Viva is a huge fan of backyard tented weddings. Simply put, we adore them. Everything about a backyard wedding makes us happy. The fresh air, the freedom of being outside, dancing the night away under the stars and the intimate feel they seem to have regardless of the number of guests present.

With all that goodness however comes a heck of a lot of work. Unless you've made it a habit of hosting large events in the past, chances are you don't have stored in your garage a tent, 30 tables, 300 chairs, a dance floor, and all the linens, dishes, etc, etc, etc needed to pull a backyard wedding off.

Unlike a downtown hotel or conference centre who because of the many events they host will already have these items on site, you'll need to bring them in yourself. Fortunately Ottawa is full of great rental places to help you out.

Thinking of having a tented backyard wedding? Here is a checklist of just a few items you'll need to rent and things to consider.

- Large enough to fit head table, all guest tables, dance floor, dj/band, stage/platform, cake table, gift table, bar, cruiser tables, lounge style seating, etc
- Weatherproofed (wind, rain resistant)
- Roll up sides/windows

Tent decor
- Ceiling swags
- Drapery for main entrance
- Drapery around support poles
- Chandeliers
- Paper lanterns
- Ground luminaries around perimeter and to create pathways
- Gobo or spotlights to project patterns on walls/floor/ceiling
- Flooring if ground is not firm
- Large potted flowers/plants/trees
- etc

Ceremony – once ceremony is over, tables rented for ceremony can be moved to reception site and used there
- Table to sign marriage certificate
- Table for sand ceremony, stone blessing, etc
- Table for programs, water bottles, etc
- Table for DJ/musician if required
Cocktail Hour
- Cruiser tables
- Guest tables
- Head table or sweetheart/couple’s table
- Table for escort cards
- Guest book table
- Tables for DJ
- Tables for bar
- Cake table
- Gift table

Ceremony – once ceremony is over, chairs rented for ceremony can be moved to reception site and used there
- Chairs for all guests
- Chairs for musicians
Cocktail Hour
- Lounge style seating
- Chairs for all guests
- Chair for DJ

- Table cloths
- Skirting
- Chair covers if required
Cocktail Hour
- Table cloths
- Table runners/overlays
- Cocktail napkins
- Table cloths for all tables
- Skirting
- Table runners/overlays
- Chair covers if required
- Dinner napkins

- Hors d’oevres for cocktail hour
- Plated/buffet/home style meal
- Coffee/Tea service
- Late night buffet
- All tableware (dinnerware, flatware, glassware)
- Cooks
- Area for cooks to cook/prep meal
- Servers
- Bartenders
- Bar area for bartenders
- Ice
- Garbage

Table top
- Centerpieces
- Table numbers
- Place cards
- Menus
- Guest favours

Dance floor


Lighting, sound system and electrical
- Microphone so guests can hear the officiant as well as the bride & groom
- Microphones/speakers for musicians
- Outlets for electrical
- Extension cords
- Microphone for speeches
- Lighting for evening receptions
- Outlets for electrical
- Extension cords
- Generator

Gift table
- Card box

Signing table
- Pen
- Guest Book
- Pens

- Rent portable washrooms
- Don’t forget lighting to/in washrooms for evening receptions

- Need sufficient space for all your guests to park
- Consider parking restrictions
- Parking signs to be posted or hire parking attendant to direct guests to parking
- Lighting to guide guests to their vehicles for evening receptions

- Portable heaters for cool evenings
- Lap blankets or wraps
- Fans if tent is not air conditioned

Bug Repellent
- Spray for bugs ahead of time
- Use citronella candles
- Rent bug zappers

- Special occasion permit (SOP)
- Liquor liability for private residence
- Party alcohol liability insurance

Noise restrictions

- If neighbours aren’t invited but may be affected by your wedding (more traffic/cars parked on the street, noise late into the evening) it’s common courtesy to let them know you’re hosting a big event

Disabled guests
- Walkways easily accessible for those in wheelchairs and using canes
- Appropriate washroom facilities available
- Rent small golf cart to transfer older guests if hilly/uneven terrain or great distance between ceremony and reception site

- Reception tent to double as ceremony area
- Ceremony to take place on dance floor
- One row of seating on each side of dance floor designated for parents/grandparents
- All other guests to either stand on dance floor or to be seated at assigned tables for duration of ceremony, mingle during cocktail hour and then be seated at same tables for dinner
- Keep extra umbrellas at entrance of tent for guests to use
- Tent
- In house
- Nearby heritage buildings, museums, etc

- Consider direction of chair set up (you don’t want your guests looking into the sun)
- Check with your photographer for picture purposes
- Set up a beverage station with pitchers of ice water and fresh cut lemons so guests can help themselves or provide bottled water
- Hand held fans
- Sunscreen
- Provide shaded area for your guests if you don’t want them in the main tent until dinner

- Make sure candles are protected by using hurricanes, lanterns, fishbowls, etc
- Use weighted vases for flowers on table tops
- Heavy centerpieces will help keep linens down, pin whatever can be pinned

Inform your guests
- Let you guests know in advance that they will be attending an outdoor wedding so they will be prepared and can dress accordingly


  1. Holy Crap! That's a lot to think about. I guess this is why we hired you :-)

  2. Cara ConellyApril 09, 2010

    Great list! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I want to get married again .. and do this!! ;-)
    Keep it coming ;-)

  4. You have done a great work in your blog.

  5. When planning an outdoor wedding and reception, or any other event or party held in a tent outside, it’s always good to have a checklist of the things you need. Some people see all the planning as a disadvantage in favor of indoor receptions, but I think it’s one of the most fun parts. I get a chance to put my personal touch, or a personal touch from my clients, into the decoration.