by a marquee Wedding Planner for the Cotswolds and UK
To plan your own wedding is a big job, but to plan your own marquee or outdoor wedding adds another level of complexity.
Not only do you need to figure out the best position of your marquee and related logistics, but also source the right wedding suppliers, design and decorate inside and outside, and feed everyone in the middle of nowhere!
Where do you even start? Luckily, we are a wedding planner based in the beautiful Cotswolds and plan a few outdoor weddings every year. So we can offer a tip or two to follow:
First thing first, let’s start from the very beginning and go through it all in more detail:
How many people are attending this wedding?
We can look at rough numbers to start with, as, we will need to know what size of a marquee or a tipi to order, and the size of land we will need.
50 – 100
100 – 200
200 – 300
Where will the wedding take place?
There are plenty of options to consider, however you do need to think about the cost of the land on top of the cost of a marquee. Always consider the time needed for the build and then the breakdown as well.
Please note, if you are intending to ‘sell’ and not ‘give’ alcohol on any premises without a licence, you will need to obtain a ‘Temporary Events Notice’ or TEN from the local authority. Hotels, Barns and permanent marquess should already have a licence but do check with the venue.
- Yours or a relative’s garden – almost any garden can be turned into a lovely wedding venue. Your Boutique Marquee team will come to measure and find out the best way forward
- Farm/Barn land – There are lots of hidden fields and gems, rustic barns, and farms that can be transformed into your wedding venue
- A Field to hire
- A Wedding venue with land
- Stately home with land – some stately homes and country houses have an option for a large party. Which can be a marquee
- Hotel with land – some hotels allow a marquee wedding if the capacity of their ball/event room doesn’t fit
- Private Villa/home to hire with land – If you fancy home from home wedding venue where you can stay for 3 days or more and have a wedding day in the middle then a private villa or a cottage can be the way forward
What do you need to hire with your marquee/tipi
- Portable toilets – always book nice portable toilets with a flush and hand soap, your guests will certainly appreciate it
- Catering tent – is a must. Find out from your caterer how much space they need for their ovens and equipment. And how many electric plugs
- Rainy weather back up space – make sure there is a bar area, chill-out area, and a dance floor space for all your guests in case of rainy weather
- Lighting – outdoor/indoor – because you are dressing up a blank canvas it is always good to set the mood with up-lighters, fairy lights outside and inside, and some practical lighting
- Bar – a physical structure that can be used as a bar ideally located at one end of a marquee or a tipi. This structure needs plenty of storage space and plugs for fridges
- Tables and chairs – Boutique Marquee can provide various types of tables and chairs
- Dance floor – Boutique Marquee will provide all flooring and a dance floor
Your ceremony would be one of the first services to secure. This will indicate your wedding date and timings. The time of the ceremony then sets the rest of the wedding day. You can book it 12 months before the wedding and make sure you are the first in, so you have a choice of times.
- Local Registry – Registrars get booked 12 months before the wedding date. They usually have 3-time slots available so make sure you get to choose yours. The ceremony takes around 25 minutes and offers a basic script. Because the script is the same for everyone we would always recommend adding your readings, music, and vows to make it special to you.
- Celebrant and the local registry in the day before
Since your wedding is an outdoor affair why not have your wedding ceremony at the same venue, so your guests don’t have to go anywhere. You can dress your ceremony area how you want, and your Celebrant would write a personalised ceremony for you.
So, whether you want it to be romantic, funny, light, it can be written for you. Your ceremony at the Registry office would then be just a formality of signing the registrar. You don’t have to exchange your rings or vows. That would be a part of the ceremony with a Celebrant. You can also choose to go before or after your wedding day.
- Local Church – usually near your home where you are familiar with the church and Priest. You will need to visit a few times and have a ceremony rehearsal too. Which is a great idea as you get can experience and prepare yourself for the emotions that come with a real wedding ceremony
- Catering & Bar
Catering and the bar is a huge part of an outdoor wedding. The setup and logistics of caterers and bringing your own alcohol option are freeing but also daunting as the venue would usually organise this for you. And the options are endless. You can choose from trendy food trucks to a 5-course banquet. From a Prosecco van to a flight of wines with your meal.
Having a reliable and fully staffed catering company on the wedding day is a must. This is where you really need to do your homework.
