Guide to Wedding Tents

Guide to Wedding Tents

Wedding tents offer critical protection from the weather and provide wonderful outdoor spaces to decorate with seating, lights and flowers. To choose the right size and style that works with your budget, keep reading and discover our Guide to Wedding Tents. You’ll find photos of the most popular types of tents available and lots of valuable information.

Tent Styles 

Pole Wedding Tents

Distinguished by their festive roof lines, pole tents look gorgeous as guests arrive and look beautiful through sunset and into the evening. Generally made of rain-resistant nylon or polyester, the roof is held up by wooden or metal poles and the peaks are often finished with flags or finials. Couples tend to choose these tents because the aesthetic fits their wedding style and use the interior poles to hang lights and flower garlands. The sides are generally open and heaters are often used to control the temperature. It is important to add extra square footage to your seating plan when using these types of wedding tents to accommodate the structure. 

Couple walks toward tent with whimsical backdrop Amy and Stuart Photography
Photographed by Amy and Stuart Photography -  Los Angeles, California wedding photographers
Inside white tent with reception tables Jenny DeMarco Photography
Photographed by Jenny DeMarco Photography -  Austin, Texas wedding photographers
Sunset wedding tent Jacquelyn Potter
Photographed by Jacquelyn Potter Photography -  Vermont wedding photographers

Framed Wedding Tents

Supported by metal or wooden frames, framed tents are secured along the outside so there are no poles to deal with when it comes to your seating arrangement. They are quite sturdy and work well on all kinds of surfaces from grass to asphalt. Roof lines can be vaulted or flat and the overall look can be customized to fit your style. We caution couples to stay clear of framed wedding tents that have plastic windows because the glare can look quite distracting in photos. If you decide to go that route, be sure to keep your cake display away from the walls and use lighting to keep your guests focused on the tables and other decor.

Couple squeeze against festive reception tent Julian Kanz Photography
Photographed by Julian Kanz Photography -  Italy wedding photographers
First dance in tent seen from outside Carolines Collective
Photographed by Caroline's Collective -  Colorado wedding photographers
Wedding tent lit up at twilight Amy and Stuart Photography
Photographed by Amy and Stuart Photography -  Los Angeles, California wedding photographers

Structured Wedding Tents

If you are having a wedding with more than 250 guests or just want something that looks polished and upscale, structured tents are the way to go. Offering bigger versions than the framed options, they can hold a large dance floor, stage and buffet and create an atmosphere all their own. Structure ceilings can be acrylic to let the sun shine in and show off the night sky and the solid supports allow you to hang heavy lights like chandeliers along with substantial floral arrangements. 

Reception decor with hanging lights in tent Amy and Stuart Photography
Photographed by Amy and Stuart Photography -  Los Angeles, California wedding photographers
Pale pink wedding reception decor in tent Amy and Stuart Photography
Photographed by Amy and Stuart Photography -  Los Angeles, California wedding photographers
White rose tent decor Jurgita Lukos Photography
Photographed by Jurgita Lukos Photography -  Lithuania wedding photographers

Closed Wedding Tents

You’ll find closed tents at established venues with views that deserve to be captured and places where the seasons change significantly. Completely enclosed, they allow you to control the temperature and drape the ceiling and walls with fabrics that wouldn’t hold up well outdoors. For the most part, they’re like extensive sunrooms that can accommodate large parties, which make them ideal for those who want to feel like they are outdoors without any of the contingencies. Many of them have the option to open up the windows or walls when the weather is right, giving you choices to work with no matter the forecast. 

Tropical tent reception Jolson Weddings
Photographed by J. Olson Weddings -  Minneapolis, Minnesota wedding photographers
Ceremony at Sodo Park Sasha Reiko Photography
Photographed by Sasha Reiko Photography -  Seattle, Washington wedding photographers
Opulent tented reception decor Ruben Parra Photography
Photographed by Ruben Parra Photography -  Miami, Florida wedding photographers

Ceremony and Cocktail Tents

Small tents constructed to highlight the ceremony site or create conversation places during the cocktail hour open up a world of possibilities. When used for the ceremony, they create a focal point for exchanging vows and look beautiful in pictures. When used during receptions, they offer perfect spots to relax with other guests away from the sun’s rays. Here are just a few of the ideas we’ve seen this year that look lovely.

Newlyweds under floral chuppah tent Alante Photography
Photographed by Alante Photography -  Seattle, Washington wedding photographers
Colorful tents for Indian ceremony Into Dust Photography
Photographed by Into Dust Photography -  Seattle, Washington wedding photographers
Outdoor reception area with tent and pink roses Amy and Stuart Photography
Photographed by Amy and Stuart Photography -  Los Angeles, California wedding photographers

Tent Sizing

Once you’ve chosen your style from the available options of wedding tents, you will want to choose the right size to ensure all of your guests are comfortable. The square footage will depend on numerous factors, including the number of people on your RSVP list, the size of your dance floor, and any additional features like bars, buffet tables and seating arrangements.

As a general rule, allow 10 to 14 square feet per guest, 10 for cocktails only and 12 to 14 for seated meals. Add another 4 feet per guest for the dance floor. If you have 100 guests, plan for 50 to be dancing. That’s another 175 feet. Tack on 100 to 150 square feet for each buffet table.  And if you’ll have a band, add at least 30 square feet to your stage per musician.

Here is an example of how much room you’ll need to host a seated dinner for one hundred guests with 2 buffets tables, a dance floor and a quartet:

Square footage for 100 guests: 100 x 14  = 14,000 square feet

Square footage for dance floor (50 guests): 50 x 3 = 150

Square footage for buffet tables (2): 2 x 100 = 200

Square footage for stage (4 musicians): 4 x 30 = 120

Total: 1,870 square feet – Keep in mind that this is an approximate number as other factors may apply to your wedding. There is no doubt that finding the perfect size tent can be tricky, so be sure to ask your wedding planner and/or rental company to help you flesh out the details.

Setting Your Budget

The price of renting a wedding tent can range from $500 to $10,000 and higher depending on a number of other factors in addition to the size, including the following.


Plastic is the cheapest option while treated polyester is most popular. Structured tents with acrylic or glass roofs are bright and beautiful and will raise the total amount. You may also consider sailcloth, which is a flowing fabric that gives off heat during the day and looks dreamy when lit up at night.


Tents rented in big cities can be more expensive than those found in areas with smaller populations. You may find renting a tent from a lesser known company is cheaper than renting from a big name downtown. 

Set-up and breakdown fee

The distance a company needs to travel and the access workers have to your site can affect the overall price. Rental companies usually want or require a staging area to work from that isn’t far from your location. Dragging heavy materials through the forest or needing to drive hours to set up will definitely add to the bottom line.


Summer Saturdays are the busiest times for rental companies and you’ll see that reflected in the price of wedding tents. Weddings held in the spring or fall on Sundays or weekdays may be found at a discounted rate, so if your date is flexible be sure to ask.

Rental Duration

Party rental companies charge by the hour or day and generally include a set-up and breakdown fee. Late charges can apply, so give yourself plenty of time or you may end up paying more than you bargained for.

Rental Company 

From giant chains to boutique rentals businesses, there are thousands of options out there. Look at their catalogs carefully, check reviews, and get at least 3 quotes tailored to your needs. We think 5 is better. 

Additional items

Most well established companies conveniently offer lighting, rugs and all kinds of other decor to decorate wedding tents. The sky’s the limit and almost everything is available. Want some great ideas? Use our Details and Decor Gallery to see hundreds of photos from brilliant designed receptions. Then, pin them on Pinterest, check out boards, and don’t miss our helpful wedding planning articles.