Wow, where should I start with this one! It's been an interesting 8 months for the entire UK events industry that's for sure...
Customers started to contact us re postponing their weddings in early March. We had just over 100 weddings booked and were looking forward to the usual busy season. By late March it's fair to say we were getting increasingly concerned about our future. What started as a trickle of customers postponing became a landslide and by the middle of April every job we had from May to July had postponed or, in the case of larger public events e.g. National Trust and festivals, were cancelled.
By the end of April the outlook was improved thanks to a raft of support measures put forward by the government. Furlough scheme, bounce back loan, local council grants, VAT deferral etc. We took advantage of everything we could as did virtually every business I know (whether they needed it or not....).
In the end, most of our August to October jobs also postponed or cancelled. We managed to deliver 6 socially distanced wedding builds which is a fraction of what we'd normally hope to get through, but they were all successful and happy occasions.
It's not all bad, though - my colleagues and I had a nice summer off, dealt with some personal priorities, spent time with immediate family and generally chilled out. I'm sure we aren't the only ones who enjoyed riding the furlough train! It's hard to explain how manic a regular event season is, and nine in a row can catch up with you in many ways.
What has been a challenge is keeping pace with the regular changes in directive. I know it's an impossible situation but so many events were on, then off at the last minute. It's been a rollercoaster. Even recently with the rule of 6 coming in our enquiries collapsed for a few weeks with the 'life may be restricted like this for 6 months' guidance Thankfully enquiries are picking up again for 2022 in particular now.
We have already seen customers who postponed to 2021 postpone again to 2022. As it stands we are happy for customers to do this but the situation is a dynamic one. We will always be as supportive as we can. There is positivity now around the vaccines in development so let's hope life returns to normal in early 2021.
It's my opinion that the events industry has been rather overlooked through all of this. Many companies have suffered a downturn and many have seen a significant downturn e.g. aviation and hospitality - but there can't be many industries that have faced a 90% plus downturn! For a few months it felt like weddings were being unnecessarily demonised and we fully supported the 'what about weddings' initiative on social media. Was there any evidence that socially distanced weddings of 30 people are a hotbed for the virus whereas aircrafts full of people are not? I didn't see any...
If you're planning a wedding in the next year or two you may struggle to obtain a decent insurance policy. Currently no insurers are covering weddings including the once highly respected John Lewis. We therefore recommend that all deposits paid to suppliers are paid on credit card so you benefit from the free insurance (as you would when booking a holiday). This is what we're recommending to all our new customers.
Thank you NHS and key workers for everything. Thanks to the vast majority of couples who were incredibly supportive and have stood by us at a very difficult time too. We look forward to working with you as soon as we're able.
Stay safe and well :)
We thought it was about time we did an updated post on good bands we've seen around lately. In our opinion you should look to spend between £1-2000 on a decent 5-6 piece wedding band. This will ensure you get a decent musician quality plus the sound system and lighting to support them. We had a customer spend £7000 on a band last year.....ouch!
Stone Groove are excellent - they have two keyboard players who also bust out trumpet and trombone on some tunes. They also have nice tweed waistcoat/tie ensembles which look good at country and formal weddings. Stone Groove are fronted by a female vocalist with male backing vocals.
Audio Allstars based in Bournemouth are also good and have won a few wedding industry awards of late. Excellent male lead vocals and musicianship.
29 Fingers bring the entertainment value with wigs and costumes (plus their famous tartan trousers). They cater for a lot of high-end events we're involved with. They describe themselves as 'the BEST international party band' - wow, that's some big talk!
Riptide are a quality 4-piece band if you prefer the more modern hirsute look with no brass instruments or keyboard on the horizon. They're based in Brighton but travel everywhere pretty much.
Shout out to the Leggomen who are a quality group too.
We can personally recommend all these groups. You won't be disappointed with any of them. Rock on!
Having some outside lighting at your wedding or party can add some serious bang for your buck and really help set the scene. It could be just as simple as a pair of floodlights uplighting a couple of trees or 40m of warm white fair style festoon lights - both options are less than £100.
