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the cost of a marquee wedding

Traditional Pole Marquee in Dorset

I love a marquee wedding; it’s somewhat of a speciality of mine, which is why I work with a lot of couples wanting a marquee for their special day. I’ve covered marquee weddings before on the journal (and you can read all about them here: (Different Types of Marquee and Planning a Marquee Wedding Reception) but one topic that I haven’t covered in full detail, and which always baffles clients to begin with, is the cost of the marquee wedding. So I’m unpicking this topic on the blog today.

Don’t Underestimate The Cost of a Marquee

This is the first myth to clear up. For some reason, couples often underestimate how much they think a marquee will cost and, at quote stage, are blown away by the reality. Marquee weddings cost more than you imagine. Why? Because you are creating a whole something out of nothing. Even if the cost of the actual tent itself is not huge, you have to allow for all the auxiliary elements that come with it. If you plan on dining, dancing and drinking in your marquee you’ll need a lot more than a tent. A floor to start with: then some lighting; heating (depending on the time of year); a dance-floor; perhaps a stage; some linings; perhaps some window walls, oh, and some toilet facilities for all the guests.

For dining you’ll also need a catering tent so that your catering team have somewhere (undercover) to cook. They also need to bring in their kitchen (the ovens, tables, hobs etc.) to be able to prepare and cook. They will need to hire or bring in glassware, crockery, cutlery… Dining also requires tables and chairs, perhaps linen. Finally you need to power all these things so you’ll need a generator and fuel (I almost never recommend plugging into the mains of, for example, your house, reasons for which I’ve covered in other marquee blog posts). All these costs add up.

Honeybell bell tents for wedding guests planned by Weddings by Jenna Hewitt

Why Quotes Vary

Even if you’ve done your research and you’re feeling comfortable with the reality of the cost you need to allocate for your marquee, you can still be left feeling slightly baffled. The most often asked question I have from couples who coming to me after having done their own research to this point is, “why do I ask two companies for ‘the same thing’ (same size marquee, same additional items) and get a £X difference (this can be substantial and worth £000's) in the quote?

Quotes can and will vary depending on a number of factors. The first, and obvious one, is the type of marquee. There are LOADS out there (clearspan, traditional pole, yurt, tipee, stretch canvas, chinese hat, to name but a few) and each style will come in at a different price point. Your decision on which to go with is likely to be dependent factors as well as cost, like venue choice and suitability of the ground on which it is being erected, but, it goes without saying, you’ll want to be comparing costs like for like with the same type of marquee.

Clearspan marquee for Surrey at home wedding

Like for Like?

Once you have decided on your style of marquee, you’ll find that even within the same type, your quotes can, and will, vary. Why? Because, even if you are comparing the same kind of marquee, the specifications within this may be totally different. I’ll give you an example. Traditional pole marquees are typically chosen for their aesthetic, they have a rustic charm and style that really says “English countryside” and the exposed poles inside and guy ropes outside give you a certain look. But not every traditional pole marquee is the same. Take the material they are made from. Some companies offer marquees made from sailcloth, this has a lovely premium feel and quality look to it. It is also more prone to getting dirty and needs more maintenance and cleaning to keep it looking amazing – which adds costs. Other companies provide traditional marquees made out of more durable ‘coated’ materials to cut down on the upkeep costs, this can have a more "plastic" look and feel. I think of it a little like (bear with me on this one) buying a sofa. It’s quite possible to find a similar look of sofa for two very different price points depending on which retailer you buy it from. The more premium are likely to be driven by things like better quality materials or fabric and subtle design features. Not everyone notices (or cares) about these things but some people really do. My advice (for the marquee at least, if not the sofa) is really dig into what it is you are buying (the specifications) and, then, decide whether or not the differences justify the cost for you.

The devil is in the detail

Whilst we are talking specifications, it is as important to look at the finer details of all the supplementary pieces of kit that go into the marquee. Let’s take flooring. There is a vast array of options to choose from (and it will depend, again on the type of marquee) but I’ll give a few examples. You may choose none and opt for just grass. This works well for a certain style of wedding (and marquee) and it’s the least costly. It works less well if the grass isn’t all that lovely, if the ground isn’t all that flat or if it rains heavily in the lead up to your big day and it’s more like a bog. It also works less well for ladies in heels. You may opt for a boarded interlocking floor (direct lay). This works well for heels, gives a more polished look and mitigates the issue if it rains and is wet underfoot – it also levels out small bumps and humps in the ground (somewhat). Or, you could opt for fully suspended flooring, like a cassette floor. This is perfect for really uneven sites and will give you a completely flat base, which can be finished however you would like – exposed varnished wood or carpeted. It is no surprise that the benefits of the latter will add significant cost versus the first two options. Make sure you check your quotes and see what your marquee company is suggesting and what it is that they can offer. This principle of looking at like for like when it comes to the detail can be applied to almost every other additional element you’ll be bringing in: the lighting (at the lower end, simple uplighters; at the luxury end, a full sound to light dance floor rig with ambient dining lighting – perhaps complete with chandeliers and dance floor glitter ball); the type and material of the dance floor; the size, material and quality of the bar; the stage size and finish; the linings; whether or not you opt for window walls; the number and spec of the toilets even!

Having worked with many a marquee, it’s pretty straightforward for me to quickly zone in on the detail and wade through the quote comparison exercise. If you are new to it all, my advice is take your time. Look at the options, ask the questions, make sure you are comparing like for like and get into the detail. If in doubt and all of this seems pretty overwhelming (or, quite frankly, you don’t have the time or inclination to get into it) I would strongly suggest hiring an independent wedding planner onto your team and have them lead the whole process for you!

Images all of my own weddings and kindly shared by Joe Short and Craig Williams (image 3)


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