Woo hoo, the Oakleaf blog's back baby!! Sorry it's been so long (5 months) but there have been plenty of marquee fish to fry since I last posted. Now I can commit to posting once a week at least until the season kicks off again (which currently looks like mid March).
Marquee hire work is obviously quite seasonal so people often ask 'what do you do in the winter?' and the slightly more forthright finish sentences with comments like ‘I guess you’ve got nothing else to do this time of year’. Well, this is absolutely not the case so I’ve decided to give a complete rundown of this week for you. This is what the Oakleaves have been up to at Oakleaf HQ (no yawning!):
-Minor service on a Land rover and Transit Luton (oil change every 6,000 miles don’t you know)
-Service five marquee heaters ahead of Christmas/New Year work (thanks Rob and Ed)
-Optimise our website for better search engine results (look out competitors, we’re coming for you)
-Submit quarterly VAT return
-Install a marquee for a party near Stalbridge, Dorset and remove another near Bridgwater, Somerset
-Three furniture hire deliveries/collections in Dorset
-Keep on top of emails, enquiries and quotes (I call this ‘proper work’ as some of our guys are under the impression that bookings just appear out of thin air)
-Three site visits for 2015 bookings
-Load spreadsheets with details of our hire stock for uploading to a new IT system being implemented at the end of January (line upon line upon line upon line of data). This includes checking and counting stock in the first place; weighing it, allocating codes, descriptions, categories, sub-categories to it; loving it, holding it, nurturing it etc. It’s quite amazing that our inventory now numbers in excess of 600 stock lines!
-Keeping on top of accounts (invoicing, reconciling, paying, updating cash flow and P&L projections etc) – more ‘proper work’. Again, like bookings, it’s a common misconception that money just appears out of thin air too. I wish…
-Deleting junk mail both email and posted. Seriously, is it just me or is there more of this flying about now than ever? And I’m not talking about Viagra just to pre-empt any witty comments!
-Repair, overhaul and clean furniture and PVC (this is ongoing throughout the whole winter and spring)
So glad I’ve got this down in writing. Now when people ask me what we do in the winter I can refer them to this post with a smug grin on my face. This means you Andy!
Have a great weekend everyone.
Just picked up this blog post by photographer Helen Lisk who has written about Natalie and Mat's wedding last summer in Weymouth, Dorset. It had a summer fete theme which included morris dancers, bunting, hay bales, plenty of cider and thankfully plenty of sunshine too! Lovely couple and a lovely day. See Helen's blog here
We use a professional CAD programme to create our 2D and 3D marquee plans but you may want to play around with options yourself in order to get a sense of space. Our friends at County Marquees in London have a great online planning tool which can be found here. If you want to hire a marquee in the South West please choose Oakleaf Marquees but if you need one in London or the Home Counties we can recommend County (we have no intention of expanding anywhere near the congestion charging zone......or the M25 for that matter!).
Chances are if you're having a marquee you'll need some form of entertainment such as a DJ or band. If so, you should check these guys out: The Jackson 3. We get asked to recommend bands a lot and I'm quite particular about music (music graduate and former function band player myself blah, blah, blah; brag, brag, brag) and these guys are the cat's pyjamas. I heard them at the Milton Abbey School Leavers' Ball at the weekend where they laid down a seriously funky groove (they also played in a wedding marquee of ours the weekend before and got rave reviews). Book soon to avoid massive disappointment!
Wedding marquee at a farm in Shroton, Blandford - June 2014
I just wanted to say thank you to you and the team at Oakleaf for the outstanding service you gave us. Nothing was too much trouble, especially considering how many times I added things as we went along! Tim and the team that put the marquee up were brilliant and it looked amazing on the day - we were both so pleased! I have attached a photo taken from the marquee - I thought you might like it as it really shows off the clear gable end and the bunting! Once again, thank you! You were brilliant from start to finish!
With Lorton House not doing weddings anymore (boo hoo) we've been looking for a new favourite venue in the Weymouth area. We're due to provide a wedding marquee at Westbrook House in Upwey this weekend having been there a few times already so I'm pleased to announce that Westbrook is now our favourite marquee venue in the Weymouth area! It's a private house but there is accommodation available on site too and the setting is exquisite with a lovely lake, gardens and house providing an ideal backdrop to any marquee. Bookings are handled by the lovely Oonagh (The English Event Company and The English Florist) - click here for the contact page of her website.
Please like me on Facebook or retweet on Twitter!! I know some of you are probably groaning at the sight of another blog post, but I committed to posting once a day for a couple of weeks and that's exactly what I'm going to do (you had the weekend off to recover).
Forgive the shameful Facebook or Twitter mention above, but since the first post I've noticed less 'likes' and retweets. This could be because I've been posting around midnight, or perhaps my posts are rubbish, or maybe people are afraid to 'like' in case they think it makes them look like a social media stalker.......or could it be that if you 'like' the first post you think it absolves you from any future likings and retweetings? Come on people, where's the love? Thank you Mandy for being my most committed 'liker' to date!
