Summer marquee weddings can be a challenge, as Bernadette Chapman from Dream Occasions explains. Here’s how to get it right and ensure you have the perfect day…

Many couples think that going it alone and having a marquee wedding is a budget-friendly, easy option. But this isn’t always the case. Don’t underestimate the amount of work involved – not only in the organisation but the actual set up as well. It’s a much greater challenge than a hotel or country house venue because you have to organise everything from scratch, with no professional to guide you along the way. Here are some important factors to take into consideration…

What style?

Think about the reception style you desire as this will affect the type of marquee that you could hire – traditional, frame or giant tipis, for example Also think about the site of the reception: traditional marquees cannot go on hard-standing like courtyards or tennis courts due to the guy ropes so in this instance you’ll need a frame marquee. Will you want windows and doors or completely open on one side? Do you prefer round tables, square tables or long banqueting tables? Do you have a feature in the garden you want to incorporate? Perhaps a favourite tree, pond or flower border?

Call in the pros

Seriously think about having a wedding planner to assist with the planning or at least project manage the wedding day for you. Venues have banqueting managers to deal with problems but you will have no-one if you decide to go it alone. A planner can decorate the venue, take delivery of goods plus manage the day itself so if any challenges occur they are dealt with in a professional manner leaving you to relax and party.


You need to think about parking for guests and back-of-house suppliers. If parking is in a nearby field then provide a solid walkway for guests in case it is raining, walking across a sodden field in heels is not much fun. Ensure there is good signage so people know where to park and the route back to the car is lit with lanterns. Alternatively clients in the past have used the local village hall car park or nearest hotel and have provided a shuttle service to and from the ceremony/reception.


With a large number of guests attending the wedding you will need to organize some mobile toilets. My advice would be to not blindly accept ones via the marquee company. Ask to see pictures as there are some nice contemporary ones available now. Check the capacity is suitable for the number of guests attending and what power it requires, normally a 13 amp socket. Check with all suppliers how much power they need to ensure you hire the right size generator. Who will run all the cabling for you and will these be laid down safely?

Is there access?

Whenever hiring suppliers that will arrive in larger vehicles, think about the access available to them. A classic mistake is only measuring the width of vehicles but not thinking about the swing needed – this is especially true of mobile toilets and generators. If access is narrow and deliveries have to be scheduled in, make sure suppliers know the relevant time slot they can deliver and explain any difficulties with the access available. I’ve had a client in the past that wanted a full size carousel, her land was large enough but we didn’t have enough swing for the lorry, so we ended up hiring a children’s carousel instead.

Food glorious food

Check with your caterers what size catering marquee they need to service your wedding proficiently. Ensure your caterers have access to fresh water, this can be simply an extendable hose into the catering tent.

Think about the design

Over the last few years the trend for marquees has been traditional styles with no lining, unclothed trestle tables and opened side. Pure understated country designs. But I’m definitely noticing a shift for more elegant, but still very British, designs. Personally I try to use coloured linen in marquees as I feel using white or ivory gets lost in the vast internal space.

Ditch traditional tables

Couples nowadays seem to be steering away from round tables and opting for long banqueting tables. These tables work especially well for rustic or festival themes. They can be simply dressed and you don’t have to impose a traditional seating plan.

Use the ceiling

The beauty of marquees is you have so much height to play with. Hanging lanterns, bunting and pom poms are slowly making way for more elegant hanging crystals, origami birds or chandeliers. Couples who want a more intimate feel in their marquee could also consider draping. When done well, this will help reduce the ceiling height and create dramatic entrances into different areas of the marquee.


Whether you want practical to mood-enhancing lighting, ask your marquee company what lighting specialist they would recommend. Don’t forget to light up pathways to key areas at night, like the exits and car parks. Also don’t forget that you will need lighting outside if you have a hog roast as well. I’ve lost count of the number of times the hog roast has been trying to operate outside with just a few candles as the exterior lighting has been forgotten.

Great tips, Bernadette! If you want to see how the real couples did it, click here to see more marquee weddings. And get organised today with our free downloadable wedding planning spreadsheets.