Tents, and Lanterns, and Layouts, Oh My

Tent Wedding Cost and Logistics

I have gotten a lot of questions about our tent wedding 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!

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

A: We decided on a 40′ x 120′ “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′ x 100′ 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 for your tent wedding. I feel like we had the right size tent for the amount of guests we had.

Here it is pretty empty:

table setup for tent wedding

long tables tent wedding

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):

wedding seating layout for tent wedding

The squares are 5′ x 5′ and seat eight guests, the long tables are two 8′ x 3′ rectangles together, and seat 16. When figuring out the setup, 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.


white flowers purple votive holders

Photo via Samantha Warren Weddings


long wedding table white tablecloth

Photo via Samantha Warren Weddings

Q: Did you buy all the paper lanterns for your tent wedding? 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).

white paper lanterns

Photo via Samantha Warren Weddings

Q: What size are the lanterns? How did you figure out how many to use for your tent wedding?

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 for your tent wedding?

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 five loops (a few had six—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.

how to set up a tent wedding

Q: How and when did you turn all the LED lights on for your tent wedding?

A: We added an on/off switch (just a tiny piece of card stock) to our throwies when we assembled them (details here). You just pull the piece of card stock 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 for your tent wedding?

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:

tent wedding with paper lanterns green tablecloths

Photo via www.ourweddingplus.com

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

tent wedding with paper lanterns

Photo via Tentwares

Q: Did your rental company actually try to charge you over $5,000 for paper lantern lighting for your tent wedding?

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 2008
I Need a Friendly Kick, Please!
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  1. Guest Icon Guest
    Lori, Guest @ 9:26 am

    Thank you for this helpful information! My tent wedding is in July this year and I am trying to figure out how many lanterns I need to order for a 40×100 tent. The prices to hang them from the decorator at our venue was ridiculous so we are also doing it ourselves. Good to hear we’re not alone in this 🙂 Thanks!

  2. Member
    MissesAwesome 771 posts, Busy bee @ 4:43 pm

    Lori: Our wedding reception tent was a bit smaller than your’s at 40×80 and we ordered 90 lanterns. However, we ended-up actually using less than what we ordered. If I had to guess, I’d say my father-in-law hung approximately anywhere between 70 and 80 of the lanterns we purchased. It wasn’t that much of a hassle and was definitely better than paying someone a ton of money to do it. It was a great way for other family members to get involved. 🙂

  3. Member
    quanesha 0 posts, Wannabee @ 5:43 pm

    Hey I have a question, how do you string the lanterns on to the fishing line? This was an awesome post btw! Thank you for taking the time to do this. I have a 30×60 tent. How many lanterns do you think I’ll need?

  4. Member
    quanesha 0 posts, Wannabee @ 5:44 pm

    Also, how did you keep them in place? I feel like they would all sag toward the middle of the string?

  5. tiramisu Bee
    tiramisu 390 posts, Helper bee @ 8:38 pm

    Quanesha- maybe 80? That would be about the same per square foot as what we had. We tied loops in the fishing line and hung the lanterns from the loops. If you use the heavy duty stuff you can get it pretty tight so that they don’t sag. Good luck!

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