Party Tents Buyer's Guide

Looking to promote a business or host a casual or luxurious event but don't want to pay the hefty prices for a venue? You're not alone. Most people desire the glam of a cocktail mixer without the outrageously expensive costs for a rent-by-the-hour site - a place that'll you'll never own and will have to pay for over and over again each time you decide to entertain. Not exactly what you'd call a wise investment, but that's why so many manufacturers make party tents and canopies.

Party Tents

From simple pop-up tents for tailgating, to elaborate, draped canopy tents for wedding ceremonies, this article will cover all the information you'll want and need to know about party tents. Just like any other product, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with each type, and there are many things you'll need to consider regarding the appropriate size, materials, and needed accessories. Rest assured that you'll be well-informed before making your final purchase.

Generally grouped together into one gigantic list of sheltering equipment, party tents and canopies offer so much more than cool shade and protection from rainy or stormy weather. While these are perks definitely worth mentioning, try to expand your imagination outside the box of practical functionality.

Given the vast amount of information out there on canopies or party tents for sale, it can be a bit overwhelming at times. You may have even given up your search due to information overload. But, if you read this simple breakdown of easy-to-follow instructions, you'll feel more empowered and confident than ever to go out and select the canopy that'll meet your needs.

What Are the Benefits of Party and Event Tents?

You've probably asked yourself the question above time after time. Well, the benefits boil down to the practical nature of any investment. For example, you could literally own a luxurious canopy tent for nearly half the price you'd pay for six hours at a local event rental site. The only difference is you'd get the same sheltering benefits for years on end. It really depends on your event needs, location, and the number of guests you intend to accommodate.

The point is that there are just as many benefits of owning a party tent or canopy as there are for renting an overly-priced venue. First, once you pay for a party tent, you own it with no strings or extra fees attached. Second, most canopies, depending on the size, come with excellent storage protectants to ensure the sustainability of your product for repeated use, year after year. Last, canopy tents are fairly easy to assemble and take down, cutting down on set-up costs, labor, and manpower. The most common questions people ask about event tents for sale, however, pertain to the type and size they should purchase.

Party Tents

Things to Consider Before You Purchase

The things you should consider before buying relate to four key factors: function or purpose, location, seasonal time of year, and the budget. The purpose the tent serves (i.e. for a casual event or for a formal event) often informs the level of quality you'll need. Also, the location is important. When we say location, we're not simply referring to the physical location (i.e. back yard, park, beach, etc.) you plan to set-up your tent but also the geographical region in which you intend to use the tent.

The geographic region and time of year give greater insight into the expected weather patterns you'll likely encounter. In other words, what is the weather typically like in the location you plan to host your event, during the time of year you have chosen? It's important to note that weather plays an important role in the type of tent you select.

Lastly, you'll need to consider a realistic budget that you are willing to invest. Think of a canopy tent purchase as a lifetime investment. This is not a one-time purchase that will be discarded or tossed in the trash. This is a product that you may use and reuse as often as you'd like. So, if you're thinking about hosting events on a regular basis, choose an option that will last and work for different types of events.

What Type of Tent Should You Purchase?

Referring back to the section about things to consider before you purchase, here are a few guidelines to follow. If you're seeking refuge from harsh weather conditions such as freezing temperatures, heavy rain or snow, or extreme winds, you'll likely need a structured tent - one constructed from heavy-duty materials - that can handle these conditions. You'll learn more about the capabilities of different outdoor tents and materials in a later section. However, the weather makes a difference in the strength of the material you'll need to select.

If you're simply looking to provide a cool, shaded area for your guests, an open-sided frame tent or pop-up tent will usually work perfectly fine. These tents are sturdy but often more affordable options. They are built for slight tension and come equipped with poles for added support.

What are the Main Differences in Canopy Tents?

In this section, you'll learn the differences between the four primary canopy tents. This should extend your understanding to help you make the best selection for your event-planning needs. Please note, each canopy tent will be listed with associated functions, features, and uses.

