Just Breathe

by Jen Marie Wiggins

Tented weddings marry open-air design with elegance and fun

Big weddings are finally back, and you can almost hear a collective sigh of relief from engaged couples everywhere. Still, even as open-air venues have become less of a priority for some, there are so many reasons to say yes to a tented wedding.


Covered venues offer the best of both worlds — the flexibility to create a dream enclosed space while also taking advantage of the breathtaking beauty and spectacular ambience that comes with our southern landscape. Even better, they also allow couples the freedom to plan their decor without having to compete with fixed issues like dated wallpaper or that stark colored carpet that might accompany a conventional reception hall.

Instead, many couples are bringing in their own color palettes with their favorite bold florals and bright hues which are making a comeback.

Courtesy IVORY & BEAU // Photo by GEORGIA MILLER

“Weddings are moving away from the past trend of muted ivory, white and greenery. We are seeing a lot of soft lighting paired with brightly colored florals used in fun and unique ways,” says Susan Richards, co-owner of Sincerely Yours Events.  

And that creativity often starts at the tent’s entrance. As the old adage says, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and statement entrances are going big with everything from embellished arches, lanterns and fabric to twinkle lights, florals and neon signs. 


Couples are also bringing in the drama with hanging floral installations that move from floor to ceiling, floral wall photo backdrops and even dance floors made of blooms suspended under acrylic. 

Another growing trend is the upscale bar. At the reception, bars are becoming their own attraction with customization of drinks and bartenders who are more interactive with guests. Lounge areas and soft seating are also still popular and allow the ability to expand outside the tent and offer cozy seating for guests to gather outside the central party area.  

Once reserved as a last resort in the case of bad weather, tents are increasingly being incorporated into wedding design and embellished with bespoke lighting and florals. // Photo by KATHERINE IVES PHOTOGRAPHY

Still, no matter what type of tented event you’re planning, it’s important to plan early and work with experienced vendors. The clean slate that makes the tented venue so appealing can also make it more challenging.

“You want your tent to be as seamless as walking into a ballroom, and that can take extra lead time. It’s often those less glamorous considerations like renting a backup generator or insect mitigation that are just as important to planning a smooth and memorable evening for you and your guests,” says Richards.  


And Kendall Wayner, director of Client Relations and Marketing for Ranco Event Rentals, agrees. “Some brides don’t even want to talk about rain contingency and then bad weather comes and everyone has to scramble. Planning is even more important for tented and outdoor venues.” 

Weddings are definitely back and bigger than ever. Although a tented wedding may take some additional lead time and planning, it’s a trend that’s here to stay. And why not? The end result is a celebration that’s uniquely yours and a breath of fresh air for everyone. 



Get practical. First steps should include checking ordinances and determining what permits are required. Before you set anything in stone, make sure that you’ve covered everything from fire safety and noise restrictions to electrical and sanitation issues. Most wedding planners and experienced rental companies can steer you in the right direction—which is one more reason to use highly recommended and experienced vendors.

Choose the right tent. From clear to sailcloth, there are many types of tents, and various conditions such as weather, guest count and even those amazing trees that made you fall in love with your venue are all important considerations. Talk to a planner or designer in the very beginning to identify the proper size and what types of constraints there might be. Budget is generally the most critical consideration, as tented weddings are almost always more labor-intensive.

Plan from the bottom up. Although it’s not a necessity, flooring makes a huge difference and, while costly, can be worth the investment to take your reception to the next level. Grass is your cheapest option, though fabricated options range from carpet or sisal to laminate or wood. Don’t forget to consider your dance floor and how it all works together. The next step is defining each space from bar to formal seating. Lastly, draw the eye up with a dramatic hanging installation, lighting or tall centerpieces. Height creates the illusion of a full and warm space where guests will want to linger.

Ask questions, then go! Experts recommend you interview at least two to three different venues and vendors. As soon as you find the “one,” don’t hesitate. Booking early is key because the current high demand isn’t predicted to go away anytime soon.

Jen Marie Wiggins is the author of “Married AF: A Funny Marriage Guide for the Newlywed or Bride.” She is also a wife, mother and chronic bridesmaid turned wedding junkie. You can find her at jenmariewiggins.com