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Under the Big Top

No two ways about it—a tented wedding is an expensive venture. Event designer Frank Alexander advises how to have one for a little less.


At Wave Hill, in the Bronx.  

Which companies do you recommend?
Stamford Tent, Ace Party Rental, and Sperry Tents, in the Hamptons. Sperry has beautiful old-fashioned, hand-sewn tents with wooden poles. You know when cars had mahogany dashboards? That’s the era their tents are from.

What can you do to make a Frame tent more attractive?
Get a clear top so you’re looking up at the sky rather than at the metal framework. Just know that clear tops may overheat in summer and crack in winter. Or, if your property overlooks the water, leave the sides open or do clear walls. One good thing about the Frame is that the perimeter poles are adjustable so you can install it on uneven ground.

When is flooring necessary?
For a daytime event it’s acceptable to have grass under your feet—as long as women know not to wear heels. Flooring is necessary if you’re in a Structure, or in a Century on uneven landscape.

Which flooring is best?
Astroturf, in black, white, or beige. Never in green. We did a party with red, which was hot, but large companies don’t buy red in huge quantities. But, oh my God, do people love to walk into a red tent!

What if your surroundings aren’t beautiful?
Use lighting. Green, yellow, and blue aren’t flattering. Instead, saturate the tent with sunset tones and change the color every three hours. Or use gobo lights in a Century; project patterns onto the ceiling.

Which lighting company do you recommend?
Eventlights does small jobs, has fair pricing, and has a decent-size inventory.

How would you disguise poles?
Use simple swags of fabric. Don’t use flowers; that’s dated.

What would you recommend in terms of suspended décor?
Have a big punch over the dance floor, like a 3.5-foot disco ball from Eventlights ($1,000), or a weather balloon—an enormous, white rubber globe (from $30 at Balloon Dealer). Or rig a bubble machine from the ceiling. The new ones from PRG Lighting blow large bubbles that aren’t soapy (from $90).

How much is it to furnish a tent?
$5,000 is an absolute minimum budget for that. Offset costs and get a tax write-off by donating anything you made yourself to Materials for the Arts, in Long Island City. And don’t forget, it’s not just about décor. You have to cool or heat a tent, too [from $9,000 and $1,500, respectively, for a 150-person Frame from Stamford Tent].

What about a catering tent?
If you’re getting one, you’ll need a port-a-path—plastic flooring that raises you off the ground in case it rains. It doesn’t need A/C—just lights and fans if it’s July.

What about port-a-potties?
For a party of 200 you need eight to ten Porta-Johns or one eight-stall trailer [$495 or $4,000 each, respectively, from Stamford Tent]. You need one or the other, because you don’t want 200 guests flushing into your septic tank. That’s not a risk you want to take on your wedding day.


Nine Easy Reception Cost-Cutters
How to Personalize a Loft
Three Chic Venues for Less
The Best Outdoor Locations for Every Budget

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