Things to Know if You’re Having Your Reception in a Tent (South Dakota Weather Included)

The photos from Pinterest of a glowing white tent, full of lights, happiness, candles, and dancing CAN come true for you! But remember, we live in South Dakota. Our beautiful midwestern state can also come along with wind, rain, mud and sunshine (usually all within a couple hours) during your outdoor wedding! Outdoor tent weddings are special, they don’t come with a venue cost, they are customizable, your guests can enjoy the outdoors in a more casual setting, you have the freedom to decorate any way you wish and they are stunning at night.

There are tons of benefits to having an outdoor tent wedding, but I want you to ask yourself the most important question before you have your heart set on a tent: Will the mud, wind or rain ruin the expectations of your wedding day? If so, read the rest of these things to consider before you book a tent. If not, read these anyway…and then enjoy your most beautiful, warm and magical venue!!

Things to consider if you want a tent reception:

  1. What kind of tent will you need? (There are more than 11 different types — and you have to travel outside of South Dakota to rent over half of them)
  2. When choosing a location for your rent, how far will your guests have to walk?
  3. Did you choose a level area to have your tables and chairs set up on?
  4. How far is the location away from power (of course, generators are a good source of electricity in that case)
  5. Where will the caterers prep the food?
  6. How will the chairs and tables (and all rentals) be loaded and unloaded if you’r in a secluded area?
  7. Is there enough room for the tent size you’ll need? Will you hit the sprinkler system of the lawn you’re in? Do you need to stake it into asphalt instead?
  8. Have you told your guests about the tent reception? I’m sure most women would love to know so they can pack an extra set of shoes to wear instead of heels aerating the lawn.  🙂
  9. If you want those amazing bistro lights hanging inside your tent (Hitch has them!!), you’ll need extra electricity.
  10. You’ll need to factor in a little extra budget money in order to rent tables, chairs, linens, flatware, etc.
  11. Be sure to rent a tent where the side panels can roll down in case of wind or rain. Ask for the window (see-through) panels!
  12. Rent your tent, tables, chairs and linens all through the same company. That way, if a wind storm pops up, the same vendor is in charge of taking everything down (the tent guy doesn’t have to wait for the table and chair lady to take her stuff down).
  13. Have an indoor rain plan.
  14. You don’t want your tent to be cramped for space. Use this guide to know how large you tent should be! And of course, in South Dakota, we have large weddings and this chart doesn’t show 400-person numbers, but I recommend at least a 60′ x 120′ tent for a typical sit-down reception with dance. A good guideline is multiplying your number of guests by at least 15 for the total square feet you’ll need in a tent.TentWedding_Chart

15. It is South Dakota weather! Be ready with fans to cool down your muggy summer day — and be ready with heaters when the sun goes down! (Especially in the months of April, May, September and October). Most tent companies provide external heaters that have a thermostat and they aren’t loud. Your tent material has to be fire retardant for the Fire Marshall to approve that, though. Also, you can’t jam more people in your tent than is legal. The Fire Marshall will also check on tent capacity and exit routes. Just spring for the larger tent. Make any “extra” space into cocktail table mingling space or extra dance floor space.

16. When setting up a dance floor outside, remember that the ground isn’t level. You’ll need to rent an outdoor, water-resistant sub-floor to absorb the unloved bumps beneath your dance floor so nobody gets hurt busting a move on an unlevel floor.

17. Don’t forget to rent garbage cans and put them discreetly all over your tent. Or have an excellent catering staff that can clear tables and throw away trash behind the scenes. (Like Hitch, ahem).

18. You’ll also need enough restroom trailers and porta-potties for the number of guests you’ll have.

19. Is there a space close to keep your cream-cheese frosted cake cold until show time?

20. Is there a noise ordinance you need to be aware of? In Brookings, SD, any city park (Like Oakwood State Park, Hillcrest, or Pioneer Park) all have 11 p.m. city noise ordinances. That means your dance (and the loud music) has to end by 11 p.m.

21. Some venues charge overnight security charges to keep an eye on your tent, tables, chairs, etc. so nobody decides to steal anything.

22. When it comes to taking down your tent, make sure the vendor has enough time and isn’t doing it in the dark. If that’s the case, you’ll need to rent lighting so they can see! They also can’t take down a tent too early in the morning because there’s dew on the top of the tent. They’ll need to wait until it’s all dry and clear to take it down. Just check your time constraints, if any.

23. Are you having your head table on risers? If so, make sure those big staging pieces don’t sink into a rain-saturated ground when 12-14 are sitting up there with you.

24. Be sure to rent a couple bar sets up around your tent. If over 350 guests, you’ll want three bars.

Wow– this is a lot to consider, but Hitch can make it happen! We’ve been there, done that. We know what to look for, when to put out water glasses (not too early or the ice will melt!), when to set up the decorations (you don’t want dust, bugs or bird poop on your decor or plates), and where to get all these special order items for your tent wedding.

Want more info on having an outdoor wedding in Brookings, South Dakota? Click here to read our outdoor blog for locations and capacities!

I want to hire Hitch for all my outdoor wedding tent details.

2 Comments

  1. Tionna smith on October 27, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Very useful… Thanks to the author.

  2. CanopyKingpin on April 5, 2018 at 5:28 am

    I really appreciate the tent guideline. This is usually always the question when searching for a tent. “What size would you want?” This is a very difficult question to answer if you are not familiar with tents. Thanks for this guide. Really helpful for us.

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