Tented Wedding: A blush pink, white, and gold wedding reception set in a tent at Salamander Resort & Spa.

The Making of a Tented Wedding for Sarah and Niraj

Middleburg, Virginia
BY SHIRA SAVADA / 03 30 22
Photo by Abby Jiu Photography

Every wedding vendor team is created a little differently. In this series we explore how and why each couple selected the right wedding vendor team for their wedding day.

In April 2020, shortly after the start of the pandemic, Sarah and Niraj were in their home in Arlington, Virginia, when they got engaged. “We were in lockdown in our two bedroom apartment, so there was no grand event, just a simple proposal while we were sitting on our couch,” Sarah explains. The day after, they wasted no time, calling venues about availability as they had heard that they should lock down a place ASAP given that couples slated to wed that year were already rescheduling, and dates might be limited for the following spring.


Wedding Venue, Caterer, Cake, & Photographer

With Spring 2021 in mind from a timing perspective, and when looking for a location, Sarah recalled a property she had been to before that stood out as a beautiful place to get married: Salamander Resort & Spa. At the top of the potential wedding venue list, Sarah and Niraj were excited when their target wedding weekend was available. And the fact that the venue handled all catering and the wedding cake in house made planning during a pandemic a bit easier.

“When our couples get married at Salamander Resort they really have a ‘getaway’ feel for their wedding, even if they are local to the area. The activities that are available for guests to enjoy and the beauty of the property are such a highlight of the experience and I am so happy that Sarah and Niraj’s guests got to do it all.” —Christie Yerks Luhrs, planner/designer

It was the venue that also led Sarah and Nirjah to their second move, as they discovered photographer Lisa Zeising of Abby Jiu Photography from her prior work at the resort.

Tented wedding: The facade and front lawn of the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia.
Tented Wedding: A soft pink wedding cake with gold accents and fresh flowers.
Tented Wedding: A bride and groom smile at each other as they walk hand-in-hand after their wedding ceremony in the Virginia countryside.

Wedding Planner/Designer 

With a background in corporate event planning, Sarah initially didn’t think a wedding planner was needed. But when conversations with Lisa began, she highly recommended and made an introduction to Grit & Grace Inc.. Soon after, the couple booked the company’s principal event designer Christie Yerks Luhrs.

“The pandemic mostly created uncertainty that we had to scenario-plan for—would we be able to invite our full guest list or would it have to be reduced? Would we be able to have it indoors as originally planned, or move it outside? Luckily we had Christie to help us feel beyond prepared for anything that might happen, and some of the contingency plans we moved forward with ended up being some of the most memorable aspects of the event. Having Christie by our side throughout the process made everything so much easier and let us relax on our wedding weekend.” —Sarah, bride

Tented Wedding: A couple standing at the alter of their outdoor wedding ceremony.

Wedding Videographer & Entertainment

Christie started filling in the key vendor team by focusing on what was most important to the bride and groom. For one, a videographer to stream the ceremony for guests unable to attend—and who would also be comfortable working with the photographer. Alex Clayton of Clayton Film Co. was the perfect fit, as he regularly shoots alongside Lisa. 

Music and dancing were key for both nights of celebration, which began with a traditional Indian Sangeet. They needed someone who could blend some of the Indian classics with other great dance songs, and keep the music fresh. DJ Dan from Premier DJ Services was able to accomplish both, and kept the dance floor packed. A jazz group (Common Ground Jazz) was added to the mix to provide the ceremony and cocktail hour soundtracks, adding in live music and the couple’s love of the genre in one fell swoop.

“We methodically book the core vendors that will allow us to achieve the vision, starting with those that book up the most quickly in our market, to ensure we can get the best team. We present vendors to our clients that are the best fit for their personalities, style, and budget. It is a very thoughtful process and not every vendor is right for every client —even if they have worked at the venue before. Our rule is that we want our clients to feel 100% comfortable that their vendor team will make magic happen.” —Christie Yerks Luhrs, planner/designer

Tented Wedding: A flower girl and ring bearer process down the aisle on the lawn of the Salamander Resort & Spa.
Tented Wedding: A bride and groom share their first dance on a custom dance floor at their tented wedding reception.

