Tents, and Lanterns, and Layouts, Oh My

I have gotten a lot of questions about our tent logistics. Hopefully these answers will be helpful to some of you! Having a “tent wedding” is a huge pain in the arse and I’d like to help anyone else trying to do it in any way I can!

Q: How many guests did you have under your tent? How was space under the tent?

A: We decided on a 40′x120′ “century” style tent (the kind with the peaks), and we had 187 guests. We also had room under there for a stage for the band, dance floor, buffet table, bar, and a couple of tables for gifts, escort cards, and our wish bowl. We were going to go with a 40′x100′ tent and upgraded at the last minute—we’re really glad we did, especially given the torrential downpours we endured during the reception. You’ll get all sorts of different advice on this, but mine is to go with the biggest tent you can. I feel like we had the right size tent for the amount of guests we had.

Here it is pretty empty:


Picture 48

Q: Could you elaborate a little more on setup and layout underneath your tent?
A: Here’s what we went with (made on Perfect Table Plan software):

tent layout emliam

The squares are 5′ and seat 8 guests, the long tables are two 8′ by 3′ rectangles together, and seat 16. When figuring out the set-up, don’t forget to take the location of the tent poles into account!

I really loved the square and rectangle tables- an idea I got from Knottie ThirdHoya, and I think it was just less expected than the typical round tables, and made for easier conversation. We decorated the rectangles and squares differently, which added a little interest too.


photo credit: Samantha Warren Weddings


photo credit: Samantha Warren Weddings

Q: Did you buy all the lanterns? If so, where?
A: We bought 100 lanterns from the Paper Lantern Store for $1.35 each. They were all the 14″ size. We then rented an additional 30 from our DOC. The Paper Lantern Store was nice enough to give me free shipping after emailing them to ask (use coupon code fship for non-oversized item orders over $100).

photo credit: Samantha Warren Weddings

Q: What size are the lanterns? How did you figure out how many to use?
A: Most of our lanterns (100) were the 14″ size. The ones we rented (30) ranged from 8″ to 16″. We just guessed on the quantity, but I’ll say that when you are hanging the lanterns in such an expansive space, you need a lot to make an impact. We could have probably had even more (although my family might have killed me for having to hang them up!), so depending on the look you are going for, you’re going to need a lot.

Q: How did you hang the lanterns?
A: Short answer: heavy duty fishing line. Long answer: We figured the distance between the poles was 20 feet. We cut lengths of fishing line that were approximately twice that length, just to make sure there would be enough on each side to tie (this process goes fast if the groom holds the spool and the bride runs with the end of the line from one pole to the next and back… snip snip—voila, 40 feet!). We tied 5 loops (a few had 6- we used smaller lanterns near the stage) in the center 20 feet of each of those lines, and hooked the lanterns (with the lights already in them and turned on) into those loops. We sent my dad up the scary 12-foot ladder with one end of the line to tie to one of the large center poles, and another unsuspecting relative climbed up a smaller ladder and attached the other end to one of the smaller side poles. Hanging between the two center poles was a little trickier. Repeat x 24. Tell your family you love them a lot.

Here’s a little diagram I whipped up for you…(it’s also an example of why we leave the graphic design around here to Mrs. Cupcake) the black dots are the big center poles, and the blue lines are where we hung the fishing line. I put little yellow lantern circles on one of the lines so you could get the idea.

Q: How and When did you turn all the LED lights on?
A: We added an on/off switch (just a tiny piece of cardstock) to our throwies when we assembled them (details here). You just pull the piece of cardstock off in order to let the battery touch the LED and turn it on. We turned them all on on Friday morning, and they were still going strong when we took them down on Sunday morning. If you want to read about our decision to use LED throwies to light the lanterns, that post is here.

Q: Did you have enough light?
A: Yes! Despite all my freaking out, the perimeter lighting and the lanterns provided plenty of light for our reception Actually, I wish there had been a little bit less light so that the glowing lanterns would have shown up a little better in the pictures—they were so pretty in person but you can’t really see the soft glow in the pictures. Using LEDs gives a glow, but they don’t give off a lot of light.

