The Current Situation for Wedding Marquee Companies
Over the past month, we have surveyed and spoken to a range of marquee companies, both individually and as part of an industry-specific focus group. This enabled us to understand the impacts they are facing due to the current pandemic, the current status of their 2020 and 2021 wedding bookings, and how ongoing social distancing will affect their businesses.
This article is intended to share those findings to help offer support and information to all in the industry.
We have published an article for brides and grooms encouraging them to consider a marquee reception as well as providing guidance to venues relating to increasing their space by adding a marquee.
New Bookings, Postponements and Cancellations
Only 16% of the marquee companies surveyed said they were already at or near full capacity for weddings between April – September 2021. Most have plenty of dates available for new bookings next year and are keen to fill those dates.
Some marquee companies are prioritising rescheduling for couples who have postponed, before taking new bookings. All appear to be offering postponements free of charge and most are permitting couples to postpone to the same time next year. Both of these policies are more accommodating than many venues, where it has been common practice to limit the postponement date options and to reserve peak dates for new bookings, in order to preserve their potential for 2021 income.
Concerns were raised about the possibility of weddings being cancelled next year as a result of redundancies. We felt that budget venues are to be more likely to be impacted by this risk as marquees are favoured by couples who tend to be financially secure.
Keeping staff safe
All of the marquees we surveyed were confident that they would be able to keep their own staff safe, using social distancing measures similar to those already being used in the construction industry. There was more concern over the safety of venue and catering staff operating within the close confines of catering tents. Whilst marquee companies can provide guidance, they felt that it would be the client’s responsibility to select a catering tent of adequate size specification to maintain social distancing.
The impact of furlough and redundancies
We were surprised that a number of marquee companies have furloughed all staff and are not currently responding to enquiries or accepting confirmed bookings. Most companies, have furloughed all staff other than the owner or managing director, who is dealing with enquiries and keeping the business operational.
For many, the costs of bringing staff back from furlough earlier than necessary and only for occasional work is a significant consideration in accepting bookings for this summer. This is also the case for autumn and winter weddings, where wetter weather is predicted, due to the need for extra staff to clean and dry the marquees. This may explain the flexible approach to postponements, with most saying it would be preferable to resume only once there is enough work to justify it.
The flexible furlough option from 1st July will enable marquee companies to keep employees on the Job Retention Scheme and pay them only for the days they are required to work.
Whilst redundancies are anticipated, most companies feel it is important to retain an experienced foreman for handling the more complex health and safety involved in building and dismantling under social distancing restrictions.
With some degree of social distancing expected to be required for a considerable time, it is assumed couples will need larger marquees to accommodate all their guests. It will be important for the industry to establish a “rule of thumb” on the increase in costs this will incur as this will inevitably be a factor in the decision on whether to increase the marquee size, decrease the guest list or postpone.
It is assumed that catering marquees will need to increase in size. Having spoken to caterers, many are anticipating guests numbers will reduce somewhat and the savings from not catering for those guests can be used to cover additional HSE costs such as this.
Some venues are looking into adding a basic marquee shelter (without floors or walls) to extend the space available for guests to spread out. These are priced from £400 upwards, excluding VAT with the average cost of a “typical” marquee quoted at just over £4500. We have excluded the very specialist high end marquees for this comparison.
Encouraging couples to use marquees in winter
During our recent focus group with marquee companies we explored the idea of encouraging couples to use marquees for weddings later this year and particularly in March next year to increase turnover before the financial year-end for many. It was agreed that there was no cost saving to the couple as the cost of heating, drying and cleaning winter marquees were considerable. This feels like an opportunity for the companies specialising in the more complex builds where the overall cost is much higher.
For others, where budget is a key consideration, the preference would be to use their linings, lighting and other equipment for venue dressing village halls, agricultural barns and sports halls. This is a cheaper option and means power generators, heating and kitchen extensions are not required. While venue dressing offers marquee companies an extra revenue opportunity, there is, however, tough competition on price.
Our article for couples encourages the use of marquees during the autumn and early spring, and using marquee companies to dress other venues.
Anticipated shortages of key resources
There are no concerns about the availability of inexpensive labour next summer but many voiced concern over a potential shortage of portable toilets and generators. Couples are already booking double the amount of toilets to satisfy social distancing and hygiene requirements for their guests. Pubs and restaurants are gearing up for the new restrictions by hiring generators and portable toilets on long term contracts. The expected increase in marquee wedding receptions will further add to this demand.
The work we’ll be doing to help marquee companies
Access to grants: We have had a zoom meeting with the CMA (formally the Office of Fair Trading) to discuss the impact across the industry. They have been involved with numerous complaints against venues. I have highlighted the responsible approach that marquee companies have taken on postponements. They are also looking into whether particular sectors within the wedding industry have been unable to access appropriate government funding assistance. I have raised the concern that marquee companies fall outside the definition of retail and hospitality.
Protecting the industry: Having studied the impact on the industry of the last recession, we anticipate an influx of opportunistic companies launching this year. By cutting operational costs they will be able to compete aggressively on price. The risk to the reputation of the marquee industry of companies operating with inadequate safety measures, sub-standard equipment and poor customer care is considerable. We’d like to reduce that risk for you and encourage couples to book trusted companies.
Building trust: On an ongoing basis, we will be right beside you, doing what we can to encourage couples and venues to make the right choices. The first step is to ensure couples choose companies that they know they can trust and you’ll see us the work we are doing with the CMA (Office of Fair Trading) over the next weeks. Work that is already showing marquee companies in a very good light as a result of their flexible postponement policies.
Free, paid and commission based advertising: We will continue to extend free online listings to all established businesses but would love the opportunity to do more for trusted companies through proactive marketing. This will include offering a commission based partnership option for a number of marquee companies who don’t have funds for marketing and advertising, alongside our more conventional cost-effective advertising options.
The following features are all available free to those we promote commercially
- Our article for couples encouraging them to choose reputable companies was published at the weekend. It has been sent to over 20,000 couples and promoted through videos on social media. We have been able to feature some of the companies we represent in there and would love to include more. To be included please email me a high resolution image and a bit of information (not too sales oriented please!) on what makes your company stand out.
- Our “trust marks” show the companies that have been with us for 10+ or 3+ years. These badges appear automatically; you don’t need to do anything.
- Our “Book with Confidence” is an optional pledge. It adds a badge to your listing to show couples that you will refund their initial deposit in full if they need to cancel or postpone their wedding. This badge is designed to maintain healthy levels of enquiries and bookings by giving couples confidence to carry on planning their weddings despite all of the uncertainty at the current time.
- Our “availability checker” saves you and your couples time and effort by letting them check specific dates online and offers alternative date suggestions. It also adds your business to our late availability page. For added convenience, we have a free widget for your own website so couples can check dates there too.
- Reviews on 3rd party sites show trust and reputation. You can show unlimited reviews on your listing. Adding our review widget to your site displays your latest review and encourages customers to leave their own review.
- Use the “Recommended Suppliers” option to add venues and caterers that you work with. It helps to position you in the market and build an online network.
- For any of these options, just log in to your account using your email address and the “forgotten password” link.
If you are an existing, well-established and reputable marquee company not currently represented on Guides for Brides we’d be pleased to be able to introduce you to couples, event planners and venues in your area. Please just get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.