Sites such as estates and wineries often involve a tent. An important thing to know: A venture into tent territory may involve more than one tent. Depending on the proximity of large-scale cooking facilities, your caterer is likely to need a separate tent for cooking. If the ceremony and the reception are any distance apart, the walkways between them might need covering and the tent itself will require lighting. 

Tent construction often requires a permit from the city or town, especially for a large tent, which in rare cases might even manifest the need for a crane - and with it, crane access to the property. 

Once you have a firm location, date, and a general idea of guest count in hand, preferably at least 6 months before the wedding, you can contract a rental company to figure out what style and size of tents you'll need. 


When determining the size of the tent, figure on 15-20 square feet per guest. For a 200 person wedding, you'd need at least a 40x100 foot tent (factoring in space for the band/DJ, the dance floor, the cake table, bar, any special stations, and perhaps a lounge area).


Tent Terminology

Frame Tent - Supported by a frame (think of an umbrella minus the handle), its center is free of poles for an unobstructed view. Significantly more expensive than most push-pole tents, frame tents can fit into tighter spaces.


Pole Tent - Center poles support the tent and quarter poles hold up its sides; its stakes require a fair amount of space. A "century tent" is a high-end pole tent characterized by dramatic peaks and valleys. 


Canopy - A canopy is a simple canvas top supported by four poles. A canopy is typically used to protect guests and food in mild weather - you might erect one over the ceremony eating or the buffet at an outdoor wedding. Several can be put together to create a larger space.


Things to discuss when renting a tent:

  • How much setup and breakdown time the company will need. Know your sites specifications and any restrictions before this meeting so you can accurately assess your options.

  • Will I need heating or air conditioning? Space heaters aren't terribly expensive, but air-conditioning gets costly. However, this is one of those areas where you shouldn't shortchange your guests' comfort. 

  • How much power you'll need, and whether a generator is required. 

  • Will I need a permit for the tent? Determine how much it costs and who obtains it. Typically, a full-service rental company will handle permits, but don't assume anything. 

  • If you're considering a tent as a Plan B in case of rain, by what day do you need to confirm or release the tent? What's the deadline for the company to begin installation?

Dance Floor

For many couples, the dance floor is a preexisting element of the venue: it's right there in the room in all of its parquet glory. But in a tent, outdoor or ballroom, you'll need a little know-how. 

Position the floor in front of the band of DJ. To give as many tables as possible a good view, arrange them around the other three sides of the floor, with the bride and groom's directly across from the band.

Dance floors have been turning into showpieces, you can rent illuminated floors now. Like tents, dance floors come through party rental companies. Typically, you'll have a choice of parquet wood or a laminate. Though not widely available, clear acrylic floors are another great option; they look especially amazing when laid over a swimming pool and lit from below.

The size of your dance floor should be proportionate to the number of guests. Assume at least 40% of your headcount will be dancing at the same time, so if you invited 150 people, expect 60 people to be out there at any given time. Multiple this number by 4 so each person has at least 4 square feet of room. 60 x 4 = 240, which would be a 15x16 dance floor.

The Rental Company Contract should include all of the below:

  • Deposit due date, amount, and balance due date. A 50% deposit is typical.

  • Delivery date. Make sure this corresponds with the site's restrictions on access. Build in some leeway in case the delivery runs late. 

  • Disassembly and pickup date. Again, make sure it agrees with your contract at the site. 

  • Delivery and pickup fee, if applicable.

  • Insurance policy. Is supplemental insurance required? 

  • Charge for lost or damaged goods, including quantity. 

  • Setup policy. Can the company provide someone to stay on site throughout the setup and the event in case a gust of wind knocks over a canopy or something else goes wrong? How much extra will that cost?

  • Overtime policies and fees. Some of these extra charges are negotiable, especially if you're placing a large order.

Portable Restrooms

Not as much run as choosing your flowers, but being sure you have sufficient bathrooms at your site is essential. Most off-site locations, even residences, require portable restrooms - that handful of toilets in a home can't handle a large crowd; if you're using residential restrooms, through, make sure you have the septic tank emptied and the pipes cleared before the wedding to preempt any problems. 

Figure at least one toilet for every 25 guests. For an event even longer than 4-5 hours, you'll need additional restrooms. Rent the plushest ones your budget will allow.


"Executive trailer" toilets are the most luxurious. They come with piped-in music and stalls. The sinks are within the trailer, so women have a private place to freshen up.


Individual bathrooms are unisex, of course, but if you choose to designate men's and women's, allocate more for women. If you have a guest with special needs, make sure that one of your bathrooms is handicapped accessible or "ADA" compliant. 


Consider placement when doing your site inspection. You want them close enough for convenience and far enough away for discretion. Light the path to the toilets, and post signs as needed. Before you make any decisions, find out if your site has any restrictions about the type of toilets allowed. 

Interested in some of our favorite rental companies for tents, dance floors and portable restrooms? Check out our preferred vendors list.

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