How to plan a marquee wedding at home

Advice and inspiration for a marquee wedding at home.

When I first met R&G, they were feeling frustrated and rather fed up (not to say a little bit worried!) having looked at lots and lots of potential wedding reception venues but not a single one ticked all the boxes for all the elements they were looking for to complete their dream wedding day – they found a venue they loved but were worried that it would not be a convenient location for guests, they found another great venue but dry hire plus all the infrastructure and styling required was going to be prohibitively expensive, and - perhaps the hardest of all - they found their perfect venue but it was not available on the date they wanted!

In the end, a solution presented itself when G’s parents’ kindly suggested the use of their own garden for a marquee – it would be the perfect size, it was very conveniently located for the ceremony nearby, and a marquee would give them a completely blank canvas on which to put their own stamp on their day! Plus it had all the emotional connections of G's childhood family home and meant they could create a really warm, welcoming and personal day with a family house at the heart of it.

As you can see here, it was the setting for quite a party!

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If you are considering putting a marquee up on your own land, I thought it might be useful to show you what to expect as the structure goes up – and completely transforms a space you were previously very familiar with into a whole new ‘venue’, as well as summarising some vital tips to take into account before proceeding.

I also thought it might be useful to show that marquees don’t just have to be for ‘country couples’ with access to huge lawns surrounded by fields. For R&G’s wedding, we installed a 15m x 12m marquee which covered the garden completely and allowed them to host 150 guests for afternoon tea, cocktails, a shawarma stall, speeches and dancing. R’s mother generously gave over her whole kitchen and utility area for the caterers to use and this was soon filled with ovens, fryers, boxes and boxes of ingredients and equipment, crates of alcohol and of course chefs and waiting staff! Luckily the house had sufficient bathrooms for the number of guests they were hosting and the drawing rooms served as an extension to the marquee where guests could retire to chat and relax in comfort. The garden had the most beautiful tree in the centre which was incorporated into the design and made into a feature, with pea lights and hanging glass tea light holders filled with petals and moss.

The day started bright and early at 0730 as the crew loaded in to the garden and laid out the infrastructure …

And now the roof and sides are on …

... including the panoramic window ...

Now the ceiling lining and pea light canopy ...

Here we are having a conflab!

Then the side linings and the dance floor ... complete with children to test it out!

Then invite family over to inspect what was achieved on the first day of build!

On the second day, we installed the furniture – a stylish rustic bar, stools and poseur tables, food stations, the stage for the band and the DJ booth - but I was too busy to take any photos though!

Planning your own marquee wedding at home

So, if you've been inspired by R&G's marquee installation and you are thinking about planning your own marquee wedding at home, here are a few frequently asked questions:

How much space so I need?

There are plenty of online marquee calculators which will tell you how many guests will fit in a certain square meter marquee, however that is just the start of it! You may well have the lawn space for a tent that hosts the number of guests you’d like to invite but in addition to the tent itself, you need to factor in space for the caterers to set up, prepare, plate up and clear down, somewhere out of sight for the generator to be located (but also in a location which is easily accessible for delivery and collection), somewhere for production flight cases and equipment boxes to be stored, space to install portable event loos and if you have a band or other performers, a private room where they can change, take breaks and have their refreshments out of sight of guests.

How do I know what kind of tent to go for? Your choice of tent is dependent not only by your budget (naturally) but also on how much space you have in addition to the square meterage of the tent itself. For example, if the tent fills the entire space available, you'll need to have a frame tent (otherwise known as a clear span) with no guy ropes - and there are no poles in this kind of tent which is a bonus if you like clear open space but not if your vision included decorated poles! However, if you have sufficient space for the tent and still have perimeter ground space available around the outside, you can consider teepees, pearl tents, stretch tents and traditional pole tents.

Having a marquee keeps it simple, yes?

No! You'll need to be prepared for being presented with lots of choices and needing to make quite a number of decisions. Once you have decide on the type of tent you want to have, as outlined above, then you'll need to decide how to style it out and start choosing between the various types of flooring, window and wall options and upgrades, lighting options and style of furniture. Your marquee is a blank canvas and as such, is the most versatile venue you can imagine, and can be styled in a myriad of ways. Installing a marquee also means you can have your choice of suppliers such as caterers, florist, production company etc but then again, without a venue accredited list to go from, or a venue manager to give you advice and recommendations, sometimes its hard to know where to start to put together your perfect tried and trusted team ! Which florist is right for you? How to find a sound engineer? Which caterer has expertise of working in a field kitchen? And where on earth to start finding a really fabulous band or DJ for the night?! If you are short on time, or you'd prefer not to take any risks but instead to be given details of tried and tested suppliers, then working with me means that I can make tailored recommendations for you to fit your vision, aesthetic and budget for every element from among my trusted network.

Venues can be so expensive - having a marquee will save me money, won't it?

Please be under no misconception that a wedding at home will save you money. Yes, it can be overwhelming to see the hire prices of venues then factoring in the VAT as well, but when you factor in what is included, not only in terms of infrastructure but also a certain amount of planning support and on the day assistance, you can see the value. With your marquee, you’ll be paying for every chair, every cushion, every knife fork and spoon and every plug socket. Put it this way, whereas a venue automatically provides the basics for you - shelter (from sun or rain), power, running water, kitchen facilities, heating / air con / windows, bathrooms, cloakrooms, staff, hard floor for dancing and in some cases, basic furniture, tableware and a car park, for your marquee wedding you will have to budget for, research, plan and organise ALL these things. However, the effort will be well worth it as not only will you not have to follow any rules but your own (no fixed access times, no preferred suppliers list, no venue restrictions) but also you will be rewarded with the satisfaction of knowing that you have created and hosted a day which is completely unique to you both. And if you have me beside you, there will be no need to put in hours of research and comparing various suppliers offerings and prices as I would make all the recommendations for you, in the form of a fully illustrated and costed proposal, then once you have made your decisions, I make all the arrangements for you, to meet your exact requirements, naturally carefully dovetailing and cross referencing all the various suppliers requirements to ensure a seamless and effortless planning journey for you.

I'm good at organising, do I still need a planner? Many of my clients are very efficient and very creative with a fabulous sense of style; it's the hours of administration and confidence to know who to trust that they lack. In the weeks and months before your wedding date, you may not have time to arrange and attend the various site visits with each supplier as detailed logistical plans are made. And later, in the days leading up to your big day, while you are enjoying your final pamper sessions, collecting your dress and accessories, having drinks and dinner with friends and family, you may not also want to be up and about at 0700 directing the drivers where exactly to position the generator and the event loos, and still be there at 4pm when the stage and dance floor is being laid, to ensure that it is exactly 'en pointe'! With me as your planner, I’ll be on site from the first site visit with your marquee company until the last guest leaves the site at the end of the night. I’ll use my expertise to guide you when making decisions and to take care of the myriad of arrangements and logistics which need to be woven together to make your wedding a success. I’ll be there from moment the first vehicle arrives, to direct and oversee the build, to ensure everything is installed correctly; to take ownership of deliveries and to direct crew who have not been to the site before. I spend the time to set out all your props and accessories, plump the cushions, position every nightlight, make sure each tablecloth is hanging perfectly straight before the table is laid and the flowers are set. I'm there to prevent problems before they happen and to solve them if they do! I'm here to do the thinking for you, leaving you free to enjoy the finished result - your vision, your way but without the hassle.

You can see more pictures of R&G's amazing day here.

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Couture Weddings & Events Ltd

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