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The Ultimate Guide to a Marquee Wedding
Marquees give you total flexibility in wedding planning – something that is particularly relevant during COVID-19. Even if you aren’t planning a marquee wedding, this year a lot of couples will hire a marquee simply to increase the space available at their venue to allow for additional guests, whilst remaining within government restrictions.
More often, marquees are the preferred choice for those planning a traditional church wedding followed by a reception at home or in a rented field. From circus tents, tipis and yurts to more traditional pole tents, stretch marquees and huge clearspan structures, marquees can fit into surprisingly small spaces and give you the flexibility to choose your own timetable and suppliers. Here’s everything you need to know about marquee weddings:
- Why have a marquee wedding?
- What do I need to consider if I want a marquee wedding?
- What types of marquees can I choose from for my wedding?
- How much does a wedding marquee cost?
- How big does the wedding marquee need to be?
- Where can the wedding marquee be located?
- Can I have a marquee as an extension to my wedding venue?
- Can I have a marquee for my Winter wedding?
- How can I decorate a marquee for my wedding?
- How does catering work at a marquee wedding?
- Can I have my civil ceremony in a marquee?
- How to plan overnight accommodation for a marquee wedding
- Why it is important to use a recommended marquee company?
- Top marquee wedding venues
You would usually only need to speak to a marquee company if you are planning a full marquee wedding. However, in 2020 and 2021 couples are speaking to marquee companies to get extra flexibility for weddings in almost any type of country wedding venue.
- Adding a marquee within the grounds allows more guests to attend the wedding reception, as long as it remains within the current government limitation of 15 guests.
- A simple stretch marquee gives shelter from sun or rain so that guests can be outside
- Marquee companies can provide structures for your band and an open-air dance floor
- You may want to offer additional hand washing and toilet facilities for your guests
There are many benefits to having a marquee venue for your wedding day. First and foremost, a marquee gives you full control and flexibility over your day. Marquees are the ultimate blank canvas, so you can decide exactly how you want your wedding to be and make it unique to you. You can choose your own furniture, fittings and lighting to style it any way you like.
Marquees are the perfect option for socially-distanced weddings, allowing more flexibility on space for you and your guests. You have the ability to increase and decrease the size of the marquee just days before the event.
Without time restrictions, you and your guests can party all night and many couples opt to keep their celebrations continuing all weekend.
Although the cost of hiring a marquee may be more than hiring a budget venue, there are savings elsewhere. You’ll have total flexibility to choose caterers and the style of catering. Corkage charges, to chill and serve the wine, tend to be much lower through catering companies than at venues.
If you don’t have a suitable garden
If you don’t have access to a suitable garden, don’t be put off. Plenty of farmers and landowners are happy to rent a suitable field and some have thriving businesses from setting up marquees and glamping tents for the summer months for weddings. Some wedding venues are happy to hire out parts of their grounds away from their main venue and may even offer catering from their kitchens. If you know someone who has hosted a wedding in the past at home it is worth asking if they’d consider hiring out their garden (and possibly even their home) for the weekend; many small wedding venues started up that way! The final option is to ask a local marquee company. Most have a list of places that they can put up their marquee.
Please note: Current government restrictions due to coronavirus in England do not allow for wedding receptions to take place in a private home or garden, only within venues or venue grounds that are COVID Secure.
[photo: Alcott Weddings]
Time of year
Spring and summer marquee weddings are the most popular due to the better weather. However, more and more people are considering Autumn and Winter marquee weddings, especially during October and March. In the colder months, from November to February, the cost of heaters to keep your guests warm and wooden floors to prevent high heels sinking into damp ground can offset any savings from choosing an off-peak date. The exception is for those wanting a really large wedding. Marquee companies can be much more competitive on price for really big, elaborate structures during the Winter.
One of the big advantages of a marquee wedding is being able to choose your own outside wedding caterer. You’ll need to hire a separate catering tent in addition to the main marquee, with space for social distancing within the tent. Your catering company will need access to water, so think about this when looking at where to put the marquee. If it’s in your garden or at a venue this won’t be a problem. However, if it is more remote, you may have to provide the caterers with water.
