Words by Laura Hudson
Tents and nervous
There are all sorts of advantages to celebrating your nuptials under canvas. If you and your fiancé have a dream location in mind – perhaps a spot you know with a stunning view, or a place that holds special memories – a marquee means you can bring the venue with you, opening up countless possibilities for creating a truly personal day. So if you are thinking about hiring a marquee for your wedding but don’t know where to begin, read on.
There is generally far more flexibility for decoration with a marquee than with a hotel or function suite. Most marquees are a blank canvas that you can decorate as you wish, so let your imagination run wild. “A marquee gives a unique ‘sense of occasion’ and can have bespoke and individual touches, which you often cannot get from a fixed venue,” says Edward Scovell of Arc Marquees (arcmarquees.com).
John Brown of Purvis Marquees (purvis-marquees.co.uk) agrees: “A marquee gives the couple creative control over the finished look.”
If you have your heart set on saying ‘I do’ on the banks of your favourite river or at the foot of the mountain where you and your beloved met, a marquee is probably your best option. And if you are getting married somewhere particularly scenic, you can even choose a marquee with glass panels in its sides so you and your guests can enjoy the views throughout the day. But before you get carried away and send out the invitations, be sure to check that whoever owns the land will give you and your guests permission to be there.
When you’ve chosen your spot, contact several suppliers and tell them what you’ve got in mind. They will be able to let you know if it’s possible or not and should be able to explain any practical issues before coming out to the site to gauge what size and type of marquee would work best. “If budget is no issue, a marquee can be erected pretty much anywhere,” says Edward Scovell. “Structures and floors can be levelled up, we can even erect them around ponds and bushes if necessary.”
Once you’ve decided a marquee is the right choice for you, do some research before you book your supplier. Make sure you ask plenty of questions about every aspect of the hire. “Ask them what type of flooring they have – there are various kinds and which one you choose can make a big difference,” recommends Jane Henderson of Henderson Marquee Hire (hendersonmarqueehire.co.uk). “And establish the size that is being quoted for and exactly what’s included in the quotation.” Don’t be afraid to ask about their previous experience, as well as more practical things such as who will deliver and collect the equipment, and what types of marquee, layout and interior decoration they can offer. If you’re planning a summer wedding, it’s best to book as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
Win over the weather
We all know the weather can bite when it wants to, but most modern marquees are equipped to deal with the most temperamental of days, so there’s no reason to worry about whether you’ll be too hot or too cold. “Marquees can be heated with modern thermostatically controlled gas heaters that can stand up to the worst of the Scottish weather,” says Katherine Self of Finesse Marquees (finessemarquees.co.uk). For the summer months, you could also look into detachable sides on your marquee so guests can enjoy the sunshine.
While at first glance a marquee might not seem the most practical option, it can actually cater for almost any requirements. Layouts can be altered to suit your needs, with adjoining tents put up to house a bar, toilets or even a chill-out area. Electricity generators, water supplies and lighting are usually provided, but you should ensure your supplier has a back-up plan in the rare instance that something goes wrong.
Make it your own
Choosing a marquee gives you a blank canvas in terms of the theme and colour scheme of your day. “The possibilities for decorating a marquee are vast. You can use interior linings, lighting, carpet in various colours and many other options,” says John Brown.
If that seems a bit daunting, Katherine Self suggests speaking to your supplier: “Ask for recommendations if you have theme ideas; most suppliers come across many different companies in their work and will be able to give you good contacts.”
No matter what you’ve got in mind, a marquee gives you the flexibility to create your dream day and decorate it exactly to your tastes. Whether you opt for LED lights and dramatic floral decorations or leave it plain and simple, holding your wedding in a marquee means you can design the look of it your way, ensuring it’s a day to cherish forever.
Top five questions
Stephanie Stark of Best Intent Marquees shares her top tips
• WHERE CAN I PUT A MARQUEE?
A family garden is an obvious choice but there are plenty of other options. Most stately homes and hotels will be geared up for marquees, but may charge a ‘pitch fee’. Public land, such as parks or heritage sites, may be available but you must get permission.
• WHERE DO I START?
Once you have a venue in mind, it’s time to start planning. Your marquee size and style will be dictated by the number of guests and the space available. Unless there are on-site loo and kitchen facilities, you’ll need a catering tent and mobile loos. If you can’t take power from an on-site supply or nearby buildings, you’ll need a generator. We recommend having a back-up generator too.
• MY COSTS ARE GETTING OUT OF CONTROL – WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Start by costing out the basics and asking every supplier whether there are any hidden costs. Calculate your end total and then add a margin for surprises. If by that stage you are already nearing your budget limit and know you want to release money for other things, look at where you could make compromises.
• Will my marquee supplier be open to negotiation on prices?
Most suppliers will be prepared to negotiate but be aware of what will encourage this! June and July are very busy months for marquee providers and your negotiation power will be low if you decide to hold your wedding then – you can expect better prices for an off-season wedding. Some suppliers may be willing to discuss early-booking discounts, and it might be worth asking if there are any benefits to paying a larger deposit than is usually requested.
• What sort of decorative items can I add to my marquee?
Most marquees come with wooden flooring, ivory linings, doors, chandelier lighting and window walls. Beyond that, the list is endless. Companies vary as to what they will supply in terms of decorative items, so make sure you discuss this with them before you book the basics.