Wedding reception in large marquee

Tents and marquees – styles, size calculation and costs.

In Weddings by Joni

For a YouTube video on this topic click here: Which tent and how large for your wedding?

How many guests are coming? Look at the styles of tent that can take this number. Make a detailled calculation of the size of tent needed and find out what that tent will cost to rent.

You need two pieces of information before it’s worth thinking about which tent to hire for a home wedding:

1. How to make a guesstimate of the tent size needed

First of all ask your daughter for her estimate of how many guests will be there on the day and also ask her for the maximum number of guests who could be there – this might be the number of people invited plus a few more in case of partners who were unknown at the time of the invitations being sent.

So now you have your tent capacity.  The tent must be of a size to accommodate the maximum number seated but given that the estimate will be higher than this number, you can skimp a bit on extra space for the dance floor, bar and informal sitting or lounge areas. 

Then you can get a slightly more accurate idea of the tent size needed by mapping out the areas for the maximum number of tables and their chairs then adding any other areas you want to include, such as dance floor, DJ booth or band area, bar, buffet, informal seating and photo area/booth.  You’ll find ideas on how much space these extras take up lower down this page where I give sizes for a frame tent based on 100 guests.

Look at my articles on seating plans, Top Table and Divorced parents of the bride – where do we sit? before you map out where everything might go.

If you are expecting 200 guests you don’t need to double the size of tent suggested below.  You need to double the seating area then add slightly larger (perhaps 50%) areas for the extras such as the dance floor.

2. What styles of tent are available near me?

The second piece of information you need is a run-down of which styles of tent are available. Because if you need to get a special style of tent from far away the costs will be a lot higher.

Look through all the styles listed below before coming to a decision.  You may be unfamiliar with some of these but they may be ideal for your purposes.  It’s worth narrowing down the choice to two styles and getting prices for both.

What is the most popular type of tent for a home wedding?

The tent most people choose if they hold their wedding in the backyard or garden is a frame tent.

These are modern PVC tents that are erected using a steel framework.  They are completely waterproof and wind resistant with walls – which can have windows in.  If they are erected without walls or with just some sides walled they will allow guests to see the view and feel the air flow. They will still keep the rain off and provide shelter from direct sunshine. 

If you want as much light as possible but are worried about the weather you can opt for a transparent canopy.  These can provide a dramatic interlude during heavy showers as people look up to watch raindrops bouncing off the roof.  They also look great at night when guests can see the stars come out.

But they need draping with lining fabric if full sunshine is expected.  This decision can be made much nearer the date of the wedding when the weather forecast is more reliable.  Just be sure to budget for this as an option when you get rental quotes.

Why are frame tents so popular?

  • Easily available to rent wherever you live
  • Can be constructed on any flat surface including grass, paving stones, asphalt and gravel
  • Use a minimum of space for the numbers of guests
  • No internal poles blocking anyone’s view
  • Square or rectangular shape means easy to fit against or between buildings
  • Can be set up immediately next to a second tent
  • No external ropes or wires
  • Roof of tent can be transparent or non-transparent
  • Sides of tent can be non-transparent, transparent, have window-type transparent areas, have cathedral style transparent window areas, can be fitted with self-closing doors to help prevent heat loss.
  • The tent is cheaper than others (but see below re erection)
  • Easily washed and maintained by the rental company to give you a fresh environment

Things people don’t like about frame tents:

  • Modern materials
  • Exposed metal structure inside
  • More difficult to erect so higher cost for labour makes this type of tent more expensive overall.
  • Window areas can look crushed when they are first set up

The most popular alternative is the pole tent.

Why do people choose a pole tent (also called a push pole tent and in the UK, traditional marquee)?

  • Traditional style (think country fair)
  • Usually with sail cloth or canvas covering but also available with a PVC cover that looks like canvas
  • Interesting ceiling and roof peaks
  • Can be topped by flags
  • With or without walls
  • Can use wooden poles
  • Easier to erect that a frame tent so lower labour costs

Things people don’t like about pole tents:

  • Can only be erected on a soft surface such as grass
  • Need plenty of external space
  • Have external guy lines for stabilizing
  • Have internal poles throughout the tent
  • Cannot be set up immediately against a building or another tent
  • More expensive than a frame tent (but see above, lower labour costs mean this tent is cheaper overall).
  • In wet weather the canvas may give off a smell.  If this reminds guests of happy childhood days at the local village fete that’s fine, otherwise you may need to leave at least one side open whatever the weather.

