entertainingFood & Drink

A Guide to Tent Types

by Grace Bonney

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This time of year seems to be all about getting outside and celebrating in one way or another. From family barbeques and backyard weddings to block parties and intimate dinners, summer events make the most of the great outdoors in any way they can. Almost every aspect of an outdoor party can be planned, but weather is always the wild card. To avoid a total wash-out, most people look into tents for outdoor events, whether it’s a party for 10 or 100. But renting (or buying) a tent can be a confusing proposition. I’ve rented a small handful of tents in my life and each time the experience left me wondering what terminology I should have known and what options exist beyond the basic pop-up tents you see at craft fairs and festivals. So this morning I thought I’d break down the types and terms you need to know to get started. Here’s hoping all of our summer outdoor parties have beautiful weather and fair skies. xo, grace

Image above: Tent from a beautiful event by Bash Please

Click through for the full post after the jump!

Tent Rental Basics:

SIZE: If a tent is being used for dining purposes and you’re using ROUND tables, allow 10-12 square feet per person. If you’re using long banquet style tables, allow 8-10 square feet per person. For cocktail/standing purposes only, allow 5-6 square feet per person.

DETAILS: If you want sides on your tent, be sure to request them. You can often request clear plastic, but a plain white fabric looks the most sophisticated. If you’re using a pipe frame tent, you may want to consider requesting fabric or plastic sleeves (usually in white) to cover the metal pipe frame.

PRICE: Pricing will vary by company, state and style, but you can rent small tents from $150 all the way up to $40,000 (yikes!) for larger events. Be sure to ask if your event company’s prices include labor or not.


Peaked Pole Tent: As the name suggests, a peaked or pole tent stands on many poles (including several large central poles). The dramatic peaks created by this style of tent are beautiful and have graceful swoops. These do require quite a bit of rigging (and ropes to secure the dramatic peaked fabric), so be sure to consider that when you factor labor costs into your budget. Sample pole tents:

Image via Style me Pretty

Image via Brides.com

Sailcloth tent: A spin on the traditional pole tent, these tents use sailcloth which is thin and lets more light through for guests. Sample sailcloth tents:

Image via Sperry Tents

Image via Southern Weddings

Frame Tent: These are the most commonly found tents at outdoor events. A pipe structure (often covered with white plastic or fabric “tubes” to mask the metal pipes) is used to secure the tent, requiring fewer poles to make a stable structure. Sample frame tents:

Image via I Will Invitations

Image via Wedding Chicks

Clear Span Tent: These are the tents that most large benefits and companies use for multi-day events. They’re HUGE and resemble more of a box-like building than a traditional tent. They require significant work to secure and work best for large events that need a lot of open space under the canopy. Sample clear span tents:

Image via Intimate Weddings

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  • Ha! And here I thought this post was going to be about camping tents.

    We decided to save on labor by asking friends to help assemble the tent the day before the wedding. It was a ton of work on a hot summer day. In hindsight I should have paid for labor. It was a mistake…much like the marriage…

  • Thanks for the tip that I should request for the sides of the tent if I want them to be put on for my aunt’s birthday party. I think I’ll ask a rental company if they have those since it’s something that she wants as decor. If they can offer those, that would be great to have.

  • I thought that it was interesting when you said that one thing to consider when you are looking to rent an event tent is to make sure that you know what size that you are looking for so that there will be enough room for tables and standing area. I have been thinking about renting a tent for my wedding but I have been worried that it wouldn’t be big enough for all of my guests. I will be sure to measure the size of the space that I would need to be covered so that I can rent the correct one.