A blank canvas can be brilliant. The opportunity to create your own wedding space that reflects all that you love in the world will always appeal to couples desiring a distinctive day. But it can be daunting: from the dizzying choice of options available to deliberating over the minutiae, planning a marquee wedding can be an intricate business.
Fret not and embrace the chance to stamp your likes and loves on your tailor-made venue. Here, the experts share their advice for styling a wow-worthy wedding under canvas.
Geodesic dome, tipi, yurt, traditional pole marquee, clear-span marquee, Indian tent...there’s a plethora of structures to pick from, which is your first port of creative call. And once you’ve chosen your tent type, explore different set-ups, structures, layouts and installations for both the inside and outside.
“Completely clear roof marquees are on-trend right now with inspiration taken from the glass marquees of Lake Como and Australia,” observes wedding planner, stylist and coordinator Rebecca Marie (rebeccamarieweddings.co.uk). “If you like this look, consider fabric installations to add shade without compromising on style, and always explore hanging florals of some sort to fill the space above guests’ heads.”
Wedding planner Rebecca Green from Rebel & Anchor (rebelandanchor.co.uk) is also drawn to the stylistically unconventional. “It doesn’t have to be traditional,” she says. “I’m working with a few couples this year who have gone for something very different. One couple has chosen yurts – these create the most wonderful space which can be daisy-chained to create other areas, such as a bar and chill-out area. Another couple has opted for a giant circus tent. It’s fun and quirky and, again, creates a wow just being what it is.”
“Tipis are so versatile,” adds Hayley Eggleton from World Inspired Tents (worldinspiredtents.co.uk). “The sides can be raised to take in a beautiful view, sunset or cooling breeze in summer. In winter with the sides down, with solid oak doors, open fires lit and fairy lights sparkling, the tipis create a cosy winter wonderland.”
Once you’ve chosen the shape, try to establish your shade as this will inform many of the decisions that follow. “The colour of your structure can make such a big difference to the aesthetic of your day; take this into account and take note as to whether your tipi is canvas/beige in colour or a crisp white,” says Rebecca Marie.
“Choose a colour scheme that you love,” suggests Charlotte Winship from Tipi Spaces (tipispaces.co.uk). “It could be multiple colours or none at all: go neutral. You don’t have to add colour everywhere. Incorporate a few colour notes into your table arrangements with a simple table runner, coloured napkins, a charger plate, coloured candles (non-drip) or seasonal flowers.”
“My favourite way of injecting colour into your styling is through your candles,” says planner and stylist, Sophie Walker-Sünderhauf from The Little Details by Sophie (thelittledetailsbysophie.com). “They come in so many shades of various colours and it gives a reception a beautiful vibrant look.” Alternatively, Sophie suggests opting for another re-emerging trend: monochrome. “Use whites and black as your base colour with one other colour as an accent. This palette gives a reception a very clean look and is a lovely way of making a rustic venue look slightly more modern.”
Palette perfected? Think about the minutiae and set to work expressing yourselves with gusto. “Incorporate favourite hobbies, places you love, adventures you have experienced,” suggests Charlotte. “It’s a fun way to share insights into your life together with your friends and family and adds a personal touch.”
Hayley Eggleton agrees: “When it comes to styling, combining elements of your personalities and interests is a good starting base; look to your hobbies, favourite colours and flowers or home décor to get the creative ideas flowing.”
“Some of our favourite tipi styling has been DIY décor where the couples have created lots of things from scratch such as flowers, cakes, backdrops, table decoration, all with the help from friends and family, which can be very cost-effective,” she notes.
Make an entrance
Your style should be literally spilling out of your marquee, so give your guests a flavour of what’s in store via the outside spaces and walkways right up to the tent itself. “I love a floral entrance,” says Rebecca Green of a beautifully high-impact addition. “Whether it’s flowers sprawling out of a milk churn with wild abandonment or a considered but quirky deconstructed archway.”
Next, pack a visual punch with statement pieces inside. One or two will suffice to achieve the desired impact and can take any number of forms. “I love a statement piece!” enthuses Rebecca. “Perhaps think about the bar. The Natural Hire Company (thenaturalhirecompany.co.uk) has amazing circular wooden bars which can be decorated with foliage. Or if you want a DJ, perhaps look at someone like Disco Wed (discowed.com) who bring their own props and DJ out of a shed with hanging baskets!”
