Sarah Gillespie talks money, marquees and why a good supplier can make all the difference
A newly engaged friend of mine is having a proper ’mare finding a venue for her wedding. Despite me pressing a year’s worth of BSWs into her hands, she is struggling to pick somewhere from the hundreds of venues we feature each issue. Even her top three are not without their flaws. One has the wrong shade of wallpaper for her colour scheme. Another feels cramped at her maxed-out capacity guest list. And the last doesn’t have a big enough bar (I vetoed that one). So why, I wondered, doesn’t she consider a marquee?
They offer unrivalled flexibility, and often for a very good price. But, warns Katherine Self of Finesse Marquees (finessemarquees.co.uk), “Creating a venue from nothing and providing elements like power, lighting, catering equipment, heating and loos can really add to the cost.” That’s why most marquee companies will be able to sort out these extras for you – they’ll offer you discounted rates if it’s part of their service, or have connections who will give them a good price if they don’t – so work together to decide what your biggest priorities are. If you’re getting married in October, say, heating should not be skimped on – unless you fancy all huddling together in the middle of the dancefloor, doing The Slosh for warmth.
“Don’t fall into the trap of thinking loos are the obvious facility to cut back on if your budget is tight – your guests will notice,” advises Bridget Roberts of the Classical Loo Company (classicalloocompany.com). If you’re on a budget you might have to forego add-ons like luxury soaps, floral arrangements and attendants, but portable toilets that wouldn’t look out of place at T in the Park will be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
So how can you keep a handle on the budget for your big top big day? “A wedding marquee gives you full control of your spending on the bar and catering, unlike most venues,” explains Will Duncan of Queensberry Marquees (queensberrymarquees.com). With family-style dining on the increase, why not take it to a new level and ask everyone in your family to bring a dish to be served alongside a selection of catered food? If you’re considering a DIY bar, you’ll need to keep in mind who’s clearing and cleaning as the night goes on and the day after.
“If you have concerns about costs getting too high, speak to your supplier. We’ll have good ideas and alternatives that can help keep prices within reason,” says Katherine.
We all lust over pictures of marquees with Moroccan chillout areas and separate dancefloor tents, but sticking to regular shapes and sizes is one of the easiest ways to save money. Opt for a standardised shape and splash out on some different-coloured uplighters to break up the space.
Will suggests pricing different options for chair and furniture hire to ensure you’re getting the most out of your budget: “Our white padded folding chairs are great for contemporary weddings and are a lot cheaper than banqueting chairs with covers and sashes.”
You’ll hear often that a marquee is a blank canvas, but that doesn’t mean it needs a blank cheque.