Renormalization of the membrane tension and elastic area expansion modulus by thermally induced bending fluctuations is treated in terms of the formalism of Brochard, De Gennes, and Pfeuty (J. de Phys. (France). 37:1099-1104, 1976). The dependence of the renormalized tension on the bare membrane tension parallels the dependence on the fractional area extension of giant vesicles found experimentally by Evans and Rawicz (Physiol. Rev. Lett. 64:2094-2097, 1990), and suggests conditions for molecular dynamics simulations with membrane patches of limited size that might best represent the properties of macroscopic vesicles.