Advice on how to style a blank canvas wedding venue

Top tips and ideas from Scottish wedding venue stylists and prop suppliers for styling barns, byres, weddings outdoors and marquees

Blackhouse Forest Estate wedding venue styled by Get Knotted
Candles, blush tones and foliage create a cool vibe in this wedding setting at Blackhouse Forest Estate created by Get Knotted (Photo: Lloyd Smith)

Nowadays, it has never been easier to find your wedding aesthetic. The likes of Pinterest and Instagram allow us to scroll for hours on end, gathering up images of how we’d love our day to look. If you’ve booked a blank-canvas venue, you’ll have loads of ideas, and you’re probably itching to put your own stamp on it.

But how do you get from four bare walls to an Insta-worthy masterpiece? The realities of styling a barn or a marquee can be quite daunting, so we tracked down some experts who’ve done it all before and asked for their top tips to keep you right.

Wedding styling and props by Get Knotted
Left: A rustic outdoor bar set-up on a wooden cart by Get Knotted; Right: A dreamy barn backdrop of foliage and festoon lighting, also by Get Knotted

How to style a wedding barn or byre

Rustic weddings are a massive trend that shows no sign of slowing down – and it’s easy to see why they are so popular: most barns have loads of authentic character, and no neighbours to object to the noise of a good old knees-up! It can, however, take a lot of work (and a lot of props) to make them look good.

Wedding planner Katie Hart of Get Knotted recommends focusing on what is included in your package before you book: “It’s no good thinking you’ve got a real bargain and then discovering you have literally booked four walls and a roof so you need to source everything from bouquets and booze, to candles and canapés,” she says.

This takes us to budgets: her advice is to be realistic about what you want to achieve and to trust the experts. She also recommends being led by the building itself – don’t try to make it into something it’s not. “It’s pointless blowing your budget on covering up a 500-year-old rough stone wall when you could celebrate it by warming it up with good lighting.”

Elopement picnic styling by One Fine Day
One Fine Day Events shows that outdoor set-ups can as chic and stylish as indoor ones (Photo: Sarah Barton)

Ideas for decorating outdoor wedding ceremonies

If the weather plays ball, an outdoor wedding can be a dream. Rhubekka Smith of One Fine Day Events tells us her favourite way to style an alfresco ceremony is to keep it as nature-inspired as possible: use logs to define the aisle and vases filled with flowers or candles; pallets and natural wood can serve as signage for the order of the day and the table names; keep table decor simple with natural-coloured runners or strips of eucalyptus; and elevate centrepieces with slices of timber.

Outdoor ceremonies can incorporate fun elements while still being practical, she says. “Why not set up a s’mores station beside a fire pit? We can provide blankets in rustic apple crates which not only look lovely but keep the chill at bay.” For autumn and winter weddings, she suggests amping up the use of fairy lights and candles for a romantic, cosy vibe.

In spring and summer, consider your drinks: no one wants lukewarm tipples, so hire One Fine Day’s huge tin bath and fill it with ice. Pop this beside a DIY gin bar and you’re sorted. “Multifunctional props are good for a smaller venue,” Rhubekka points out. “Our crates can be layered to build tables for signing your paperwork, for example, then used for a prosecco bar where glasses and garnishes can be displayed while you’re off for photographs. There are always creative solutions that’ll look beautiful.”

marquee and tent wedding styling by Artisan Weddings
Marquee and tent wedding styling by Artisan Weddings

How to dress a wedding marquee

Your venue should reflect your personal style: this is what Gill Hamilton at Artisan Weddings believes. “Having a blank-canvas venue provides flexibility,” she tells us. “We’ll create moodboards to help you decorate the marquee but the structures always sell themselves.” Gill suggests dressing marquees with draping and lighting to create a knockout look. One big advantage of styling a venue like this? Budgets are easier to manage as you have control over which elements you hire, she adds.