Party planning is more complicated than most people realize, even if you're only planning one for a small group of friends or family. If you need some quick tips for your next event tent bonanza, check this post HERE.
In most cases though, there is one thing that hosts and party planners the world over must figure out before anything else and that's the answer to this question: how BIG is this party gonna be, anyways?
Fitting several dozens of guests under one roof can become complicated enough depending on where you intend to hold the event--let alone a few hundred! You'd better make sure little Bobby's bathroom is available...
Thankfully, an outdoor tent party is a great solution for a problem like this because you can practically dictate how big you need the venue to be. On the other hand, the limitless choice on party tent sizes available out there can also be just as perplexing a situation, and may very well raise the following questions, among others:
- How do you choose the right-sized party tent?
- What size tent do I need?
- How to choose a tent for my event?
It should be simple enough, right? As long as you have a big enough area, all you need to do is to choose the right sized tent for your party and you are good to go. But how do you that?? Of course, the Kingpin knows, and is now prepared to elucidate. Pay attention, kids!
Party Tents Galore
As far as tent sizes are concerned, pretty much anything you can think of is available these days. A single family sized tent will be much cheaper to pick up for yourself and you can expect to spend anywhere from $150-$400 depending on the model you pick.
Of course, a family size tent probably won't be capable of accommodating three or four generations’ worth of your clan. Something that will will be much more expensive! (technically speaking, the Kingpin would call this more of a horde than a family at this point but that's neither here or there)
WAIT A SEC... SHOULD I RENT ONE INSTEAD?
OK, at this point you may be debating whether you should invest in our own tent or rent one instead. This will really depend on your budget and how frequently you will be needing one to host an event with.
The hassles of tent maintenance and having to worry about storage when not in use may seem troublesome but rental services can also cost you a pretty penny. It might seem obvious to refrain from purchasing your own tent unless you plan to go into the business but consider having to rent one for every single party or get together you will be having this year. The costs can really add up!
If you don't see yourself hosting any big events at home, maybe a rental option is more up your alley but go ahead and do some quick cost comparisons. The hassle of owning your own party tent may very well pay for itself rather quickly compared to a recurring rental expenditure for all your upcoming events. KA-CHING!
...OK, you still here? GOOD.
If you're wondering, “what size tent do I need” then you're getting ahead of yourself! Right off the bat, you need to know how many guests are you expecting.
Intimate and Cozy ( 20-40 Guests)
Regular family size tents will accommodate your immediate family and a few nosy neighbors easily in your backyard or out in the park. If you're expecting a few more guests than that, one or two gazebo-style pop ups will be plenty of room for you, your hubby and your two little bundles of joy.
Even a few simple pop up canopies (like something you'd see at your weekend market) will do the trick but don't expect them to provide enough shelter for over 8-10 people per pop up if a downpour comes out of nowhere. Pop up canopy tents are also a great option if you're putting together an upcoming tailgate party.
The More the Merrier (100-300 Guests)
If you're looking for something more robust, there are also plenty of options available. Party tents for sale these days come in huge sizes if you need them and a lot of them will have plenty of room to work with as long as you're willing to shoulder the higher price-point. Some of these pop up canopy tents are sized at 10 x 30 or even 20 x 40 so you don't have to worry about running out of potential room for your guests.
These kinds of event tents will easily accommodate something like your average 100-200 guest wedding. If you own a company and need to regularly hold company outings or team-building seminars, a huge pop up party canopy can provide your events with shelter whenever and wherever you need it.
Carport canopies don't usually come to mind when you think of an outdoor tent event or barbecue but something this size will be more than enough to accommodate all your neighbors, for sure.
PROTIP: If you don't want to buy into something incredibly huge and you have access to several smaller models, consider setting up multiple small- to medium-sized pop ups for your event rather than one single huge canopy. This way you'll be able to dynamically adjust to the headcount you need to accommodate without having to commit to a super huge party tent that you won't be able to use on every occasion.
Let's Join the Circus (Everything Else)
Sometimes, you just need MORE. We're talking about county fairs, science expos, trade shows and the like. Super-sized tents will require a team of people to set them up safely and efficiently so you can imagine that these kinds of tents would really fall under special circumstances. The Kingpin suggests to approach these particular canopy products with a strict "rental-only" policy. It just wouldn't be practical to have one of your own unless you're doing this professionally.
