The Ultimate Marquee Wedding Guide
Author: Hollie Bond
Everything you need to know about planning the perfect marquee wedding, from the cost based on your wedding budget and where to put them to how to decorate them and the different styles to choose from.
There’s a lot to love about a marquee as the reception venue for your wedding. Marquees are hugely versatile spaces, they’re light and airy, make excellent blank canvases for any type of décor and can be placed in all sorts of amazing locations.
Planning a marquee wedding can be quite a lot of work though, as you may need to source a lot of equipment and hire items of furniture, so you need to know what you’re doing and give yourself plenty of time to plan.
This guide covers everything you need to know to pull off the marquee wedding of your dreams, with all your burning questions answered as well as suggestions of some gorgeous marquee wedding venues around the UK.
Things To Consider When Planning A Marquee Wedding
Your Wedding Planning Style
An important thing to consider when planning a marquee wedding is if you have the time and energy to plan such a logistical wedding. If doing your own wedding planning isn’t your thing, then you’ll want to get a wedding planner on board from the off.
A wedding planner can help you source all the items and best suppliers for a marquee wedding and will be invaluable during set up and on the day, making sure everything comes together.
The Marquee Site
A lot of couples choose a marquee wedding if they or a family member has a large garden that is an ideal pitch. This means they can have their wedding day at home, which makes for some truly amazing memories.
However, if you don’t have a lot of outside space at your disposal, don’t discount a marquee wedding as a lot of venues, especially country houses, halls and stately homes, have huge grounds and offer couples the chance to put up marquees and then have the house as a backdrop or for guest accommodation.
Some venues even have a permanent marquee all ready to go for the entire wedding season. These venues will make a marquee wedding extremely easy as they usually have the furniture and all the catering needs sorted for you.
Your guest list
If you’ve got a really large guest list, a marquee is a sensible option as they can be made as large (or as small) as you need them to be. A marquee often allows you to party for much longer too – with no noise constraints if you’re in the middle of nowhere and the chance to use the marquee for other events around the wedding like a rehearsal dinner or post-wedding brunch.
The Time Of Year
While it is definitely possible to have a marquee wedding at any time of year, the warmer months of spring and summer definitely work best as a lot of time will be spent outdoors at a marquee wedding.
In winter you need to factor in the cost of heaters and also the fact that the grass around the marquee may get muddy and slippery – not ideal for guests in high heels!
It is possible to have a marquee erected on an area of hard-standing though if you’re worried about this.
Catering And Electricity
One of the main things you need to consider when looking for a marquee site is whether you have access to water and electricity for your caterers. A marquee wedding often allows you to choose your own caterer (a lot of venues come with in-house caterers as standard), so if you have a specific culinary style or want on your wedding day it’s a brilliant option.
However, these caterers will need their own smaller marquee attached to your main reception space as well as water and electricity. Your marquee company can help you decide where the best marquee site is based on these needs though.
There are always generators and water tanks for really remote weddings. Remember to let your marquee company know how much electricity you’re planning on using too – think about evening entertainment and lighting too.
You need to make sure that accessing your marquee is nice and easy for guests. No-one will be happy if they have to hike for miles across muddy fields in their suits and dresses, so consider good parking and walkways that are well-lit for the evening.
Luxurious toilets are another facility you need to think about. You’ll need to have around 10 toilets for every 100 guests. Spending a little more of the budget on smart trailer toilets with sinks, proper cubicles, mirrors and some posh soap is an excellent idea, as no-one wants to use a builder’s style portaloo when they’re at a wedding.
Some marquee wedding venues come with toilet facilities inside already so make sure to ask when you book.
Types Of Marquees For Your Wedding
Marquees used to just be big white canvas tents, but these days there are many different and stylish marquee types to chose from. A marquee allows you to create your own wedding venue from scratch and make it completely unique to you and this starts right from the off when you choose the type of marquee.
