Marquee weddings offer the perfect blank canvas (excuse the pun) for putting your own stamp on things and are a wonderful chance to get creative – but planning a marquee wedding comes with its very own set of complexities that need to be taken into consideration. Coupled with the impact of coronavirus on wedding venue availability and more couples hoping weddings outside will be more likely to go ahead, demand for marquee weddings is at an all-time high. Below, we share our top 10 tips for planning a marquee wedding.
1. When to Hold a Marquee Wedding
Whilst choosing a date is the natural first step in planning any wedding, the time of year has even more bearing on your plans when it comes to planning a marquee wedding. Whilst you can choose to hold a marquee wedding at any time of year, each time of year brings about its own set of factors to consider.
Spring / Summer. Whilst the summer months are synonymous with marquee weddings, the heat can become pretty oppressive on a July or August day. If you are choosing to marry in the peak summer months and are at potential risk of a heatwave on your wedding day, opt for a tent where you can raise the sides – a stretch tent allows great ventilation, whilst most sailcloth marquees have removable side panels which can allow you to open it right up. Whilst you will will want to keep the sides down overnight, make sure you open it up as soon as you can on the morning of the wedding to let the air in. If the temperature is high, keep an eye out for any candles etc which are prone to melting on hot summer days, laying out any table decor at the last possible moment.
Autumn / Winter. If you’re planning an autumn or winter wedding then marquees are still a viable option but do become a little more tricky. You need to ensure you have adequate lighting and heating, blasting up the heaters early on in the day to avoid any condensation. Ensure there is plenty of matting pathways around to help your guests navigate to the toilets etc without getting stuck in the mud. And make sure your marquee is suitably located to avoid getting waterlogged!
2. Where to Put Your Marquee
Marquee weddings are a great option to allow maximum flexibility. A number of country house wedding venues offer either permanent marquee fixtures on site, or allow you to choose your own. Alternatively, it may be that you want to hold a garden wedding at your family home, or have a special location in mind that is special to you. Regardless, it’s important to choose your site carefully.
Whilst specific country house wedding venues with space for marquees will have some infrastructure already in place and may already have a set location which works well, choosing a field or garden sometimes needs a little more thought. Work with your marquee company to choose a suitable site. It needs to be easily accessible for both guests and suppliers (think about parking etc – for guests, but also for suppliers who may need to carry heavy music or catering equipment across to set up), ideally level terrain, and somewhere which can capitalise on the views and provide a beautiful backdrop to your celebrations.
3. Choosing Your Ceremony Location
Legal ceremonies will normally need to be held elsewhere – whether it’s a nearby church wedding, a registry office or in a licensed room at a venue. If you’re holding the ceremony off-site, you’ll need to think about how your guests are to travel between the two – whether they’ll be driving themselves, or if you are putting on transport to shuttle people between.
Those looking for a humanist or celebrant-led ceremony have much greater flexibility on the day in terms of location and can choose a spot on-site. If you’re planning an outdoor ceremony though make sure to factor in a contingency plan for the weather – too hot and your guests may need shade, too much rain then you’ll need some cover.
4. Choosing the Right Size and Style of Marquee
Marquee weddings can have a bad rep, but long-gone are the days of those yellow-ish, bunting-filled marquees. Instead, couples now have a plethora of marquee styles to choose from – with stylish stretch tents to teepees to light and airy sailcloth marquees all providing a much more contemporary alternative for those looking for modern wedding marquees.
Stretch tents are a great option for summer as they are primarily open sided (although can have the sides pulled down if required) and are great for providing shelter from the sun as much as from the rain. Sailcloth or sperry tents create wonderful light and airy spaces and their high ceilings make them perfect for high-impact floral hanging installations and floral hoops.
If you’re after more of a boho, festival vibe then teepees are just what you’re looking for. The thicker canvas makes for a more dark and intimate feel inside, which can work really well when illuminated with festoon lights or candles. Combine with a glamping village of bell tents for the perfect festival-style accommodation for your guests to fall into after a long night of partying!
Alternatively, clear marquees are a great way to tap into the glasshouse wedding / orangery wedding style for a really contemporary look. They can cover all budgets, from clear plastic through to actual glasshouses which can be erected on site and provide a really stylish but luxury marquee solution. Is there anything better than being able to dine under the stars?!
Whichever style you choose, it’s important to make sure you also 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 (whether you opt for long trestle tables or round tables), room for a dancefloor and bar, and also space to hold any reception drinks inside, should the weather not play ball.
