Marquee lighting is a great opportunity for personalisation. It helps set the scene for the whole occasion and can be used in many different ways to create character and atmosphere.
We think lighting and flowers are without doubt, the two most important and impactful elements in decorating a marquee and whilst floral decor dominates during the day, as dusk falls lighting really comes into its own.
Each area is worthy of many pages but to keep things manageable we’re going to focus on one subject at a time. This article will focus on marquee lighting but there will be another article dedicated to flowers soon and we plan to return to each topic with a series of ideas and insider tips from our talented specialist friends.
A quick word on daylight … a marquee canopy constructed from real canvas (as all Wills marquees are), contains the natural properties of cotton, which allow for light bright, airy interiors. A side benefit to the use of canvas is that a marquee set up near trees will often have a naturally projected leaf pattern on the canopy which enhances the connection to the outdoors.
The canopy is coupled with clear walls (or no walls, if rolled up), which are designed to maximise interior light levels, enhancing naturalistic flower schemes, without the need to generate light of any other kind. Having said that, candles are not just to create light or even exclusively for evening use; during the day they impart an air of sophisticated charm and can also give off a complimentary scent.
Moving to later in the day .. as evening falls your marquee lighting choices will really start to perform and whilst it’s not an exact science we’ve tried to divide up our thoughts into the categories which we think best describe the effect they create.
Here’s our take on marquee lighting …
To achieve this look and feel, we think candles on the tables are a must and can be displayed formally with the use of elaborate candelabras or dressed down in hurricane lanterns or as part of a table flower arrangement.
We suggest pairing the candles with the simple elegance of fairy lights hung in gentle swags from each of the king poles.
The beauty of fairy lights is that they’re intended to be on all the time so they add a subliminal sparkle during the day when they are barely noticeable. Although they never become obtrusive, slowly, almost imperceptibly they become brighter as it gets darker until their full twinkling effect is revealed.
They provide enough light for there to be no need to supplement but can also be seen as a “base layer” for other more showy effects and for this reason they are seldom used with dimmers. They are the unsung heroes of the lighting world, pretty, elegant, simple and effective.
We’re often asked about using festoon lights in place of fairy lights and of course this is possible .. festoon lights are much bigger (bigger than a golf ball) and the bulbs are more powerful, so they’re spaced much further apart and you have fewer of them and fewer strings of light .. on balance we think that fairy lights are prettier.
tip: It’s important that the fairy lights or festoon lights give off a warm white light (never blue which we think is cold and appears artificial). We also think that white electrical flex is a must to blend in with the surroundings.
Modern & Minimal:
This kind of lighting usually requires a specialist (AV) supplier who will work with you to produce a scheme tailored to the occasion.
tip: AV stands for “audiovisual” and a specialist AV company just means they should be expert in most if not all aspects of sound and light production from huge concerts to intimate weddings. We know some really excellent ones like AV Matrixand Lightech.
It can be really simple, such as a single colour “wash” (one colour everywhere), or patterns projected onto the marquee canopy or spot lights used to pick up and highlight details, such as flower installations, the best man’s speech, the cake .. or any number of other points of interest.
Alternatively you can go for a full on club or festival vibe with a series of changing lights all working together at the same time to project changing colours, static or moving images onto the marquee canopy. We think this kind of lighting is a great way to switch up the gears and really get the party started.
But for some, the idea of cluttering the clean lines and open feeling inside the marquee canopy is a step too far and if you feel this way then we suggest taking a minimal approach .. nothing in the canopy to disturb your view, just light supplied via a series of adjustable lights providing illumination.
Nothing says disco to us more than a mirror ball. Light is fired at the mirrored glass ball from four tiny spot lights and bounces off in all directions creating the unmistakable effect that people seem either to love or hate (we love it)! If a glitter ball is not for you, many of the classic disco light effects can also be achieved by stage lights on trusses in the canopy or on stands on the dance floor.
note: trusses are metal beams strapped to (or between) the king poles to which stage lights are attached.
Light can play a part in your furniture choices .. think of an LED dance floor (tiny lights set into the dance floor panels) or a downlit bar front or trees which are actually lights .. just a few ways to add a bit of bling.
note: it’s not really a marquee decoration but we once had a bride take to the dance floor with her own light up trainers!
Lighting isn’t just for inside ..
.. it can be used on the marquee exterior .. either as “flying lights”, which is a giant string of festoon lights strung above the marquee canopy from king pole to king pole, mirroring the swoop of the canvas. We think they look fantastic and create the effect of an ocean going liner from the golden age of travel.
.. or to complete the effect another run of “perimeter lights” can be attached to the bottom of the marquee roof, where the canopy meets the walls. As well as casting light onto the terrace area to the front of the marquee, they frame the marquee canopy further enhancing the appearance that it is floating above the ground.
Turning our thoughts to the terrace or spill-out area .. containing the area at the marquee front with festoon lights suspended from giant crooks is a great way of extending the indoor-outdoor feel and with the addition of alfresco furnishings, extending the party space.
Giant crooks and festoon strings can be used in combination to illuminate a walkway approach or a line of trees and to connect to a spill-out area whilst uplighters are perfect for highlighting an elegant facade, showcasing a majestic tree or picking out a garden feature.
The use of real flame is always a warming and dramatic way to create light. An outside terrace isn’t really complete without a giant fire bowl to gather round later and “Tiki” garden torches on sticks always look special and are a lovely alternative to festoon lights. For a more rustic look, tea lights in jam jars hanging from trees or from shepherds crooks create a similar effect in miniature.
Another great trick for the outdoors is to hang an oversized, feature mirror ball or giant chandelier from the branches of a nearby tree … think “a Midsummer night’s dream”. All of the pieces in our floral architecture range can be used this way.
Mix and Match
It’s important to note that more than one style of marquee lighting can be achieved on the same occasion for example, you might choose to have romantic lighting during an early evening wedding breakfast which then gives way to flashing disco diva lights when the dancing kicks off. Whatever you’re thinking we’re always up for a chat about anything marquee related, so please get in touch.
One last thought .. Wills canvas canopies allow light to pass through them both ways .. so at night every Wills marquee takes on the appearance of a giant lantern. From the outside looking back, it’s a magical thing we never tire of.