Intracellular trafficking entails the budding, transport, tethering, and fusion of transport vesicles and other membrane carriers. Here we review recent progress toward a mechanistic understanding of vesicle tethering. The known tethering factors are large complexes important for one or more intracellular trafficking pathways and are capable of interacting directly with many of the other principal components of the cellular trafficking machinery. Our review emphasizes recent developments in the in vitro reconstitution of vesicle tethering and the structural characterization of multisubunit tethering factors. The combination of these and other approaches has led to exciting progress toward understanding how these essential nanomachines work.