Depending on what shape and size of tent you choose, there may be one large space or several smaller separate or adjoining spaces to fill – which is where the fun really begins.
“Some marquees are large and white – how you work with the styling can soften this,” explains Rebecca Green. “This season most of my marquee weddings have gone for hanging floral installations to create that wow. Perhaps work with the rule of three if you’re looking at floral hoops across the whole ceiling. At one wedding we’re using two large garden trestles to hang over the dining area with lots of foliage hanging down from it. It’s effective and beautiful,” she reveals. “And at one of my weddings we’re having lots of lanterns just over the dancefloor area at different sizes and levels with colours that tie into the wedding scheme.”
“Tipis offer lots of places to hang decorations,” says Charlotte. “I use invisible nylon thread to hang brightly coloured lanterns between the poles. You can’t see the thread, so the lanterns look like they’re floating. Our tipi linking poles are a great place to create a hanging table arrangement over a long table. Hanging tea light holders look beautiful sparkling overhead.”
“It’s an incredible way to make the vibe super cosy,” adds Sophie for couples planning more intimate celebrations. “You could opt for a dried flower design and get it installed above your kitchen island after your wedding!”
One of the most impactful features of any marquee wedding is the lighting, with simple solutions evoking a stirring atmosphere. “Hanging festoon lights look super pretty as the sun’s going down,” suggests Rebecca Green. “Free-standing, outdoor chandeliers can also add a quirky touch of class.”
“I like to keep the lighting in our tipis and tents simple,” says Charlotte. “You don’t need bright lights unless you want to spotlight performers. Twinkly fairy lights wrapped around our poles offer a warm ambience after dark and reflect off the ivory white canvas. Candles also offer warmth and intimacy. Festoon lights strung between the tipi peaks are great for offering light outdoors so you can enjoy the warm summer nights. And a firepit is a great way to offer cosy natural light and warmth after dark.”
Lighting is also an easy way to up the stylistic ante and enhance the individual look of your wedding. “We love using lighting as a way to personalise and add drama to any event space,” says Hayley Jones from Sunset Tipis (sunsettipis.com). “Hiring festoon lights is an inexpensive way to transform an area especially when it changes from day to night – you really get the wow factor! For even more impact you can have lights strung in trees or around the perimeter edge of your party, which really alters the feel of your outside space when the sun goes down.”
“We also love it when couples get creative with their own lighting ideas, from candles in old gin bottles or glass baubles with tea lights strung from the ceiling,” she says. “Remember to designate someone who will light the candles at a certain time and make sure they bring a lighter!”
The floristry should be a key feature of your marquee wedding, whatever look and colour scheme you’re working with. Popular trends du jour include bright and colourful, sculptural and statement, vertical designs, and blousy, scented blooms.
“I love adding a bit of green,” says Charlotte. “Hanging pot plants, a few potted palms and some eucalyptus or willow garlands entwined around the cross poles are a simple way to add some colour and can be enjoyed after your wedding.”
“Dried flowers are also enduring and can be a great keepsake to remember your wedding or gift to friends and family afterwards,” she adds. “Pampas grass continues to be popular for creating larger botanic arrangements. It’s very tactile and sculptural so great for a statement piece and a touch of boho, especially with some hanging macramé.”
With backdrops and drapery all the rage, couples are using fabrics in new and imaginative ways to enhance the look and feel both inside and outside their tent.
“The freshest and most exciting trend for me when it comes to marquee weddings is the use of textiles, perhaps printed textiles lining the roof, or draped fabrics running throughout the entire structure,” says Rebecca Marie. “There is so much fun to be had when it comes to fabric installations and, when paired with feature lighting or floral installations, you are on to a winner.”
Fabric can transform any space, instantly adding colour, texture and pattern while alleviating the potential starkness of an all-white marquee. “It doesn’t have to be full-on – a subtle muted colour that complements the wedding colours and the flowers can look amazing,” affirms Rebecca Green.
Let’s go outside
“Don’t forget the outside!” reminds Rebecca Green. “If you’re having a marquee wedding it’s likely you’ve found the most perfect view and location to host it and, if that’s the case, create some nice seating areas where guests can relax and enjoy that view. Match them with your style or vibe for the day, whether that’s relaxed hay bales and firepits or little boho lounge set-ups with vintage rugs.”
words Hannah May