the site. Ask the company to bring photographs of previous jobs (particularly if they have set up tents in the past at the site you're considering), examples of site plans they have drawn up, and references.

Any reputable company should arrange for a site inspection to provide an idea of what can be done and at what cost. For instance, sloped ground may require flooring, for which there will be an additional charge; an experienced tent installer will be able to spot this and other similar situations. Most companies offer inspections at no charge and with no obligation.

Tent Types
A push-pole tent is the most familiar and least expensive type of tent. The ceiling slopes gently downward from a row of tall center poles to a shorter set of poles called quarter poles, then out to the perimeter poles.

A tension tent has high center poles, a steeply sloped ceiling, and a more open feeling inside.

A frame tent is ideal for tight spots; it needs no clearance around its sides, whereas the push-pole and tension tents need at least seven feet. Because it can be as narrow as ten feet wide and has no interior poles, a frame tent is ideal for covering long, narrow areas or for forming an entrance.

Flooring
Because floors are an added expense, many people choose to put in only a dance floor; others choose none at all. But if the wedding is planned for a month that normally has high rainfall or if the tent will be erected on low ground, a floor is a worthwhile investment.

The most desirable (and most expensive) choice is a plywood floor, which is laid over a custom-built subfloor that resembles the framing beneath the floor of a house. Plywood flooring requires a considerable amount of labor and lumber, but it will provide a sturdy raised floor over terrain of almost any type. After installation, the plywood is often painted or covered with artificial turf or carpeting.

For paved surfaces (such as tennis courts or parking areas), a rigid plastic floor can be laid at roughly half the cost of plywood. A parquet-wood floor, assembled in sections, can serve as a dance floor. Artificial turf rolled right over the ground is the least expensive option, but it will not keep feet dry if it rains.

Sidewalls and Doors
The three basic types of sidewalls are solid white (for privacy), clear vinyl (to let in light),and the more decorative cathedral-window walls, which also let in some light. Doors can make everyone more comfortable during winter or cold-weather events.

Cost
Tent-rental prices vary by region, but in the Northeast, a basic 50-by-75-foot tent that accommodates up to 200 people could cost from $6,000 to $10,000; the price includes the lighting, flooring, and the cost of delivery, setup, and removal. (Eliminate all the extras, and the cost may be as little as $3,000 to $4,000.)