The Story of a Little Floating Tent

Once upon a time, we had a client with very steep property in cottage country... when the tent guys went to measure, they pointed to the water and joked, "we should just put the tent out there." The client, being something of a man of vision, jumped at the idea. And thus begun our odyssey to figure out how to not only make this happen, but to make this exacting man happy.

The first plan was to build the deck (or in non-event-speak: the tent floor) on top of scaffold, which would lie on the lake bottom. This presented us with all kinds of issues, the first being obtaining permits from the Department of Oceans and Fisheries in case we disturbed the natural habitat of any creatures who live below amongst the rocks and gunk. The second was that we found out that the lake bottom wasn't very solid at all; it turned out that our client had had to drive-pile almost 45-feet down to find bedrock when he erected his boat house. That seemed a little excessive for our One Night Affair... and so our quest continued.

Next, we looked at renting barges, tying them up together and putting a tent up on them... but the main challenge was that barges are in high demand in the summer months, being the workhorses that carry equipment and materials to properties under construction - and, as we discovered, no barge operator was willing to give up three barges for the more than three weeks we'd need them. Not to mention that barges aren't very pretty. Yes, I said it: they're generally scuffed up, different and/or multi-coloured, with stuff all over their decks and sit very high above the water. Our aesthetically-minded client didn't care for this option at all.

That was when his landscaper suggested contacting the people that manufacture floating docks, and that's just what Dennis Large of Advanced Tent did. Experts were consulted (it turned out there were none - as no one had ever tried anything like this before) engineers were called in, measurements and calculations were made, budgets were approved and finally –finally!– the big day arrived. And I'm not referring to the wedding day... It was Let's Build a Tent on Water Day! The first to arrive? The pontoons: over 70 were brought in on a barge one sunny day, about a month before the wedding itself. The next few photos document how Dennis and his boys brought the vision to life.



Here are some fun stats about what went into it to make it float:

  • 9 x 2000 pound weights went into the water to anchor the structure
  • 75 pontoons: 18" in diameter and 24' in length
  • 360 2 x 8 x 16's
  • 900 1/2" bolts
  • 160 sheets of 3/4" plywood
  • Dozens of trips to the closest hardware store, 30 minutes away
  • Several involuntary 'slips' into the water

And so the boys went forth, connecting the pontoons together to slowly start building our floating palace. You can see it coming together now.

Wedding 3

Wedding 4

The finished deck measured 50' x 100' - a full 5000 square feet of 'blank canvas' for Event Designer Bill Fulghum to conjure up his magic and bring the all-white vision our bride requested to reality.

So now it was time to build the floor and then erect the structure itself...

Wedding 5


Wedding 6

Next came the rigging, draping and carpet. For the record, white carpet in tents drive me crazy - every single person has to put little blue disposable booties on once the plastic cover comes off; it makes setting up tables, chairs, plates, glassware, decor, bar ware etc. so much more work!

The next picture is one I've already posted, but here it is in new context.

Wedding 7

This was the view from the tent as the bathroom trailer came into the bay; you can see where we are in the progress of things: the drape is up, the railings are on, the wiring for lighting & sound and plexi shelves has been completed and the plush, white carpet has been laid. In case you missed my previous blog post about floating toilets, there was simply no place to put a 32' unit on this property. Plus, I figured if the tent is going to float, we might as well do the same with the bathrooms!

So that brings us to the big day itself. This was our first time working with the internationally-celebrated photographer Jerry Ghionis and his wife Melissa and they captured the following beautiful photos.

Wedding 8

Wedding 9

Our bride had been inspired by another all-white, tented wedding we'd done a few years before that appeared in the Summer/Fall 2009 issue of WedLuxe magazine (click here to see it). No matter what chandelier/lighting alternatives we showed her, we couldn't sway her from the floating plexi shelves, hovering above the tables, laden with candles!

These are some floral details. Every woman got a single orchid at her place setting and the troughs running down the centres of the tables alternated: two rows had roses bordered with ferns and one had roses with baby's breath - a flower that, apparently, has great symbolism in our bride's native Brazil.

Finally - the Grande Finale - fireworks out on the lake, with a great view of our Little Floating Tent from the water.

Wedding 10

Hard to believe all this effort goes into one (albeit perfect) night, isn't it? But that's what we do and, quite honestly, challenges like this are what float our boats. Or in this case, float our tents...