There’s everything from traditional canvas marquees, big tops, yurts and tipis to clear span frame marquees, Bedouin and Sperry tents available to hire and the type you choose will set the tone for your wedding day.
As well as thinking about the style you like, you’ll want to keep your budget in mind as some marquees cost a lot more than others and the larger you go for the more expensive it will be.
The traditional marquee has canvas sides and poles inside to keep up the roof as well as pegs to anchor them down so are only for grassy areas. They look really elegant and classic, although you need to consider the inside space with the poles – if you’re after a large, completely free open space this might not be the right choice for you.
Image Credit: Boutique Marquees
Frame marquees have no poles inside as they are held up (as the name suggests) by a metal frame. These work really well for large events with big dance floors. As they have no need for pegs they can fit into fairly compact spaces like walled gardens and be used on hard floor as well as grass. In summer a frame marquee with clear sides and roof sections can really create the feeling of being outside.
Image Credit: Abbas Marquees
Stretch/ Sperry Tents
Stretch or Sperry tents are as they sound – a large piece of canvas (or sailcloth if you opt for a Sperry) stretched over supporting poles. They usually have open sides so are a brilliant option for summer weddings.
Image Credit: Fox Tail Photography
Yurts are usually circular and have stunning timber framed interiors. Large yurts will have several poles inside to help keep the structure up. Yurts look amazing at festival or boho weddings and are usually much lighter inside than tipis.
Image Credit: Cheltenham Yurt Hire
Tipis work really well for weddings in the UK as they often have a fire pit inside to keep them cosy in the evenings or on cooler days. They do have one side open to the elements though, so deep winter probably isn’t a good idea. Tipis create a relaxed, eco vibe for your day and with their darker interiors can feel magical if adorned with lots of fairy lights.
Image Credit: Tentario
Canopy/ Chinese Hat Marquees
These are smaller marquees with stylish pointy tops and make an excellent choice for an outdoor ceremony or as extra tents for drinks receptions or as an entrance to a large marquee. You can put several of them together however to create a larger space.
Image Credit: Pinterest
Wedding Marquee Budget Breakdown
Marquee weddings aren’t always a cheaper option and a lot of brides and grooms misguidedly chose them thinking they’ll save a lot of money. While there are savings to be made if you’re savvy, in order to get a marquee looking wedding-ready it can end up costing you the same as hiring a country house or castle even! If you’re hoping to create the look of a luxury wedding reception in a marquee then it could end up costing more.
Marquee hire: This can vary hugely from around £500 for a small basic marquee to £10,000 for a luxury fully kitted out marquee. You will need to get in touch with more than one marquee company to get quotes to see what your desired type of marquee is likely to cost on average.
Marquee site hire: £0 (if it’s your own land) – £8,000 for a private hire site
Hire costs (furniture, crockery etc.): £1000+
Catering: Anywhere from £15 – £100+ per head depending on the type of meal you serve
Toilets: £100 – £600
Staff: Up to £150 per member of staff per day depending on hours worked.
Decor: The sky’s the limit on this one, but on average you’re looking at something between £500 and £2000
Insurance: Check with your marquee company if you need to add public liability to your wedding insurance.
Decorating Your Marquee
As any marquee you hire will be a blank canvas, it’s important to spend a lot of time, effort and money on the decor side of things. Creative brides and grooms often choose marquee weddings because of the enjoyment they get from coming up with a scheme for their day and decorating it to reflect their personalities. If you’re not creative you might want to consider hiring a wedding stylist to help you.
When decorated properly, a wedding marquee can be absolutely breathtaking and because they are such a blank canvas pretty much any theme or colour scheme looks brilliant. Lighting is really important in a marquee and will set the tone for your day. You can choose a romantic rustic look with fairy lights, festoon lighting or lanterns or go all out luxury with chandeliers. Ask your marquee company for suggestions as they may well have a company they work with or have their own lights you can hire.
