Heating a wedding tent is one of the things you should never forget while planning your wedding.
Having shivering guests is one of the worst things that can happen to you. Being cold keeps the mood down and your guests might even remember your event as an ice-disaster.
Once, I’ve had a party that was simply too cold. I just didn’t plan the weather in and thought, the party tent would keep the cold out. That was not the case:
Even though I brought the guests blankets and tea to keep warm, they were leaving after just 2 hours.
Back then I wondered what happened, but now it’s obvious that I just didn’t prepare well enough.
To avoid this happening at your wedding – one of the most important days of your life – follow this guide, learn from my mistakes, and be prepared.
After reading this, you’ll know everything about heating a wedding tent when it’s cold outside.
Heating a Wedding Tent: Start with the right mindset
The first thing you need for heating a wedding tent is not a heater, a fireplace or insulation:
The very first thing to start with is setting up the right mindset for heating your tent.
Here’s what you have to consider while planning your wedding:
- Prepare for the worst that can happen – As soon as something happens that’s not planned (e.g. rain), your wedding party will be in danger. If you keep the worst in mind while planning your wedding, you’ll always know what to do when it happens and you’ll feel more confident about your wedding.
- Have full responsibility for everything that happens – “Does it start raining? Oh no! What bad luck!” – While this sentence might be okay on a short afternoon’s city walk, it’s a no-no at your wedding. There won’t be any “bad luck” at your wedding because you’re going to have full responsibility for everything that happens and you’re going to keep it warm & cozy for your guests.
If you’re okay with following these rules and you’ve accepted being the ultimate party planner, let’s continue with the actual heating-guide.
I’ll show you everything you can do to ensure your wedding tent is warm – even in the middle of winter.
Electric or Propane Heaters for a wedding tent?
First off, never plan to use a wedding tent without heaters. I was completely wrong when I assumed that my tent would stay warm enough from the guests’ body temperature.
That was wrong! And the event turned out to be a failure.
So, let’s just postulate:
“You need a heater for every event you plan that is not in mid-summer.”
But what kind of heater is best for heating a wedding tent? Let’s take a look.
Are electric heaters suited for heating a wedding tent?
Electric space heaters need, as the name suggests, electricity. That could be a hassle at your wedding.
Oftentimes, it’s difficult to run a cord across the whole place to find the next outlet. On top of that, using extension cords with space heaters increases the chance of a fire accident.
Alternatively, you could generate electricity yourself. And it’s true:
You can run a space heater off a generator. That would work just fine.
But here are a few points that would make me think twice about using a generator and a space heater for heating a wedding tent:
- It will be loud – Generators have built-in motors that produce the electricity. They’ll produce significant noise.
- The generator will run on diesel and might smell.
- You would need to rent or buy a generator and a heater – Personally, I believe that we should be effective when planning: One device for one purpose. But for heating a wedding tent with an electric space heater, we’d need to get both a generator and an electric heater. You need two devices for heating.
- Generators are very expensive – If you don’t own a generator already, getting a new one is pretty expensive. They range from 200$ well into the thousands depending on what power you need.
Let’s take a look at what I think is the much better choice for heating a wedding tent:
Propane heaters are the best choice
In contrast to electric heaters that need to be powered using a generator, propane heaters are portable and do not depend on electricity.
As long as you have a propane tank hooked up, you can place it anywhere you want. Propane heaters are very flexible.
Propane heaters come in all sizes and shapes and provide any level of heating power you need, whereas electric heaters are very limited because the electric cord can only carry a certain amount of power.
Also, propane heaters are
- Quiet – Heating with propane doesn’t produce any noise.
- Durable – Because propane heaters don’t depend on moving parts (a motor or a built-in fan) and they don’t contain sensitive electronics, propane heaters are very durable and can last you a lifetime (at home, I still have my grandpa’s propane heater from the 80s).
How big should the heater be for heating a wedding tent?
Because propane heaters don’t use any electricity, you can’t directly measure their power in watts.
Propane heating power is measured in BTU, which stands for “British thermal units”.
When you buy a new propane heater, there’s always a BTU value in the product description that tells you how much heating power it has.
“Before you purchase a new space heater, size it to make sure it will have enough British thermal units (BTUs) to heat the room where it will be used.”Space heater sizing guide
Let’s calculate how many BTUs a space heater for a wedding tent needs.
For the calculation, I’ll assume that a standard-sized wedding tent is about 40 by 60 feet (2400 square feet). If your tent is bigger or smaller, you can adapt the end result as you wish.
Generally, one square foot of space needs about 10 watts of heating power – that’s the equivalent of 34.1 BTU.