Pop-up and Instant Canopies

Designed with an emphasis on convenience, these are the lightest and least expensive type of party shelter. Using accordion-style frames, pop-up canopies can be set up and taken down in just a few minutes without the use of any tools. Some even come with storage bags for easy and compact transportation! Without any poles in the center, they are open, and if a focal point is needed, there is no issue.

These are often referred to as lightweight "fair weather" tents because they are designed for ease of mobility and used primarily for shade, but that doesn't discredit them for use in the party venue. You'll find many wedding tents for sale. They provide a cost-effective way to cover a fairly large area not extending beyond 20' X 20', making them unsuitable for larger events, but they are extremely easy to install and much easier to transport compared to other tent structures featured in this article, making them perfect for smaller or highly mobile events. The tension created by stakes or other tie-down equipment, keeps the tent upright and stable from blowing away in heavy winds.

Party Tents

The majority of pop up canopies use a polyester top that is ideal for shade coverage and can stand up to light precipitation. However, we do offer more durable, heavy-duty pop-up canopies that you may find better suited for your needs if rain is going to be a common occurrence. For example, our Caravan Magnum line of pop-up canopies are more durable thanks to their very robust, heavy frame. These waterproof enclosures do require additional set up time but can withstand more prolonged use. For more detailed information about our pop-up canopies, check out our Pop Up Canopy Buying Guide for more in-depth advice and specifics.

Pole Tents

Because this type of shelter relies on tension to keep the top from collapsing, there is very little flexibility when it comes to staking. A customer needs to allow, on average, an extra six feet of space on all sides of the tent to accommodate the required staking and tie backs. That means that they can't be installed right up against a building, for example. These types of tents are not ideal for use on hard surfaces either, as the tie backs require extra ballast to hold them in place if they cannot be secured into the soil.

One benefit of this type of tent lies in its vast array of color options for your customization needs. However, they are not ideal for every situation. These tents are most suitable to events that may last a few days to a week. They are also best used for any event where the presence of center poles obstructing a view to any side of the tent would be an issue. With poles located around the perimeter as well as in the center, guest complaints about the obstructed views from poles placed in the center of the tent for support can be an issue.

Cost is a large benefit of a pole tent. While setup requires more labor, the initial purchase savings can make it worth the effort. Pole tends tend to be approximately $1,500 less costly than a comparably sized tension tent and over $2,000 cheaper than a similar frame tent. For anyone needing to save on initial purchase cost, this can make a pole tent a very appealing option.

Frame Tents

Often confused with pole tents, frame tents use poles around the perimeter of the structure as opposed to the interior, which eliminates obstructions, allows for more flexible layouts or floorplans, and makes them more aesthetically pleasing with freestanding options. They come in an extensive range of sizes, from as small as 10' X 10' (100 sq. ft), which can accommodate anywhere from 10-20 guests, to a size of 40' X 80 (3,200 sq. ft), which can accommodate anywhere from 250-640 guests. The size ranges are affected, however, by their design since there's a limit to how wide a structure can be without adding internal supports. This explains why the maximum width of any frame tent is limited to 40 feet.

Rather than rely on the tension from stakes and center support poles, frame tents use a perimeter tubular metal structure to support their canopies. This allows them to work without the support of center poles and gives them much more flexibility in their placement. Unlike pole tents, they can be used right next to buildings or even indoors, working well as semi-permanent structures.

All of this flexibility comes at a price, though. Frame tents are usually significantly more expensive than both pole and tension shelters. They are considerably heavier and require additional setup time due to the increased number of components used in the frame assembly. Using more specialized hardware than pole tents, the damage or loss of a single component could render this product temporarily useless until the manufacturer ships a replacement part.

Despite the additional time to set up, a unique aspect of frame tents is that it is possible for a single person to set them up. While it is always more effective to involve additional labor, frame tents can have their perimeter frame fully assembled at ground level by a single person. The top can then be attached to the frame and then the legs can be inserted one by one to gradually raise the canopy. This design aspect makes a frame canopy ideal if situations are likely to arise with availability of labor to set up the tent.

