Wedding Reception – The Venue

It didn’t take long to whip off a quick post about our wedding ceremony – it was at the courthouse and took about ten minutes. However, a lot more went into our reception. Therefore, I’ve decided to break the reception posts up into categories so you can just read about the pieces you are interested in, and also to make sure all our excellent vendors get proper credit.

When we decided after getting engaged in late July that we were going to get married in early October, we knew we had our work cut out for us. We knew several other things as well: A) We wanted to keep the budget to under $5000; B) We didn’t want to be forced to exclude any friends and family from our guest list; and C) We wanted to have a super-fun party. It was a challenge, but we pulled it off! The first hurdle we faced, however, was where to pull it off.

My grandparents generously agreed to let us have the party on their property if we wanted to rent a tent and have an outdoor reception. This had other advantages as well, including a big yard for the kids to run around on, plenty of room for parking and storing things, and a large pole barn and lots of power cords so we could run whatever electricity we needed. Tent rental, however, is not that cheap. In addition, we’d have to rent tables, chairs, and figure out what to do regarding linens, dishes, etc – things we would not necessarily have to figure out for ourselves if we had a hall or a caterer.

However, a tent wedding at my grandparents’ afforded us complete control over food and liquor, things we wouldn’t have with a hall or caterer. It also provided us a completely blank canvas to work with decoration-wise – no ugly chair upholstery or cheesy art on the walls.

Our blank canvas

After pricing out a few different vendors, we decided to go with A-1 Rental in Ann Arbor. Although this decision was originally based on price, it turned out to be one of the best decisions we made.

A-1 was completely helpful when it came to answering questions and helping us figure out exactly what we needed to get what we wanted. Nancy, the associate we worked with, was also budget-conscious – when she heard us say something or saw us looking at something that she knew there was a cheaper option for, she never hesitated to make the suggestion.

A-1 had an incredible variety of things to choose from – tables in all shapes and sizes, linens in all colors, equipment of all sorts.  Nancy once again proved invaluable, helping us figure out what size linens we needed, making suggestions about colors, and letting me play with her fantastic to-scale magnets to figure out the layout. She also answered questions about lighting in the tent, and helped us figure out how many strings to get.

Enclosed & open sides; cheap chairs; globe lighting

In the end, our haul from A-1 included the 40’x80′ canopy and three sides (we left one open), 16 round tables, 120 chairs (we got the cheapest chairs they had, but they really were the ones we liked best for the look we were going for!), four banquet tables for food and bar set-up, a 12’x12′ dance floor, globe lighting for the three enclosed sides, and floor-length colored linens for all the round and banquet tables.

The tent set-up and take-down was included in the price, and the A-1 guys showed us how to hang the lighting and set up the dance floor ourselves (both incredibly easy) so that we wouldn’t have to be charged for extra set-up. They were absolutely awesome.

From the side, at night

Things to keep in mind for a tent wedding:

  • Weather – we lucked out BIG with gorgeous, sunny, 70-something degree weather and beautiful fall colors. However, we were prepared to rent heaters had it been cold or try to close in more of the open side in the even of rain. In really heavy wind or rain, there wouldn’t be much we could do.
  • Tables/chairs/linens/etc – You are going to have to rent these from your tent rental company or another vendor, something you may not have to do with a hall.
  • Dishes/glassware/etc – see above. You’ll have to rent or buy these things, or find out if your caterer has them available (many do – linens as well).
  • Power – Make sure you have a site where you can run multiple power cords, not blow everything up, and that you have proper extension cords.
  • Bathrooms – my dad rented us some pretty deluxe portable bathrooms. Keep this in mind when selecting your site. We didn’t want people traipsing through my grandparents’ house (especially when it got late and the grandparents left the party); plus, it was more practical to have them closer to the tent. We were able to rent some with flushing toilets and running water so people could wash their hands – we classed it up, for port-a-potties.
  • Neighbors – my grandparents live in the country, and we invited the few neighbors within immediate walking distance to the event. We also shut down the dance party by 10:00 P.M. If you are having your party in a residential area and you are planning on music and dancing, you’ll probably want to at least warn the neighbors in advance and maybe even give them an invite.

As long as you are aware of these things and they are worked into your plans and budget, a tent wedding can be a GREAT option. And if you are in the Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti area, please check out A-1 – great prices and great service…can’t beat that!

Photos: Cindy Cook and Jessica Baumer


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