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Special Events Blog

Pitch the Perfect Tent

How putting intention into tent design can elevate any event

In the past couple of years, you’ve probably pitched the idea of tents to your clients more than ever before, as outdoor events boomed due to the pandemic. Though air and traffic flow play equal roles in determining tent type, many other factors (tent styles, add-ons, functions, and vendor service accommodations) are necessary to take your client’s occasion to the next level.

As an event planner, it’s up to you to know your stuff and make the best decisions for the overall event experience. “Like any event, a professional should recommend the best option to achieve success around the goals and objectives of the client,” says Phyllis Jablonowski of Eventricity. “The type of tent, company to perform, additional required items—all are in service of ensuring the client has [expectations] met or exceeded. This is why a planner needs to educate the client on the process, which is very different from booking a ballroom.”

Choose the right style

While tent styles are continuously evolving, most are either pole or frame style. Pole tents are a bit easier to install, but that doesn’t necessarily make them the better choice. Utilizing a central pole as primary support for the roof, they require staking, which can be an obstacle and block the center view. Frame tents reinforce the roof without the need for center support and are freestanding, keeping the view unobstructed. Other tenting styles include clearspan tents, which use box beam construction and clear vinyl tops, yurts, marquee tents (also known as century tents), and stretch tents. Fabric can be made more ornate or aesthetically pleasing, such as the use of sailcloth instead of vinyl. According to a recent survey by Special Events (SE) magazine, pole tents and frame tents are equally the most preferred styles, with clearspan tents a close second.

Matching the frame and fabric to the event aesthetic is important. Luxury event and wedding planner Jackie Watson (Jaclyn Watson Events) uses sailcloth to create the environment for romance. “You cannot have elegance and romance with a century tent or frame tent because it is hard plastic and hard lines,” she says. “The sailcloth tent is this stunning translucent tent that loves to display all the shadows from your lighting and floral design.”

While logistics are important to factor into your decision, the SE survey showed that aesthetic is the reigning element: 40% of planners choose a tent based on aesthetic, while 20% choose based on price and another 20% on ease of installation. Take time to think about how the fabric and structure will affect the mood and ambience of your events and use that intention to bring your visions to life.

Add the perfect touches

Today, add-ons are the key to giving a tented space a total transformation. Luxury decoration and additions create ambience and can even make a tent seem like more of a venue. Different flooring styles make an outdoor tent feel homey, elegant, or natural; 40% of survey respondents prefer hardwood flooring and 13% prefer carpet. Ceiling liners, lighting, and floral treatments provide pops of color and elegance to the space; HVAC systems control temperature and air quality; even French doors and connecting canopies direct the flow of traffic and create a sophisticated feel. The SE survey revealed that lighting and sidewalls are the most requested add-ons.

Watson uses décor and add-ons to create texture and elevated effects. For one wedding, she used custom hardwood floors and adorned the tent with thousands of twinkle lights and multiple wrought iron crystal chandeliers, as well as blush ceiling draping to create a dramatic effect. “With this particular tent, we chose to have dark wood floors and lighter chairs for seating to add texture,” she says. “We then added in elements of large gold centerpieces for opulence.” By using tents as a blank canvas instead of just a function of shelter, Watson completely transforms spaces that set the mood of the event.

The Rise of the Mobile Mini Bar

Portable bars make bartending outdoors easier, and when designed right, they can contribute to the overall event experience. As outdoor events evolve, luxury amenities with more intentional design are of increasing importance. Lily Taylor, HR Consultant for Vistabule teardrop trailers, says that its trailers often play this role at events. “The design intention keeps camping in mind, but luxury glampers use these craft trailers to fit other needs too, as portable mini-bars at weddings.” Trailers like these include features that improve outdoor bartending, such as a galley hatch that provides shelter while washing, prepping, and cooking; purpose-designed cabinets for silverware, spices, wine and bottles, mugs, and more; and a pullout drawer, cooler storage, and refrigeration configuration options. From cocktails to coffee, serving guests from a mobile mini bar will keep bartending easy and enjoyable.

Make it a glamping trip

Tents can be set up and taken down for special occasions, but there are other options besides bringing the tents to your events. Bring your events to a glampsite! There are a growing number of event venues that provide long-term luxury camping setups to allow the whole of your events to take place in the open air. These venues can set up tented villages with sleeping accommodations, amenities, and event tents in stunning natural areas. The company Under Canvas, for example, creates popup glampsites and provides hospitality services across select National Parks, with locations like Bryce Canyon, the Great Smoky Mountains, and Yellowstone.

Glamping is a growing trend among campers and event goers. Taylor understands why nature events are so alluring. “There’s so much stress out there right now,” she says. “People are constantly dealing with bad news and changing job situations, and more and more people are realizing that getting away from screens and getting into nature is the key to reducing stress. The wilderness is therapeutic.” From weddings, reunions, retreats, brand activations, and more, glamping events can be held in tents under the stars, all while in the peace of the natural world. Host your events at a glampsite for a refreshing way to make tents the star player of your events and to create a uniquely memorable experience for all guests.

Knowing the ins and outs of tent styles, add-on options, and even tented venues will set you apart as an event planner who has the resources and knowledge to bring your clients’ visions to life, under any circumstances.

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