Portable toilet units designed for social events are spacious and nicely decorated, such as these from Laughton’s Luxury Toilet Hire. This can provide a bit of luxury for you and your guests, even in the middle of a field. You’ll probably want trailer toilets, rather than the individual portaloos used on building sites, unless you are on a very tight budget. These have separate ladies and gents flushing toilets with proper basins, towels, mirrors and even a vase of flowers! You’ll need extra toilets and handwashing facilities this year to cope with the increased hygiene rules. We’d also recommend hiring attendants to wipe down door locks, handles and other touch points between guests. During social distancing, you’ll need to allow space for queueing safely. So, think about putting the toilets inside a separate marquee to stop guests getting wet if it’s a rainy day.
If you are hiring a marquee site at a venue, check if you have access to the inside toilets or if you need to hire some. It is anticipated that there will be a significant shortage of portable toilet trailers for 2021 weddings, so book yours now!
During the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to provide you and your guests with plenty of handwashing facilities. Portable toilet units only have space for one or two guests at a time, however, Cotswold Marquees can supply freestanding hand washing stations to hire. They don’t need any plumbing or electricity so can go anywhere.
Caterers, heating, lighting, music, portable toilet trailers – your wedding reception will need electricity! Venues with a dedicated marquee site in their grounds will have a separate electrical circuit set up and will include connection in their fees. If you’re in your own garden, you may be able to run extensions from the house. But this is only if the marquee is very close to the house, you have space capacity on the electrical circuit and your pawer requirements are minimal. It’s best to check with an electrician in advance.
In most cases, it makes sense to hire a generator through your marquee company as they will set it up and connect the catering tent and lighting for you. They’ll need to know how much power your band and caterers will need and whether they’ll both be using the power at the same time, in order to calculate the right size generator.
Access and parking
Your marquee company will arrange a site visit before quoting so they can see the space they have to work with and if there are any obstacles or access issues that will make the marquee set up difficult.
For your wedding day, you’ll need to make sure your chosen marquee site is well signposted, especially if it is in a field without a reliable postcode! Consider parking for both your guests and your suppliers. Suppliers will need to park right beside the marquee to unload. If you are asking guests to park in a field, think about whether you can also offer a drop-off point for those wearing heels.
Marquees during COVID-19
Marquees give extra flexibility on guest numbers and social distancing, which is one of the many reasons they will be popular while Coronavirus is a concern (see video below). However, you will need to think about risk assessments and establish who will be making sure regulations are followed throughout the day and evening.
Your marquee company should be able to calculate the right size marquee to allow for enough space for each guest, but they won’t be there on the day. The catering company may be able to assist, but only in relation to serving food and drink. Your DJ or Toastmaster might also play a part in helping keep people socially distanced. However, none of these suppliers are likely to take on full responsibility, as they are all only involved in a small part of the day. If you have a wedding planner, they may include this within their role. Otherwise, make sure you have nominated someone responsible who knows the social distancing regulations and will be comfortable enforcing them if needed.
Currently, you cannot have a marquee wedding in a private home due to COVID restrictions. If you are planning to do this, we would recommend that you hire a venue who are able to have a marquee structure present and follow COVID restrictions, ensuring you, your guests and the staff on-site are all safe and fully compliant with the government’s guidance.
“From 15 August 2020 receptions and other celebrations for weddings and civil partnerships can take place, but only in a COVID-19 secure environment/venue. Such events should not take place in people’s private homes (or adjoining outdoor spaces like gardens), given that these will not have the same COVID-19 Secure measures in place.” – Government guidance for wedding receptions
From stretch tents to big tops, yurts to Bedouin tents, there is something for every theme and budget. Whether you’re wanting your marquee to fill a small garden or large field, marquees are available in all shapes and sizes. This allows lots of flexibility with guest lists, location and design. The most basic flooring is standard coconut matting, however, there is always room for adding that personal touch. Whether you opt for carpet, elegant tiles or a disco dance floor – the choice is yours!