BAR – if you have decided to organise your own drinks, the catering company can provide the staff to serve it for you and look after you until 1 am or as agreed. Please don’t forget to order essentials like ice, lemons and limes, and glassware – perhaps re-usable plastics for the party in the evening. Every catering company or a bar company can of course source all the drinks for you so you don’t have to drive to France for your stock
Band, DJ, Dance floor
Choosing your wedding entertainment is a question of taste. When we look at the marquee or an outdoor wedding we are thinking about the logistics. Is there enough space for both DJ and a band later? How many plugs do they need? If you are looking for the DJ to leave after a certain time, where is he going to set up? If you have a 6-piece band – is there enough space for all 6 members with their equipment? Please always bear in mind health and safety as there will be cables everywhere. So be generous with the DJ’s or your Band’s space. Some bands offer a DJ service in between their sets, which helps with the setup and packing.
Wedding Style & Décor
You will be dressing a blank canvas so bear in mind that your décor budget will be more demanding then dressing a room within a wedding venue. You might want to dress the marquee poles, use more flowers above or around the bar, chill-out area, and outside area. You might want to sit on hay around a fire pit with marshmallows, get some funky sofas, and use colourful crockery to keep in trend. Pinterest is perfect to get marquee/ tipi decor ideas and your chosen florist, stylist, and planner will make it happen for you.
Always have a backup plan for the rainy weather. Prepare plan B for the wedding ceremony, which can nicely fit onto the dance floor. Chairs can be moved and assembled within a few moments. So can the flowers and the wedding ceremony décor. You might want to consider heaters if your wedding takes place in early spring or autumn. All sides can be rolled up in case of a hot summer
Wedding Day coordination and management
The final week before your big day should be fun. Everything would be organised by this point and deliveries and the marquee will be coming in soon. Your family and friends will be arriving so you would be enjoying time with them. This is where a wedding coordinator steps in and helps with the marquee set up and all the logistics of your wedding day so you can just relax. Your wedding coordinator would make sure all suppliers are happy with their set up, know where to park and offload, know where their plugs are. And know when they are getting fed and watered. Suppliers that spend the full wedding day with you do usually request a meal. And it is always nice to offer a cup of tea to everyone during the day. Your coordinator will, of course, look after you and your guests of honour, wedding day timings, music, lighting, and help the photographer with photos. Making sure your day runs smoothly and you can just enjoy yourself. It is incredibly important you do organise an independent professional person or persons to manage your wedding day.
Other suppliers to consider
You might want to add some other suppliers like a photo booth, dancers, or any other entertainment. Please think about the space they will need and electric supply for their equipment.
*Make sure all the suppliers have liability insurance and PAT tested equipment, so you are not reliable for any damage to the tent, furniture, or land.
Logistics to consider
- Parking – Parking is very often overlooked. There will be some guests travelling by car and suppliers with a need for parking. Consider your surroundings, can you hire local space? (pub car-park, school car-park, church car park etc.) And please bear in mind any rainy weather and mud if you choose to park in the field.
- Offloading – suppliers will need to drive up to the marquee/tipi and offload. A coordinator can manage incoming and outgoing vehicles and direct everyone to the parking
- Taxis and buses to the venue – navigation and information for the guests how they can get into the venue and how they can leave
- Camping & showers
- Hazards – slips, trips, spillages, broken glass, first aid and first aider, emergency driver
- Suppliers meals – suppliers usually eat at the same time as the guests, they would be served a main course or have a separate sandwich platter. Please check your photographers, videographers, wedding planner’s contract where they specify the meal.
- Rubbish disposal and recycling – catering and bar company usually take their rubbish with them and recycle at their hub, however, if you are organising your own drinks and food, please make sure you have enough space for all the empties, that you recycle, and that you have a way of having it picked up or driving it away. You can also organise the catering company to dispose of your rubbish.
- Accommodation – please consider where you will be staying the night before your big day, will you be checking into a local hotel? Where do you recommend for your guests to stay and include this information in their invites
- Bridal Suite and getting ready – Wedding venues would usually offer a bridal suite, however, you would need to decide if you would be getting ready in a hotel or at home for your big day. Please remember you will most likely start early morning so make sure you are settled in the night before so you can get a good night sleep.
- Signage – navigate your taxis, bus, guests to the venue, especially if it is difficult to find. Pop a wooden arrow with a balloon on the nearest crossroad, roundabout, or turning so everyone knows where to go.
Marquee by: Boutique Marquees
Photographer: Rosie Kelly Photography
Styling: The Vintage House That Could
Florals: The Vintage House That Could
Linens: Mia Sylvia
Bridalwear: Ava May Bridal
Groomswear: The Henley House
Cake: Beanies Bakery
Hairstylist: Sarah Russell
Stationery: Junie Poonie
Wedding planner: Martina Paul
Bar: Mix and Twist