If your needs are focused on stability or size and you're willing to deal with the additional cost and set up time involved with using one, a frame tent might be a good option. Because of the additional components involved, they are better transported by pickup trucks, vans, or other large vehicles.

Tension Tents

Tension tents are very similar to traditional pole tents; they use perimeter and center poles for support and rely on tension from tie-downs to keep the roofing in place, sharing the simple portability and installation of standard pole-based structures. In fact, the only real structural difference between tension and other pole canopies is the size of their peaks.

Tension canopies have much taller peaks than other shelters - they're often referred to as "high peak" tents - and offer a more dramatic and elegant look. They can be found at many formal and business events. This striking design also has some additional practical benefits. The tall, aerodynamic peaks actually improve wind resistance and drainage, allowing tension tents to withstand harsh weather better than other varieties of shelter. The cathedral like interior also allows for larger decorations to be attached to the upper frame, without compromising headroom. This makes them a favorite for wedding ceremonies.

If a customer is looking for something that can be left standing for long periods of time, tension tents may be the answer. Some models are even suitable for use as permanent structures.

Because tension tents are a form of a pole tent, they have similar limitations. It's important for customers to leave a fair amount of clearance for staking since these structures can't be placed too close to buildings or anchored indoors. Despite their spacious, open feel, tension tents have center poles that can interfere with visibility and prevent certain layouts.

Due to the nature of their construction, tension canopies are more expensive than regular pole tents. They're not usually as expensive as frame structures, but prices can be fairly close depending on the manufacturer and model. Once again, you will need to decide if the structural and aesthetic benefits are worth the extra cost.

Party Tents

What Size Should You Get?

When selecting the right tent for an event, size does matter. How big should the tent be? Unfortunately, there is no simple way to answer this question. It really depends on the type and arrangement of seating and other extras there will be. For example, if the party is going to be relatively simple without a lot of extra furnishing, it's customary to give each guest 10 to 12 square feet of space. On the other hand, if the event needs a more elaborate setup, it can be a bit more difficult to know how much space is enough.

Common seating arrangements for party tents include the following: auditorium-style or theater-style seating, ceremony seating, cocktail party or standing cocktail party seating, round table seating, and formal dining seating. Extra space is required for extra furnishings such as buffet tables, DJ booths, dance floors, bar areas, and waiter stations - those things typically associated with wedding ceremonies and receptions, quinceaneras, birthdays, or any event with caterers, DJs, or bands. Keep in mind, each additional feature you choose will increase the size of the tent you'll need.

For events with a dance floor or buffet table, the customer will need to speak with those in charge of the specific festivities of the event to inquire about the amount of space each person will require for setup before making a final decision on tent size. For an event with meals, it is always a good rule of thumb to consider the size of the tables and the number of guests expected to be in attendance. While there is a number of tent size calculators out there, many require a laundry list of input data that you may not have available. We've made this process and experience so much easier for you below.

The chart below provides excellent specifications for spacing guidelines that allow for optimal planning. While auditorium-style seating works well for speeches, wedding ceremonies, or other formal events, make sure to review the accommodations list to prepare for your event properly. No matter what type of layout is needed, it is important to consider all essential elements involved with party or event planning. Don't run out of space due to poor planning; make sure your guests have plenty of room to enjoy your event fully.

Party Tents

What Are Some 'Must Have' Canopy Accessories?

So, you've finally decided on the perfect canopy type and size to host your special event, but what else will you need to secure and anchor it to the ground properly? How can you ensure you have everything you'll need so that your canopy doesn't blow away in the wind?

There are a variety of recommended accessories to go with the different types of party tents and canopies. These items range from structural components to simple enclosure parts for more convenient use. Some of the most common types of accessories are sidewalls, stakes and anchors, repair kits and cleaners, and storage bags, all of which will be described in complete detail below.


Sidewalls are popular accessories because they allow you to enclose part or all of the party canopy, shielding guests from pesky bugs or insects and undesirable weather. They give the shelter an elegant feel with more privacy and a more formal appearance for events like weddings. Sidewalls come highly recommended for protecting sensitive equipment such as speakers, sound equipment, or other precious items or electronics.