Traditional marquees are made up of canvas sides, pretty curved tops and inner poles to give the marquee shape and stability. They are anchored down by pegs, and so are normally restricted to soft grassy areas. They’ll need enough space around them for pegging down. We love this gorgeous round marquee from Spaceintense!
Frame/clear span marquees
These classic rectangular-shaped tents have no inner poles. They are built on a strong frame and are the most popular choice for very large weddings with extra sections being added to get to the desired size. They need no extra space around them, so they’re also great for smaller spaces or as an extension to an existing wedding venue. This clear roofed marquee by Abbas Marquees is simply spectacular and lets so much light in!
Chinese hat marquees
Also known as Pagodas or Canopy Marquees, these are small tents with pointy tops and open sides. They are perfect for entrance covers, as a cover for an outdoor humanist wedding ceremony or to give shade or shelter for a garden drinks reception. You can also combine several of these to make a larger marquee space.
Stretch tents, like this stunning one from Earth Village Events, are incredibly flexible and can be made into nearly any shape you want. They can also look very modern and sleek. The wide option of openings makes them great for letting the summer breeze through. Again, these need to be pegged down and so require extra space around them.
Yurts are traditionally circular in shape, with a beautiful timber frame. Many yurt structures are self-supporting, but some of the larger ones need interior poles to help support the roof. With their unique looks, they are perfect for boho and festival themed weddings.
[photo: Alcott Weddings]
Tipis are also a very popular choice for weddings, and with an open side, they allow a cohesiveness between the interior and exterior. They have a very relaxed eco feel to them. For small weddings or as a central point for a festival themed wedding, a single large tipi may be sufficient. But, if you prefer, two or more can be combined for a larger wedding reception. Both yurts and tipis are sturdy enough to withstand the British weather all year round.
[photo: The Gardens]
Using a marquee company to dress a barn or village hall
If you are considering a wedding in an unattractive agricultural barn, sports hall, village hall or community centre, make use of the ‘venue dressing’ services that many marquee companies offer. Essentially, they will dress your chosen venue location and transform it to look like a marquee interior. This is great for couples who might have a smaller budget, as you get the effect of being in a marquee but at a much lower cost. This is also a great solution for a Winter wedding.
[photo: Applewood Hall]
The price of a wedding marquee varies considerably depending on the type you want, the size of the marquee, the number of wedding guests, etc. Basic marquees structures without linings and flooring can start from as little as £400.
We recently surveyed several marquee companies across the UK. Prices for a ‘typical’ marquee wedding varied widely across the businesses from £1,250 – £11,000, with the average cost just over £4500. This includes flooring, furniture and other extras. Many couples having a marquee wedding find the cost is lower than anticipated and had previously been put off by hearing about prices from the elaborate, extravagant marquees used for celebrity weddings. These can cost over £100,000 to construct and fit out.
We recommend getting quotes from more than one wedding marquee company. Prices vary so much depending on the type of marquee and fittings so it can be hard to get comparable quotes. The ideal is to get approximate prices from 3-4 companies, to establish who is the right fit for your budget. Ask just two to do a site visit to confirm their quote and make suggestions on the options you might need.
[photo: CGC Event Marquees]
The size of your wedding marquee depends on a number of factors. If you have chosen a clear span marquee it is easy to have part of the marquee sectioned off, to allow separate areas for the wedding breakfast and dancing and entertainment. You’ll need to think about how many wedding guests will attend, whether you want any extra socialising space, and if you’d like space for dance floors, bar or lounge areas.
Marquees are perfect for socially-distanced weddings, as you and your guests will have much more space. We currently do not know how large weddings will be allowed to be, but you will almost certainly need to allow for social distancing measures. Your marquee company should be able to advise on the size needed.
Anywhere you like, within reason! The most cost-effective option is on flat, level, well-drained ground with good access. Farmer’s fields can be ideal. If you have flower and shrub borders on the marquee site it isn’t a problem; they will become a feature within the marquee. Speak to your marquee company about larger trees as they may be able to work around them. If the marquee is built on a tennis court, riding arena or car park, you’ll need weights rather than pegs to secure it. Additionally, if it is already on a solid base, flooring is less expensive and you’ll notice there is less condensation.