Other than on this blog it seems, there is a huge amount that can be learnt by reading blogs and stories of other brides and grooms that have used marquees. And not just marquee pearls of wisdom - there's shoes, dresses, cakes, photographers, table centres and all the other good stuff that makes brides go weak at the knees!
Being involved in weddings is one of the most satisfying jobs a person can have. Viewing our many testimonials and pictures brings a nostalgic smile to the face, and another thing I like doing when in need of a self-indulgent pick-me-up is browsing the many blogs Oakleaf is mentioned on. Here I've put together a selection that I think are not only lovely, but interesting and helpful too. Enjoy!
-First up, Laura and Peter's pretty vintage wedding near Beaminster:
The English Wedding Blog
-Then onto Nikki and Sven's wedding by the sea in Studland:
Lisa Dawn Photography
-And Lizzie and Duncan's wedding by the sea in West Bexington:
-Sarah and Adrian's 'fun and quirky' wedding in Sherborne:
-Naomi and Ally who did it their way (with a Chinese twist) in Symondsbury:
Beauty by Emily Faith
-Kat and Rich's sunshine, socks and spotty shoes English country wedding at Chettle House:
-Becka and Chris's intimate garden wedding with only 9 guests in Morden:
-Mary and Steve's vintage themed wedding in Broadmayne:
Hope you find some useful ideas and inspiration on these blogs.
Finally, some words of advice from one of our brides mentioned above (Adele): "It’s never too early to book the suppliers for your wedding, the sooner you start the process the better to make sure you get the right people on board without compromising, we wouldn’t have changed the people we worked with for the world." And that's what makes weddings so satisfying.
Thanks for reading, liking and retweeting!
Dear Tim, Ed, Julie and the team,
Just wanted to write and thank you so much for the beautiful marquee you conjured up for our wedding. It was everything we had hoped for - and more! - and played a large part in an unforgettable day. It fitted beautifully into a, thankfully sunny(!), Somerset garden wedding during the afternoon and then transformed itself in the evening to suit the dancing and music...with the outside tree lighting adding to the atmosphere. We had a number of guests who have been to quite a few social events held in marquees in their time and the view was that this was the best marquee they had seen - thought you might like to hear that!
The week leading up to the wedding was not without its challenges, to put it mildly, and I don't think your team will forget the rain and mud that meant problems getting kit and trailers into the nearby field....not to mention the flooding in the garden under the wooden floor! Ed and his team did everything they could to make sure the marquee was ready, working three long days, much of it under lights as they continued into the night. Every problem was dealt with and their 'can-do' attitude went a long way to keeping us calm that week. Their professionalism continued as the marquee was dismantled with the promise that we 'would not know the marquee had been there' being fulfilled totally ...try as we might, we have not found one tie or fastener...nor any of those little sparkly diamonds that had been scattered all over the tables!
Your team as a whole worked incredibly well together, from Julie in the office answering my initial constant stream of questions with much patience and all the different members of the team erecting the marquee, overseen superbly by Ed, through to the coordination of outside agencies such as loo hire and emergency field matting. Being able to trust our chosen suppliers when drawing together all the strings of the wedding that week was something we greatly appreciated and made such a difference to our family's enjoyment of the wedding day itself.
So thank you for doing such a superb job...and for helping to make some very lovely memories for us all.
(PS Have no problem if you wish to use this as a testimonial for future clients. If we have some suitable pictures come through in the coming weeks I'll send them on in case you would like to use any of them.)
Most quotes are made on the assumption that the marquee is going on grass, so please let us know in advance if the marquee is going on a hard surface.
Traditional marquees can't go on hard surfaces unfortunately because they rely entirely on long stakes hammered into the ground (unless the footprint of the marquee matches the size of the hard surface and there is mud/grass around the entire perimeter). Clearspan (frame) marquees can go on hard surfaces, but there are two important issues you need to consider:
Stop the marquee becoming airborne
Thankfully we've never had a marquee 'go airborne' and only two or three staff have been presented with their 'marquee wings' i.e. they've been lifted off the ground by a gust. When marquees are on grass, each leg is held down by a yard long stake, sometimes two. On hard surfaces, you can't do this. Before you read on, take a look at this clip on YouTube (a clip that is forever etched on my brain and keeps me up at night whenever I hear the wind howling).
The marquee in the clip weighs 2 tons and it takes a wooden floor with it. Scary stuff. But the clip is designed to educate, not intimidate (nice rhyme!).
