8 TOP TIPS FOR PLANNING A MARQUEE WEDDING
Marquee weddings offer the perfect blank canvas (excuse the pun) for putting your own stamp on things. The array of marquees has gone through the roof over the last few years and couples now have some seriously stylish options available.
Marquee weddings hold a very special place in my heart, there’s something really beautiful about getting married at home (something both myself and sister were lucky enough to have) and creating your own wedding venue, to your specifications and making it a real reflection of your own style and personalities.
Planning a marquee wedding comes with its own set of complexities and forward thinking planning considerations that need to be taken into consideration. I LOVE a marquee wedding and the logistics that come with them, however not everyone feels the same way as me, so if you’re not a fan of operational challenges then please go into planning a marquee wedding with your eyes open. There is a lot more work involved and a many more things to consider. Marquee weddings also aren’t always the cheap option (this is one of the most common wedding misconceptions)
Marquee weddings equate to 70% of the weddings I plan every year and to date I’ve organised wedding in tipis, traditional canvas marquees, contemporary clear span frame marquees, stretch tents, yurts and Sperry tents. Anyone looking into an Orangery Marquee Wedding hit me up, this is my wedding planning dream!
FIND A SITE
Where are you going to hold your marquee wedding? A number of Oxfordshire and Cotswold country house wedding venues offer either permanent marquee fixtures on site or allow you to put up your own. Other couples opt for a marquee wedding so that they can make use of their family home, or have a location in mind that is special to you. The site needs to be easily accessible for both guests and suppliers, ideally level terrain and somewhere that makes the most of the views and provides a beautiful backdrop.
Marquee weddings of course lack the infrastructure that traditional venues would provide – notably water and power! Knowing whether there is access to water and electricity at your chosen site is essential when planning a marquee wedding.
- Toilets and caterers can make do without access to water but will need to know in advance. Hiring in toilets is a must, it’s also important to ensure they’re big enough and that you think carefully about where to situate them to ensure they can be easily accessed by your guests but won’t ruin the view.
- A generator can be hired for power - you will need to find out the electrical power draw of each supplier to ensure the load can be accommodated and always recommend having a spare jerry can of fuel as a backup.
DESIGN - SIZE AND STYLE
What marquee style works with the style of wedding that you’re planning? Do you want one big space or would you like to keep the dancefloor hidden until after dinner? Have you got your heart set on long and impactful tables or would you prefer round guest tables? Do you prefer carpet or coir? Each and every one of your choices will have a cost implication so it’s worth thinking through your options in advance and then being prepared to be flexible or agree to compromise on things that aren’t a top priority.
Whichever style of marquee you choose, it’s important to make sure you get the right size, so make sure you’ve drawn up your guestlist before confirming. You’ll need to ensure there’s enough space for your guests to be seated, room for a dancefloor and bar and also space to hold reception drinks inside, should the weather not play ball.
FIND THE RIGHT SUPPLIER
Once you’ve done your research and have narrowed down your style and options, enquire with the companies who are on your shortlist giving them the basics including dates, guest numbers and your requirements. Some companies might want to come and perform a full site survey to be able to give you a quote, whilst others might provide a package that includes most of the elements that you need. Check your quote with a fine-tooth comb and make sure that it includes everything that you need. If something doesn’t make sense then question it and even ask to see images, after all, you’ve never planned a marquee wedding before then how should you know what the difference is between the various linings or lighting proposed?
Planning a marquee wedding requires a lot of forward-thinking in terms of logistics! Parking is one of the key priorities. Firstly, ensuring you have enough space for your guests to park up, but also for suppliers. Creating a site map is a great idea to help your suppliers know where they can park and unload/pack up. When creating an area for parking, you’ll need to think about extras – straw or wood chippings will help avoid cars getting stuck in in the mud, a parking attendant (great job for an usher) to help guide people and utilise the space most efficiently and lighting to help your guests find their cars at the end of the night. On the topic of lighting, you’ll also need to plan lighting for the rest of the site – guiding guests to the toilets, for your caterers, and of course lighting in the marquee itself. With site visits always conducted during the day, it’s easy to forget just how dark the rural locations of marquees can be. I do also recommend security for marquee weddings. Aside from preventing any damage to the marquee itself, they’re often filled with highly valuable equipment – furniture, music equipment and of course generators and fridge trailers full of booze.
With a marquee wedding, unless you opt for street food style vans most will require a catering tent which you’ll need to hire from your marquee company. Work with your caterers to work out the size and the best location for this to go (ideally it’ll be behind the tent so it’s out of sight but close enough that waiting staff can quickly get food on tables without it getting cold/wet).
Have an open conversation with your caterers to find out exactly what equipment they are bringing and what you need to source yourself (from cooking equipment to plates, glasses and cutlery, to wine coolers to salt and pepper shakers). Its also worth putting your caterers in touch with your marquee company as this will save you being the go-between when the inevitable questions arise!
Another thing to clarify is who will be clearing away the rubbish at the end of the night. Whilst some caterers may include removal of any bottles and rubbish within their fee, others will expect you to clear this yourself – which can quickly become a long and unwanted task when suffering with post-wedding hangovers! In terms of drinks, you’ll need to make sure you have plenty of refrigeration space to keep wine, fizz and beers cool, plus plenty of ice. Lastly, find out the staffing ratio (1:10 as a minimum) will ensure your guests are well looked after and food is served in a timely manner.
Marquee weddings present a great opportunity to unleash your creativity and really weave your personality into your day. Once you’ve chosen your style of marquee, you can start thinking about the details. What kind of flooring do you want? What kind of lighting (festoons, fairy lights etc)? Do you go for round tables or long trestle tables? Cross-back chairs or chivari? Think about lounge or outdoor furniture to allow a comfy seat during drinks receptions, especially for older guests.
You’ll then need to finalise the tableware – from crockery to glassware to cutlery and table linen. Personally, I always recommend that tables are worth investing a good portion of your budget on as it’s where your guests spend a large portion of their time and are up close enough to the details to fully appreciate them. Investing in beautiful crockery or adding pops of colour through your glassware or a napkin are an easy way to bring your table to life and really add some personality to your day.
Whilst marquees are a great blank canvas, their very nature also means they need quite a lot of dressing to really bring to life. Flowers are of course a great way to do this. Whether it’s adding foliage runners to your trestle tables, a mix of high and low centrepieces to rounds, or a big statement floral arch at the entrance, fresh flowers and foliage are an easy way to add colour and interest to your marquee.
The high ceilings of marquees also mean that you have plenty of place to play with. Help to avoid them feeling too empty or cavernous with clever use of soft lighting (hanging filament bulbs or lobster pots are an easy way of doing this) and think about hanging floral installations – big floral hoops, ladders or floral clouds. Your florist should discuss hanging points and weight bearings with your marquee company in advance. Candles can help to create a much more romantic, intimate atmosphere once the sun goes down. Stationery is of course a key part of your styling too. Aside from place names and menus (avoid putting these out in the tent until the day of the wedding, as they can often get damp from condensation overnight), you’ll need your table plan, order of the day and with a marquee wedding, plenty of signage to help your guests navigate the site.
HIRE A WEDDING PLANNER
Marquee weddings are notoriously tricky to plan and require a lot more thinking in terms of logistics and all of the extras you need to hire in to make it wedding-ready. A wedding planner can save you huge amounts of time and effort, help you to manage budgets and use their experience to ensure that none of the all-important details are forgotten.
If you have any further questions about how to plan a marquee wedding or would like to get in touch to find out how we can help you, do drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or book a complimentary discovery call.