How To Choose A Tent
Knowing your party tent sizes and headcount is only half the battle. Your event (and the vibe you are going for) will ultimately dictate the amount of space you will need to provide shelter for. Maybe a little more organization is in order here...
Type of Party
Whether or not your event is something for kids (or otherwise) is just as important as a plain guest headcount. Kiddie parties will require some tables for parents to put down bags or place strollers aside. You may also want to space the tables further apart from each other to give those terrible toddlers some extra "running-around-til-Charlie-slams-his-face-into-Barbara's-pelvis" room.
Something like a company picnic or outing will have loads of employees there ready to impress and you may have to make a presentation as well. If there are team-building activities planned, make sure you have created enough space (or the lack thereof) between tables so participants can group together easily. You will also need to buff up your sound system if the event is too big for your run-of-the-mill mic and speaker setup.
Guest Experience and Party Flow
Try to imagine what it will be like to be one of your guests. What is their mindset coming into your party? Are they there because they have to attend? Or will this be something that people are excited to be a part of? Will they be coming in from an hectic/uncomfortable situation (something like a church procession or funeral)? How can you help alleviate them from these issues and get them into a partying mood?
Simple things like appetizers and drinks already prepared at the tables will keep your guests calm and in place, making your available space work for you better. A welcome drink at the door may seem like a good idea at first but make sure you have enough space inside your tent to funnel your guests through to prevent any bottlenecks.
Whatever tent you choose, make sure you keep the flow of the party in mind and how your guests will react to the space. After all, it may be your special day, but if your guests aren't having a blast it won't be too special, now will it?
Here are some other super important (but often overlooked) points to consider about your next event tent party:
SEVERAL OTHER FACTORSTO CONSIDER THAT WILL DIRECTLY AFFECT TENT SIZE
- A clear idea of the program (is there a band playing? sound providers?)
- Surface of the space (Will your party require floor panels? Dance floor?)
- Food setup and buffet table traffic (Making sure everyone can get to and from the buffet table easily and orderly)
- Power requirements (Bigger tents or multiple pop ups will require more lighting in the evening)
- Weather conditions (Rain can build up in your canopy bulges if you don't set things up properly)
- Time of day (expect more people to stay underneath your tent at high noon or if the sun is hot in your area)
Random Party Victim Rant
Before we go any further, the Kingpin wants to clear the air with all of you potential party hosts on something relatively unrelated to tent size.
There are plenty of strategies available for party hosts and planners to use to make things more efficient at an event. Sometimes though, these practices may be a bummer for the guests and will really place a hamper on your event.
The Kingpin has personally dealt with the following "party fails" at some events and it was never pleasant:
- Standing in line for almost 45 minutes before getting into a wedding reception just so all 400 guests could sign two (2) guest books.
- Forced, pre-buffet, picture-taking with the bride and groom to prevent the Kingpin from "eating and splitting"
- Waiting almost an hour for a glass of wine to be poured because guests weren't allowed to go to the bar themselves before the program was over
- Coming dangerously close to passing out from hunger because the wedding planner decided to starve the guests until after the entire program has finished... seriously, WHO DOES THAT?!
RANT OVER... don't kill the vibe at your event by making the same mistakes. Happy guests at your parties will keep their memories of your event top-of-mind for everyone to reminisce about at the next god-awful wedding you all attend together. Trust the Kingpin on this--his wedding was absolutely fantastic and all the guests continue to compare everyone else's events to his. Hearing this praise time and time again is truly awesome.
Party Tent Size Calculations in Practice
One of the most common events today using an outdoor party tent is a wedding. Taking this as an example, the Kingpin will break it down for you...
How big a tent for wedding guests you need will depend on how many people you have invited. Most tent rental companies compute the tent size by first asking if you want round tables or long tables.
Round tables will use up the most space in a big canopy tent, while theater-style seating (like for a chapel or speaking event) uses up the least. A cocktail-style party will also be easier on the budget.
For round tables, you will usually need around 100 square feet for every 8 guests. With long tables, it's not as bad at 80 square feet. If you want round tables for 200 guests, divide that by 8 and multiply 100 (200/8 x 100) and you get 2,500 square feet. For long tables, you need (200/8 x 80) only 2,000 square feet.
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, not exactly...