During the day the view from your marquee or tipi will speak for itself but at night time it's quite nice to see something out of the window, not just a deep black void. LED candles from Lights4fun are a good choice because they're easy to switch on and you don't need to occupy an usher with an hour trying to get real candles going with a lighter! If you stockpile jam jars the twinkling candle effect is multiplied.
We stock a variety of small, medium and large floodlights from LED warm white and colour changing through to large output HQI floodlights. We also stock a couple of miles of warm white festoon lights (which you can see in the left and middle photos above). Festoons look brilliant strung over the top of tipis or traditional marquees and you can run them from the roof/apex down to 10ft high poles and create an area in front of the marquee for evening chilling. Get a fire pit on the go too with a few wooden benches (or bales) to create a cosy outside area.
We also stock 4ft and 10ft high festoon light poles as you can see in the middle photo above. They can be placed anywhere but look great flanking a strip of matting leading to your marquee or tipi entrance.
It's not just the decorative quality of outside lighting you need to consider but the functional quality too. Most people have lights on their mobile phones now but if guests need to find their way across fields to collect their car at the end of the night a little illumination is very welcome. I really don't want to tell the story (or publish the photo) of one poor wedding guest who found himself up to the shoulders in a slurry ditch...
For £2-300 you could get a really nice outside lighting set up. Festoons are £40 per 20m length and floodlights are £15-30 depending on size. Fire pits are £85. We often use fairy light strands outside if you want more subtle warm and pretty lighting. Once we put a disco ball and smoke machine in a copse for a slightly psychedelic outside lighting feature (complete with swing suspended from a branch)!
You're very welcome to do your own outside lighting because it's not expensive or rocket science. The point is that for a little expense we you can create a difference to your event which is worth far more.
At the moment it's all about the 'rustic-luxe' look when it comes to wedding marquees (well, it's not ALL about this because couples can do whatever they like - chic, elegant, rustic, garish, glitzy, vulgar and so on - that's the beauty of a marquee wedding).
What we are seeing is a trend emerging for rustic yet classy themes. Marquees without ivory pleated linings with plenty of natural wood furniture, bare wood table tops, coconut matting, hessian drapes, suspended planks of flowers, festoon and edison bulb lighting.
If you aren't going for the ivory pleated lining look there are two options open to you (well three if you include tipis). You could have a clear roof frame/clearspan marquee, or a traditional/pole marquee without lining:
Ivory pleated linings don't need to be completely dismissed because they still work well with clear roof sections to keep things light and airy, plus suspended planks of flowers underneath. Here we have a frame marquee with matting and long wooden tables, central wooden dance floor with clear roof above.
For 2018 we've invested in a new range of wedding chairs which we know will be bridal dynamite over the next few seasons as they're already popular at society weddings in The Hamptons. These natural lime oak French crossback chairs really do hit the 'rustic-luxe' nail firmly on the head. Coupled with long or round solid wood tables we don't think there's a better way to be at the crest of the wedding trend wave.
We stock rustic planks which can be suspended anywhere in frame marquees and between the poles of traditional marquees both with edison bulbs or without. As you can see in the picture below, hessian drapes are effective particularly when partnered with strands of warm white fairy lights. The long tables have white cloths and are joined with ever-popular limewash Chiavari chairs.
We have round and long tables which need cloths but we also have a range of solid wood tables in both round and long too. Here they are:
Reclaimed solid wood table with white trestle legs (natural wood legs also available). Measures 2m long by 90cm wide
Forgive the setting for this photo but new for 2018 are these round versions of our reclaimed solid wood tables with white trestle legs. They seat 10-12 guests
We are also currently working on a round wooden bar measuring roughly 4m in diameter. We already have an illuminated round bar which is very popular but the wooden version will work well with the rustic-luxe look. Look for photos coming soon!
I hope this has been useful. Your wedding marquee doesn't have to reflect the latest trend - I suppose it depends on how much you want your photos to kick around on Pinterest and various wedding blogs once your big day has passed. Whatever boxes you want to tick, Oakleaf Marquees have the bits and bobs to help you tick them!
Why have a marquee if you already have a barn or warehouse to convert, particularly over the wetter and windier months of the year. With our draping, flooring, lighting and furniture we can create an incredible venue in virtually any building.