Recently other styles of tent have become popular: yurts, teepees (US spelling) or tipis (UK spelling) and stretch tents.

Why people go crazy for yurts

Interior of yurt with tables and bench seats for wedding guests
Thank you to Weddingyurts.co.uk for this image
  • Ethnic and fun
  • The décor is often the highlight of the rental company’s offering
  • Usually circular although some large specialist companies operating across Europe offer an oval shape to give the ambience of a Victorian orangery
  • Can be erected on any flat surface
  • Wooden slats internally support ceiling and walls
  • Often come with eco credentials
  • Inexpensive
  • Your mother didn’t have one at her wedding

But

  • Your supplier may have to travel, so higher labour and transport costs
  • Less easy to find a yurt large enough for a big wedding so you may need to rent two or more
  • Internal poles
  • Shape means they cannot be erected immediately against a building or another yurt – but covered walkways or joining canopies can be added to link the spaces together.

Why teepees or tipis are ‘a thing’ today

Several linked tipis host a wedding party at night
Thank you to Stunningtents.co.uk for this image
  • Iconic style both inside and out
  • Be the first of your friends to dare
  • Good eco credentials, wood and canvas
  • Link tipis of various sizes together in interesting configurations
  • Have walls or no walls
  • Inexpensive
  • A million miles away from a hotel wedding venue

But

  • Erect on grass
  • More difficult to find a local supplier so expect higher transport and labour costs
  • Likely has a matting floor so guests need to appreciate the wild
  • More suited to a field than a garden perhaps

Why stretch tents are expanding in popularity

  • Modern vibe – often used for gala events and launch parties
  • Can be configured in hundreds of ways either singly or linked together
  • Available in various colours
  • Can be installed on any terrain
  • Can be erected on non-flat surfaces
  • Fast to install so cheaper to hire
  • Erectors do not need access for large trucks
  • Waterproof
  • Linked tents have waterproof guttering
  • Sides can be configured or added as extra elements
  • No smell, good air-flow

But

  • Best suited to settled warm weather where open sides work well
  • Often have tension wires needing extra space around the tent
  • Some internal poles

How to calculate the size of tent you need for a wedding

What size frame tent to hire for 100 seated guests

  • Seating 1000 sq ft (93 sq m) minimum
  • Dance floor 240 sq ft (22 sq m)
  • Bar area 100 sq ft (9 sq m)
  • DJ booth 40 sq ft ( 4 sq m) minimum

Total 1380 sq ft (128 sq m) minimum

Extras – waiting stations, catering areas, lounge area, band area, cake table, presents table.  Reckon on a tent of around 40ft x 60ft or 10 x 21 metres for the full wedding and expect to use the garden as well.

The typical garden or backyard wedding hires a frame tent of 30ft x 40ft = 1200 sq ft or around 9 metres x 12 metres = approximately 110 sq m.  This will seat 100-120 guests so most of the other areas will have to be in the house, outside in the gardens or in a separate tent. 

What size pole tent to hire for 100 seated guests

The typical pole tent for this number is the same as for a frame tent – 30ft x 40ft or around 9 x 12 metres.  But when planning the layout you may wish to increase the size a little if the poles interfere with seating plans.  Allowing for the external guy lines this tent takes up a total area of 4000 sq ft or around 365 sq m.  These lines need to be hammered into grass or earth so ensure you have enough space for this type of tent.

What size yurt to hire for 100 seated guests

The recommended size is a 44ft or about a 14 metre yurt, with guests seated on wooden benches at long tables.  Some specialist large companies do an ‘orangery’ style of yurt for 100 guests including a dance floor.  This measures about 30ft x 50ft or 9 x 15 metres.

If you live in the UK check out this specialist wedding yurt company: weddingyurts.co.uk. They have yurts to seat up to 90 guests and offer a full package for the wedding day. They’re based in Bristol but can work throughout the country – though delivery will add to costs. Their site has lots of ideas and gorgeous images so if you’re tempted by a yurt start here!