Here’s an example… it’s more like this:


And less like this (which I think you would need strands of electric lights to achieve):


Q: Did your rental company actually try to charge you over $5000 for paper lantern lighting?
A: Yes. That was not a joke. The actual hanging of the lanterns only took me and my family about three hours, so I don’t know what kind of crazy scheme they think they have going, but I’m trying my best to bust it.

Anyone else want to share their tent wedding tips?


Mrs. Tiramisu

Annapolis, MD/Maine
Wedding Date:
July 2015
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  1. duckling Member
    duckling 1415 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:36 pm

    I’m not doing a tent wedding, but this is such great information. I’m going to bookmark it for some friends. I also, think your lanterns and centerpieces just turned out beautifully!

  2. cupcake Member
    cupcake 1456 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:52 pm

    Great info, Mrs. T! I am sure that will help a LOT of brides out.

  3. Member
    MarryingtheNavy 233 posts, Helper bee @ 7:01 pm

    What a great tutorial for future “tent” brides! I really liked the diagrams you made; it’s nice to see different examples of reception layouts.

  4. Member
    Emilydll 428 posts, Helper bee @ 7:03 pm

    Thanks so much! :) My fiancee and just decided to put a tent on the lawn of our reception.

  5. Guest Icon Guest
    Livvy, Guest @ 7:12 pm

    You are such a wonderful Bee!

  6. gloss Member
    gloss 1249 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:15 pm

    I’m working on a lot of the same logistics for our wedding, I really like how you arranged the sweetheart table. We wanted to be surrounded by our guests, so this adds just the perfect ‘we’re a little special’ without being ‘look at me! I’m a big deal’.

  7. Member
    West Coast Bride 708 posts, Busy bee @ 7:24 pm

    Thanks, Miss T! We had total sticker shock at the costs associated with doing a tent wedding (well, the potential costs I should say). It definately has its own challenges, and I appreciate all the added info from your own experience!

  8. Member
    Amber1279 319 posts, Helper bee @ 7:29 pm

    we are doing a tent wedding … although our tent is about half your size. I just sent my mom all this info. it will be VERY useful. Thanks so much :)

  9. frenchbulldog Member
    frenchbulldog 1088 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:37 pm

    WOW thanks for answering all these questions :)
    I’m not having a tent wedding but a lot of this information was helpful anyway.

  10. hotcocoa Member
    hotcocoa 2098 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:06 pm

    This is SO helpful!! I’m making throwies next week. How long did it take you?

  11. Member
    smf0613 63 posts, Worker bee @ 8:10 pm

    Mrs T. your tent looked lovely!
    Thanks for posting your diagram!! I think this will help me and the family so much when we go to set up our lanterns.

  12. Guest Icon Guest
    Katrina, Guest @ 8:13 pm

    i can’t even begin to tell you how helpful this post was. thank you! i’m having a tent wedding myself next january and i still can’t wrap my head around spacing, seating, and lanterns. now i can! i’m still worried about the possibility of rain – how well did your tent hold up?

  13. Member
    Miss Green 59 posts, Worker bee @ 8:35 pm

    This is was brillant of you! I’ve just started investigating tent rentals and this post was incredibly helpful. Thanks!

  14. Member
    Vic004 804 posts, Busy bee @ 8:38 pm

    I have looked over your led info before and it was totally helpful. Seriously the best info on led and lanterns for weddings anywhere. I bought a bunch of lanterns too, but I havent gotten to buying the leds but I will I swear I still have two months!

  15. Guest Icon Guest
    Kate, Guest @ 8:39 pm

    I LOVE the seaglass on the square tables – where did you get it?!

  16. Guest Icon Guest
    Lexie, Guest @ 11:22 pm

    Oh my god I’m so grateful that you posted this! I’m having my reception in a 9,000 square foot tent in a park. Even though it’s already in a beautiful setting, I’ve really been wanting to look in to lanterns, with no idea of where to begin. I never realized that it could be both affordable and do-able! Thank you so much!

  17. Member
    tangt16 98 posts, Worker bee @ 12:10 am

    I desperately need your advice. Were you worried about the heat at all associated a tent wedding? Our venue/tent under trees includes fans but not air conditioning. It’ll be in August, in philadelphia, not too different from Maine. I’m so worried about having a tent wedding. Did you worry about misquitos? What if theres a torrential down pour and the ground around gets soggy? My venue claims its not too hot, but I’m concerned.

