A guide to planning a marquee wedding

Fortunately, most of the steps involved in a guide to planning a marquee wedding are straightforward and easy to remember …  and once you’ve made your choice of marquee company they will be on hand for guidance and to answer all your questions.

However, for peace of mind it’s always useful to have a checklist to refer to.  After all, everyone likes to know what to expect and when.  So, we hope that you will find this guide to planning a marquee wedding useful which, for ease, we’ve split into separate sections and arranged in chronological order.

Here goes ..

Deciding on your venue

There are so many lovely places to put a marquee that even if there isn’t room at home in the garden or in a nearby field there are still lots of options for a marquee wedding venue to choose from.

The main things to check straight away are whether or not they are available on your date and if there is a suitable area for a marquee.  However, there are a couple of other points to bear in mind.

Ideally, your venue will not be too far from where the ceremony is to take place but you might like the option to marry at the venue itself. Some venues will have plans for this but if not then if there is room in the grounds, you could choose a ceremony marquee for a blessing.

Flow of the day

After that the main thing to gain an understanding of is the flow of the day. By which we mean … can you visualise everything from the arrival of your guests to their departure? Is it clear where they will go and when and is there provision for all their needs from cloakrooms to parking.

Tip – visit your venue at least once ideally twice … once at the same time of year as you plan to be using it and again in bad weather so you can see it at its worst … if it still looks lovely in the rain, it’s a winner.

Shortlist your wedding marquee supplier

Unless you have already chosen your marquee company you will probably want to decide on the style of tent that suits you and your venue.

Once you’ve narrowed it down to a particular type of tent, it makes sense to approach more than one supplier of this style so that you can compare them and what they offer (for example, you might really have your heart set on a round bar or a particular floral feature).


Recommendations from friends, family or a trusted supplier are invaluable but by speaking to two or more marquee suppliers will help you to get a feel for how friendly, responsive and in tune with you and your plans they are.  It’s also a good sign if the marquee has an existing relationship with the venue.

Tip – for best results we always recommend working with a specialist. So if your preference is a pole tent then it makes sense to avoid shortlisting companies which have a background in frame tents or teepees. 

Making an enquiry

When it’s time to approach a marquee company with a request for information, you should find that they will be very keen to make sure they put forward a proposal which matches your plans, preferences and requirements as closely as possible … I know we are!

Here are the things that ideally you will be able to share with them …

  • your planned date (or range of dates)
  • where you are planning to hold you reception
  • how many guests you are planning to invite (including any additional evening guests)
  • whether you need a dance floor, bar or performance area for a band
  • requirements for facilities e.g. catering tent, generator or loos
  • your preference for dining furniture (round tables versus trestles, top table, a particular style of chair)
  • as much additional information as you are able to share about your plans for the day

… don’t worry if you are still undecided on some of the details or if you haven’t pinned down a firm date, just include everything that you can at the time and the wedding planning can begin!

Marquee size

To ensure the marquee is the right size for your party it helps to be as accurate as possible when estimating your guest numbers.  The marquee will be the single biggest cost in the quotation and a major factor in marquee pricing is size .. so the more guests you have, the bigger marquee you need and the more it will be.

Tip –  if the size of your guest list means two marquee sizes are possible it might be worth asking for a quote for both so that you can compare.

Viewing the options

Photographs can help you to narrow down your marquee choices but they can be misleading. There really is no substitute for going to see a marquee set up, so that you can compare your options in the flesh.  It’s also a great opportunity to meet the team who could be setting up your marquee.

Open days

If there is an open weekend planned then this is an ideal opportunity to see a marquee set up with a variety of furnishings but if you can’t attend or you need to make a decision before the showcase is due then ask to see a live set up for a real wedding.  Saturday mornings during the summer are a great opportunity to come and get a feel for the marquee in action and maybe even borrow some ideas!

If it’s winter and there are no set ups to view, then the next best thing is to meet in person. It’s important that you sense there will be a good fit and that you will feel happy to have them supply the marquee for your big day.

Tip – when you go see a marquee … zoom in and out … gain an overall impression by standing back but also look up close to gauge the level of attention to detail in the workmanship and the cleanliness.

Making your choice

Once your shortlisted suppliers have responded you will have an opportunity to look at their proposals and this is the time to make sure that you have at least all the basics covered. Hopefully the proposal will broadly be on the right track but this is a good time to refine the list of furnishings or clarify your requirements in a little more detail.

Compare and contrast

It’s also time to compare the proposals from your shortlisted suppliers. Here are a few of pointers from us.

Not all tents are created equal … the quality of one marquee compared to another could be wildly different (and often is), which makes it nigh on impossible to compare them on paper. This is why we think it is so important to look at the marquees on your shortlist in person.

