Every Type of Wedding Tent for Your Outdoor Reception

From pole tents to yurts, and everything in between

Updated 06/03/19

Photo by Kristin Sweeting Photography

Wedding tents give you the best of both worlds: They offer the beauty of outdoor weddings, as well as shelter in case of strong sunlight or the occasional rainfall. They can be erected at all sorts of wedding venues, from backyards to beaches, and create an unique backdrop for your big day. It’s no wonder tented wedding receptions are one of the most popular celebration spaces for couples.

One of the most beloved aspects of wedding tents are that they're often totally customizable, unlike the interior decor of a ballroom or landscaping of a garden. You can make it what you want. A tent provides a blank canvas for flowers, lighting, table arrangements, and monogrammed dance floors. Plus, who doesn’t want to dance under the stars as you boogie into the night?

Though the options are practically endless for your decor, there are specific types of tents available to you, each toting a long list of logistics. And unless you’re hosting your reception in a venue you own, such as your parents’ property, the first order of business is to confirm that wedding reception tents are allowed. There may be strict specifications and permits for the tent that you’ll want to know before getting setting your heart on a specific style. Based on your location, you may also need to add important necessities, including a generator, air conditioning, heat lamps, and possibly even building a catering kitchen to serve your guests dinner.

Providing bathrooms and flooring fall into this category too, so be sure you have room in your budget to accommodate these needs.

If this all sounds like a go and you’re ready to pitch the biggest party of your life, here is a primer on wedding tent styles to consider when designing the look and feel of your wedding.

Pole Tents

reception tree decor

Photo by Lucy Cuneo Photography

One of the most popular styles, pole tents give you the mountainous peaks you often see when perusing wedding photos on Pinterest. The high canopy calls for beautiful ceiling installations like floral chandeliers, lanterns, and hanging arrangements. The tents are typically placed on grass at venues, such as estates, wineries, fields of wildflowers, and gardens, where the stable ground can support the poles that they are staked into it. The look allows it to feel organic to the space, so guests can move easily inside and outside of the tent.

But note that the ground and pole setup is what holds up the structure, meaning this style will not work on hard surfaces like concrete or stone. Also, the poles must be posted into the ground at various points under the tent. You’ll have to take the pole locations into account when designing table arrangements, dance floors, lounges, and bar placements.

Frame Tents

These freestanding tents are the most versatile style, thanks to the way the tent finds its support. Peripheral “frames” keep the tent in place, and the frames can be set up on almost any flat surface from patios to fields. It also creates a massive open space underneath the tent, meaning there are no poles to avoid. The placement of tables, chairs, and more can go anywhere within the tent, maximizing the square footage. The downside? Frame tents do not offer the height of pole tents, so if you’re looking for high ceilings, this may not be the tent for you.

Tents with Side Walls

Bride and groom walking into wedding reception

Photo by Chowen Photography

If there is a threat of inclement weather, consider adding side walls to your tent. These protect your guests from wind and rain, while still offering the ambience of a tent. Another added benefit is that walls create intimacy in the space. Side walls can also be used to hide unattractive sights from view, directing guests’ line of sight toward more alluring landscapes like mountains, lakes, and trees.

Sailcloth Tents

floral banquet hall

Photo by Jacob Whyman

Sailcloth tents are structurally the same as pole tents, but present a different vibe thanks to the fabric covering rather than the standard vinyl. Wooden poles often serve as the supports, giving this tent a nautical quality that works well at seaside venues. But like pole tents, it doesn’t work on all surfaces (hint: no sand) and you’ll have to manage the pole locations during the layout planning.

Marquee Tents

The exterior of an elevated structure.

Christian Oth Studio

A marquee tent, popular at English countryside weddings, feels like a blend between a pole tent and frame tent. The supports rest on the periphery, but it has a peaked ceiling, giving the effect of a pole tent. While not as high as a pole tent, this ceiling offers the airy feeling without the logistics of pole locations. Plus, the freestanding frame allows it to be setup on a variety of surfaces.

Decorative Tents

A tent doesn’t have to be white or clear. Add some pizazz to your event with a decorative tent. Structures inspired by cabanas add a tropical element to beach weddings with bamboo supports and flowy fabric sides. Decorative tents can also enhance the decor of cultural celebrations, such as Hindu weddings, where a tent made from Indian-style fabrics provides color and a nod to the traditions of the celebration.

Transparent Tents

Twinkle lights hanging on a tented ceiling.

Bamber Photography

If your destination includes vast, clear skies, consider a transparent tent. These tents have a translucent vinyl ceiling so guests can view the stars as the sun goes down. It gives the effect of being outside without worry about the elements. They are particularly beautiful when couples add twinkle lights along the frames or drop crystal chandeliers. It feels like you’re inside a jewel box.

Yurts

The ultimate boho vibe calls for a yurt. A yurt is a portable, round tent that is traditionally used by nomadic cultures. For weddings, it creates an intimate venue with a unique look. The walls are made from latticed wood with a crowned room and fabric walls. They also have doors, making it feel more like a solid structure and less like a tent. Just note that they are usually small; these are perfect for intimate gatherings but won’t fit a large guest list.

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