  18. Member
    MsTiramisu 9 posts, Newbee @ 12:49 am

    Thank you!
    This is so awesome! We’re having a tent wedding and I’ve been wondering what size and how many lanterns to buy. Also going back and forth between rounds and rectangles…

    You rock!!

  19. Member
    Kara321 252 posts, Helper bee @ 2:19 am

    Thank you so much for posting this! Against all advice to the contrary (because of expense, difficulty, added logistics, etc.), we decided to go with a tent for our wedding reception. Now we’re trying to figure out how to hang our home-made iron chandeliers and other fun problems like that!

  20. Member
    Gerbera 4481 posts, Honey bee @ 8:01 am

    I agree everything turned out beautifully. Although I am freaking out a little bit now. When did you set all this up? Did the site let you do this the day prior?
    I do want the lantern look inside the tent…but man oh man…THREE hours? The wedding isn’t local and we would only be there a day early for wedding rehearsal I don’t know where in there we can fit this all in. I don’t think our sites will let us set the tent up the day before bc it is a operating winery. Oh gee. Breathe.

  21. bruschetta Member
    bruschetta 5565 posts, Bee Keeper @ 9:02 am

    Your runners on the rectangle tables look great!

  22. taffy Member
    taffy 3081 posts, Sugar bee @ 9:26 am

    This is a great post! I love love love the way your lanterns turned out, so beautiful! :)

  23. Member
    MissCamera 770 posts, Busy bee @ 9:48 am

    I’m also having a tented reception this August and my family and I have been trying to figure out the best way to hang the lanterns. Thanks so much for this post! We’re only getting a 30×30 tent with a 15×15 attached (where all the food & bev will be located) for 70 people. I thought I was going to need 100 lanterns for MY tent, but now I’m thinking I would have way too many. Maybe I should only order half the amount! We also wont be lighting the lanterns, we will be having perimeter lighting and candle centerpieces though. Thanks for the free shipping code too! I will def be using http://www.paperlanternstore.com b/c I find they have the best color selection.

  24. Guest Icon Guest
    Hmmm...., Guest @ 9:55 am

    How much does renting the tent cost…My hubby-2-be and I are planning our wedding (for 150 people) on a budget of $5000– so far we’ve made it work…except now we are thinking we need to rent a tent…how much will it set me back?

  25. Member
    LoriLori 800 posts, Busy bee @ 10:13 am

    As another future tent bride I too thank you! I am taking everything in and planning away! I already have some lanterns and am thinking of hitting up Chinatown in NYC sometime this year for more! THANKS so much! I hope other tent brides will let us know after the fact how it all turned out. (Like the temperature of Philly in August.)
    I have another year to get prepared…..

  26. Member
    MissCamera 770 posts, Busy bee @ 10:39 am

    “Guest”- It really depends on where you are and the different rental companies in your area. I’m getting married in upstate NY and the 2 tents I’m renting (30×30 & 15×15) along with a fabric liner total about $650.

  27. quiche Member
    quiche 3150 posts, Sugar bee @ 10:52 am

    You were my hero when we were originally planning a tent wedding…awesome advice, T!!

  28. tiramisu Member
    tiramisu 1091 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:46 am

    I am so glad that this info is helpful to you all! I’ll try my best to answer your questions…

    @Miss Gloss: Thanks! It worked out really well- we were close to everyone but were able to have a few moments to ourselves as well.

    @Miss Hot Cocoa: Ugh. It really took a long time. We are procrastinators so Mr. T ended up doing about a hundred in one night the week before the wedding… if you spread it out and do a bunch at a time it’s not too bad. Just keep reminding each other how much money you’re saving!

    @Katrina: Did you see the video? It’s here: http://www.weddingbee.com/2008/09/25/rainy-wedding-day/ It held up pretty well, and our storm was extreme (they had actual tornados a few miles away). But definitely GET THE SIDES!

    @Kate: You can find it at Michael’s or many places online, but we found the best pricing by far here: http://www.wholesalersusainc.com/ Or if you are local to Southern Maine I will be selling 60 pounds of it!

