If you’re recently engaged and embarking on planning your wedding, then huge congratulations to you! What a fabulous time in life and what a plethora of amazing adventures there are in store as you design and plan your day.
We love the romance and beauty of a marquee wedding here, yet we’re highly experienced pragmatists and logistics specialists and we know that unique weddings don’t come without a gargantuan effort and careful planning. This is even truer when you’re planning a marquee wedding and essentially building your venue from the ground up.
Planning a Marquee Wedding – Stand-Out Top Tip
Communication and planning are essential for a successful marquee event. For example, can you clearly communicate your brief and, in return, can the contractor interpret your requirements and clearly communicate their recommendations? With clear communication, you should be able to quickly establish not only the exciting possibilities but also the costs and limitations when organising a marquee event.
I will now briefly run through some of the common areas which require thought and planning for a successful marquee event.
The marquee site
One of the big advantages of having a marquee as your reception venue is that you can choose your site. This may be a personal space, such as your home garden or a special and unique venue, such as a National Trust property. Whatever the venue, you will need to consider the practicalities of having a marquee event. Whilst almost anything is possible, as a general guide, the more challenging and complex the site, the more time consuming and expensive.
Things to consider:
- Is the site level? If not, an additional sub-floor may be required.
- Is the site grass or hard standing? If ground stakes cannot be used then weights may be required to secure the structure.
- Are there any underground services? Consider the safety of the installation team and any disruption to the mains supply from driving a ground stake through a buried utility.
- Does the venue impose any time restrictions for set-up & de-rig?
- Is there vehicle access? Any width restrictions or parking permits required?
- Is there sufficient parking for guests or other contractors present on the day (i.e. catering staff, musicians)
- Vehicle trackway may be required where soft ground conditions impede access to the site.
Type of wedding marquee
There are a number of options. Some of the difference is subjective, therefore it is about finding out what works for you. Traditional marquees, Stretch tents or Capri marquees are typically more attractive shapes. However, due to their internal poles and guy ropes the interior space can be compromised. Frame marquees with their aluminium clear span construction, do not have any internal poles or guy ropes, can be easily joined to buildings and are robust enough to cope with cold, wet and windy weather.
You may also find that practical restriction due to the site affect your decision. For instance, where the site is hard standing (and the structure cannot be secured using ground stakes) a frame marquee may be more appropriate.
Choosing the right marquee company
When choosing any contractor it is important to select an individual or company with whom you can establish a good working relationship and you trust to deliver the product or service.
Some specific things to consider when choosing a marquee company:
- Do they offer the product or service you require? (i.e. type of marquee)
- Do they provide clear quotations, working drawings and conduct a site survey?
- Do they have sufficient public and products liability?
- Are they members of a trade association, such as MUTA?
- They should be aware of and comply with the CDM Regulations
- Do they have working relationships with your other contractors?
- Can they provide recent references?
How big does the marquee need to be?
Once you have appointed a marquee company they should be able to provide guidance as to how much space you require. Every event is different but as a general guide you should allow up to 1sqm per person for a standing reception then, depending on your brief, additional space for dining, dancing, catering, etc.
With a frame marquee, you have the choice of one big, open-plan space or the creation of separate areas to create interest and excitement. This is commonly used for the dance floor which can be revealed at a later stage in the evening. You may prefer to group the dance floor and bar area or keep them separate, but remember, if the space is too big you may lose atmosphere and intimacy.
Marquee events in the winter may require additional space so that heated areas can be created for loo’s and cloakrooms inside the structure(s). And naturally summer weddings can be open to keep guests cool and spill outside easily.
Infrastructure – Power, Toilets, Heating!
If you have previous event experience you may choose to organise the event infrastructure yourself, however, it is more common for the marquee company (or wedding planner) to arrange this for you. The marquee company may not stock items such as loo’s, generators or heaters but should have a good working knowledge and relationships with other suppliers. They should have a good range of alternative options particularly in the case of loo’s where there are many options on the market, depending on budget.
The provision of electrical power is a common problem area. This should be broken down into two areas: the provision of power and the electrical distribution throughout the marquee.
Many marquee companies do not specialise in the provision of electrical power but it is important somebody takes responsibility for conducting an event power audit (i.e. aggregate all the power requirements for the event) so that the total power requirement can be established. It is not uncommon for the total power requirements to exceed the available mains supply. The most common solution to this problem is to run the event off a generator and be independent of the mains supply.
Should you decide against using a generator, it is highly advisable to have your electrician on-call for the event as the marquee company cannot be responsible for, or provide cover, for your mains electrical supply and lack of power is an incredibly serious problem for hosting an amazing event – it pretty much runs everything!
The distribution of the electrical power refers to all the cabling and sockets (similar to domestic ring mains) required during the event. In addition to the power required for the marquee lighting & heating, you need to consider electrical sockets for the catering area, bar area, musicians, etc. You need to ask each supplier what power they need and mark and map it out to ensure it is available when & where they need it.
Interior options and additional interior styling & design
In addition to flowers, table linen and glassware, the introduction of different marquee decor can transform the space from rustic country to more formal and elegant or to absolutely anything your heart can desire.
The range of interior options is vast and a major benefit of a marquee is the ability to personalise the space for your event. – it is a blank canvas and spaces can be built largely to your specification which gives you a lot of creative freedom and many possibilities without too many rules or restraints.
Many of our wedding clients focus on things like:
- Clear roof panels (windows, roof and gables) to bring the outside in during the day (careful of a very hot day, though) or create an evening under the stars
- Dressing of the roof space from coloured or patterned linings, hanging lanterns, fairy light installations, festoon lighting or flower chandeliers
- Feature dancefloors – LED, white tealight, mirrored and more
- Glitter, mirror, bespoke printed panel or feature bar units
- Chill-out area furnishings with things like sofas, coffee tables, poseur tables and plinths
One last thing
Venues often provide banqueting managers but, if you’re having a marquee celebration event, you will generally be responsible for the event management. The amount of work may be eased by employing a team of contractors who regularly work together (i.e. marquee company & catering company) but it is well worth considering appointing a wedding or party planner. They bring a wealth of previous event experience and provide guidance and assistance through the decision-making process matching the right suppliers and focussing the budget on making it work most effectively.
They will generally help with the wedding admin, recommend suppliers, navigate around potential pitfalls and project manage on the day. They can also provide creative input on styling the marquee, with an attention to detail that can turn a large space into something truly amazing.