Planning a marquee wedding

An event tent at night with a sunset during a wedding

Our sister company, Country & Coast Weddings, manages marquee venues across the county, so we have a fair idea what goes into planning a marquee wedding.  Marquee weddings are the reason I started wedding planning; they are a blank canvas, they can be put up anywhere, and they can accommodate any size wedding. But the idea of a marquee wedding puts many couples off the idea as there are various logistical and planning considerations that need to be taken into account when organising a marquee wedding. Let’s start with the marquee and tipi options.

MARQUEES

Clear span marquee

This marquee is now the ‘standard’ or ‘traditional’ marquee option for the majority of couples. It’s called a clear span as there are no poles in the marquee, the span is clear! They are watertight (usually!), warm (if heated), easy to size according to guest numbers (using sections), and are readily available (most marquee companies supply them). They are perfect for a wedding any time of year, and I especially love the clear plastic sections which make it feel like you’re outside even when you’re inside!

Pole & rope marquee

I refer to these as the ‘old traditional marquees’ as this is what a marquee was 20+ years ago! Picture a summer fete tent or a circus tent and you’ll be able to visualise one of these. They are held up by 2 or more giant posts through the centre, smaller poles around the sides, and lots of ropes! They are perfect look for any festival, boho, or vintage wedding. On the downside, they are not always watertight or warm so best kept to the summer months.

Capri tent

In all honesty these should be kept to parties or as a cover for a drinks reception!

Giant Tipis

A tipi is the iconic festival wedding option! It encompasses the non-traditional, fun, colourful, informal, casual feel of a festival wedding. They are super cool and we love them! Couple of downsides (or require compromises?) are that they aren’t as weather proof as a clear span, they take a little longer to put up, and they are expensive.

Don’t forget 

  • Allow for a catering area, either attached or separate from the main marquee
  • Additional furniture like a cake table, gift table, outside furniture

PLANNING

So, now you know the differences between the main marquee and tipi options, what else do you need to know?

Style

Knowing what style of wedding you want will help make the decision on which marquee or tipi to have a little easier. If a classic wedding is your style, with a room full of white blooms and crisp lines, then the clear span is the marquee for you. If Afternoon Tea with lots of colour and bunting, then go for the pole & rope marquee.

Logistics

When you’re looking for, or have found, your marquee venue you’ll need to think about logistics such as:

  1. site access – is there suitable access for a lorry, will parked cars be able to leave if there’s been rain
  2. parking – is there sufficient parking for everyone, plus lighting for the evening
  3. water – does the site have water and is it drinkable
  4. power – can you take power from a source on site or will you need a generator
  5. toilets – are there any close by or do you need some posh loos

Almost all marquee companies will arrange a generator, posh loos, and a water source for you so you it isn’t something to worry about.

Catering

When it comes to wedding catering in a marquee, think outside the box! There are usually no restrictions on what type of caterer you can have and in almost all occasions caterers working from a van will be able to park right up to the door.

How about a few ideas…

♥ food stations – sushi, crepes, pies, tacos
♥ fish & chip vans
♥ pizzas served from a Land Rover Defender
♥ Ploughman’s lunch as sharing platters or picnic style
♥ Great British Bake Off cake table

Wedding Insurance & Licences

Without a doubt make sure you have wedding insurance if you’re planning on a marquee wedding. Venues have lots of backups in place so little can go wrong, but there are so many elements in a marquee wedding, it is better to be prepared. Most wedding insurances offer an ‘add on’ for a marquee wedding, with policies costing somewhere around £150.

We are often asked if you need a licence for your wedding marquee, and the short answer is maybe! There are 8 activities which require a licence but only 3 would mainly apply when thinking about your wedding in a marquee:

  1. a performance of live music
  2. entertainment of a similar description to live music, recorded music or dance.
  3. the sale of alcohol (either at a cash bar or as part of a ticket price)

Now, before you rush out and get a Temporary Events Notice (TEN) just ask yourself if the music is “for a consideration or with a view to a profit”. The answer is probably not, so you don’t need a TEN. But if you are selling alcohol then you will need one. Most bar companies will have this in place, so you don’t need to worry. But make sure you keep it in mind if you are running your own bar. If you do need a TEN, it is easy to obtain, it costs just £21, and it needs to be done through your local council.

Wedding Coordination

Seriously consider hiring the services of a wedding planner to coordinate the day. Mainstream venues will have a wedding coordinator on hand to deal with any problems during the day, whereas most marquee weddings are reliant on the couple or their family & friends to step in when something goes wrong.

A wedding planner will be main point of contact for the numerous of suppliers who will be involved in your day, they are the person who opens up in the morning and turns off the generator at the end! Plus they can do any last minute venue decoration, keep an eye on timings, and act as an unofficial Toastmaster (although you can’t beat the real thing!).