If the ground isn’t level, a flat platform can be constructed under the marquee, raising it above the ground or even creating additional space. This same technique is used in the USA with breathtaking results, positioning marquees above lakes and on rocky cliff edges.
[photo: Alcott Weddings]
Yes! Having a marquee extension to your wedding venue can help with social distancing and means you can easily separate any vulnerable wedding guests if need be. The perfect place for your wedding marquee is in the beautiful grounds or gardens of a wedding venue, where you can maximise the use of outdoor space. The clear sides of this wedding marquee by Amplitude Event Solutions gives great views across the venue gardens.
Marquees are beautiful all year round, so no matter what season your wedding is in, you can find the perfect marquee to suit your needs. In the colder months, you’ll need heaters to keep you and your guests warm. Play around with beautiful lighting solutions for when the sun goes down; a well lit marquee is simply breathtaking. April and October are favourite months for a marquee wedding, for those “in the know”, as prices are competitive and the weather is often beautiful.
A marquee is the ultimate blank canvas for your wedding day. Whether you are dreaming of a Moroccan themed lounge or a fairy-lit wonderland, marquees enable you to get creative with your decor and styling. You’ll be amazed at just how luxurious today’s range of marquees can be made to look.
[photo: Heaton House Farm]
The atmosphere is dependent on what kind of lighting you choose and how it ties in with your day. For a country affair, fairy lights, festoon lighting or lanterns are excellent options. On the other hand, for a big elaborate wedding, large decorative chandeliers and coloured up-lighters create an incredible atmosphere. For the wow-factor on the dance floor, think about starlight ceilings and wall linings which also look amazing in photos!
Think about how to personalise the marquee to make it perfect for you. Whether you decide on elaborate centrepieces or something more simple, the decoration should reflect you as a couple. Don’t be afraid to try something new and take advice from your wedding suppliers who will be full of ideas for personalising your marquee to suit your tastes.
One of the advantages of a marquee wedding is being able to choose your own outside wedding caterer. Wedding catering can be a large cost at a wedding venue and you won’t have much choice. However, if you have a marquee wedding, the catering options are endless! During the Coronavirus pandemic, you’ll need to consider social distancing and how that will affect your wedding breakfast. For example, buffets will likely not be allowed to take place because of the risk to you and your wedding guests. However, pre-plated meals, hog roasts, barbecues or food vans could be a great option. You could even provide your guests with picnic blankets and cushions for a fun, outdoor, socially-distanced wedding breakfast!
[photo: Alcott Weddings]
Unless using food vans, your wedding caterers will need to set up a mobile kitchen on trestle tables in a catering tent, and will usually bring a refrigerated van. This will usually be the end of the wedding marquee which has been partitioned off. If your wedding marquee is on-site at an existing wedding venue, speak to the venue to check if your caterers will be allowed to use the kitchen inside. Some marquee companies also offer catering services, such as CGC Event Marquees.
Caterers will usually provide you with a cost per head, based on a range of menus. It’s important to ask the wedding caterer whether that cost also covers their staffing, crockery, equipment, tables, chairs and linen. With uncertainty over numbers, some catering companies may change their pricing structure to charge for their fixed overheads, such as staffing and kitchen equipment, separately from their price per person. It’s a good idea to speak to several different caterers to find your perfect wedding menu, at a price that fits your budget.
In England and Wales, your legal wedding ceremony needs to take place in a permanent structure that is licensed to perform civil ceremonies. This means you won’t be able to legally get married in a temporary marquee. You can have a celebrant-led wedding ceremony in a marquee to exchange rings and vows, but this is not legally binding.
[photo: Eclectic Marquees]
If your wedding marquee is on-site at an existing wedding venue that has overnight accommodation, it is likely that they’ll want you to book out all the rooms for your guests. If your marquee is in a field or garden with plenty of space but a shortage of nearby accommodation and taxis, you might want to get creative. Look for glamping companies such as Wingbury Farm Glamping and glamping sites like Alcott Weddings who offer amazing tents and pods for you and your guests to stay on-site. This is perfect for a marquee wedding, as your guests can stay as late as they like, and perhaps even continue the fun into the next day!
