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How to Organise a Marquee Wedding

How to Organise a Marquee Wedding in New Zealand

We are so spoiled for choice when it comes to planning a wedding and searching for Wedding Venues in New Zealand.

Choosing to plan a ‘Marquee Wedding’ generally means you’re starting from a blank canvas, hiring a marquee and doing the rest yourself. It’s an ideal way of turning a family farm, a stunning spot off-the-beaten-track or a beachfront private property or into your perfect venue. 

It’s not hard to find somewhere incredible and unique to exchange vows and celebrate when marquee hire can create your dream wedding venue just about anywhere, but there’s a lot to think about.

See also How to Choose between an All-inclusive or DIY/Dry Hire Wedding Venue

How to Organise a Marquee Wedding in New Zealand

If you’re planning a wedding in New Zealand and renting a space and hiring a marquee, there are several important steps to take to ensure that your special day goes smoothly. Stay on track with wedding planning with the structured and well organised wedding planner, little white book. Here’s a basic outline of the planning process, which I will elaborate on further below:

  1. Choose a location
  2. Decide on a marquee style
  3. Book your suppliers
  4. Create a layout for seating arrangements
  5. Plan for power and lighting
  6. Consider decor and styling
  7. Prepare for inclement weather

Choose a Wedding Location

Organising a marquee wedding means you have the luxury of choosing almost any location, and is a popular choice in New Zealand due to our lovely summer climates. When renting a space for your wedding, you’ll want to choose a location that fits your vision for the big day. Look for venues that have the amenities you need, such as bathrooms and parking, and that are convenient for your guests to travel to.

Private residences such as historic homes, farms, beaches or parks abound and can make a perfect wedding day location, and even more unique spaces like a rooftop building or forest can be great marquee spots.

Marquee Weddings at Private Residences in New Zealand

Having your wedding at a private residence can be more economical than hiring a venue, but it’s also easy to overspend when you’re responsible for organising everything yourself.

A marquee allows you to create an entire new space away from the main house so your home isn’t over-run with your family and friends. Remember you’ll need a relatively flat space if your guests are going to dine at tables under the tent. If you’re having a dancefloor within a marquee, you will may have to hire this too.

Marquee Weddings in Parks & Public Places

We’re lucky in New Zealand, as regional councils allow wedding receptions in many parks or public places (with regulations to abide by). You’re likely to need to apply to the local council for an ‘Event Permit’ to hold your wedding in a public space. To apply in your city, see these links: Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Queenstown, HamiltonNapierHastings, Taupo, Rotorua, Coromandel.

Depending on the size and type of event you are holding, you may need to apply for other permits, such as a ‘Temporary Building Structure’ permit for a marquee over 100 square metres, and you may need to think about liquor licensing, sound levels, toilet accessibility, car-parking, power access and more. A 100-square metre marquee will hold around 60 to 90 guests at a cocktail-style event. For a seated reception for 120 guests, you would require between 200 and 240 square metres of ‘tent space’.

Farms & Private Open Sites

A large space with a view of the ocean provides a beautiful view and great photographic opportunities for your wedding.

For a completely DIY venue you will need to organise everything from the ground up: toilets, heating, generators, transportation, a food prep area, car-parking, lighting, furniture, and the list goes on. Ideally, look for a site where the property owners have hosted wedding before and are willing to help you pull everything together, or work with a wedding planner.

Decide on a Marquee

Once you’ve chosen a wedding venue, visit it with marquee companies. There are many different types of marquees available for weddings, from traditional canvas tents to modern clear-span structures. Consider the size and style of your wedding when choosing a marquee, as well as the weather conditions you might encounter.

A site inspection of the venue is included with your marquee company’s service. This is a vital step as they must see where you plan to have the marquee in order to give a realistic quotation.

Let them know your estimated number of guests, ask what size marquee is needed, and obviously check you have the room for the required size. They will advise on access, layout, and any potential hazards like underground pipes and roots.

Choosing your Wedding Marquee

  •  For your marquee, do you want white canvas walls do you want windows (clear walls) and or do you want it completely open? Do you want silk lining in your marquee?
  • What type of flooring would you prefer? The ideal solution is a level hard floor this provides a solid surface for guests to walk on, or plastic grid flooring or perhaps no flooring for that rustic look?
  • Do you prefer round tables or long trestle tables? This may effect the shape of marquee you choose.

The best thing to do when planning a marquee wedding is write a comprehensive list of tasks and requirements in order to tick off as time goes by, as well as a detailed floor plan and run sheet.

Book your other vendors and suppliers

When hiring a marquee, you’ll likely need to book other suppliers as well, such as caterers, florists, and entertainment. Work with your marquee company to get recommendations and referrals for reliable suppliers in your area.