5. The Essentials
Marquee weddings of course lack the infrastructure that many typical venues would otherwise provide – notably water and power! Knowing whether there is access to water and electricity at your chosen site (and knowing if it’s sufficient for suppliers to be able to tap into) is one of the most important things you need to establish when first planning a marquee wedding.
Even if you can plug into the mains, a generator is often a worthwhile investment, whether for sole power or just as a back-up (there’d be nothing worse than risking the power going down at your wedding!). By the time all of your suppliers are plugged in, for catering, refrigeration, music, and lighting etc, it can be quite a hefty load on any electricity supply.
Toilets and caterers can make do without access to water but will need to know in advance, so make sure you’re prepped for any questions. Whilst 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.
Another ‘essential’ when planning a marquee wedding is securing adequate wedding insurance. Whilst advisable for all weddings, wedding insurance is particularly important for marquee weddings where you have a lot more liability – both in regards of looking after the marquee/site, but also protecting your guests when on your land.
6. The Logistics
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 – any matting to help avoid cars/guests getting stuck in in the mud, security, a parking attendant to help guide people and utilise the space most efficiently (even a friend/neighbour can be great to help with this if they’re happy to help pull a favour for a few hours!), 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 – combined with uneven ground it can make for a tricky situation once the sun goes down!
Security is also a must. Not just for the car park, but you’ll need to think about how you can keep the marquee secure in the days before/after the wedding. Aside from preventing any damage to the marquee itself, they’re often filled with highly valuable equipment – furniture, music equipment and of course generators.
Catering is one of the main challenges with a marquee wedding, but one which many caterers are used to facing and should be able to help with. 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 any specific requirements they have, and work out the best location for this to go (ideally it’ll be behind the tent so it’s out of sight, but close enough by that waiting staff can quickly get food on tables without it getting cold/wet). A site visit will help you both walk through things together and understand the best layout and what’s required.
Make sure you read the small-print 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). There are always so many ‘extras’ that you need to factor in when planning a marquee wedding, which would otherwise be taken for granted with a traditional wedding venue.
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 and beers cool, and plenty of ice too (you’ll always go through this surprisingly quickly on the bar!).
Lastly, you’ll need to also be clear on any staffing requirements, ensuring your caterers bring sufficient waiting and bar staff to avoid lengthy waits for food or at the bar.
8. The ‘Extras’
When planning a marquee wedding, there are always a number of extras to think of (these are often the small but hidden costs that people forget when they plan a marquee wedding!).
A few notable things you might need include a coat rack (for guests to hang any jackets/coats and avoid cluttering the tables), fire pits or blankets to keep guests warm during any outside drinks or in the evening once the sun goes down, extra toilet roll (you can never have too much!) and a First Aid kit (in case of any allergic reactions, bee stings, falls or grazes – especially important given the rural location of many marquee weddings!).
9. Styling Your Marquee Wedding
Marquee weddings present a great opportunity to unleash your creativity and really weave your personality into your day. From a styling point of view, marquee weddings offer so much potential to make it what you want.
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?
When it comes to furniture, you’ll of course need to ensure you have sufficient tables and chairs, but you may also want to think about lounge or outdoor furniture to allow a comfy seat during drinks receptions, especially for older guests. There are plenty of extras, from patio heaters to fire pits.
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 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 festoon lights are an easy way of doing this) and think about hanging floral installations – big floral hoops or floral clouds (your florist will be able to advise on the best mechanics to suit your chosen structure). 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.
10. Hiring a Wedding Planner or Event Manager
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. But whether your hire a wedding planner for your day or feel equipped to plan your marquee wedding yourself, ensuring you have an event manager on the day to help set-up, coordinate the timings and ensure the smooth running of your wedding is a must.
Whilst many venues have a venue manager on-site, opting for a garden marquee wedding means that hiring an event manager can be invaluable, giving you that peace of mind and extra pair of hands to know that everything is set up and ready, and that all of your hard work and planning is brought together seamlessly on the day. They can help to trouble shoot, ensure all of your suppliers are in the right place at the right time, and be an extra pair of hands to make sure everything is just as you want it.
By hiring a wedding planner to help you plan your marquee wedding they will naturally be there from beginning to end, helping you plan all of the details of your day through to being there to coordinate your wedding on the day. But if budget doesn’t allow or you would prefer to plan your wedding yourself, hiring a planner to coordinate on the day is one of the most important investments you can make, to ensure that all of your hard planning and preparation comes together smoothly on the day, allowing you to sit back, relax and enjoy every moment.
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 get in touch via the contact form here and I’d be very happy to organise a complimentary consultation.