However, the type of sidewalls available will often depend on the style of tent that you purchase. For customers who purchase a pole or frame tent, they may choose complementary options such as opaque, clear, mesh, or options that feature faux windows.

For customers who intend to invest in a pop-up tent, they'll be able to get partial sidewalls in addition to the styles listed above. Keep in mind, though, that offerings vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so the tent choices and sidewall options will be limited accordingly. It is highly unlikely that sidewalls made by one manufacturer will correspond to and fit a tent or canopy made by a different manufacturer.

Stakes and Anchors

Most party tents come with the appropriate anchoring equipment, but there are many strategies for rooting them properly, depending on the type of tent or canopy and surface. In some cases, installation requires stronger anchoring equipment than what is recommended by the manufacturer or supplied with your tent package.

Stakes generally come packaged with your purchase to stabilize the party tent. Traditionally found in sets, these are extremely easy to use and suitable for most situations. Anchors are another way to secure the party tent. They are a good choice if using a tent in areas prone to high winds. However, neither stakes or anchors are good for use at the beach due to their inability to lock into the sand.

Party Tents

Weight Bags

These provide additional weight to support the stability of a tent or canopy. Just as their name suggests, they add weight for anchoring as opposed to relying on a physical connection to the ground to ensure a shelter's stability. This makes them an appropriate choice for almost any location, including the beach. Using weight bags is as simple as attaching them to the canopy's legs and filling them with sand or rocks.

Ratchet Sets

These sets offer another option. They are used in place of ropes, and they're much easier to work with, reducing the number and appearance of wrinkles in a canopy top because they provide greater tension during setup. While some ratchet sets are known to be tent or canopy specific, deciding on the type of anchoring can make the decision much easier.

Party Tents

Repair Kits and Cleaners

Even well-made tent tops and sidewalls get dirty from time to time, and may even encounter a few minor rips or tears here and there. However, that doesn't mean they're worthless or in need of complete replacement. Of course, it is recommended that customers follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper maintenance and upkeep, but as we all know, anything can happen in even the most careful of situations.

Repair kits, referred to as patch or splice kits, allow a customer to fix minor damage easily. They typically include several pieces of tent material, an adhesive, and instructions. An important thing to consider when purchasing this type of kit is the brand. If you buy a kit from a manufacturer other than the one that made the shelter, there's a good chance the included patch material won't match your top, even if it is listed as the same color.

A tent's maintenance needs are going to vary depending on its construction materials, but almost all tops and sidewalls require some regular cleaning. It's not necessary to use products made specifically for tents, but it's very important to follow the manufacturer's recommendations and use only cleaners appropriate for the tent's materials. Some canopy companies even offer their own lines of cleaners and protectants. Keep the canopy clean and repaired so that it can be used again without worry!

Pole Canopy Storage Bags

Many canopy tents come with storage bags, and a link has been provided in this section for pole canopy storage bags. However, it's pretty simple to locate a storage bag or some other storage equipment for your selected canopy using the wonderful filters provided in the left margin of each page.

Party Tents

You may start off typing in the word "canopy accessories" in the top search at the top of the webpage. From here, you'll want to specify and select the product that you have selected to purchase to populate a list of storage bag options available for your particular canopy tent.

If the model you're interested has a corresponding storage bag offered on our site, you are encouraged to consider investing in one. These make transporting the shelter much more convenient. Not to mention, it is easier to keep the parts safe, secure, and clean when not in use. There are quite a few kinds, including soft models with ties and hard-shelled models with wheels. Not all storage will fit all canopies or tents, so make sure to look for a bag specifically designed for the type and size of shelter you purchased.

How Will Your Canopy Be Shipped?

Smaller canopy tents and their accessories are generally shipped via parcel, although they may come in multiple boxes. Most delivered canopies have dimensions of 10' x 10' or smaller. However, it should be noted that the shipment boxes are generally large and can weigh between 60-70 pounds. Please take this into consideration when the canopy arrives, as more than one person may be needed to lift or move the box.

