Outdoor receptions in Michigan?! Yep, even people in Michigan as far north as Traverse City and beyond have their weddings and receptions outside. It helps that late spring, summer, and fall in Michigan are gorgeous. Wedding parties would be foolish not to take advantage of the beautiful weather and views of the Leelanau Peninsula as the setting for their parties.
Now it’s said that you can’t improve on nature, and we do have some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Michigan, but as a wedding photographer, I’ve seen some gorgeous decorations at outdoor receptions that take advantage of the best nature has to offer and add a little something to the mix.
If you want your wedding reception photographs to stand out from the crowd, here are six of the most beautiful ways to take your wedding reception tent design to the next level.
The perfect wedding reception design begins with the perfect tent. There are many options, but you should always keep the time of day and weather in mind because while an open canopy may look nice in the day, they can be a bear on windy or chilly nights.
Completely enclosed tents allow more light to bounce around the room, creating a lighter, brighter space at night, while tents with open walls or fabric draped strategically over an open frame leave the party open to stunning lakeside or garden views in the day. If you want the best of both worlds, consider using a clear tent that protects from the weather, but allows for unrestricted views.
If you love the style of tent, but don’t love the tent material, no worries! Rent ephemeral or lush fabrics to hang from the support poles to create a luxurious, draped ceiling as a blank canvas waiting for decoration.
There are some things that everyone equates with a wedding, and one of them is flowers. Don’t merely decorate with flowers, use flowers to create drama and those “wow” moments that will make your wedding the talk of the town.
Flower arrangements don’t just belong on top of tables, they also belong over them. Use masses of flowers to create statement arrangements above tables.
If you want to create a truly unique experience, don’t arrange your overhead flowers in a typical manner, instead hang them one by one, upside down to build a solid ceiling of flowers above the dance floor.
Everybody loves a flower wall. They never get old, and they always make a beautiful statement. Build a flower wall behind the main table, or in a spot that encourages everyone to stop and sniff the flowers— after the requisite selfie, of course.
Not all the flora at your wedding has to be floral. There are many different colors and textures of greenery, so why not use them to create a wooded wonderland.
Bring potted trees into the tent to add height and drama to the design. Keep them untouched for a more rustic, natural look or add lights and decorations to create a fairytale atmosphere. Place them against the tent poles to create the illusion that the tent is held up by the trees.
Drape greenery on the chandeliers, allowing the leaves and vines to tumble down and turn a basic light fixture into a floating centerpiece. Be careful to place them just right, so you don’t start a fire. You want your reception to be exciting, but not that exciting!
Add more touches of green but using garlands of greenery—vines, boughs, and ferns—to wrap boring tent poles or hang in swaths from the ceiling.
And for those weddings that have a more tropical flair, suspend palms fronds and other large tropical leaves, so it feels like your guest are partying under a rainforest canopy.
Everyone pays so much attention to the tables, walls, and ceiling that sometimes the largest canvas is forgotten—the floor! There are many possibilities underfoot, should you choose to tackle them.
Create a cozy atmosphere with overlapping rugs or place rugs underneath the tables to ground the dining areas.
Use turf, moss, stepping stones, or other natural materials to create natural pathways or to create a living dancefloor.
Craft a dance floor from temporary tiles or different colored wood planking to create a checkered or abstract pattern.
You can also add designs to your dance scene with vinyl appliques or paint. Put your and your spouse’s initials in the middle of the floor or another design that matches your wedding theme (perhaps something pulled from your invitations). You can also go abstract with an elegant or funky design to add to the atmosphere of the party.
Chandeliers are classic and never go out of style, but consider other lighting fixtures to create a unique ambiance.
Using tall candelabras on tables strikes a bold statement, especially when wrapped in greenery or floral garlands.
For a rustic chic or bohemian vibe, hang mismatched metal and wooden lanterns at different heights over the tables.
Create a freeform chandelier using strands of fairy lights, or Edison bulbs hung at varying heights down the center of a long table or in formations over round tables.
Suspend wooden shelves from the ceiling and crowd the shelves with pillar candles of varying heights (or intersperse them with cascading flowers) for a more rustic feel. To avoid a potential fire, it may be best to stick to battery-operated candles. They even look like the real thing now!
No 21st-century wedding would be complete without a hashtag and Instagram-worthy moments. While your whole tent will be a dream to photograph from every angle, also consider smaller areas where guests can take their own pictures.
In addition to more traditional reception seating, hang swings around the tent and cover the ropes with garlands and lights. Hang at least one in a secluded area for the perfect solo pics, but place most in formations of two or more for group shots.
Build a wall out of colorful and beautiful decorations for the perfect photo backdrop. Whether it’s made of flowers, umbrellas, balloons, lights, or something else entirely, the wall is sure to be a hit online.
Commission marquee or neon letters in your and your spouse’s initials for a fun, “in-the-spotlight” backdrop for photos. It’ll also be a cute prop to take home after the event.
I hope you’re able to take inspiration from this list and create those picture-perfect scenes and moments that you can cherish forever. I only wish I could be there to see it! But, hey, if you haven’t hired a wedding photographer yet, maybe I could be. Contact me if you’re looking for someone who will be as obsessed with your wedding as you are. I look forward to hearing from you!
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