Next, add the footage you need for the head table (number of people divided by 4 x 100 square feet) and add the total to the first figure. If you have 16 people at the head table, you will need to add 400 square feet to the total square footage (16/4 x 100).
So now you need 2,400 square feet if you want a round table setup.
If you want a buffet to help feed the guests at your party, you need to add another 100 square feet per 8’ buffet table (and 100 square feet more for a cake table, drink area, and music station or band, etc.) Presuming you have 4 buffet tables, that means an additional 700 square feet, bringing you up to a whopping 3,100 square feet. It can all add up!
In this particular example, your standard family sized pop up event tent will definitely not cut it. For the wedding described above, you can spring for a 60’ x 60’ tent, or a 40’ x 80’ tent and you will even have space for a dance floor!
CALCULATE YOUR PARTY TENT SIZE LIKE THE PROS
There are a whole slew of ways to do the math and calculate your party tent size requirements with a calculator, paper and pen but who even does that nowadays?
Instead, why don't you check out this party tent size calculator the Kingpin found for you HERE. There are actually a bunch of them of available but this one is by far the most responsive option out there... super easy to use, just input your specifications and you can get a rough estimate of how big of a event canopy you'll need for your party.
If you're curious to see what else is out there, here are some other tent size calculators the Kingpin tested out for this article:
This one is still the best, though:
Even More Outdoor Party Concerns
Tent size, table setup and headcount are all super important, obviously, but there are actually other "extra-tent-ular" concerns that one may want to consider before taking the plunge on a particular event canopy rental or purchase.
1. Know the terrain of your planned event location. If the area is uneven or on grass, you may want to save your lady guests from stumbling by laying down some flooring panels. You will need this especially if you expect it to rain.
2. Consider overall aesthetic impact. You don't want your perfectly-sized event canopy pop up ruined by something as stupid as this... Check this out:
The snatched-bald lawn look is really not attractive. It may seem like a simple oversight but when put to good use, grass can actually beautify your event setup! See here:
Now ain't that just picture-perfect? Make sure you get a location with beautiful grass growth and you may be able to dodge that bullet of putting in full floor-paneling. If you can manage without it, it will certainly be better for your wallet.
3. Consider dancing the night away. OK so floor panels aren't all that bad... a dance floor can be a good thing. If you do invest in flooring, make it the dance-able kind, like this one:
4. Check the weather and hope for the best. The Kingpin has always hated how everyone says it's good luck if it rains on your special day. That's poppycock!
Bad weather and the elements will always have a huge effect on your outdoor party plans. Check the forecast and adjust... if things are looking wetter than you'd hoped, you can have your tent set up several days before to keep the party grounds dry. A simple decision like this could spell the difference between a beautiful wedding reception and a trip through the local swamp!
OK, What Have We Learned?
Some things to remember, the size of the tent will determine how much you will have to pay for it. Large party tents take more manpower; ergo, you have to spend more. With this in mind, it doesn't really make sense to get a party tent that is too big for your needs.
Aside from the cost, it will also look half-empty even when all your guests are there. On the other hand, a tent that's too small will surely be uncomfortable and restrictive and you won't have a good time knowing your guests are afraid to move around too much.
At the end of the day, it's all about a good balance. Use what we've discussed to accurately predict what your event will need. You can check out the tent calculators to give you some raw data to use and then spend a few hours going over the other pointers to get a clear picture of how your event will probably play out.
Stay practical and keep your guest's experience in mind and you should have a great idea of how big of a tent you need for that upcoming outdoor Bar Mitzvah.
The Kingpin hopes this answers your question “What size wedding tent do I need?” Surely, your tent rental provider can give you a good idea themselves (albeit a bit biased) but it's always better to know the basics so you don’t end up paying more than you need to.
Remember... no one looks back on their life and remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep so make sure your next event has plenty of space available and party the night away!
Party Planning Infographics
In classic Kingpin form, here are some awesome infographics from good 'ol Google Images. They seem to be pretty relevant to the topic of this article so check them out and please don't hesitate to show some love to the creators by visiting the links embedded within the images. ENJOY!
Everything is easier to do these days thanks to technology and smart phones and planning a dinner party is no different. Check these awesome apps that you can download onto your smartphone to make planning your next dinner party a frickin' breeze.
OK this one isn't the prettiest one around but it's got loads of event planning pointers. The information alone is worth the price of admission (it's free to read these things, for Pete's sake) so check it out.