A beginners guide to styling a marquee from day to night

Henderson Marquee Hire
Henderson Marquee Hire

Sarah Gillespie looks at the best ways to take your marquee from daytime dining to nighttime revels


Marquees are infinitely more flexible than buildings when it comes to making small changes that will have a big impact. During the day, you’ll want your marquee to be flooded with natural daylight, with a real ‘bring the outside in’ vibe. Some are designed to allow just that. “If you’re lucky and have a glorious sunny day for your wedding, our walls can be rolled back to let your marquee flow into the garden or field,” says Clarissa Doig of Central Marquees (central-marquees.co.uk).
But even the sunniest days can come with a chilly wind, so make sure you explore other options. William Duncan of Queensberry Event Hire offers this advice: “Panoramic clear walls maximise daylight and views, but provide shelter from the elements.”
Keep coloured drapes and harsh lighting to a minimum and let nature provide the backdrop, while taking advantage of the mega-flattering light – mid-speech selfies are a must.
Rustic centrepieces of foliage, branches or flowers look stunning against a marquee set-up. Let your imagination run wild and pick a theme for your decor. ‘Quaint countryside tea party’ could mean peonies and mismatched crockery, but if pastels leave you cold then a Moroccan-inspired palette of exotic flowers and glass lanterns might be much more your thing.
“Marquees tend to have quite high ceilings, so combine high and low table arrangements,” suggests Lindsey Hunter of Get Knotted Weddings & Event Styling. “You could also hang ceiling circles – ours are made of driftwood and willow and can be decorated with large bright flowers and greenery.”
Layout is important during the day. If your band is planning a soundcheck (these are often done through headphones), ask your marquee company to separate the stage and dancefloor with drapes or create a separate ‘zone’ that won’t be revealed until later. “Our luxury pagoda marquees can be set up to separate the bar from the main room,” adds William. This should help keep the party animals away from shots, at least until the meal is over!

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I’ll not keep you in suspense: the single most important factor in ensuring a smooth transition from day to evening (and in keeping your marquee looking impressive) is lighting. And you’ll be spoilt for choice when deciding how best to do this, according to Katherine Self of Finesse Marquees: “Uplighters with coloured gels are very popular, as are fairylights decorating trees or wrapped around poles. Lots of couples want chandeliers, and LED starlit cloths are still very much in demand.”
None of these will require setting up once they day gets going, and some might even come as a surprise to your guests. “We’ve dressed an entire roof in fairylights embedded into ivory lining, which went unnoticed during the day but twinkled into life once evening arrived,” says Clarissa.
The sky – well, the ceiling of your marquee – is the limit with lighting so discuss the possibilities with your provider. If they can’t help out, they’ll probably be able to recommend a venue stylist or décor company who can.
Interior lighting is important, but don’t forget about outside. Smoking laws mean that no matter how good the party is inside, there will always be a small contingent of guests congregating outside, so whether you toss them a torch or plan something a little more dramatic, be sure to include outdoor illuminations in your plan. “Lanterns lining the walkway to the marquee will offer a soft glow for when the sun goes down,” says Clarissa. This also makes a great runway for directing merry revellers off into the night when it’s time for bed!
Be careful about using naked flames, both inside and out, and double-check with the venue or landowner about any specific restrictions they might have. Drilling into 200-year-old trees to hang lanterns will not make you very popular.
A massive marquee differs from a huge function room in that it doesn’t have the decor (wallpaper, furniture, paintings hanging on the wall) to break the space up, so if you’re looking to have a big dancefloor and separate bar area then it’s recommended you section the space off with drapes, or have several marquees joined together. “Having somewhere to sit and chat with a drink is a great idea, especially for evening guests, as it means they have a space of their own without having to join an existing table,” notes Katherine. “This allows a smooth transition from daytime dining to evening party.”
Marquee weddings can take place all year round, so you’re not restricted to the (brief) Scottish summer – marquee suppliers can provide heating and protection from the elements, in the form of covered walkways and porches.

Lighting the outdoor space around your marquee will take the party out into the cool night air, Papakata