Wedding Production & Decor

While Friday’s night’s event skewed more towards the Indian aesthetic—with bright colors incorporated into the flowers and lighting, Saturday embraced more of the traditional Western style of wedding. A black-tie dress code, and a color palette of blush, green, and gold. With both events taking place in the same space, it was imperative that they felt unique in design. Though some connective elements wove them together—the use of gold, Indian mandala designs, and elephants.

Christie enlisted Social Supply Design & Décor to create custom pieces to make the designs come to life. Saturday included a laser-cut ceremony mandap for the ceremony, a golden elephant escort card display, and a custom dance floor design. Always looking for up-and-coming talent, Christie proposed Designs by Oochay for floral design–believing in her ability to balance the different palettes over the course of the weekend. A key floral element was a remarkable entrance to the tent and a hanging display over the dancefloor at the reception. Atmosphere, Inc. highlighted all of the beauty of the tent with pinspots and uplighting, while Select Event Group provided the luxurious rental pieces.

“We are both animal lovers. We have a house full of pets and a very subtle safari theme in its decor, with little figurines decorating tables and shelves and such. We saw that motif in one of the options for our stationery and love it, so we used it as a bit of a connective thread—from our invitations all the way to the dance floor.” —Sarah, bride

“Social Supply was the perfect fit to achieve the vision we had to transform the tent over the two nights. It is important when using the same space for multiple wedding events that you have a plan in place to refresh the design so guests don’t feel that they have been there, done that.” —Christie Yerks Luhrs, planner/designer

Tented Wedding: Gold flatware and rimmed chargers and plates, pink linen napkins, and menus boasting wax seals set the table at a wedding reception.
Tented Wedding: The entrance to a tented wedding reception, with a high-impact floral installation of white and pink blooms and fresh greenery.
Tented Wedding: An elephant-themed escort card display, with arrangements of pink roses throughout.

Wedding Hair & Makeup 

Next, it was on to a group of hair and makeup artists to focus on the key ladies of the weekend. Glam Bridal Beauty, a hair and makeup team, was brought on to glam up the bride and her nearest and dearest. Sarah’s loose updo and soft, natural makeup fit perfectly with the style of the wedding day.


Wedding Musician & Transportation

Once the core design was planned, it was time to add unique touches to create the guest experience. A lively Dhol drummer and exotic car were secured for Niraj’s grand entrance during a traditional Baraat pre-ceremony, courtesy of RockAndDhol Events and Camelot Classic Cars, respectively.

Tented Wedding: A bride and her grandmother smile in a wedding portrait.
Tented Wedding: The groom stands next to a classic red car, which he rode in for his pre-ceremony Baraat.

Wedding Stationery

Paper wasn’t an area that Sarah and Niraj wanted to commit a significant amount of their budget to. But they still wanted their stationery to be in line with the look and feel of their celebrations. Selecting pieces from Minted allowed them to maximize their investment—plus their quick turnaround time allowed them flexibility in dealing with the ever-changing Covid guidelines so they could finalize and send their invitations at the very last minute. With a number of beautiful foil-pressed options, they were able to mix and match pieces from various suites to create a customized look, which was further personalized with the addition of an elephant wax seal, also used on the dinner menus. 

Tented Wedding: A wax seal with an elephant accents a dinner menu at a wedding, and the color of the seal denotes what entree each guest selected.

Wedding Tent

Initially, Salamander Resort’s ballroom is where most of the weekend’s events were planned to take place. However, during the planning process, it became more and more apparent that being outdoors was the safest option due to the pandemic. Christie made a call to Sugarplum Tent Co. and secured a beautiful tent with custom draping, flooring, stage, chandeliers, and dance floor, and then got to work transforming the design plans that were originally created for the indoor space. In the end, it all turned out beautifully, and all 100 guests (the maximum Virginia allowed to safely gather at the time) were able to enjoy the scenery and celebration from the tent.

Tented Wedding: A tented wedding reception at Salamander Resort & Spa with a mix of round and rectangular tables, hanging greenery and floral installations, and a custom dance floor.
Tented Wedding: Chandeliers and greenery hung overhead at a tented wedding in Virginia.
Tented Wedding: A couple walk up the aisle after their outdoor wedding ceremony.
A Garden Wedding for Sarah and Niraj
Lisa Zeising for Abby Jiu Photography