[photo: Malmsbury Marquees]
Why is it important to use a recommended marquee company?
With the increase in demand for marquee weddings in 2021 and 2022, there will be some opportunistic new businesses appearing, offering cheap prices, then over-promising and under-delivering. Some might be genuine new start-ups and may be competitive while they are learning their trade, but most will disappear as fast as they appeared, possibly with your deposit and any other payments. Sadly, you’ll probably not realise until days before your wedding. In the past, we have been aware of companies setting up websites without actually owning or having access to any marquees or equipment.
Fortunately, these are in the minority and you can avoid them by using websites such as Guides for Brides to find the most trusted, reliable suppliers. Aim to use a company that has been around for long enough to deal with most eventualities and to establish a reputation. They should have plenty of photos of their own marquees. They will have online reviews. Those trading for 3+ or 10+ years will have a badge on their listing on this website so you can easily find them.
Here are some of our favourite wedding marquee companies, as well as some great wedding venues with their own on-site marquees:
Based in Sussex, Arundel Marquees supplies stunning modern marquees as well as lighting, furniture, heating, bars & luxury toilets. Arundel Marquees is a family-run business with over 30 years of experience, dedicated to putting the needs of their customers first. They have a range of beautiful modern marquees available in a variety of different shapes and sizes, so they will have the perfect option for any venue and wedding party size. The beauty of hiring a marquee is that you have full freedom and flexibility over your floor plan. You are also not restricted on style either, as Arundel Marquees provide you with the perfect blank canvas which you can decorate to match your desired theme.
Based in West Yorkshire, Amplitude Marquees offers a beautiful selection of framed and clear span marquees. Their options can accommodate even the largest of Asian wedding celebrations with structures suitable for up to 1000 wedding guests! One of our favourite features of Amplitude Marquees is their wide range of furniture, dance floors, lighting and heating to hire; perfect for those really big receptions.
CGC Event Marquees offer their services across the entirety of Northern England, including Yorkshire, Lincolnshire & the North East. They have a wide range of framed, clear span marquees to hire, as well as providing couples with all the marquee accessories such as power, lighting, flooring, furniture, toilets and styling. Couples also love the fact that CGC Event Marquees have their own catering company. This really makes wedding planning easy, with seamless communication between the companies on everything from timings and access to the equipment, and facilities needed.
Situated in the beautiful Norfolk countryside, Applewood Hall’s marquee-lined hall is perfect for your special day. We love that this venue is also licensed for civil ceremonies so you can have your whole wedding all in one place, and enjoy staying in the on-site glamping pod accommodation. Applewood is also a family-run business and pride themselves in helping couples to create a bespoke day that’s perfect for them, from the decor to the personalised cocktails!
Covering Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire & Gloucestershire, Cotswold Marquees offers an extensive range of beautiful wedding marquees to hire. They also stock a wide range of furniture and accessories to suit every taste. We love the fact that their service comes with on the day support and coordination, which is ideal for couples who want to be able to relax and enjoy their day without worry.
The beautiful permanent wedding marquee at Swarling Manor in Kent is perfect for weddings all year round. Licensed for civil ceremonies, you and your guests can enjoy the whole day here. We love that the manor house venue is surrounded by 75 acres of breathtaking gardens and woodlands, making an excellent backdrop for all your wedding photos. What’s more, you can have the perfect end to your magical day as the venue permits firework displays!
Set among 250 acres of rolling Northamptonshire countryside is Home Farm Events, a charming wedding venue that offers tranquility, rustic charm, and picture-perfect backdrops for your outdoor ceremony or just a reception. The Celeste Marquee is unique. It is beautifully styled to enhance the elegance of a Pole Marquee. Attractive roof sheet reinforcing, simple eave lines, beveled, wooden poles and large picture windows provide a stunning structure. This marquee venue is a family-run business that it offers a blank canvas for the bridal couple to add their own unique touch.