For a marquee wedding, I suggest you only choose the most experienced and capable wedding vendors. Wedding caterers in particular need to be able to work in marquee and/or outdoor conditions. If you have chosen a location such as a park, paddock, hill-top or similar, do remember your caterers will need to bring all heating and cooking equipment to site – this is no mean feat when you are talking numerous ovens and gas bottles.

Consider also that they will need a reliable power source, possibly a generator, and cover for their catering area. Check with your caterers what size catering marquee they need to service your wedding proficiently. Ensure your caterers have access to fresh water; this can be simply an extendable hose into the catering tent or access to the kitchen in the venue.

If possible, meet with at least a couple of caterers, rather than just viewing a website and choosing based on price. Great food is a very important part of a great celebration, and you want to be able to trust everyone is going to enjoy it, including yourself. See also how to choose your wedding catering.

Create a layout  – Marquee Floor Plan and Run Sheet

Once you’ve chosen your location and marquee, it’s time to create a layout for your wedding. Consider where you’ll place tables, chairs, and other decor items, as well as the flow of the space for your guests.

Set this up well in advance and use it to work with you vendors. Drawing a simple sketch of the tables, dance-floor, power, etc will be a priceless use of time. Consider what type of layout are you after in general, where you envisage the catering tent going, as well as the portable toilets, marquee entrance, and where you’ll want the dance floor & stage.

On your run sheet, list exactly what times you want everything on your big day to take place and who is responsible for each. There’s a run sheet template in your little white book.

Plan for power and lighting

Marquees typically require power and lighting, so you’ll need to plan for this as well. Work with your marquee company to determine the best options for your needs, such as generator hire or electrical hookups.

Power or a Generator – Be very aware of power, how much the band/DJ, toilets and caterer needs. Does the venue supply enough power and, more importantly, do you want to risk the power tripping? Don’t rely on a near-by house or venue to supply your power source for your caterers, lighting and sound. Hiring a generator will eliminate any potential fuse-blows (imagine the lights and sound going out mid first-dance!).

You’ll also need plenty of lighting for an evening wedding. Depending on where your location is, you are looking at around $300 for a basic generator, plus transportation.

Consider Decor and Styling

With a marquee wedding, you’ll have a blank canvas to work with in terms of decor and styling. Think about your theme and color scheme, and work with your suppliers to create a cohesive look throughout the space. The beauty of marquees is you have so much height to play with.

Hanging lanterns, flowers or hanging crystals chandeliers and floral arrangements give a more intimate feeling. When done well, this will help reduce the ceiling height and create dramatic entrances into different areas of the marquee.

Prepare for inclement weather

One of the advantages of a marquee wedding is that you’ll have a sheltered space for your guests, but you’ll still need to plan for inclement weather. Consider adding heating or air conditioning to your marquee, as well as umbrellas or a contingency plan in case of rain.

Think about a contingency plan whether you hire an additional marquee or hold the reception in the marquee on the dance floor if uncovered. If space and budget are flexible then you can have a special lounge area in the marquee.

Finalise logistics with attention to detail

As your wedding day approaches, make sure to finalize logistics with all of your suppliers. Confirm delivery and pickup times, review any special instructions or requirements, and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Acoustics – Sound is very important too. Guests want to hear your speeches, so invest in a simple hired sound system with either lapel or standard microphones.

Love thy neighbour – Ensure the neighbours are aware of the wedding and anticipated noise and don’t take advantage of the flexibility a marquee wedding allows you – respect your surroundings (or invite them!)

Parking & vehicle access – Do you have sufficient parking? Ensure there is good signage so people know where to park. Whenever hiring suppliers that will arrive in larger vehicles, think about the access available to them. If access is narrow and deliveries have to be scheduled in, make sure suppliers know the relevant time slot they can deliver and explain any difficulties with the access available.

Planner – You may want to think seriously about having a wedding planner or day of coordinator to assist: they can decorate the venue, take delivery of goods plus manage the day itself so if any challenges occur they are dealt with in a professional manner leaving you to relax and party.

Toilets – With a large number of guests attending the wedding you will need to organise some mobile toilets.

Furniture Of course, if you’re planning a marquee wedding in an open space, you’ll need to hire absolutely all decoration and furniture you need – there’s not likely to be small tables nearby for a cake table if you forget one. Check with each vendor what they require too.

With careful planning and attention to detail, renting a space and hiring a marquee can be a wonderful option for your wedding day. Work closely with your suppliers and be prepared for any unexpected challenges, and you’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful and memorable celebration.

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