Written by Wedding Planner, Katie Slater from Songbird Weddings

When it comes to planning your wedding one of the first things a lot of couples need to decide on is their venue and for a lot of you Festival Brides readers that venue does not mean bricks and mortar but canvas and poles and your own little green patch of heaven. Most couples have an idea of the type of structure that they would like when they come to me because, lets face it, the aesthetics of each are very different and it ultimately comes down to taste. However, there are a few important differences between them and some practical considerations to think about. I caught up with Gemma from Cambridge Tent Company who is providing the tipi for the Rustic Wedding Show in December to come up with our top tips for you when picking your structure!

FRAME MARQUEE….

A frame marquee is probably what most people picture when they think of a marquee. It is a metal structure marquee that is built in sections and so is completely versatile in terms of size. Frame marquees are then lined to cover the metal framework and there are a multitude of different lining options from flat linings to pleated so you can design the look that you want. Frame Marquees are the most wind resistant and so they are the go to choice for couples planning winter weddings. You can also swap out the canvas walls for actual glazed panels if you want a more up market look and again this all helps to keep in the heat in the winter months. A frame marquee will also be your best option if you are not putting your structure on grass but instead want to use a gravelled or concreted area like a tennis court, car park or even a swimming pool (yes it has been done and yes it looked awesome!). With frame marquees more than any other I have to warn you, you get what you pay for in terms of both the quality of the marquee and the quality of the finish. Ask yourself, do I want absolute perfection and am I willing to pay for it? As with everything wedding related there is a scale of quality and it is about deciding what matters to you and whether you want to allocate your budget to that. For example, I saw a marquee recently where the flooring did not meet the edges of the marquee so there was a strip of grass around the edge. Now as a planner, that bothered me, but I can accept that that marquee company was probably cheaper because of their finish and that would not bother everyone and they would rather have the budget to allocate elsewhere. It is also important though for you to understand what finish you are getting so make sure you ask your marquee supplier what you can expect for their quote and do not just pick the cheapest.

SAILCLOTH TENTS….

Sailcloth tents are a marquee structure in which you can see the timber poles. They are much more traditional in style and you do not typically line them. They are absolutely stunning and create a unique style of their own. They are light and airy and therefore for those of you who want a crisp and light feeling this may be the tent for you. One word of warning is that these tend to be seasonal. They do not have the wind resistance of the frame marquee and so if you want to use one of these structures you do need to plan your wedding for between May and October (although check with your marquee company as they all have slightly different rules). Another point to note in your planning is that if you intend to suspend anything from the poles (particularly any heavy floral hoops) you need to make sure that your florist and your marquee company liaise directly to discuss the loading of the weight. I spoke with Gemma from Cambridge Tent Company and she said, “These tents are great because you can have clear or opaque panels which can be rolled up or taken off depending on the weather”. If you do have amazing views and so decide to opt for clear panels on your sailcloth, make sure you think about having a few opaque panels just to hide the catering tent or toilets.

STRETCH TENT….

Stretch tents are a form of cover made by stretching a large piece of fabric over a number of poles inserted into the ground. They have a fantastic modern and stylish look to them making them a great party space. This form of tent is extremely versatile in that they can stretch it in different ways to suit the space and the area available which makes it a great option for people with a slightly awkward space. They also tend to be slightly cheaper so are a great option for people on a smaller budget or for couples wanting to add on an additional chill out space. They are also a fantastic option to have as a back up wet weather cover for your outdoor ceremony or drinks reception. If you do decide to go for a stretch tent for your main structure, I would advise to go larger than you think you need as the walls face inwards and so it can feel smaller than it is. In the summer months, as a stretch tent has no side panels the sun will shine in under the canvas so you will need to check what direction the sun comes into the space and make sure when designing your table layout that no guests are left sat in the direct sunlight for their wedding breakfast. Another point to note in a stretch tent is that you cannot suspend anything from the structure so you need to keep your decor free standing.

Image Credit: John Woodward Photography

TIPI….

Tipis are all about the look and the atmosphere. I absolutely fell in love with tipis when I saw my first one and they still feature as a huge part of the Rustic Wedding Show as I think people (particularly parents) have to see them to get it. The wonderful thing about tipis is that they do not need much styling as they look amazing as they are. But for those of you with a passion for wedding design they also act as a neutral space in which to create your vision and that is why they have been so popular. Something that surprises some couples is that tipis can be used in winter (in fact I will have them up at the winter Rustic Wedding Show so you can see for yourselves!). The walls of them drop down and some companies have doors which can be attached so that you can keep the heat in in the winter months. Gemma from Cambridge Tent Company advised that if you are planning a tipi for the winter months it is worthwhile thinking about your configuration. She suggested that it may be best to have a triangular shaped configuration instead of the traditional arc with your guests entering onto the dance floor at the front and your guest seating behind as it will keep the impact of any weather to a minimum.

Image Credit: Ben Bull

GEODOME….

I couldn’t help but mention here the new Geo Dome structure by Timber and Canvas because they are due to launch in the new year and I for one am excited to get my planning hands on one. It is a spherical dome built up by timber beams in a geometric pattern and then covered with a clear or opaque canvas. Think tipi meets clear marquee and that is the atmosphere I am expecting it to create. Also, the team over at Timber and Canvas have suggested it is going to fit up to 300 people which is also exciting because it makes this style of wedding more accessible to people who are having large weddings.

Other Top Tips….

    1. No-one wants a noisy generator – Set your generator back as far as possible so that you do not hear it from your structure.
    2. Discuss the lighting in your structure with your photographer and make sure the top table is in the best spot (particularly if you are filming your speeches).
    3. Make sure the company providing your structure does a site visit – you do not want any surprises when they come to set up.
    4. Accessories – It is most cost effective to get the company providing your structure to also provide items such as chairs and tables and a bar etc. Therefore, before choosing your structure make sure you have had a look at their accessories to make sure they fit in with your design plans.
    5. Go local – It often pays off to have a local provider as then the delivery charges are less.
    6. Make sure you see them in person – Do not go off of pictures. Most companies will have open days where you can go and see their structures in person. Make the most of these opportunities to see them up, check the quality of the finish and see the furniture available. Whilst you are there do not FORGET to take pictures of all of the fittings (and of the connections or poles or things you could attach or hang things from) – I promise your florist and stylist will thank you later!
    7. Do I need flat ground? When you are using coconut matting as your flooring you do not need perfectly flat ground. That said, if you put a chair there and it feels an uncomfortable incline to sit at, that is what it will feel like for your guests, so it may be best to find a more level area or to find a marquee company who can build up the floor for you.

ABOUT KATIE….

Katie founded Songbird Weddings which specialises in planning outdoor weddings across the UK. Katie also founded and runs the Rustic Wedding Show which is an immersive wedding show  aimed at creative couples. Visit her website at http://songbirdweddings.co.uk



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