There are four ways to prevent a marquee flying off:
1) Guy ropes. Assuming there is softer ground nearby that surrounds the marquee, use ratchet straps as guy ropes attached to the top of each leg and running down to stakes 1-2m away from the marquee. Cost: £0
2) Bolting it to the ground. This involves us drilling 10mm wide, 150mm deep holes for each leg (two per leg on 12m and 15m wide structures). Legs are positioned every 3m around the perimeter and the holes can easily be filled afterwards. Cost: ££s
3) Weighing the marquee down. Amazingly, in order for a marquee to withstand 80mph plus and be in line with manufacturer's guidelines, marquee legs need to have 750-1000kg of weight on EACH leg! This can be achieved with either water weights (IBC 1000 litre water containers) or concrete blocks. Cost: £££s
4) Attach the marquee to a sub-frame floor system. The marquee bolts into a made-to-measure steel frame and then wooden boards are slotted in place. The weight of the frame and boards prevents the marquee from causing a nuisance to air traffic. Cost: ££££s
Stop rain water soaking into the carpet
On grass, rain water just soaks into the soil and drains away (unless it's extremely heavy). On hard surfaces, it forms puddles and hangs around until it evaporates. This is all well and good, but puddles have a habit of growing if the rain is persistent or heavy and they can creep under marquee walls and start soaking into carpet. Once the soaking in starts, it's very hard to stop and before you know it, the whole carpet is soggy.
There are two preventative measures:
1) Have a wooden boarded floor which sits on battens meaning the carpet is elevated a couple of inches off the ground and rain water can pass freely beneath. Cost £££-££££s depending on size.
2) Have a sub-frame floor system which does the same as the wooden boarded floor above but elevates the carpet even further. Cost: ££££s
Finally, there are a few steps that hirers can take to minimise the effects of wind too:
1) Keep an eye on the forecast (I like XC Weather).
2) Don't choose very exposed locations at potentially stormy times of the year.
3) Keep all entrances/exits closed and fastened tight to prevent wind getting inside.
4) Keep an eye on stakes/guy ropes/bolts each day to make sure they haven't worked their way loose or become slack.
About an hour to go before Bath beat Leicester at rugby, so I thought I'd sneak a blog post in.
We get asked to recommend caterers all of the time and in the West Country we're spoilt for choice both in terms of caterers and the wonderful local produce they work with (meat, cheese, seafood, bread, the list goes on). We've worked with many of them and this list certainly isn't exhaustive, it's just a selection we can highly recommend.
Thyme After Time (Stalbridge)
Our nearest and dearest! Margot not only caters for events but she also has a very successful cafe and food shop at Spire hill farm just off the A357 between Sturminster Newton and Stalbridge which holds regular events itself (so you can go and check them out covertly!). Margot has great vision and excels at creating menus that are personal to her customers. Highly recommended.
Claire's Catering (Yeovil)
We met Claire at one of the first wedding jobs we ever did where she provided a proper wedding breakfast i.e. eggs benedict, smoked salmon, traditional full English etc (because the wedding was at 11.30am) followed by a succulent hog roast in the evening. Claire also runs the Orchard Food & Coffee Shop in Yeovil at the top of town opposite HSBC.
Rebecca Green (Piddletrenthide)
I met Rebecca because she was worried her catering tent might blow away (September 2011 at the top of a hill near Evershot on a VERY windy day). Off I went and I'm glad I did: free venison dinner for Timbo (perfectly cooked) and washed down with Belvoir sparkling ginger beer (love that stuff) followed by her famous honeycomb ice cream. Wow. I always make the effort to attend weddings she's cooking at, including one at Mapperton House where the venison made another appearance following a sharing platter of local meats and other goodies. Double wow. I've often thought I should just give up on buying food over the summer and just drift from event to event....
The Olive Bowl (Gillingham)
We regularly see our friends from the Olive Bowl on the event battlefield, particularly at Chaffeymoor Grange in Bourton where we are both preferred suppliers. They offer an extremely varied and exceptional service at good prices.
Dine In (Bournemouth)
Roberto is a lovely guy who works tirelessly to exceed expectations. One of the preferred suppliers at Sherborne Castle, his prices are very reasonable and he also has an extensive list of hire equipment (glasses, crockery, cutlery, kitchen equipment etc).
Rabbit and Rose
R&R are a very professionally run outfit. We see them a lot over the course of the year, the last time was at Lulworth Castle where they served an evening selection of fish and chips and the BEST cheese toasties in christendom. In reality, they offer far more than cheese toasties (I'm obviously quite easily pleased) and every customer who has engaged us both for their job has sung their praises afterwards.
Victoria Blashford-Snell (Wincanton)
Victoria is one of the finest event caterers in the business. She is also an acclaimed author.
Finally, how about mixing it up with some English wine at your event? "What?!" I hear you cry in disbelief. Yes, I did say English wine, and despite what you may think there is some great stuff around (part of Sussex has the same chalk soil as the Champagne region don't you know). Most local is English Oak Vineyard near Poole but my personal favourite is a little further away in East Anglia - Wyken Vineyard who produce a sparkling wine called 'Wyken Moonshine' - really worth a try. Then of course there's Ridgeview and Hush Heath who have recently out-champagned Champagne in international competitions. See, not such a bad idea after all. Give your guests a real talking point!
Happy weekend and keep eating and drinking my friends!