Therefore, a 2400 square feet wedding tent would need about 82,000 BTU of heating power.
However, this calculation is only valid for closed rooms.
A wedding tent is not perfectly insulated and has thin walls: It loses heat.
To make up for the increased heat loss you should increase the heating power by another 50% and get 123,000 BTU of heating power.
The best way to get to this value is to get three patio propane heaters of about 46,000 BTU each.
Which propane heater is best for heating a wedding tent?
To reach the high amount of heating power you need for your wedding tent, you should get powerful heaters.
I’ve found that the most powerful heaters are so called-torpedo heaters. However, they blast open flames and can be a hazard for your wedding.
That’s why you should stick to safer – and better looking – heaters.
I recommend using patio heaters. Most of them provide around 40,000 – 50,000 BTU by getting two or three of them, you can keep your tent warm safely.
Here’s my recommendation.
Budget patio heater (if you want to save some money)
Slightly higher priced heater (for the most reliable heating experience at your wedding)
The best thing about these heaters is that both have a built-in table, so your guests can sip their drinks and chat there.
Both of them are still comparably cheap compared to industry-standard models which cost well above 1,000$, but they will get the job done.
How much propane do you need?
Generally, the bigger your wedding tent is, the more propane you’ll need. I’ve found estimations online, but in my opinion, they are way too small.
Remember the being-prepared-for-everything-mindset we talked about in the beginning.
For your wedding, you should get at least 60-80lb of propane tanks per propane heater.
If it turns out to be more than you needed after the wedding, you can simply return it to the seller or keep it for later use.
You don’t lose any money by getting more than you need, but you get security and confidence that your wedding will be a success.
Should you buy or rent a heater for heating a wedding tent?
I’ve found that for wedding tents, there are tons of rental companies. And of course, they also want to supply you with the heaters you need.
However, I don’t think that renting heaters from your wedding tent-supplier is necessary.
Instead, I’d buy a heater, because – trust me – you’ll throw more events than just that one wedding.
Imagine having to rent heaters each and every time you need one in your life. Why don’t you just get the right heater upfront and never worry about renting again?
Owning a big propane heater will be cheaper in the long run than constantly renting one.
That’s why I suggest buying heaters.
Improve heat flow in your wedding tent by using a fan
One thing I like to recommend for heating a cold wedding tent is placing a fan in some corner.
It will help to distribute the heat and helps to keep the guests warm that don’t stand directly below the patio heaters.
When do you need tent walls for a wedding tent?
Now that we clarified everything about heating and distributing the heat, there’s still one issue we need to solve:
When is it necessary to get tent walls for a wedding tent? Here’s my answer:
Always! Always have tent walls for your wedding tent. Nights nearly always get cold enough to make guests uncomfortable.
Even if you have three patio heaters that can keep some guests warm, the heat will quickly disappear and get carried away with the wind.
Tent walls are the most important part of your tent. They block off side winds. Without side tent walls, your wedding can become chilly and some guests might even get sick the next day.
Do you need a floor to keep the tent warm?
Tent floors help with insulation. Especially when your wedding takes place in spring or autumn, tent walls are worth considering. During the wintertime, tent walls are a must!
An additional dancefloor can also help to keep the guests moving (which in turn keeps them warm).
During the summertime, a tent floor is not necessary.
Addon tips for having a memorable wedding tent party
Now that we have covered the most important parts about heating a wedding tent, here are some additional tips:
- In the wintertime, bring snow shovels with you. I’ve heard of winter-weddings that took place in a wedding tent. It snowed the night before, so there was no snow-free path to the wedding tent entry. Every guest got his feet wet.
- Don’t switch on and off the heaters all night. Also, prevent guests from doing so. Turning on and off the heat will cause uncomfortable fluctuations in temperature: It’ll get hot and people start sweating, followed by freezing.
- Prepare some hand warmers or hot water bottles. Some guests, especially the older generation, need more heat than others. If you notice, that someone’s cold, you can hand him a handwarmer or a hot water bottle and he’ll positively remember your wedding as the best-prepared wedding they’ve been to.
First off, having the right mindset is crucial. Have control over the situation and prepare for the worst: In summer, prepare for summer rain. In spring, prepare for a cold night that still feels like it’s winter.
With propane patio heaters, you have a good source of heat and tent walls will keep the heat. Also, you can add additional insulation (like blankets) to fill the air gaps in your tent walls.
“The most important thing to keep in mind: Try to have some fun! This is your wedding after all. Don’t get too hung up on the tiny details and focus on what’s truly important.”brides.com
I hope that this guide helped you get some insights into how you can effectively heat your wedding tent.
I wish you a successful wedding!
Attributions: title image by shane_jaime_523,