    @tangt16: We did have a torrential downpour and the ground did get soggy! Try to place your tent on as flat of a surface as possible and not at the bottom of a hill and you should be okay. Also definitely get the tent sides! We had some tiki torches on the lawn that helped with mosquitos. We also had the ocean breeze so were not concerned about heat, but I would think the fans would be fine. Honestly, you can’t control the weather, so just do the best you can to prepare for anything and try not to worry too much!

    @Gerbera: We were lucky that we were able to have the tent set up on Thursday, and we spent Friday morning putting the lanterns up. My day-of coordinator did all of the table/chair/centerpiece set up on Saturday morning. The more people you have the faster it goes, but yes it does take a long time to get that many lanterns up!

    @MissCamera: I think the more lanterns the better! I couldn’t believe how 130 looked like so few once they were hung up. But if your tent isn’t as tall you may not need as many… and it may be hard to get that many high enough up so that no one will bump their heads!

    @Hmmm….: I agree with Miss Camera… it really widely varies, especially on the size and style tent you choose. The big century-style tent that we chose takes a lot of set up and so it was pretty expensive… it ate up a pretty big chunk of our reception budget, as did the other rentals, which really add up. You should definitely contact the rental companies around you to get an idea of what will work for you.

  29. Guest Icon Guest
    K, Guest @ 12:25 pm

    This is an awesomely helpful post! Thanks a MILLION, Mrs. Tiramisu!

  30. Member
    MsTiramisu 9 posts, Newbee @ 5:15 pm

    @Mrs. Tiramisu: @Mrs. Tiramisu: Our wedding is near Southern Maine (North Shore Mass-near newburyport) I’d be interested in the sea glass-our colors are blue too. Send me a message when you have a chance!

  31. Guest Icon Guest
    Sarah, Guest @ 3:56 pm

    Thank you so much for the info! Which LEDs did you use for the lanterns? It seems that the white ones actually give a blue glow.

    Thank you!

  32. Guest Icon Guest
    LNC, Guest @ 5:40 am

    If you’re thinking about making “throwies” for paper lanterns, consider skipping the paper “switches”. Robert, at buy-leds-online.com, was very helpful and assured me that the battery/led combo that he sold me would definitely stay lit (without loosing much intensity) for at least 3 days. So, rather than cutting out and inserting all those little slips of paper, and then having to pull them all at the last minute, we just waited until two nights before the wedding to tape the batteries to the leds. My uncle thought it was a neat project, so he was happy to help. And, it took very little time for the two of us to get them all “turned on”.

    Also, I highly recommend using white dental floss instead of fishing line. In my experience, it’s more difficult to tie tight knots in the fishing line.

    Finally, I was worried about black binder clips showing through our white lanterns. It probably didn’t matter (maybe someone else can comment on this?) But, just when I was ready to give up, I stumbled upon the Mix It Up display at Staples. http://www.staples.com/sbd/cre/marketing/mixitup/index.html I was able to pick out all the white clips that I wanted, leaving the black and colored ones for someone else. It’s perfect!

  33. Member
    2dBride 3431 posts, Sugar bee @ 2:28 am

    I’ve been experimenting with the throwies, and have found a way to do them without the binder clips, if anyone is interested. Step-by-step instructions are at this link:


  34. Member
    ocam_caro 191 posts, Blushing bee @ 4:08 pm

    I’ve been reading almost all the stuff posted about paper lanterns and how to illuminate them. . .
    In a photojojo blog about How to Light With LEDs,
    they mentioned LED keychains and gave a this link where you can get them by 2, 10 or 50 pack.
    The 22000mcd (Ref. SKU 1100) is as low as $0.447,
    and something they call Ultra-Value Bright (Ref. SKU 20241) is as low as $0.398,
    but a customer says the SKU 1100 is brighter than the SKU 20241.
    I love the idea of the keychains, because it will save me the hassle of making a ton of throwies. . .but has anyone tried this before? and if you did. . .can you share your experience?
    thanks so much!

