Planning an outdoor event may take some time but it saves you a lot of last minute stress and aggravation. Functions taking place outdoors should have the protection of a tent from the rain and sun. Smaller gatherings may get by with some “pop-up” tents, garages or canopies. Larger or more formal events would require a professionally installed tent. Visit our “tent sizing” page for helpful information in determining the space required to accommodate your guests comfortably. The square foot requirements are the same if the party is under a tent, in a garage or out in the open. Predicting the number of attendees is a good first step which will allow you to calculate the area required for your event. Invitations and RSVP’s are the most accurate method for determining the number of guests but for smaller events an estimate will suffice. First figure out the space you’ll need and see if the venue is large enough. Event planning should also include an outward perspective of what is happening in your area at the same time. Events may compete for attendees or the same people may attend both events at different times. This fact is often left overlooked at graduation parties which generally are held several at a time in the same area. Guests at graduation parties generally visit several parties randomly which reduces the amount of seating needed. You may have sixty guests but no more than thirty five at one time.
A building permit may be required depending on the size of the tent and its location. Consult your local building inspector. Permits must be acquired by the property owner, lessee or licensed representative. You may need to provide a site map with the location of the tent, tent owners name and address, liability & workers compensation insurance addendum and proof of flame retardants. Liability insurance for the event should be discussed with your agent. Larger events can get event insurance which is based on rainfall for a particular time period. Although not inexpensive, it may be something for you to consider.
Food and drink are an integral part of any event. Is the event going to be catered, and if so, is it going to be a served meal or buffet style? Will you be using paper and plastic, or china and glass? If you decide on china and glass, is the caterer going to supply them? Maybe it’s a cook out, do you need to rent a grill or 40 qt. pots and propane stoves? Do you need coolers to keep kegs or drinks cold or chafing dishes to keep food warm? What will you be covering the tables with; linens, cater cloth, fitted plastic or some other method? Caterers will need a covered place for food preparation sometimes a garage will suffice or a small additional tent. They may also need access to electricity and or water. Tables may be required by the caterer for buffets or food preparation. Talk with your caterer about what they will need from you. Make arrangements with your caterer to set up the tables and chairs and cover the tables. If you plan on catering the event yourself, you will need to set up the tables and chairs, cover the tables, bus the tables, and take care of all the trash. Take advantage of any help cleaning up the night of the event while you have it, generally the next day clean up crew is usually under staffed. We cannot help you with food requirements for a certain number of people, consult your supplier. Make sure you have plenty of ice and water for your guests. Most of the activities at outdoor events are dehydrating.
Accessibility to the party is necessary for the caterer, last minute deliveries and emergency personnel. Manage the parking so as keep access clear. You might have to find alternate parking areas and provide a shuttle for your guests. Handicap parking areas may have to be set aside and well marked. Backyard parties may not need any formal handicap areas, but try to accommodate older or less mobile guests accordingly. Talk to your neighbors about your event. Discuss how the parking will affect their property and address any potential noise issues. One good strategy to employ is to invite your neighbors. If you want to keep cars from parking in certain areas, string up some caution tape. Make sure no-one has too much to drink and tries to leave your event. If pedestrians have to cross a busy street it may require a police officer to stop traffic. Larger events may need to have paramedics present. They too, will need unobstructed access to the event.
Electricity is needed in several areas during a function. If you plan on having lights in the tent, they would require their own circuit. We provide one extension cord with the lights which is usually long enough to reach a power source. You will need to draw electricity from more than one circuit; caterers, DJ’s, bands and digital presentations may all need power. Extension cords should be of sufficient gauge to handle the draw on them. As with other things bigger is better. It’s a good idea to tape the connections with electrical tape to keep the water out. If receptacles are placed in the tent, the boxes should be grounded to the frame. Power may not be available on site in which case a generator may be needed. Generators have to be grounded. Ask the rental person when reserving one. Generators can also provide backup power if power from the street is interrupted.
With all these people drinking and eating you will need some bathrooms. If you are going to use the house be aware any septic issues will intensify with the increased bathroom traffic. It may be necessary to rent some portable units. They aren’t great to look at, so put them in an inconspicuous spot. If something more polished is needed, there are trailer type bathrooms that are pretty nice. They hook up to a garden hose and you have sinks with running water. Be forewarned however, they are not inexpensive to rent. One policy is to have the women use the house bathroom and the men use the porta-john. Porta-johns have to be serviced if your event is going for multiple days.
Outdoor events, even with tents, may have to be cancelled due to extreme weather. The outdoors can be a dangerous place with lightening or strong winds. Forecasts of extreme weather may require that you cancel your event or change your venue. Consider a rain date when you are planning your event. If an unexpected storm blows in you may have to seek temporary shelter in a house or garage. Winds can stress tents but also they can blow tables over and knock down tree limbs. Tents will not protect you from falling objects. Check your local forecast often.
A call to Dig Safe is necessary (1-888-DIG-SAFE) if there is any question of underground utilities present where the tent is to be staked. Depending on the size and location of the tent, a building permit may be required. Permits must be pulled by the owner of the property where the tent is to be located. A copy of the tent fabric’s certificate of flame resistance is available from us upon request. Sometimes it is also necessary for us to provide you with our certificate of workers compensation and liability insurance. Events open to the public or in certain towns, and have all the side walls secured may require additional safety items. Illuminated “EXIT” signs with battery backup and lighting or fire extinguishers are sometimes needed. Our crews must be made aware of the location of underground sprinkler and electrical lines. Grounds or maintenance personnel may have to flag or paint any underground services. Overhead electrical lines and tree branches may become an issue and must be considered. We may be able to provide a free site visit if the tent looks like a tight fit or if the installation appears difficult.
Planning an event makes you responsible for the last minute issues that generally come up at special events. A caterer takes a lot of the responsibility for an event but there are inevitably things that come up that you will have to resolve. It’s a good idea to have some capable helpers around before and during an event. Small tasks can tie you up and keep you unavailable to your guests. If you are catering the event yourself, get as much food preparation done beforehand so that you may greet your guests when they arrive. Make sure you have adequate cooler or refrigerator space if guests are bringing food or beverage. You may want to assign your helpers an area of responsibility such as the storing and serving of food, providing cocktails or drinks, running errands, taking care of the trash, security or monitoring the parking. Special events can be very dynamic and exciting don’t try to do everything yourself. People have more fun when they are involved in the process. Focus your attention on the progression of your event and enjoy it. Don’t let small details get in the way of you appreciating everything you created. Let your helpers help resolve any minor issues that come up, most of which, will resolve themselves. Once an event is underway it takes on a life of its own. The atmosphere and flow of the party is a reflection of the guests and can not be micro-managed. Carefully consider who will be attending your event. If the event is open to the public you should provide security.