Marquee Size and Style

When it's time to build the next chunk of your vision (after deciding on a venue) it's all about choosing the right marquee and one of the key differences comes between a 'Traditional or Pole' marquee - the same style of tent that has existed for thousands of years - and a 'Clearspan' marquee (like the temporary structures people have in their gardens in summer) - called thus because it has no king poles in the middle.

Traditional marquees are held up by any number of king poles in the middle and guy ropes at
the sides. They stay up by tension. Obviously if you definitely want a traditional marquee, it either needs to go up on grass, or you will need to make sure you have the budget for or access to a lot of ballast. Remember, this can affect your venue choice.

Pictured above is a smaller Traditional marquee called 'The Volunteer' which is often used as a bar or for serving food. The wall colour can be adjusted to change it's appearance, depending on what it's needed for.

Larger Traditional/Pole marquees are sometimes
known as 'Big Tops' - below is 'The Regal', one of our most popular tents and with these 2 king poles it is large enough to host up to 250 people seated and 850 standing (it also comes with 3 poles so can cope with even larger capacities).

Can you see them in use together with The Regal hosting the bar, dining area and dancefloor, whilst The Volunteer serves up a hog roast and salad bar? Perfect.

Clearspan marquees still need fixing to the ground to stop them being blown away by the wind, but they need a lot less fixing at a lot less points than traditional marquees so they're generally much more suitable for use on hard standing. They are held up by the rigidity of the frame and the material is added to the frame itself. The main difference is that these strucutres have no central poles.

Smaller clearspan marquees (this style is often called a 'Pagoda') can often be linked to other tents as shown, and again are great for a separate bar or to serve food. The vast majority of clearspan tents are white but we have ones like this in red.

Next, a larger clearspan marquee. Same idea, supported by the frame rather than by poles in the middle, and often what people often think of when they consider outside spaces.

Marquee Size

The next decision to make is, how big does the marquee need to be? This will depend on whether it's hosting a sit-down meal or intended as a dancefloor.

Will you have the bar separate and will you need to fit in a band? Have a think about it - it's always
handy to have some ideas about what you want before you pick up the phone or email a hirer.

In terms of what goes inside your marquee, we help out with that in another post where we discuss design layouts. Your first thoughts for now should be about what you want the space to be used for. For example, as a sit-down dining space, followed by a dancefloor; or to host your downright party space.

It might be that you just need a bar and somewhere to serve food; or you could have decided you'd like to book an evening of cabaret entertainment. All of this will help decide the size of marquee you need.

There are some basic formulas used in the industry to work out spacing but just be mindful of hirers who cram in guests for the sake of a fitting your numbers in to their tents in order to secure a booking. It can make the space feel stuffy and means guests move around less.

Style of Marquee

At Terrapin, we lean heavily towards the more individual and colourful. We like our structures to stand out and create the unique atmosphere you want for building fun & vibrant memories. They need a lot less decorating and instead of a blank canvas, you're starting out with something with a bit of character.


This means you choose the tent that inspires you and creates a focal point. As a general rule, the clearspan/frame tents tend to look a lot more modern and formal, whilst the traditional style ones give the impression of a more relaxed party. To get that festival-style you'll be wanting stripes to draw the eye and attention of not only your guests but passers-by who will see the top of a bright king pole and wonder what magic is happening.

Take into consideration that some tents, due to their colour, give a certain effect inside when the sun shines through. Some will be brighter inside and some not so much, others will change the colour and some not so much, if at all.

Some tents are blackout meaning that the marquee doesn't let any light through. The benefits of this are that you can create a totally immersive environment using lighting or visuals which is perfect if you're having performances such as circus or theatre.

If you're using the marquee mostly in the daytime we advise against a blackout tent because the sunshine makes everything dark inside. Coloured tents can be seen as a bit riskier but we also know that when you get the choice right the effect is stunning and can feel as if the marquee was custom made for you.

The most important thing to do is go and look at some different options to see what's out there. You may get some inspiration for a theme or it may shift the entire imagery you had in mind.

Choosing a tent colour scheme and style that makes you happy can be a great thing to base the
rest of the event on and now you hopefully have a clearer idea about how to achieve that. Things to start thinking about are:

  • Your guest list – catering and capacity budgets will help you decide this
  • Your venue surface – does your choice require stakes or lots of balasts?
  • What function you want your bigtop to serve – bar, dance floor, dining hall or all three?
  • The look you want to create – traditional clean lines, or alternative and circus.
  • The colour scheme and how much decoration you're after
  • Lighting and the time of day, based on what you plan to use the tent for.

If you have any questions about tent colour pros and cons, other items from this post or anything
else to do with planning your event, we'd love to hear from you and help in any way we can.

Leave a Comment