You can even have the ceiling draped with hundreds of sparkly lights to look like stars or opt for a stunning light up dance floor for the evening. And remember to provide lighting around the outside of the marquee for when it’s dark and your guests need to locate the loos or their cars.
Another thing to think about with your decor is creating zones. A marquee can look really empty as it’s such a large space if you don’t create set areas, such as the dance floor, eating area and perhaps a chill out lounge area.
Listen to your suppliers’ ideas as they will have experience of hundreds of marquee weddings and can tell you what works and more importantly what doesn’t.
Wedding Marquee FAQs
Is A Marquee Wedding More Expensive?
A marquee wedding can be cheaper than hiring a venue if you work hard to keep costs down and have space on your own land to erect the marquee. However, if you choose luxury options for all your hired items and decor, it can actually cost more than a wedding at a traditional wedding venue.
If you’ve got a really large guest list though it can definitely be cheaper to hire a marquee rather than look for huge permanent venues.
Do You Need Planning Permission For A Marquee Wedding?
No you don’t. As long as the marquee isn’t a permanent structure and you have it erected for less than 28 days then you’re fine.
Where Can A Wedding Marquee Be Located?
Pretty much anywhere as long as you have permission and the land is flat enough. Some private wedding venues will allow you to put up a marquee on their lawns or you could ask local landowners if they would allow you to use their fields or grounds for a fee.
If you want to erect a marquee on public land you will need permission from your local council.
Can You Have A Marquee For A Winter Wedding?
Yes! You will need to factor in the cost of heaters though and think about how practical a temporary structure is in bad or cold weather. Marquees can be really cosy if decorated well for winter weddings though, as long as you choose a style that has closed sides.
Can You Have A Civil Ceremony In A Marquee?
Currently outdoor weddings in England can only legally take place in a permanent structure. As marquees aren’t permanent this means you can’t get married in one.
You can have a humanist ceremony in your marquee though. If a venue has a permanent marquee that is licensed for ceremonies you can legally get married there however.
Five Of The Best Marquee Wedding Venues In The UK
No room in the garden for a marquee? Here are five gorgeous wedding venues with marquees that you can make your own for a very special big day.
The Marquee At Ridgeway Golf Club
The Marquee At Ridgeway Golf Club wedding venue in South Wales has a stunning permanent marquee that is licensed for ceremonies as well as being a glorious fairytale space for your reception. The venue is surrounded by miles of pretty countryside with wow-factor views and you’ll find everything you need on site for a memorable marquee wedding.
Osmaston Park, a stately setting in the Peak District, has a vast frame marquee with transparent sides to make the most of the rolling countryside outside. With a capacity for up to 500 it’s ideal for larger weddings, although is flexible enough for a party of any size. The best news? It comes fully kitted out with furniture and lighting and luxury loos.
The Granary at Fawsley
If you want a rustic marquee wedding, family-run venue The Granary at Fawsley in Northamptonshire will make your hearts sing. There’s a unique marquee-lined barn for ceremonies and receptions up to 160 guests and accommodation on site. The whole venue is exclusive use too, meaning every stylish inch is yours to use for the day.
A Grade II Listed Queen Anne country estate situated in the heart of rural Staffordshire, Alrewas Hayes is an absolute stunner of a wedding venue. Have the historical house as the backdrop to your big day by choosing the idyllic lakeside marquee that can accommodate up to 220 guests. There’s nothing historic about the marquee though – it’s a state of the art space with LED lighting to change the ambiance, a large white dance floor and an inviting chill out area.
The Orangery Suite
Live out your English country garden wedding dreams at The Orangery Suite in Dorset that has its very own pretty pagoda-style marquee in the sublime grounds, seating up to 85 guests. Your family and friends will love the walled garden setting, which is full of fun outdoor games and idyllic seating areas to enjoy Champagne, before they take their seats for a locally-sourced feast in the charming marquee.