  35. Member
    WedBuzz 1 posts, Wannabee @ 3:40 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I also cried when my tent vendor quoted me ~$2,000 to add lanterns to our 80×100 tent on Cape Cod. Someone is making a LOT of $$ scamming poor brides for the cost of lanterns. Thank you so much for sharing this invaluable knowledge & research!!

  36. Member
    2dBride 3431 posts, Sugar bee @ 3:54 am

    Here is a picture of the lanterns at our reception.


    We found that the throwies worked very well on the 10″ lanterns. On the 18″ lanterns, the light from the throwies was rather dim and blue. We therefore used Westinghouse Stick-Up Bulbs, which made a brighter light, for those lanterns.

    Details on what we used, and where we got it, can be found at this link:


  37. Member
    farmersdaughter 1675 posts, Bumble bee @ 10:13 pm

    This was posted forever ago, but I just stumbled on it, so Mrs. Tiramisu, THANK YOU! Your words of wisdom will probably help us tent brides on weddingbee for years to come!

  38. Guest Icon Guest
    sophie, Guest @ 9:24 am

    If you purchase non-defuse leds by accident don’t worry. You can make them defused with some sand paper and a little xtra time. Instructions http://www.instructables.com/id/how-to-defuse-an-LED/

  39. Member
    Miss Tattoo 7521 posts, Bumble Beekeeper @ 3:32 pm

    I know this is an old post, but thank you for this. You just put male at ease. ^_^

  40. Guest Icon Guest
    Melissa & Matt, Guest @ 11:33 am

    We are having a tent wedding and wanted to hang lanterns and were totally discouraged…till i read this. Thanks for the info and ill send pics pver after the wedding.. 8/13/11!!!

  41. Member
    River_Kait 22 posts, Newbee @ 12:07 pm


  42. Guest Icon Guest
    Sarah, Guest @ 9:29 am

    I am having the hardest time trying to find the LED throwies and batteries. There are so many different kinds and prices, I dont know which one is right. Do I need the “resistor” with the LED? My wedding is in 2 1/2 weeks!! Please HELP!

  43. Member
    Nina Jensen 1 posts, Wannabee @ 3:36 pm

    Hi Mrs Tiramisu,
    I been reading your post. Great information. We will be using while lantern also at our wedding reception. Do you have any of your lanterns left? If so would you be interested in selling any of them

  44. Member
    LaughLines 346 posts, Helper bee @ 11:10 am

    I think this post needs to end up in the “Helpful Series” too! :)

    Super as I’m looking at seating right now and trying desperately to not be too cheap and get a big enough tent. Thank you so much for including your actual layout!

  45. Guest Icon Guest
    Kelly, Guest @ 11:15 am

    This is so helpful!!! I am going to use it for my tent wedding this summer. I was worried that we couldn’t pull off our own lanterns but I’m not worried anymore!!

  46. Member
    daisychopra 3 posts, Wannabee @ 1:48 pm

    Thank you sooo much for this post!! Lifesaver!

  47. Member
    missesawesome 129 posts, Blushing bee @ 9:17 pm

    Thank you for all of this great information!

    My fiancé and I are hoping to do various shades of purple paper lanterns along with some blue paper lanterns, as well. When we saw the cost of lighting them, I about died … but almost agreed to it for the sake of having one more thing off my list. But now? Now I’m planning on adding about 100 more things – literally.

    We’re thinking of doing about 100 paper lanterns with the Throwies inside of them. My main question now, after doing lots of researching and reading all of your’s is …

    How long (straight – with no turning off at all) did the Throwies last?

    The fiancé and I are thinking, that due to how long it will probably take to actually hang the lanterns, that we should do that part the Thursday before our Saturday evening wedding (so, 2 days in advance). We don’t think we can hassle with the on/off switch and actually going up and down a ladder to turn them on, so knowing how long they last is a big need of ours.

    If anyone has any great input/personal experience with the Throwies and how long they last, please let me know.

    Thanks! :D

  48. Guest Icon Guest
    Dann, Guest @ 5:41 am

    LOVE your post, thanks so much for sharing these details. Who did you ask to hang all of this stuff for you, and how far in advance of the wedding did you do it? I’m nervous to ask too much of people who are going to be busy leading up to my wedding (e.g. my mom or dad, groomsmen, etc.)

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