What size teepee to hire for 100 seated guests

A giant tipi of 110 ft or about 10 metres will take a maximum of 80 seated guests so you would need to hire 2 tipis for a guest list of 100. The tipis are 9 sided and any side can be linked to another tipi.  They will need quite a bit of space around them for guy lines.  Tipis come in a range of sizes so you may not need two giants or you may prefer several smaller tipis, either linked together, or separated to give more of an Native American village look. This would work for a buffet where guests wander in and out of tipis rather than sitting together in the same covered space.

If you live in the UK or South of France get in touch with the folk at stunningtents.co.uk (not an affiliate link). They were among the first people to see the potential for tipis and their site has some useful information. They are based in Reading UK and work throughout the country and abroad.

What size stretch tent to hire for 100 seated guests

The usual size for a wedding group of 100-120 guests is 40ft x 60ft (12m x 18m).  This allows for seating plus dance floor, bar, buffet and DJ.

How much does it cost to hire a tent or marquee for a wedding?

All costs for UK and Europe include 20% tax, all costs for USA do not include taxes or any additional/optional service charges. I have researched these prices online. If you are a provider and charge less please let me know in the Comments box below so that I can make this resource as up to date and accurate as possible. Prices vary a lot across the USA but less so across the UK.

Cost to hire a frame tent for 100 guests.

Basic cost £2468 or $1750 no extras included. $3000 for clear top tent.

Here’s an example from California:

  • Tent with poles covered in fabric plus draped lining to ceiling $ 3500 – $ 5000
  • Sides $ 415
  • Lighting by chandeliers and corner spots $ 750
  • Generator $800
  • Full floor in wood $ 3000
  • Catering tent $ 1000

Total around $ 12000 plus taxes

Here’s an example from Ireland:

Tent total cost E 5000 – E 8000, depending on lining, pole draping, walls, windows, doors and flooring chosen.

Here’s an example from the UK:

Tent for garden average size 30ft x 40ft: £648 no extras included

Ideal tent for 100 guests £2963 including lining but no other extras.

Cost to hire a pole tent for 100 guests.

Around £2000 or $1500 – $3000 no extras included, price varies by region

Here’s an example from the UK from LPM Bohemia:

  • 40′ x 60′ Traditional Canvas Pole Tent
  • 100 – 150 Seated Guests
  • Main tent for dining & dancing:
  • 40′ x 60′ (12m x 18m) Traditional Canvas Pole Tent
  • Choice of Roof & Wall Linings
  • Coir Mat Flooring
  • Lighting

Furniture

  • 150 Limewashed Chiavari Chairs with cream seat pads
  • 25 6ft Trestle Tables (seat 6 per table)
  • 15′ x 15′ Parquet Dance Floor
  • 8′ x 12′ Dressed Stage

Catering Tent

  • 16ft x 16ft Frame Tent
  • Flooring & Lighting

Total starting from £7182 plus delivery

Cost to hire a yurt.

A 44ft yurt costs around £1330 to £1945 in the UK, depending on the interior décor provided.

Here’s an example from the UK from LPM Bohemia:

  • Grand Pavilion circular yurt
  • 100 – 180 Seated Guests

Main tent for dining & dancing

  • 60′ diameter Grand Pavilion
  • Cream roof and choice of wall linings
  • Coir Mat Flooring
  • Lighting

Furniture

  • 180 x Limewashed Chiavari Chairs with cream seat pads
  • 25 x 5ft Round Tables (seat 8 per table)
  • Black and white compass design dance floor
  • 8′ x 12′ Dressed Stage

Catering Tent

  • 16ft x 16ft Frame Tent
  • Flooring & Lighting

Total starting from £13,875 plus delivery

Cost to hire a tipi

A giant tipi for 80 seated guests costs around £1,150 in the UK, with a matting floor. So for 100 guests the cost is £2,300 without extras.

Cost to hire a stretch tent. 

Allow £4250 in the UK, including matting, basic lighting and sides.

What extras do you need when you hire a tent for a wedding?

