All About Tents

Renting a tent without a basic understanding of what's involded could land you in over your head -- pun intended -- so read up on these basics!

Pitching a tent takes on a whole new meaning when you’re referring to elegant, white sailcloth, not campground khaki! Recently, a spotlight has been turned toward outdoor wedding themes and rental equipment, particularly tents and canopies. From parks to beaches, backyards to country clubs, everybody from the rich and famous to the family next door is looking for the perfect place to drive a stake.

For bride and groom alike, it’s exciting to imagine the possibility of exchanging "I Do’s" on a breezy sea cliff or waltzing the First Dance under a desert moon. Imagine too, the inherent serenity of knowing there is a backup plan for your outdoor wedding in case Mother Nature turns from friend to foe.

If a chic party tent, strung with twinkling lights and garlands, is your idea of the perfect way to shelter guests at your outdoor wedding, let’s look what needs to be done to get this luxury in place on time for your big day.

Getting Started

"Customers want structures that are quick, safe and easy to install, which reduces the cost of labor," says Ken Nigh, Sales and Marketing Manager for Eureka Party Tents. Available in a variety of sizes and styles, graceful seasonal structures furnish cost-effective added space and often blend seamlessly with existing architecture. Some styles have no interior poles to obstruct table setups or sight lines. As a result, tents can offer both maximum space and flexibility. Small, intimate receptions are perfect under an upscale Capri-style party tent. Adding to the allure, couples may select from a wide range of vinyl fabric choices –– from total block-out to peek-a-boo translucent.

Working With Vendors

Customers generally confirm their tent reservations by signing a rental agreement and by paying a deposit, usually one third of the tent’s rental fee. Read the details of your rental agreement carefully, and know the cancellation policy. In some cases, if cancelled within less than 14 days of the event, your deposit may be non-refundable.

It’s a good idea to make an appointment to visit the wedding/reception site with the tent vendor, well in advance of the big day. Along with a representative of the location (if any), you should inspect the proposed tent location, asking about the stability of the ground (especially if you're setting up a tent on or near the beach), and any underground hazards such as sprinkler systems, wells or septic tanks, thus ensuring the safety of structure and guests alike. If the tent site you select is a large grassy area, be sure to confirm with the location management that the sprinkler system timers won’t turn on the waterworks in the middle of your lovely tented celebration!

Tent Tips

Canopies, like the E-Z Up canopy design from E-Z Up Instant Shelters in Tampa, Florida will often save you time and money! Smaller size tents keep your costs down and often enable you to mount or take down a structure quickly.

Freestanding or frame tents work best if you plan to set up on asphalt, concrete, wooden decks and balconies or any other surface where stakes and center poles can’t be used. Basic installation fees usually apply only to level ground or grass. If the tent needs to be installed on an irregular surface, these fees will be probably be higher. When measuring your location, remember you must add ten feet to both the length and width of the foundation area to allow room for staking.

Numbers Game

East Coast vendor Bergen Party Rentals in Elmwood Park, New Jersey serves up this equation to help couples determine the number of square feet needed for their tent:

For a sit-down dinner/buffet with round tables, multiply your number of guests by 12

For a sit-down dinner/buffet with banquet tables, multiply your number of guests by 10

For a cocktail party (some seating), multiply your number of guests by 8

For cathedral or classroom seating, (rows) multiply your number of guests by 8


This range of prices (grouped according to tent size) is by no means all-inclusive and varies from one part of the country to another. Use the prices only as a reference for some of your own comparison-shopping. The lower prices listed refer to tents you install yourself. We recommend you leave the installation to the professionals. Delivery within a local area is usually free, or at least nominal, depending on the carrying distance and difficulty getting to the site.

For a 20’ x 30’ structure, expect to pay between:

$150 – $250 for a High Peaks Tent
$200 – $250 for a Canopy
$190 – $250 for a Pole Tent
$325 – $400 for a Frame Tent 

For a 30’ by 50’ structure, expect to pay between:

$525 – $600 for a High Peaks Tent
$1000 – $1400 for a Frame Tent 

For a 40’ by 120’ structure, expect to pay between:

$1700 – $2200 for a High Peaks Tent
$3600 – $4200 for a Frame Tent 

Party Tent Packages

You can simplify your party planning by ordering wedding and reception tent packages. Most vendors include the installation fee with the total price and you get the tent of your choice plus tables, chairs and coordinated linens.


There is an easy formula to decide on dance floor specifications. Divide your number of guests by 4 to find the number of couples you can expect to see dancing at any given time. Next, multiply that number by 10 for the total number of square feet you’ll need for your dance floor.

Tent Accessories

At rental stores like Variations, Inc. in Powell, Ohio, vendors can incorporate sidewall lighted window styles, installation of wooden tent floors, stages and accessories, including hand painted dance floors, chandeliers, huppahs, custom made tables of glass or wood and hand painted tablecloths.

Party Time Rentals, Inc. in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania and One Stop Party Shop in Webster, Texas provide diverse inventories of tent and canopy accessories: archways, gazebos, latticework, wishing wells, columns, aisle runners, candelabras and special effects lighting.

Heating and Air Conditioning

The good people at Ahern Party Rentals in Las Vegas, Nevada live in a region of the United States that requires them to be experts on air conditioning and heating! They suggest you consider renting some of the following equipment if you think extreme temperature will be a factor at your outdoor wedding and reception.

  • Portable air conditioning units
  • Outdoor heaters
  • Tall patio heaters with propane
  • Floor heaters with propane
  • Portable battery operated misters
  • Misting fans
  • Portable swamp coolers

Do the legwork, ask the questions, then select the tent that’s right for your needs. In addition to the added space and convenience they offer, tents can bring an air of romance, and the grace of a bygone era to your wedding celebration.

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