Abbas Marquees has been in business for over 15 years, making them experts in their field. This award-winning marquee company is based in Somerset and is available for weddings across the whole of the South West. With a huge variety of marquee types to suit the needs of every couple, you’ll be sure to find something to make your wedding day truly special. Plus, with their expertise, you will absolutely be in safe hands.
Malmesbury Marquees is a family-run wedding marquee company offering services across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Somerset. With over a decade of experience, they’ll be sure to help create exactly what you have in mind for your big day. One of our favourite things about Malmesbury Marquees is their ability to create a pop-up glamping site for you and your guests, making the occasion even more memorable with an overnight stay.
If you’re looking for a great wedding marquee company in Gloucester and neighbouring counties, Spaceintense is perfect for you. Offering a huge range of marquees including traditional and modular marquees, and the furniture to match, you’ll be spoilt for choice! In particular, we love that Spaceintense commits to continually developing their expertise in designing layouts and installing for wedding parties and major celebrations.
For those who love wedding barns but would like the flexibility of a marquee wedding, Cruck Tents helps bring the outside in with their unique wedding marquee structure. We love the rustic feel to this marquee and the exposed timbers which provide you with the perfect opportunity to get creative with your decor; ensuring your day is totally unique. This marquee is available for weddings across the South East.
Crystal Marquee Hire is a family-run marquee firm established for over 40 years. Using only the highest quality materials, they offer a beautiful selection of marquees available for weddings in Surrey and the surrounding counties. We love that they will even provide you with detailed, professionally drawn table plans and layouts for your big day enabling you to visualise the amount of space required for the number of people attending!
Specialists in sailcloth marquees, Sperry started as a sailmaking company based on the South coast. Their marquees have really elegant, nautical curves and fit well in any setting. The sizes range from large structures for weddings for up to 300 guests, down to small round pretty sailcloth tents with a central sturdy wooden pole; perfect for offering shade for a garden wedding.
Alcott Weddings is a countryside wedding venue in Alvechurch, Worcestershire. A rent-my-field venue, it’s a blank canvas for your marquee wedding. Whether you choose a traditional marquee, a tipi or a yurt, Alcott provides the perfect backdrop to make your wedding everything you want it to be. Want some inspiration? Alcott has recently hosted an amazing festival wedding for couple Michelle and Luke, which you can read all about in their real wedding feature.
Osmaston Park is set in the beautiful countryside of Derbyshire, nestled in a 3000-acre park with picture-perfect lakeside views. The fully-equipped on-site marquee can hold up to 500 guests and is fitted with all the key features you’ll need for your special day: dance floor, star cloth, bar, tables, chairs, linen, themed lighting, luxury toilets and so much more! This incredible venue offers full flexibility to help make your wedding dreams a reality. Wedding season is between 1st April and 31st October yearly.
For couples in the South East looking for something a bit different, the Arabian Tent Company has a really unusual range of marquees. Founder Katherine Hudson has travelled the world to find the most amazing materials for high-end marquees, perfect for hosting the ultimate party. Their collection of unique marquees have English inspired interiors as well as ethnic influences. Perfect for the quintessentially British Tea Party, or for Arabic, Moroccan and Bollywood themed events. They have an online virtual showroom to cut down on carbon emissions from unnecessary driving and they invite couples to offset their carbon footprint by getting involved in their tree planting scheme. To look after the planet, they only supply within 150 miles of their West Sussex base.
Maybe you are looking for smaller structures that will have a BIG impact. Have you considered using domes? The Dome Club are based in Bristol and are the sole providers of the honeycomb dome in the UK. A popular trend this year, these domes provide a sense of exclusivity for your big day. These structures allow your shielding guests to feel like VIPs. They keep households separate but allow everyone to join in the festivities of the day together within their own, private function space. These can also be fitted with speakers and air conditioning to ensure maximum comfort and inclusivity.
Whatever you choose for your big day, wedding marquees remain a popular choice for couples no matter the season. Whether you’re wanting a traditional wedding or a relaxed, festival themed day, there is a marquee for you. Still looking for a marquee supplier? Find a wedding marquee here!
Looking for your ideal marquee?See our Suggestions
About the author
Written by: Amelia Mortimer
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