Decorating a Wedding Reception Tent
Planning a warm-weather wedding? Whether it’s August in Chicago or March in Miami, you can take advantage of the balmy temps by holding your reception in a wedding tent. There are wedding tents fit for every size guest list, and they can be as rustic or as fancy as you’d like. But when it comes to decorating a wedding reception tent, there are a few special considerations.
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1. Lighting Your Tent
- The key to a tented reception is good lighting, especially if you plan on having your guests dance late into the evening. Talk with your tent rental company about what types of lighting it can provide. Pole lights, accent spots, colored or patterned gels, even a disco ball–all will help to give your guests enough light to see. You can also train strings of small lights along the circumference of the ceiling, to help outline the tent’s dimensions. Or, hang groups of paper lanterns lit with electric bulbs at the tent’s peaks, to create a crisp, elegant look.
Of course, no light is more romantic than candlelight and unless your tent rental company has strict regulations about candle usage, you’ll want to incorporate at least a few candles into your decor. You can set small tea lights into the centerpieces or scatter them on the tables so that guest can see each other.
2. Decorating the Tent Poles
- Wedding tents come in all sizes and styles, but most likely your tent will have a number of interior support poles and possibly a large center pole. Often these poles are made of jointed metal struts. Dress up the poles by wrapping them with bunched sheets of white tulle or organza. You can add wide ribbons in white or perhaps a light color that coordinates with your color scheme, but be careful not to go too dark, or else you’ll end up with a “barber pole” effect. Strings of small white lights also work wonderfully tucked into the fabric and can have the added benefit of lighting up the poles so that your guests don’t collide with them.
- Flowers and greenery are a natural match to the fresh, outdoorsy mood of a tent reception. Work with your florist to design centerpieces for the tables that will complement the look of the tent, but won’t draw the eye so strongly that they detract from the overall setting. Your florist might also suggest other pieces to add to the decor, such as an arch decorated with greenery you can place inside the tent’s main door, perfect for the wedding party’s grand entrance.
Wedding Tent Decoration
Outdoor weddings and receptions often include the use of a large, temporary tent. These tents add enclosed space and provide shelter from the weather and a customizable environment. Incorporating the tent into the wedding environment requires lighting, decorative elements and staging to create focal points.
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- 1. Lighting
- Choose lighting that reflects your personality and your wedding’s overall theme or style. Twinkling strings of rope lights cascading form the tent ceiling creates a magical fairy-tale mood. Lighted candles and dim overhead lighting create an intimate, romantic feel. Bold lights covered in rice-paper lamp shades will add a soft, yet bright, diffused light.
Choose between colorful or white lights to coordinate with the wedding colors. Select decorative lights such as hearts, butterflies or bells to go along with the wedding theme. Consider mosquito-repelling candles or lights along the walkway to the tent to keep guests comfortable and light their path.
- 2. Decorative Elements
- Fabric such as tulle, chiffon or other sheer cloth can be used to add color or texture to a wedding tent. Cover strands of lights with tulle or cascades of draped cloth. Use fabrics to cover the support arms or wiring in the portable tent. Drape fabric on the walls of the tent to add texture or a pattern.
Decorate tables with floral bouquets, and use coordinating flower garland around entryways, arches or support beams. If flowers are plentiful, consider attaching a mesh screen to the ceiling of the tent, and sewing the flowers into a carpet of color and fragrance above the guests. Choose long-stemmed flowers that can easily be secured to the mesh.
Suspend seasonal decorations from the ceiling of the tent with clear fishing line. Use snowflakes for an early winter gathering. Fall leaves work well for a fall wedding, and try butterflies for a summer or spring occasion.
- 3. Staging
- Set tables and chairs in a pattern that focus guests’ attention on focal points in the tent. Decorate the paths among the tables and chairs with runners to keep guests flowing around the tent room. Allow the paths to lead to the tent entrance, exit, dance floor, buffet, head table, guest book and gift table.
If vows are going to be exchanged in the tent, add a decorative focal point to distinguish the area. Use an arch, columns or podium decorated in flowers, tulle and lighting, to draw guests’ attention to the homemade alter. Lay a decorative carpet under where you, the bride and groom, will stand. This makes the area special and lets guests know to gather outside that area.
How to Decorate the Inside of a Large Tent for a Wedding Reception
Hardwood floors make dancing easier in tents.
Wedding receptions are often the most intimate and exciting part of the wedding experience, and the venue’s location and decorations can make the reception even more memorable. Though some receptions are held in indoor venues, a tent reception allows the wedding guests to experience the feel of an outdoor wedding without the hassle. These tents can be decorated to be as eye-catching as indoor venues and sometimes can look even more elegant.
Things You’ll Need
- Christmas lights
- Staple gun
- Tree branches
- Colorful light sheets or bulbs
Decorate the walls of the tent. Cut large strips of tulle. Climb a ladder and staple one end of the tulle to a corner of the tent. If the tulle is long enough, drape it to another corner and staple it there. If not, let the tulle drape to the ground and staple it or nail it there. If desired, combine both ideas. Place strings of light beneath the tulle drapes, securing them to the tent with a staple gun.
Twist ribbon and tulle or any other fabric around the tent poles. Also, twist strings of light beneath the tulle. Climb a ladder and staple one end of tulle to the top of the tent near the pole. Then, spiral the fabric around the pole and staple or nail it to the ground or tape it to the bottom of the pole. Staple the lights in the same way.
Spread tablecloths on each of the table, and then decorate the table tops. Create unique centerpieces that match the theme of your wedding. Set up vases filled with flowers of your choice, bowls or vases of water with floating votive candles and flowers in them or painted tree branches with pearls or lights woven in them.
Set up extra tables around the tent. The tables can have different purposes. Some may have snacks, others may have the cake and others may contain favors and activities such as bride and groom guessing games and even party themed board games and karaoke machines. These will help keep the reception area moving and will prevent people from staying in their seats for too long.
Decorate the dance floor. Though candles are not a good idea for the dance floor, as they may cause guests to ignite, lighting is important. Colorful lights create a festive atmosphere. Place colorful filter sheets over spotlights, or replace standard light bulbs with colorful ones to change the look of the tent during dance time or throughout the entire reception. Colorful filter sheets can be found at some party stores, online or at audio equipment stores.