Bigger canopies, such as those larger than 20' x 20' will arrive by freight. The freight company will likely call to schedule a delivery time at the customer's home or business and will deliver the canopy on a pallet. Customers are recommended to take time to observe and check the canopy for damage since some manufacturers have limited warranties. Freight deliveries usually require more than one person to receive the package.

What are Some Good Setup and Installation Tips?

Since party tents vary in level of complication, from simple pop-ups to more elaborate constructions, the installation often varies accordingly. Pop-ups only take one or two people to set up or take down the structure without the use of any tools. All shelters labeled as "pop up" should have similar setup requirements, varying only slightly by manufacturer.

When sifting through the assembly instructions, if you come to notice several complicated steps in the process or the need for tools, you will know that you're not dealing with an instant, pop-up canopy. With one or two people, you should be able to pull an inflatable-styled frame that initiates an automatic setup process for you. Be sure to read all labels carefully to ensure you are not misled by labeling errors and misleading information.

With pole, frame, or other tension canopy tents, it's essential to follow the step-by-step guidelines specified by the manufacturer. It may even be a wise decision to check out the installation videos provided by most manufacturers as well. Having two or more handy assemblers is never a bad idea when setting up your canopies.

Party Tents

What about Your Warranty Coverage?

After purchasing a canopy, carefully review the warranty and care information provided by the manufacturer. This will most often have the best tips for taking care of their specific canopy. Only perform recommended care. Refrain from using discouraged cleaning methods for your canopy. Doing so may void the warranty.

The length of the warranty will vary between companies as well. For example, Undercover has different warranty lengths for their various models. Be sure to know the length of the warranty and follow the instructions to validate coverage.

Who Are Some of the Top Manufacturers?

  • King Canopy: King Canopy has been offering quality event canopies for over 75 years. They have a variety of sizes and colors available to meet most customers' canopy needs.
  • Outsunny: Outsunny has a variety of canopies, gazebos, and other shelters that work well as event shelters. With different sizes available, finding a properly sized shelter for your event is an easy process.
  • Delta Canopy: If you're looking for a wide selection of colors and sizes for event canopies, Delta Canopy has you covered. From pop-up tents to circus-style tents, you'll find a wide selection here.
  • ShelterLogic: ShelterLogic has over 50 years of experience making canopies for parties and events. They also have a variety of sizes of canopies available to fit properly any event or party you wish to plan.
  • Undercover: Undercover has been making quality canopies for over a decade. They offer a wide selection of canopies that offer the elegance, sophistication, and charm expected at upscale parties and events, many coming equipped with enclosure kits as well.

How Can You Extend the Lifespan of Your Canopy?

As with any product, proper maintenance is key to sustainability. A tent that is cared for properly and in accordance with manufacturer recommendations can last up to 10 years without major issues. The fabric is most prone to damage during handling, transportation, set up, and break down.

It's essential to pay attention to severe weather such as strong wind gusts, heavy rain or snow, or icy conditions that may deteriorate the condition of your canopy tent. It is suggested that you take down the canopy in such cases to prolong the canopy's life. For more information about canopy care, you can read eCanopy's 14 Rules for Canopy Care.

Go Out and Have Some Fun in Your New Party Tent!

Hopefully, this comprehensive guide has provided you with all the answers to your questions about canopy tents. No job is too big or small to have the comfort and practical enjoyment of the right canopy tent, and now you know how to select the right one! Renting an expensive canopy for your party or event? Not anymore, thanks to the information, pictures, and links we've covered today. You should feel confident in your ability to make the choice - but if you don't, you can always contact our Canopy Specialists!

Dani Bell

About the Author

Dani Bell

Dani, our Head Writer and Editor, has been in the hearth and fireplace industry for six years. She has written a number of our articles for both eFireplaceStore and eCanopy to balance technical knowledge with customer-friendly terminology and style. Currently, she is studying to earn all of her National Fireplace Institute (NFI) certifications and works with the content department to add products to the eFireplaceStore and eCanopy websites.

Customer Q&A with Product Specialists

Ask a Question