loader image

Tents have stepped up their game as outdoor venue heroes since more and more events are being scheduled and rescheduled outside. Tents provide protection from the elements, ample physical distancing room, and they can morph into just about any configuration to offer you the ambiance you’re looking for to make your event truly special.

Photo courtesy of The Party Center

We sat down with Chris Caba, president of The Party Center, to understand how tents are so much more than poles and canvas. Check out the latest styles and configurations, a variety of lighting options, and accessories that go beyond just drapery and dance floors. Looking to host a wedding, corporate outing or other personal or professional event during the novel coronavirus pandemic? Read on!

Photo courtesy of The Party Center

Tell us a little bit about how tents can really flex to accommodate parties of all sizes.

Chris Caba: First — we have tons of sizes, which is convenient since physical distancing basically means you need double the tent space. We start sizing by width — from 16 feet to 100 feet wide — and add bays, which are sections, to go however long you need to go. Before COVID-19, a wedding of about 200 people would require roughly 4,000 square feet. Now, when that guest count is an option again with physical distancing, the tent would need to be 8,000 square feet. As we write this blog, guest counts are definitely smaller, based on the Commonwealth’s guidelines. Those will change over time.

Photo courtesy of The Party Center

What styles of tents are available?

There are four we recommend:Traditional pole tent with center poles and guide ropes that are staked to anchors in the ground. These tents are great for open grass installations.Frame tent that has no center poles; just a frame, which is anchored down with huge weights. These work on most any surface: pavers, patio, grass — you name it. Sailcloth tents have a nautical look with wood side posts, wood-grained center poles and a translucent look on top.Clear span tent which is a frame that goes into a larger beam tent. This is recommended when 60 feet or wider is needed, as the big beams support the wider tent. This type of tent can also have a clear top, like the clear span tent.

Photo courtesy of The Party Center

How can you set up the tent to match the event planner’s or wedding couple’s themes and dreams?

A tent is a blank canvas — we can basically configure it any way you want. This is accomplished with decor, lighting,drapes, linen swags, liners and more. You are not giving up your ideal look by moving outside; you actually may have more options.Anything goes when it comes to layout, too: guest tables, dance floor,risers for the DJ, band and/or head table, a sweetheart table and more. We can provide all the rentals, which are generally coordinated by the caterer.

Photo by Two17 Photo & Cinema

We’ve noticed couples asking for lighting, even for daytime weddings. How does that influence the vibe?

Lighting adds another level of decor, just like flowers and centerpiece displays. Popular lights include:Market lights

, which are round, clear glass, about the size of a golf ball, on a strand. These are very versatile and can match many themes, from rustic to playful to modern. Market lights are often swagged in the ceiling and around the perimeter and are a nice accent light that particularly pops at night.

Par can lights are great when you’re highlighting an area like the band or DJ, a center pole, or a display such as food, a dessert table or focal point decor.

B lights look a lot like outdoor Christmas lights and are pretty popular when you want a cascade effect, or to wrap the poles.

It sounds like there’s nothing you can’t set up in a tent to put the special in special event!

We’d like to think so! We can provide heaters, fans, flooring, prep tents, cook tents complete with a mobile kitchen, generators, restroom trailers, and much more. It’s also worth noting that the sidewalls can be attached to any tent when the outside temperature is a concern — or, if that look is required.Overall, tents are a hot option right now for many reasons, not the least of which is to help us go on with life in the “new normal” as normally as possible. Hospitals are using them for drive-through testing. Tents are being used as pop-up treatment centers when scaling up is needed. Restaurants are tenting to expand capacity outdoors. High schools and universities are investing in tents for outdoor classrooms, outdoor dining, and for covered open space for physical distancing. The humble tent is more important than ever. 


At Robert Ryan Catering and Design, we understand that 2020 has been stressful. We’re all here to help you put your special-event plans into motion when the time is right. We’re in this together! Schedule a consultation with one of our event managers when you’re ready to plan (or, to reschedule) your special event. Did you know an event at home might be an option?

Robert Ryan Catering and Design plans and executes over 400 events each year, boasts a five-star rating on WeddingWire and has received WeddingWire’s Couples’ Choice/Bride’s Choice Award seven years in a row. Learn more about Robert Ryan Catering & Design and tour our venues. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for exclusive offers, up-to-date news, and recipes from our executive chef.

Nina Malone

Feature photo: Mason Photography