We've worked with this particular company in Weymouth, Dorset for three years. Each Christmas they push the boat out a step further and challenge us to create something with more 'wow' factor than the year before. In December 2017 they needed to accommodate 250 guests with space for a large dance floor, bar and entrance areas for a 'VIP after-show' themed party. Here are the before and after photos - what a difference!
We covered a 495 square metre area with black starlight linings suspended from the existing warehouse structure (which was a challenge given the very gentle pitch of the roof). New black carpet and a mirrored dance floor covered the floor. Round tables were fitted with crushed black velvet table cloths which gave an opulent feel, particularly with gold candelabra as the centres and surrounded with gold chairs. We also draped 40m of corridor and fitted red carpet so the building felt completely different to the staff attending the party.
If you have a warehouse or barn you're thinking of using for a party or event you need 9 square metres of space for a round table of 10-12 guests. Then, provided the floor is level and there are points to suspend rigging from the ceiling or structure we're in business and can completely transform the venue for you. It won't be a large saving compared to a marquee (depending on the work involved) but it may well be the most viable option.
The Events Field is suitable for functions with up to 200 guests and the views of the surrounding countryside are breathtaking. Any of our structures are suitable for use. The summer house can be incorporated inside the marquee as you can see in the picture above (a large marquee is required to do this) or we can position a smaller marquee alongside it. Alternatively, it can be set apart from the marquee and a stretch tent or oriental canopy used to cover guests.
Holme for Gardens offers excellent parking facilities and suitable power outlets for an average wedding or party. Use of the venue comes with the services of professional and acclaimed wedding planners Blue Bay Events who have a list of outstanding wedding suppliers experienced in working at the venue. They also organise regular open days so you can see its charm for yourself.
We've worked with the following suppliers at Holme for Gardens: event caterers Claret Catering, photographer One Thousand Words (who took the photos you can see here), bar company A&D Mobile Bars, disco Pegasus Disco and venue dressers Perfectly Pretty Weddings.
For more information and to enquire about availability please email Blue Bay Events firstname.lastname@example.org
Gone are the days when marquees could only be fitted out with coconut matting on level ground. Now we can offer flooring in any colour, vinyl to create the effect of wood and supply a dead level floor regardless of how bumpy or sloping the ground is underneath. Don't get me wrong, coconut matting is still an ever-popular option, particularly for events seeking a rustic feel and it works wonderfully with our tipi installations.
All marquee floors begin with a plastic membrane to keep moisture and various ground-dwelling creatures at bay. It's a nice idea to have grass as the floor to keep it natural (and Pinterest is packed with lovely marquee pictures with grass flooring) but in practice we've yet to experience this, certainly not at any formal party or wedding. Many Pinterest photos were taken in the USA or Italy where the weather is a tad more reliable than ours unfortunately!
The entry level flooring option is to have coconut matting (coir, hessian, seagrass, call it what you will) or what we term 'stock carpet'. Stock carpet is likely to have been used at an event previously but this doesn't mean it'll arrive covered in wedding cake, hog roast and holes made by stiletto heels. Our stock carpet is light brown and dark grey but occasionally we have other colours such as dark green. Matting is the nice natural, goldy/beige colour which many brides adore, not the green/orange striped stuff you see from time to time.
Raspberry coloured carpet? Why not...
The next step up is to have new carpet. This is a bit more expensive but it means a) it'll be brand new and lie perfectly flat and b) you can choose any colour you wish. We supply a lot of cream/champagne carpets at weddings over the summer. A favourite shade of ours is coffee because it provides contrast with the linings and doesn't mark as easily. White carpets come with plastic film attached which can be ripped off at the last minute.
Now we're talking! Solid flooring is great not only because it makes walking around inside the marquee easier and stabilises tables, it also reduces the impact on the grass underneath by allowing it to breath and protecting it against excessive footfall.