The second is that you may well find that different companies use different formats which makes it difficult to compare like for like but you should feel comfortable to query anything. A good marquee company will want to work with you to provide the information you need to be sure you’re making the right decision.

Tip – make sure your quotation includes VAT and check that it is not just added as a total at the end, otherwise comparing line items on the list is likely to be misleading.

Of course price is also a factor. Fortunately, it’s not all about weighing up each item on a quotation. We suggest you step back and ask yourself, am I getting value for money?  Which tent do I really want? And which company do I believe really cares about making our day a magical occasion?  Our instincts are usually right.

At no point should you feel under any pressure to rush your decision. Having made your enquiry, you should expect to be kept informed of any issues over availability that may arise.

Tip – if you want to secure the date but you are keen to have a site visit or view the marquee first (or if you’re waiting for confirmation of another key element to the day e.g. church availability), then ask your chosen marquee supplier for first refusal on your date … they should be happy to pencil you in without obligation, on the basis that they will call you for a decision if they are approached by another client for the same day.

Site visit

If you have chosen a well known marquee venue then a site visit by your marquee supplier is not essential but it’s good to look at what might go where and if you haven’t already, it’s always nice to meet face to face.

If it is a field or garden site then a site visit is really important not just to check that it is suitable and that there is enough space for your requirements but also so that all aspects of the day can be discussed.  Your supplier should be happy to come at no extra cost and it should be up to you whether you want the site visit to take place before or after you’ve made your booking.

Tip – if you are in any doubt about the suitability of the marquee site then ask for a site visit before confirming your booking.

Booking your marquee

Congratulations! you’ve done your homework and you’ve made your choice. You should be able to look forward to planning the finishing touches knowing that one of the biggest decisions has been made and that you will be in safe hands.

In order to formally secure your date your marquee supplier will ask for a deposit (expect around 25%) and a for you to sign a contract of hire. Once you’re happy with this you should receive two copies of a written contract in the post, one copy will be for you and the other for your marquee supplier. It is a formal commitment both from you to them and from them to you.


The contract will be supplied alongside the terms and conditions, which should be written in plain English so that they are easy to understand (no jargon). If you are not happy with any element of them or feel that more explanation is required then your supplier should go through them with you and not proceed until you are happy. The terms should give you peace of mind, not a reason to worry.

For a Saturday wedding most marquee companies set up on either Wednesday or Thursday and come back to site to take the marquee down on Sunday or Monday. If you have a preference or if you are having guests on Sunday,  then now is a good time to firm this up.

Tip – you should be able to expect a degree of flexibility in your booking. As long as the marquee itself is locked in then if your numbers go up or down or your plans change then you should be able to chop, change, add and amend without penalty. Often, even the marquee can be changed but this will depend on the type of marquee you’ve chosen and the policy of your supplier. Here at Wills, we work super flexibly and our marquees are modular, so they can be made smaller (or bigger) as required.

What’s next?

There will be some requirements that you will need to confirm with your other wedding suppliers such as the band, caterers or bar service. For example you may need to check that the catering tent size booked is the right size for your caterer or the band has enough cabling or power supply. It’s always worth making sure you check these requirements against your facilities booking.

Keeping in regular contact with your marquee supplier and updating them as you go along will help them best advise you.

Tip – if you pass the information to your marquee supplier they will be able to check this out for you.

Countdown to the wedding!

It’s usually possible to make later changes but four weeks out is a good time to check your final guest numbers, run through the details and make any last minute tweaks to your booking.

Around the same time you should be contacted by your marquee supplier to confirm the details of your booking including timings, access to the venue, liaison on site and any special instructions.

Once you’re happy with all the arrangements and with around two weeks to go it’s time to make your balance payment.

Tip – make sure you have the telephone number of the set up team leader and that he or she is also able to reach you if any questions should arise on the day.

For peace of mind, all marquee suppliers should provide an out of hours or 24/7 emergency contact number during the period of hire. Make sure you have it saved to your phone, just in case.

Tip – give the emergency number to some people you trust .. your best man, maid of honour and both sets of parents. You have better things to be thinking about, like enjoying your first dance as a wedded couple!

Final thoughts

A marquee wedding offers the most flexibility of any venue and the best opportunity for personalisation. Planning the day should be fun .. it should certainly never be a chore.

We hope you’ve found the various points and tips in the guide to planning a marquee wedding helpful and that they might provide a framework for you to work within.

A great marquee company will instinctively provide you with all this and more. If you’re looking to hire a marquee in Yorkshire, Teesside, County Durham or Northumberland please get in touch or have a look at our blog What marquee size do I need? for more wedding marquee hire info.

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