Planning around the beautiful views and ambiance of an outdoor DC-area wedding goes hand-in-hand with planning around unfavorable weather – but don’t run for shelter! Tenting your wedding reception is a popular way in the DC area to create a special outdoor space while still making you and your guests feel connected to the outdoors. This blank canvas allows you to be a little more creative – lighting, chandeliers, fabrics and more – but where to begin?! If you are thinking about a tent for the cocktail hour, or the whole reception or event having on-hand for a possible rain options, there are many things you need to know about tents. We chatted with Barbi of Sugarplum Tent Company, who is here to share all about the basics of renting a tent! Take it away, Barbi…

Wedding Reception Tent Sugarplum Tent Company

Photo courtesy of Sugarplum Tent Company

Tented weddings or ceremonies are wonderful and can be quite personal. Sugarplum Tent Company is here to answer questions and give some hints to help plan a tented event, whatever your vision and budget may be.

Tent Styles

Tented weddings have come a long way. There are white, clear-top, sailcloth, even skylight tents. How to decide? How do you know which look is your starting point to bring your vision to reality? Here’s a short summary of the main styles:

  • White tents: These are classic, timeless and can be the blank canvas on which to create your own look. A white tent is always a great focal point and signals that “something special is happening here.” They can be used year-round and can also be lined or swagged with fabric to create a lovely ambiance.
  • Clear tents: These have become increasingly popular. The clear-top really brings the outside inside and provides an element of instant “decor.” Streamlined and modern, these sleek tents offer endless possibilities for creating your own look. At night, the lighting bounces off the ceilings providing a veritable “kaleidoscope” of color and beauty.
  • Sailcloth tents: With their creamy sheer fabric, these tents are best for spring, summer and early fall events. The natural wood poles and the beautiful stitching around the edges bring in a nautical feel to an event. Paired with hanging lanterns, these are a wonderful choice for a summer wedding on or near the water – or anywhere!
  • Skylight Tents: A white tent with clear panels just like real skylights in a house. They let the natural light in and panels can be alternating or in the center. A real showstopper!

The Basics

OK, you’re interested in a tented wedding – either at a private residence or a venue.Where do you begin? Secure the location and decide if your guest count warrants overflow or tented space. If it’s at a private home, make sure all family members are on board. Usually (and ultimately), a site visit is in order to take measurements and talk through the best flow and logistics for the event and the property. For example, where to have cocktails, will the ceremony be held at the same place; is the area flat; is it big enough? Can we do one tent or will we need a series of connecting tents to get you the space you need? Now for the fun! Once you have some of these logistical questions answered, you can get down to planning your own unique space and how you would like it to look.

Sugarplum Tent Company Wedding Reception

Photo courtesy of Sugarplum Tent Company

Planning for Weather

If you have your heart set on a winter wedding, tents can be provided year round. Tent companies often have the ability to provide heat (or air condition) our tents and will recommend the best tent for the time of year you want. While a winter event can be more costly, the ambiance created having your own beautiful space protected from the elements is priceless.

If you’re thinking “I don’t want a tent unless it rains, when can I decide?” as far as making a decision on the rain, this is a hard one! When will you know if it’s going to rain? A week before the event? A day before? Or a few hours before? We normally tell clients to simply plan a tent into their theme – even with gorgeous weather, people are always happy they had it. Simply work it into your ambiance and you won’t have to check the weather channel every 10 minutes as your big day nears.

A tent also sends the signal that something special is going on. It diffuses the light and makes the photos (and people!) look better without the harsh contrast shadows of the sun. Without sides, a tent is simply a canopy, protecting guests and food from the elements and the sun or a possible afternoon thunder boomer. Bottom line: Tents provide a wonderful ambiance whether it’s sunny or rainy. Don’t risk your entire event by waiting for the 5-day forecast to call for a tent rental. A great event requires sound planning.


Yes, tents can be as costly or as economical as you like. We help a bride work within her budget to get the look and feel she wants. It’s all about the joyous event, after all. And with a home wedding, you have the ability to control many things on your own. There is no “venue” charge. You can use the caterer of your choice, or even do a potluck; you can set up your own bar and even do a lot of your own decor. The event becomes personal and the memories will be far more personal than a wedding held in a banquet hall. We work with you to optimize the value for your dollar.

We normally set up a tent for a weekend event a couple of days in advance. You’ll have time to decorate and could even use the tent for the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, and the morning-after brunch. When you rent a tent for a home wedding, you are in charge. No one will kick you out at midnight. We do not charge extra for multiple events in the tent – it’s yours for the weekend. Take advantage! The time of day you choose for your event can also save you money. A brunch or luncheon wedding is far more economical than a dinner event. You may not need lighting for the tent and in warmer months, it is cooler earlier in the day. A brunch can also be more relaxed for extended families when children are included. The bar tab is also low for a brunch/lunch event.

Wedding Tent Styling

We can provide almost everything except the food and flowers, and you’ll love going over those details with your caterer and florist! But we can provide the rest: we have dance floors in teak wood, New England plank, and black and white, or all white. We have stages in all sizes, décor items such as taffeta tent liners, pole drapes and fabric swagging are also things we routinely provide – and we have a wonderful variety. We do full flooring (both level and lay-down). We have carpet and Astroturf options to cover the flooring or patio. We have many lighting options for you, including lanterns and chandeliers of all sizes and styles (also the rice paper lanterns); we have lots of up-lighting and pin-spotting options.

We also have a nice variety of streamer lighting and the bistro café string lighting. We can even do a starlight effect under a taffeta tent liner, or wrap the lights around the center poles. For lighting, a parking area or entrance we have a really cool light balloon that looks like a big full moon. We also have super-quiet event generators and can heat and cool our tents (both air conditioning and a variety of fans). We can even handle VIP restroom trailers and we know all the players in our industry and help coordinate to provide you with a seamless and worry-free event.


Thank you so much for sharing all this great advice, Barbi! If you are looking for a fabulous rental company with tents, flooring, seating and more, be sure to check out Sugarplum Tent Company!

To find more Washington DC area wedding advice, check out our tips section with everything from flowers to budgets to venue searches. Don’t forget to look through our amazing DC area wedding vendor guide for all the vendors you’ll need to make it happen and and join the local wedding conversation on ourDC area wedding forums!

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