DIY Tent Decoration for Your Wedding Reception (5)

Today’s guest post comes from Diana, one of our readers who helped her sister pull off DIY tour de force, on time and on budget! Here’s how she did it:

My boyfriend’s sister was trying to do a backyard wedding with a budget of $15,000 and was trying to figure out a way to decorate the tent for cheap. I volunteered to do it because the wedding was months away and it seemed like a nice thing to do (I’m not sure how I felt the day before the wedding but that’s another story). She said she wanted something like this picture.

Read the full post after the cut!

One annoying thing about tent decorations is that there are very few tutorials or how-to’s out there – there are just tons of perfectly decorated tents that went up magically. So I went back to basics and learned about tent set-ups. Basically there are two types of tents – frame tents and pole tents. Frame tents are easier to decorate because they have a frame (duh) where you can hang decorations but they also mean lower ceilings. Plus frame tents are usually the smaller sized tents you see at BBQs and the like. Pole tents are more challenging because all you have is the pole and that pole is 18 feet tall.

The tent we decorated was 30′ by 60′ and had three poles. I had originally planned for a 40′ by 60′ tent with two poles but it worked out either way. Luckily, the bride’s family’s best friend is a contractor so he supplied the large ladder, which we braced against the pole. (The tent guy told us that unofficially the pole could hold a human/ladder combo).

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Now we needed to get the supplies and expenses kept piling up for the wedding so I wanted to keep it as cheap as possible. The decoration budget was $500 but I shared that with all the chalkboard pigs and mason jars they had to buy.

I did a little math to figure out how much fabric we needed. I used the pythagorean theorem! I got to make a tent look beautiful and finally used geometry, so many bucket list items checked off. We estimated that we needed six different types of fabric and 10 yards of each (we assumed that fabric is 3 feet wide but they turned out to be much wider, which was a god send in the end).

We headed to Michael Levin’s fabric loft in downtown LA where they sell fabric for $2.50/pound (it’s usually sold by the yard) and were lucky to find six different fabrics. The bride’s colors were purple and gray so we knew we wanted a purple and a gray but beyond that we wanted texture, patterns and colors! We found a thick green patterned bolt that was very full because who wants that, we found a purple jersey, a gray sparkly sheer fabric, pink lace (this ended up being shorter than 10 yards and we only used it rarely), and a yellow silky fabric. 22.4 lbs cost about $56.

DIY Tent Decoration for Your Wedding Reception (1)

Then we headed down the street to a party store wholesaler recommended by the fabric store guy and found 100 foot christmas tree lights for $4.99 each). We got 8. Cost $43.24. Total cost: 99.24.

The next part I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. I wasn’t able to get the stuff in time to ship it so we had to carry it on the plane. I stuffed my suitcase, an extra duffle bag and my computer bag with fabric and christmas tree lights. One last fabric remained so I put it in a pillow case and pretended like it was my plane pillow. My backpack got rechecked because apparently when you have 3 boxes of christmas tree lights in there, it looks like it might be a bomb. Who knew? Because of this and a very long security line, we had to run to our plane, whose gate was at the very very end of the terminal. Needless to say, when we arrived, I paused to dry heave a little before boarding while some very bored flight attendants watched.

Cut to later that night, when we folded the fabrics into as small as possible and cut two inch strips. This took forever especially since I was using right handed scissors and I’m a lefty. The sacrifice! If you can get a hold of one, use a chalkline for this part. It would have be helpful.

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After cutting the strips, we counted the colors and again did math, figuring out how many should go in each section and how many of each we had for each section. We ended up with 15 on each side (30 total) in each of the middle sections and 40 on each side. We used two of the green strips (they had the least amount of give) to tie the other strips to and then lifted them up using the ladder and secured each side. We also secured a line of string across the middle to later hang christmas tree lights.

Then we tied 40 strips like a fan on two purple ones to tie to the other side of the end poles. After that, we looped them through the sides of the tent where the ropes are. I really don’t recommend tying them because you want to be able to slide them around and adjust. Some of them were two short (the pink) so we cut extra pieces and tied them together. I think it added to the homey feel. Since it was predicted to rain that night, I bagged the hanging ends to protect the ends and we went off to the rehearsal dinner.

The day of the wedding, we hung lights. Someone had bought 4 strains of those big bulb type from Target and we had to use those. Even though, those bulbs pushed our budget to $200. We hung those along the spine of the tent and then used the regular christmas tree lights around the sides and two through the middle hanging off that piece of string.

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Finally, I unbagged the ribbons which were mostly dry and parted them like window curtains and maypole wrapped the excess around the side posts. I cut off any excess fabric at the ends and used those pieces to help the pieces that weren’t long enough (all of the pinks). And voila, you’re done! It was a lot of work and a lot of family members chipped in, but since it was the largest thing to decorate at the wedding, I think it was definitely worth it.

Thanks for sharing, Diana! The tent turned out great, so fun and festive.

What DIY projects are you planning for your wedding? Let us know in the comments below!