In the Nashville area Art’s Pancake Rent-All is a good source. You’ll want something that has a fuel tank large enough to power your entire event at full load for twice as long as you’re planning for. These pull-behind units typically will have a break-out panel (multiple circuits) and a couple hundred feet of cabling with it. This lets you put the generator out of ear-shot of your guests and puts the power where it’s needed (without a bunch of extension cords).
Wherever possible, we always recommend land power to be used as it’s more reliable but you need to be aware of extension cords. Never run more than a couple hundred feet of extension cords and never use anything less than 10 or 12-gauge wires. If you pull 16 or 18-gauge cable (the common orange extension cords you use for the weed trimmer) that far, the voltage will drop and that’s what burns up electrical gear of all kinds. Bear in mind that you’ll need multiple circuits and no, you can just put a multi-strip on the end to power everything in the tent. If you’re doing it right, the extension cables should remain cool. If you’re overloading them, they’ll get hot and that usually means the circuit will fail at some point during the evening (remember that guest in the dark pic?).
One other little “gotcha”. Getting proper voltage at the end of the line is important. After everything has been wired up, use a volt meter to make certain you have the right voltage. Good voltage is anywhere between 115 and 124 volts. If your tent power is dipping below that, you may be in for trouble. This is often caused by using too-light gauge or too-long extension cords.
Uplighting (another “gotcha”)
As a side note, I wanted to address something specific to Uplighting issues. There are two ways to do perimeter lighting on tents. Hang the fixtures at the tent roof-line and shoot the color onto the roof or use sidewalls on the tent and paint the walls from the ground up.
In the case where sidewalls are being used, be sure to stake the walls into the ground. First off, it keeps rain off the lighting fixtures (we lost a fixture due to rain on the purple job above) and it keeps the color hitting where it’s suppose to.
You need to be careful when selecting the location for your tent. Of course, you’ll want a good, flat surface but something most people miss is drainage. Be sure and survey the area just after a heavy rainstorm. Is there water running through the area where you want to put the tent? Pick someplace else to put it. Water running through your tent not only makes for muddy shoes (and unhappy guests) but it can also be dangerous if you have electrical cables running across it as well. Better safe than sorry.
If you’ve made it this far and are still awake, congratulations! You are in the minority that is doing diligence and that is the first rule of pulling off a successful outdoor event. If all this techie mumbo-jumbo is confusing, don’t worry. It is for most people. That’s what you hire the pros to help you with. If there are any questions we can ever answer for you, even if we’re not doing your event, please call or email anytime. We’re always here to help.
We are NOT a licensed electrician and make no claims to such expertise. The article above is offered in the spirit of helpful advice, from the DJ’s perspective. We recommend you seek the advice of a competent, licensed professional for your electrical wiring needs.
Nashville Wedding DJ, Uplighting and Photobooth Service