Choosing a venue is hard enough, but choosing a tent for your wedding or reception can be even more confusing. What on earth is a frame tent? What is a stake lattice? How big should it be to accommodate my guests? How far in any advance should I start booking? What are my design options?
Don’t worry, we’re here to help. From styles and sizes to specifications and space, choosing a tent might feel like a next-level exercise in something you never studied and quite frankly don’t care about.
But you don’t have to be a tent expert, because we are. And here’s the lowdown: whether a wedding tent is your backup rainy-day plan or a critical part of your day’s itinerary, here’s everything you need to know about wedding tents. It’s the Definitive Guide to Tenting Your Wedding.
Choosing a Wedding Tent: Tents 101
First, the basics. There are three basic categories of tents: pole tents, frame tents, and structure tents.
Pole tents, the most common and least expensive choice, are easy to decorate and quick to install. Lightweight, portable, and elegant in their own right, these tents rely on high poles in the center of the tent and shorter pole’s around the perimeter to stay upright. Since pole tents require a series of stakes and tie-downs to hold their shape, this style of tent works best in grassy areas. This also means these tents can’t be used on concrete or gravel.
The sloping dips and peaks of their structure gives pole tents an aesthetic simplicity most designers find appealing, meaning these tents generally require less decoration.
Frame tents rely on a metal frame (instead of stakes and poles) to hold up the canopy. These tents have frames to support the roof with open space under the canopy. Frame tents are self-supporting and require only a few feet on either side to secure to the ground, meaning you can fit more tent in a given area than Pole. However, these tents are heavier, more expensive, and take longer to install than other models.
Interior draping is a popular option with frame tents, which conceals the structural framework of the interior. Plenty of designers have found inspiration in the challenge of creating an allure interior draping. The most accomplished of these designers often layer tsunamis of rich, wrinkled silk flowing from their source at the tent’s pinnacle, linen layers spilling into stretched-out sprawling skies, which cloaks the room in an aura of almost-sanctimonious ethereal decadence.
Structure tents (also known as span or tension tents) are also free-standing and can work on any surface. These tents are characterized by high, prominent poles in the tent’s center, which slope into ridged peaks of the tent’s supporting structure. Unlike pole tents, which generally require 5-10 feet of clearance for supporting stakes, these stakes insert directly into the legs of the pole, eliminating the need for a broader perimeter. Since these tents characteristically have high, sloping ceilings, the tent’s interior feels spacious and surprisingly roomy.
These sturdy, reliable tents hold up best in inclement weather, and though pricier, are often available with a vast array of design options for draping & canopy roofs.
Wedding tents are available in almost any size variety. The size you need is contingent on: 1) the number of guests; 2) your interior layout; 3) the size & quantity of your furniture & equipment; and 4) what event activities need to be accommodated.
If you’re planning on having dinner and dancing within your wedding tent, plan on at least 20-25 square feet per guest. If you’ll just be serving dinner, 18-22 square feet per guest is a good rule of thumb.
Among things to consider are your guest count and table size. For example, if your reception is using 60 x 60′ ft round tables that each seat 8 guests, you’ll need a 10 x 10 ft area (100 sq. feet/8 guests).
Other things to consider:
Head Table: Take the number of people you want at the head table (bride, groom, bridesmaids, parents, etc.) and divide that number by 4: That’s the number of 8-foot tables (each seating 4) that you’ll need to create your head table. Don’t forget to account for room surrounding the table (allow at minimum 10 x 10′ per head table). Example: If you have an 8-person bridal party, you’ll divide that number by 4, with the result of two 8-foot tables.
Buffet/Serving Area: Allow a 10′ x 10′ area for each 8′ buffet table.
Other Items: Don’t forget to account for space for a stage (if applicable), AV equipment, a dance floor (if applicable), and any other elements you’ll be having at your reception. If this all seems like a bit much (don’t worry!), an event planner or staff member at your tent rental company can help you figure out which size tent you need.
Also, if you’re planning on renting a pole tent, don’t forget to account for the size of the pole when calculating your space needs.
Reserving Your Tent
Check your wedding venue’s policy on tent rentals. Make sure rental tents are allowed, and make sure your chosen site isn’t located at least 25 ft from any power lines and if staking, not over any utility lines or sprinkler systems. Find out (early) if you’ll need to get a permit.
Reserve your tent ASAP. Experts advise booking your tent rental as far in advance as possible, preferably once you’ve solidified your date. Even if a tent is just your backup plan, you do not want to end up without one, and, particularly in peak wedding season, bookings can fill up quickly.
Depending on your location, a representative from the tent rental company may come to survey your chosen site. They’ll measure for available space for both your tent and any connecting canopies or other elements you’ve reserved, and check the grade (sloping, etc.) of the ground area.
They can also check for overhead obstructions (power lines, large trees) but they are typically unable to check for underground utilities. You should plan to contact your public utility services to have them mark their utility lines, but if there are private utilities like gas or sprinkler systems in the vicinity that could be obstructed, it’s the client’s responsibility to find that out and let the tent company know.
Setting up a tent can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. Generally, most standard backyard wedding tents can be assembled in 1-2 days, although ideally you’ll have your tent set up 4-5 days prior to your event in order to allow time for decor and rental delivery, installation, and set-up for the big day.
Decorating Your Tent
The interior design of your tent is pretty much a blank slate of possibilities. Your design options are limited only by your imagination. From flooring to creative ceilings do breathtaking lighting set-ups, the ability to customize your design is one of the most appealing factors of a wedding tent. These are a few optional upgrades (and a few must-haves) commonly rented with a wedding tent to create the perfect design.
Tent Liners & Pole Accessories
Tent Liners: You’ve definitely seen these in bridal magazines. Tent liners are soft, billowy fabrics that are installed in the ceiling of your tent. These are great for concealing the interior framework of structure tents or even just for creating an airy atmosphere. Tent liners are often used with leg drapes to create an elegant effect.
Pole Accessories: While the supporting pole of pole tents does take up space, many designers take the opportunity to decorate the pole with accessories or other atmospheric elements.
Virtually any lighting options are at your disposal. Make sure to account for proper AV capabilities for everything you choose and ensure you have a plan (with your tent rental company) for its installation. Your rental event specialist can help you identify whether the frame of the tent you’ve chosen can support the lighting.
Your options are limitless. Get excited for your big day, and if you have any more questions on your tent rental, you’re in the right place. Peerless Events & Tents is Texas’s most trusted tent & event rental service in the Dallas, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio areas.
From choosing your tent style & size to outfitting your tent with the add-ons you need, Peerless does it all. Even if you’re just exploring, feel free to contact one of Peerless’s helpful representatives and they’ll guide you through the planning process every step of the way.
One of the best things about tent rentals is the wide range of uses a tent can provide. In the most practical use case, you can rent a tent with no accessories for protection from the sun and rain or add on a variety of other rental items like fabric, lighting, flooring, and decor.
One of our favorite events so far this year was a San Antonio backyard wedding in March 2019. Fay Seeman, one of our fabulous event consultants at Peerless Events & Tents San Antonio, helped the wedding planner and bride-to-be pull together this incredible day.