Your perfect day, under the big tent

Your perfect day, under
the big tent

Rentals can make or break the
best-laid wedding plans

Story by Sarah Gonzales

When planning your wedding, it may help to think of things this way: If you can dream it, you can probably rent it. These days, you can rent anything from a tent to a chocolate fountain – everything to make your wedding as functional, stylish and creative as you’d like it to be.

Whether you say your vows inside before an altar or outside in a meadow, consider the fact that many of the rental items to adorn the ceremony will be your guests’ first glimpse of your wedding style, colors and theme. Party World in Anchorage offers arches and candelabras for decorating, and Special Events Alaskain Wasilla provides gazebos and arbors to say your vows underneath. Andrew Gumley, owner of Special Events Party Store, says that for indoor ceremonies, “ceiling drapes and custom backdrops are a definite trend,” and will make a room look and feel more intimate.

The reception is where rentals really come in handy – items like tables, chairs, tents, linens, serving ware, vases, dance floors and stages are all available to rent. “Always consider rentals if possible,” advises wedding planner Heather Siegel of Beginning 2 End. “When the reception is over, you’re probably not going to have a need for 30 vases, 100 strands of lights and 50 candles.”

Wedding planner Karla DeLong agrees that renting is convenient, and says that the ideas offered at rental centers can be invaluable too. She regularly turns to Gumley and Special Events Alaskafor unique ideas.

“He’s always willing to look for new trends and ideas to bring into his store,” she says, adding that if there is an item that you want but cannot find – a specific color or pattern of linen, for instance – ask because chances are the rental center can find it for you.

A recent trend that DeLong is seeing at receptions is using bistro-height tables, especially those that are serving appetizers or tapas instead of a sit-down meal. She says they “encourage people to mingle instead of sitting down and they’re great for more casual weddings.” She and Gumley agree that using chiavari chairs instead of the standard banquet or folding chairs can make any room look elegant.

Another option is to cover up rented chairs in fresh fabrics that complement your wedding colors. Alaska Event Services has the largest selection of table linens and chair covers available for rent in Alaska, says owner Debra George. “We have a variety of fabrics, colors, and sizes and we are always getting new ones. We continue to rent the more subtle, sheer pastel overlays but the intense, vibrant colors in solid fabrics are gaining in popularity. This season we’ve had quite a few brides looking at lilacs, light greens and we’ve seen a definite increase in the rentals of lime, fuchsia, and orange.”

But before adorning your reception, plan the number of tables and chairs you will need, and the size of tents if planning an outdoor event.

For outdoor weddings in Alaska, Steve Curry, the owner of Party World, says that tents are essential. Not only do you need to plan for the dreaded possibility of rain, but sunny days also require a covered area for providing shade. “The perfect day to not use a tent is one that is overcast and not raining,” he says. Party World, Special Events Alaskaand Over the Top Tents in Eagle River offer tents to rent in all sizes, along with outdoor heaters, ceiling and pole draperies and lights to make them sparkle.


Steve Curry, owner of Party World in Anchorage, offers these helpful calculations for determining the tables you will need:

Round tables:

3-foot tables seat 4

4-foot tables seat 6

5-foot tables seat 8

6-foot tables seat 10

Banquet (or rectangular) tables:

6-foot tables seat 6

8-foot tables seat 8

When reserving these shelters it is important to determine how the tables and chairs will fit underneath. How much seating is required, how much space should be allowed per person, and where will certain areas such as buffet tables, a dance floor and the DJ stage be located?

If you’d rather not do the math yourself, Special Events Alaska offers clients a virtual layout of their wedding using their PartyCAD system. “Quite often, simple calculations based on head count and square feet per person are not adequate in determining the space an event really needs,” explains Gumley. “We can calculate exact distances between rows of chairs, the width of an aisle, or the spacing between the food and beverage tables – without ever setting up a single table.”

And what about putting up these giant shelters? If doing it yourself, Curry recommends allowing at least one hour for two people to erect a 20x20 tent (they provide instructions) and time for either staking or weighting the tent to the ground. Stakes do come with the tents, but if your wedding is in a location that wouldn’t accommodate stakes – on rock or concrete, for instance – he recommends two 60-lb sandbags on each of the tent poles.

Most rental companies will deliver and set up the tents for you, and in some cases, even barge them across a lake to your secluded wedding site. “We floated several thousand pounds of event decor for one ecstatic couple,” recalls Gumley. “Of course, the hired barge broke down during the return trip but we were able to use the tent equipment on board to make a sail which eventually pushed our crew and gear back to the loading dock.” Now that’s creative service.

Speaking of creative, Party World and Special Events Alaska rent items like cotton candy machines, inflatable jumpers, popcorn machines and chocolate fountains to add an element of fun to your reception. Alaska Photobooth Company offers an authentic photo booth that makes for unique wedding favors that your guests will actually want to keep.

Ultimately, no matter how you arrange the tables or the centerpieces, Gumley says the most important thing to remember is to “spend more time, energy, and effort planning for and caring for your marriage than you spend focused on your wedding day.” After all, wedding rentals are for one day, he says, but the marriage lasts a lifetime.