The price of a marquee goes up quickly as you start to add in all the extras you need.  Here are some of the things you might want to include in your tent hire:

  • Walls, windows, doors – expect to pay around £300 – £400 or $ 200 – $500 for walls if your tent needs them.  Window panels are about £20 or $30 each, doors are about £100 or $ 150 each.
  • Entrance porch addition – £100 – £250 or $150 – $300
  • Covered walkways – from £60 or $100 per 10ft
  • Covered poles, swags – cloth-covered poles £40 or $90 per pole, swag from £70 or $100
  • Lining for the canopy – from £500 or $700
  • Tables and chairs for dining – from £500 or $1200 price varies by region and by delivery distance
  • Tables and chairs for the bar area – Poseur tables from £30 or $12.50 each, High stools from £7 or $16.50
  • Tables and chairs for the lounge/informal seating area Rattan armchair £19
  • Bar – £48 – £115
  • Lighting – uplighters, spots, fairylights, chandeliers – reckon from £300 or $500
  • Generator and wiring (also cost in an electrician) £780 or $800
  • Piping for water (cost in a plumber) – varies
  • Site survey to ensure no services run under the area where guy lines may be hammered in – varies
  • Catering tent £210 – £500 or $500 – $1000
  • Coat racks – £33

And that’s all before you start to cost in the flowers, catering, linens, dinnerware and glassware, chair back decoration, music and signage.

A backyard wedding rarely offers a saving compared with using a venue.  The problem is that you cannot depend on the weather when you are organising the big day months ahead.  So unless the wedding is very small and you could all fit into one room of your house to have the wedding meal then you need a tent.  It’s not only rain, but also the sun.  People sitting around in their finery for hours cannot be in full sunshine. 

If you can position your tent right next to a door in your house then you can use it as a simple house extension.  The caterers can use the kitchen, the guests can use the domestic toilets (though you may still need some extras in a mobile unit), the dancing can be in another room or on a specially laid surface in the garden (weather permitting) and the dining can be held in the tent area.

But once you have about 50 guests you will probably need a full size tent and extra toilets.  The caterers may need more than just your kitchen too.

Looking at reviews online couples often say they loved having a tent but that it was a lot more expensive than they had imagined it would be.

Before you get quotes from rental companies take a good look at your garden to see where the tent will go.  Remember that unless it is a frame tent you should allow at least 10 feet all around it.  Look at where you will put the ‘hidden’ tents or trailers for the toilets and the catering.  If you are using a generator where will that go?  It will need to come in first if it sits behind the tent.  Heaters may also require a spot out of sight.

Now that you can visualise where the tent will be erected and which sides will be open onto a view, look up and make sure there are no overhanging trees that will get in the way.  Then look down and make sure the ground is flat.  Some tents can only sit on grass or earth so any terrace or patio areas will need to be used as open-air sitting areas.

As a rule contractors can cope easily with a level change of up to 6 inches when fitting a dance floor or full floor. But beyond that you may be looking at a significant hike in the price.

Where will the erectors park?  It takes a day to set up a large tent, though the new stretch tents go up much faster.  Because these tents are light weight and fold up small the erectors don’t need access for heavy lorries either.

You may not have considered walkways but if the day turns out to be rainy and the guests are walking between the tent and the house, they will appreciate a covered walkway. 

Holding a summer wedding in a marquee is beautiful.  Everyone will love the setting.  But before you decide to host at home and use a tent, take time to consider all the styles of tent available and how they would complement the wedding theme.  A yurt will bring a very different vibe to the day and if the couple are eco-minded or love travel and all things foreign, then this could be a perfect tent for their wedding.

Finally list all the extras you will want to make the tent fulfil its full role.

Get quotes from several local companies and ask them to specify which of your extras are included, how long the set up and take down is, whether you need any planning permits and how long the rental is for.

Then set you budget and stick to it.

Most weekend weddings get their tent set up on Thursday ready for dressing on Friday, the wedding reception on Saturday, next day events and clearing up on Sunday, ready for the tent to be dismantled on Monday.  Rentals will usually price up for this timetable.  A different schedule might be more expensive.  Easiest is to rent everything you need through the single enterprise that is renting you the tent.  This means you aren’t on the phone constantly between different suppliers.  And it means all the furniture, the bar and the other items arrive when needed.  You don’t have to schedule them for when you think the space will be ready.

There are certainly savings to be made by doing some of the décor yourself especially if this will be an eco, rustic or vintage theme wedding.  But even tying fabric to the backs of 100 dining chairs takes a long time and a lot of energy.  Would that time and energy be better spent relaxing ready for the big day?

Whether you go for a few small gazebos throughout the garden for the bar and some informal sitting areas or go all in for a dream marquee with high peaks, flags and decorated guy ropes with interior draped linings and special lighting effects, enjoy the unforgettable romance of having a home wedding under a canopy.