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Sailcloth Tents vs Tipis

Published on 12th March 2019 by Jenny Mason

When beginning to plan your marquee wedding, there are so many different styles of marquees to choose from that it can be hard to know where to start.

Twenty years ago the choice of marquees available was fairly stark. It was either a traditional pole marquee with a frilly lining or a modern aluminium and PVC structure. Both had their uses but they also required plenty of imagination and effort to transform them into warm, welcoming spaces in which to host a party. It’s only relatively recently that the marquee itself has become an integral part of the aesthetic and decoration, rather than simply a means of keeping the weather at bay.

If you have decided you would like something a little different from the contemporary clear span style marquees with aluminium frames and pleated linings, then you’re likely to be looking at either a ‘Sailcloth Tent’ (sometimes referred to by the ‘Sperry’ brand name) or a Tipi (also spelt teepee).  The great news is that either could be the perfect choice for your outdoor wedding celebration.  Tipis and Sailcloth Tents are like the chalk and cheese, they both have their pros and cons, and ultimately you’ll probably find yourself naturally swaying towards one or the other.

Take a look at the difference between these two styles of marquees, we’ll highlight the advantages of each – and then introduce you to our ‘Nomad Tent’ which is new for this year and a perfect mix of the two!

Tipi (or Teepee)

What is a Tipi?

Tipis are traditional nomadic tents with wooden poles and brown canvas covers.  They can be erected singularly, or linked together in various configurations for larger events. They’ve risen in popularity over the last decade or so and are renowned for their very cosy appearance, especially when dressed with fairy lights and fire pits.

Facts about Tipis

Historically a tepee would have been built by nomadic tribes as a shelter, made out of long pieces of wood and wrapped with animal skins.  The Tipi would also have a couple of flaps that opened at the top of the sticks to allow smoke to exit (like a chimney).  Modern versions of tipis use canvas to cover the poles instead, although they are often dressed with animal skins inside. They also have more in common with the tipis used by the Sami tribes of northern Scandinavia rather than those used by native Americans.

Advantages of a Tipi Tent Wedding

  • The tents are cosy in winter especially when the sides can be kept down and fire pit lit
  • They can be erected in a variety of layouts to suit the event and size of ground available
  • They’re great for relaxed festival/boho style weddings and generally suit a layout with long tables and benches
  • They blend in well with the surrounding countryside
  • Very well suited to woodland settings

How much does a Tepee cost?

Although we don’t supply Tipis, there are plenty of companies across the UK offering Tipi tent hire, meaning that you should be able to find a great tipi hire company near to you (saving on transport costs).  Hire costs for a wedding of approximately 100 guests are usually pretty similar to that of a sailcloth tent.

Sailcloth Tents

What are Sailcloth Tents?

Sailcloth Tents’ are a newer style of marquee and have had a huge impact on the marquee hire industry in the last few years.  When comparing marquees, Sailcloth Tents are almost the opposite of a Teepee; light, airy and spacious, with full height window walls allowing couples to make the most of the views regardless of the weather. They are instantly recognisable by their peaked white roof and catenary curves. They provide an elegant and memorable setting for an outdoor wedding.

We launched our ‘Aurora’ Tents back in 2015 and haven’t looked back since – they’re beautifully versatile, easy to erect and most importantly (especially in the UK), weatherproof.

Sailcloth Tent Facts

Our are made in America by Anchor Industries.  They have a special patented seal that connects the walls to the roof of the tent seamlessly, ensuring that they are completely weather-tight.  The tents are built in a modular design, so we can either use just the ends to create a circular tent, or add as many panels & poles in between to create the perfect space for you and your guests.

Design & Layout

Now of course this is entirely up to you. We usually allow an area for the bar/arrival drinks, a dining area and of course dance floor – everything you’d need for an outdoor wedding, with a backup plan in case the weather is less than perfect!

Advantages of a Sailcloth Tent

  • They’re really light, which makes them a photographer’s dream
  • The window walls are removable, so on a hot day you can really feel like you’re outside
  • The full height window walls allow you to make the most of your chosen venue for your wedding celebrations
  • The sheer roof material is opaque by night, creating a fabulous party atmosphere during an evening reception. You can even project patterns onto the ceiling that can be seen from outside
  • They’re an ideal blank canvas for events and can be completely customised with uplighters, fairy lights, flower hoops, long tables, round tables, festoon lighting – anything you like!

How much does a Sailcloth Tent cost?

Sailcloth Tents are similar to Teepees when comparing costs – we have some fantastic packages for 100 guests including all furniture, bar & lighting at £4,850 + vat.

Finally, and this is where it gets very exciting…. the latest tents to enter the tipi, sailcloth, yurt, stretch tent and alternative marquee scene are what we call our ‘Nomad’ tents! These Hybrid Stretch Tents are the newest marquees to hit the UK.

The Best of Both

What is a Hybrid Stretch Tent?

Stretch tents have been around for quite some time however the spiritual home of the stretch tent is South Africa, a country where the weather is a little more predictable than here in the UK. As a result, weatherproofing was never a priority and it’s only relatively recently that manufacturers have developed effective weatherproofing systems for stretch tents.

A ‘Hybrid Stretch Tent’ is essentially the perfect combination of a tipi with a sailcloth tent – retaining the cosiness of a tepee with sandy coloured walls and lower ceiling, with the views and daylight supplied by the fabulous window walls of the sailcloth tent.

They are striking, original and new and we have a feeling that they’re going to be very, very popular indeed – sitting perfectly in that gap between the darkness of tepees, and bright daylight of the sailcloth tents, the really is the middleman that can please everyone.

Facts about Stretch Tents

Traditionally, these have mainly been viewed as ‘occasional tents’ or a smarter ‘gazebo’, hired for informal events and garden parties.  This is predominantly due to their open-sided nature which in the UK with our unpredictable weather, makes them less suitable for a full wedding day and evening for example.

The Hybrid Stretch Tent however, includes removable window and walls, which allows the tent to be weatherproof should conditions be adverse.  They’re also great to use in winter as they can be heated very efficiently.

Advantages of a Hybrid Stretch Tent

  • They’re the best of both: combining the much admired sweeping curved lines of the sailcloth tent roof, with the cosiness of tepee marquees
  • The design makes them quick to erect, and therefore very competitive when priced against alternatives
  • They’re weatherproof and can be heated more efficiently than a sailcloth tent, so perfect all year round
  • A 20m ‘Nomad’ tent provides the same useable space as around 3 ½ Giant Hat Tipi’s. Comfortably large enough for 150 guests with Bar, Dining & Dancing.
  • With packages from £3,950 + vat it’s a very affordable way to host a very cool party.


The great news is, that there is such a fabulous choice of tents when planning your event or wedding, there really is something for everyone.  Whether you’ve always wanted to hire a tipi, or have been looking for that tent that’s a little bit different.

If you’re not sure which to choose, do drop us a line and we can chat about everything from where your marquee will go, to how big the all-important dancefloor needs to be! We’ll chat you through sailcloth, stretch tents, tepees and yurts and ultimately will make sure that you get the perfect marquee for your special day.

The marquee industry has come a long way in a very short period. The pace of development shows no signs of slowing down and here at ‘Shades’ we are committed to continually developing our product offering. We’re very careful not to jump on every new fad that comes along, but when we find a product that we believe offers versatility and quality backed up by a strong design aesthetic we’re only too happy to get behind it and see where the journey takes us. I guess that’s why our motto is ‘Semper Deinceps’…..Always Forward!

Jenny Mason

Jenny Mason

Sales & Marketing Support

With a background that covers restaurants, hotels and event management, Jenny works part time for Shades.

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