The first tier of solid flooring is plastic tile flooring which sits a little under an inch off the ground but makes the surface nice and firm (stiletto lovers go mad for it). It doesn't eliminate bumps or slopes and should really be seen as a 'surface hardening' solution only. The next tier is our most popular solid floor option: wooden boarded floor. This sits higher than plastic flooring which keeps your carpet (and feet) away from any nasty rainfall and puddles and is ideal for eliminating smaller bumps and dips. Finally, we have steel sub-flooring and cassette flooring (the Rolls-Royce of marquee flooring) which can eliminate slopes and dips, span hedges and streams and so on.
We don't supply matting or stock carpet for use with solid flooring, it has to be used in conjunction with new carpet.
Mow that lawn Mr Gardener...
Bear in mind that unless you opt for a solid floor system, your marquee floor will only be as good as the grass that's underneath it. If the grass is ankle length then the matting/carpet will feel springy underfoot and the flooring won't look dead level. The shorter the grass can be mown the better (rolling is always a good plan too). Make sure the final mow is three or four days before the marquee is installed as blades of cut grass get everywhere, including on our shiny white marquees. You can always mow around the marquee once it's installed.
We’re often asked to recommend options for marquee layouts which we’re happy to do because we use specialist CAD software that can produce 2D and 3D plans. Some customers have a clear visualisation in their heads from the start but for others it can be a bit stressful, particularly if they haven't planned a large event before.
The first thing to remember is that you’re in the driving seat. We can recommend and advise but at the end of the day it’s your marquee and event so you can position things wherever you like (which is one of the big attractions of marquees). If you’d like to try a ‘drag and drop’ marquee planner online, we recommend this website where you can print, save and email your plan.
You’ll need to allocate space to the following when planning your marquee layout:
-Dining tables (round, square and long are the usual options)
-Top table, if required (long, round, curved or oval)
-Bar (we recommend 3m x 3m for every 150 guests)
-Dance floor (at the end of the marquee or in the middle)
-Band and DJ areas (stage?)
-Chill-out/lounge/break out area
-Reception area i.e. a covered area where guests can stand and enjoy drinks but not huddle around tables. The dance floor and surrounding area can be utilised for this if you wish
-Space for evening guests (no extra space is required unless you’re expecting in excess of 100 additional evening guests)
-Other (photo booth, chocolate fountain, present/buffet tables etc)
We encourage customers to think of their marquee in thirds:
-Reception, bar and chill-out area (nearest the entrance)
-Dance floor (the party area)
Sense of space is a subjective thing. Too little space and it can feel cramped and uncomfortable whereas too much space can dampen the atmosphere and make guests feel isolated. We will help you to achieve a balance.
The most successful marquee layouts flow nicely between areas and don’t create bottlenecks which make the event feel disjointed. You’ll need to be mindful of how your guests like to party – are they the type that like to stand and chat all night, prop the bar up or dance until dawn? If the first two, having the bar and entrance at one end might not be a good idea because guests will congregate there and potentially ignore the dance floor. It might be better to have the entrance in the middle with bar, dance floor on one side and tables on the other.
You’ll need to be mindful of where the best views are from your marquee and where windows should be placed. This is a moot point for evening events unless you have outside lighting in place but for daytime events you’ll probably want table and reception areas to have the best views available.
Do you position the bar at the far end or have it near the dance floor? We’ve seen both options work well and it really depends on how much your guests like to drink and dance (and both at the same time). Having the bar near the dance floor encourages guests to dance with their drinks but smashed glasses on the dance floor is not much fun. If this can be minimised and you’d like the bar to be an integral part of your event then it can work very well.
There is an element of theatre here. What is the first thing you want your guests to see when they enter the marquee? Tables? Bar? View? We like to see a bit of empty space for people to congregate in, browse the seating plan and admire the view.
Given our fantastic yet slightly challenging climate, it is a very good idea to plan for bad weather. If you’re planning to have a drinks reception outside the marquee, what will you do if it rains? Is there space in the marquee and will you let guests stand on the dance floor or force them to huddle around tables? Distance to toilets and parking will need thinking through. If it’s windy and you don’t have doors on your marquee it would be wise to position entrances/exits so they aren’t facing into the wind.
If you're planning a wedding, you'll want to ensure that everyone is as close to the action as possible and that they can see the top table easily during the speeches. Nobody likes to be on the draughty table by the entrance which is furthest from the bridal party!
