Digging Into the Origin of the Marquee Tent

Marquee tent at Event

If you enjoy hosting and/or attending parties, chances are that you’ve been to one held under a marquee tent. Many people of marquees as mere tents that can serve as a venue for parties and special occasions. However, there’s more to it than meets the eye. What the word ‘marquee’ entails and the glory of its historical transition from a mere nomadic shelter to what it is today is quite fascinating.

In an etymological nutshell, the word “marquees”, the plural form of the word marquee, is often confused with the word “marquise” which is similar in sound but totally differs in meaning. Marquee is descended from the Middle French word “marquise” which means a noblewoman and is the feminine form of “marquis”, a nobleman. See? The word itself is rich in history.

For North America, a marquee pertains to a sign that is attached to the above entrance of an establishment. In British, it refers to a large, outdoor tent which is temporarily used for social events and gatherings such as weddings, outdoor shows, and parties. Today, marquees have gained quite the reputation for being a sophisticated and elegant way to turn any ordinary function into a luxurious event.

The origin of the marquee tent

Throughout history, tents have been erected and utilized as shelter by many people from all corners of the world. In fact, back in the 1680s, marquees were used by nomads. Also by Roman soldiers, as nothing more than protection from unknown and harmful elements. In the 17th century, they were more useful as shields from sunlight and rain during luxurious banquets and social events by the upper class. They were also often placed in amusement areas.

The evolution of design

Also known as the “pole tent”, there has not been many changes in the design of a marquee. Even before, they were usually made of light, canvas-like materials that were draped over a high wooden pole, giving it a beautifully curved shape.

These designs are still very much popular and are still being used in the modern set up. The tent is erected using hessian ropes and king poles to maintain its structure and stability. Pretty much the same materials are still used to this day.

Today, marquee tents are just as available and affordable. They are no longer the symbol of lavish parties and grand functions that only the upper class could afford to enjoy back in the day.

Although marquee tents are still used for pretty much the same type of activities – weddings, dinners, and other social affairs – marquee style has transformed completely. Now, you can do basically anything you want when it comes to style and colours!

Wrapped up

There’s more to a marquee than its historical transition to what it has become now. There are historical implications to the use of marquees as safety necessities. During the harsh nomadic times and signs of exclusivity on the battlefields back in the day. But one thing is for sure – its history implies that it has stood the test of the times. Its elegance, sophistication and durability speak volumes as to how bankable they are as venues for events.  Today, marquees serve as a perfect venue for dinners, weddings, and summer parties. There are other venues out there that you can resort to for get-togethers and special occasions. But the use of marquees can make a great deal of difference — and its history speaks for itself!


Affinity Events provides marquee hire services in Johannesburg.
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