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The Friday Fight-Out – Marquee Vs Indoor Reception

After my rather talented fiancée and my future brother in law photographed this rather epic Marquee wedding a couple of weeks ago I started thinking more about marquees and the advantages and disadvantages of using them over an indoor alternative. In one of my former jobs I was a lighting designer for all kinds events and have worked in Marquees of all different shapes and sizes (and in all kinds of weather conditions!) so I’m well aware of the potential problems of using a marquee. That said there is definitely something about them I love and, particularly in summer, they’re an extremely popular choice with many couples. So, temporary or permanent structure, that is the question and the hot topic for today’s Friday Fight-Out. So, LET BATTLE COMMENCE!

Presenting the arguments for the Marquee wedding, prior to starting to photograph weddings her previous experience of temporary structures consists of one scared night in a tent  with some friends that put her off forever! It’s Dom “The Tog” Bride
Presenting the arguments against, he once had to abandon work whilst rigging high-power  lighting to the highest  (metal) point of a marquee  upon realising that the rumbling he could hear was not the DJ testing the subwoofers but the rumble of thunder directly overhead, It’s Matt “The Gormless” Groom


Dom: Marquees are a blank canvas – you’re free to create whatever look you want rather than being limited by the shape and features of a room.

Matt: But often you need to do more to a marquee to make it look great – it is effectively a big white tent whereas buildings come with their own personality and character which often you only need to build upon rather than starting from scratch.

Dom: Marquees can be constructed pretty much anywhere as long as there’s a little bit of garden space! They can be built in different shapes and sizes and accommodate a huge number of guests. If you want to hold your reception at a beautiful location that simply can’t accommodate all of your guests a marquee can be a great option to give you the best of both worlds. If you have a big garden you could even have your reception at your own home which can be really lovely!

Matt: Setting up a marquee isn’t as straight forward as it seems and space isn’t the only issue. No matter how warm and bright a day it is you will need both heating and lighting in the evening – these draw a lot of power (much more than a domestic household socket can provide). Your caterers may also need power for their appliances (though many use gas cookers). All of this means that unless you’re near a large outdoor power supply you’re going to have to hire in a power generator which are expensive – not just in the fixed hire cost but in the varying and unpredictable fuel costs. Generators are notoriously unreliable so I would also highly recommend a backup generator – necessary but a further cost!

Dom: The white material marquees are made of allows natural light to illuminate the room and keeps that gorgeous outdoor feel whilst still protecting you from the elements! Getting a nice lining to the marquee helps to transform what is basically a tent into a very elegant space and fabrics can be selected to match your theme and tie in with the tablecloths and seat covers.

Matt: That’s great during the day but once it gets dark you’re going to need to bring in some lighting. Most marquee companies will put in some basic candelabra style lights but if you want to go the whole hog and light up the area beautifully it’s going to be another additional cost to hire in a specialist events lighting company. (Although well lit marquees do admittedly look extremely pretty!)

Dom: If you’re after an outdoor wedding but can’t completely trust the weather the marquee is the way to go – decorated correctly they can be made to feel like an extension of the garden – a covered space but far more relaxed than going indoors. Guests tend to drift in and out of the gardens more easily in a marquee than a permanent structure. Lighting up the garden around the marquee can help to keep this idea running into the evening.

Matt: Marquees do shelter you from the elements and are very solid structures but they can still have issues in really bad conditions. I have twice been working in a marquee during a torrential thunderstorm – one caused major generator issues (not a happy evening as I ran around rebooting them with guests sitting in the dark) and the other sprang a leak (although admittedly that was during probably the worst storm I’ve ever experienced!) Problems are not commonplace but they are still a risk.


Dom: Marquees can cater for whatever sized guest list you have in mind, are highly flexible and allow you (in theory at least) to have your wedding wherever you want it. They look elegant, maintain a nice outdoor feel and offer a blank canvas to put your stamp on and decorate entirely to your own taste.

Matt: Marquees can work brilliantly but tend to come with a list of hidden costs that can make them very pricey! Power generators, Portaloos, lighting, catering facilities and lining material are just a few of the additional costs you need to think about and make sure you have covered. If the weather does turn then rain and wind can be heard loudly from within, and asking your female guests in their high heels to traipse through the mud to get to the marquee itself also needs to be properly considered.

So who wins? Only you can decide! If you’ve had good or bad experiences with Marquee weddings then why not tell us about it! Leave a comment below or catch us on twitter – we’d love to hear from you!

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