Why do we stock so many different types of bar and even build bespoke bars tailored to customers individual tastes? Well, the bar is probably going to be one of the main focal points in your marquee and certainly an area your guests will spend time frequently throughout the day so it is important to get it right.
When it comes to a marquee event it is essential to remember that you have a blank canvas and that the space you have is not a real building - ‘here today, gone tomorrow’. Just like the theatre, the way you decorate the space needs to be exaggerated to create full impact, much like costume jewellery. Creating focal points that the eye will be drawn to is important to draw the eye away from the fact you are in a temporary structure.
The key to a great looking marquee for any event is getting the following things right: table centres, dance floor and bar. When your guests first walk in the ‘wow’ will come from the overall impact which will be highlighted by your table centre pieces (a marquee is nothing until the tables are laid). The dance floor; position it right, get the lighting right and have great music (this is out of our jurisdiction) and your guests will dance the night away.
The bar needs to be more than just couple of trestle tables. An aesthetic facade is essential, the actual bar could be quite big and may be the first port of call when guests enter and an attractive back bar provides another focal point. The other thing to think about is from a service point of view; staff need to be able to store glass boxes, re-stock, get rid of rubbish, replenish ice etc, ideally without causing any inconvenience or compromising aesthetics. The Oakleaf team are well rehearsed in both the design and running of a marquee build as well as providing bar services.
Keep an eye out for our expanding range of bar furniture and accessories. If you want something completely unique it's always worth asking because we may be able to create something bespoke. Remember, anything is possible!
Thanks to Ed Hunter our General Manager for this helpful advice.
Marquees epitomise everything an English summer wedding stands for. They are timeless, elegant and can offer complete flexibility when creating a bespoke space for your wedding day.
Marquees are a blank canvas and you need to be bold in your decisions when designing their internal decor. What most people forget is the power of flowers and how they literally can turn a simple marquee into something magical and completely unique to you and your wedding.
As a florist I have learnt that there are a few key factors when creating floral designs for a marquee. So here are my top five for your consideration.
1) High and low
One way to create interest and intrigue is to mix up the height of focal points. To achieve this you need to vary the heights of your table centres throughout from low candle arrangements to high pomander balls. This will create a range of heights and therefore focal points which will force your guests eyes to travel around the room.
2) Swing from the ceiling
Combining the height of your marquee and beautiful floral design can create spectacular focal points. Consider giant flower bombs suspended above your guests or a ceiling covered in suspended blooms. Don't forget you can decorate the tops of traditional marquee poles, create floral chandeliers and set up hanging flower beams perfect for decorations over the top table.
3) Bring in the garden
One easy and immediate way to link the inside of the marquee to its outdoor location is to install potted living trees, shrubs and plants. Placing these planted pots around entrances, the bar or even the dance floor will add a level of interest and help distinguish different areas within the marquee.
4) Budget vs impact
People automatically imagine that creating a visual spectacle with flowers will be costly and I will admit that it can be. But, this is where it is so important to work with your florist and discuss where your budget is best spent. For me this is vital and careful consideration on where you are going to spend your budget will make or break the look of your marquee. For example; do you put a standard and average table decoration on each of your fifteen tables? Or would you be better spending that money on just seven breathtaking table arrangements, which are just so beautiful people can't take their eyes off them? This is where you should work with your florist and let them come up with a number of suggestions for you.
5) Other than roses
Don't believe that floral design has to be just flowers, you can work with your florist to create alternative designs, which most of the time can spread the budget further. Flower bombs of Autumn foliage can look just as beautiful as one filled with roses! You can create height with vases of bare winter twigs or seasonal table centres with forced bulbs.
Finally, I truly believe that flowers turn a marquee into something truly magical if used properly. It is always important to coordinate your entire look with lighting, linen, chairs, carpet and draping. This is why I would always suggest that whichever florist you choose, make sure that they work closely with your marquee company so together they can create a final look that is better than you could have ever imagined.
Thanks to Emma Whicher of Martha and the Meadow, Dorset wedding and event florist for this helpful and inspiring article.