Summer Marquees and the Great British Weather

Written by  Tuesday, 29 March 2016

At this time of year clients are talking to us about a whole range of outdoor events for the summer ... the Great British Summer ... outdoors ... and the weather. Whether its a corporate stand at a county show; a summer ball; a wedding; concert; race or regatta, if you're going to be outdoors you need to do some contingency planning.

This article takes you through 16 hard earned lessons from the marquee industry. It was written by Sharon Maher who specialises in wedding marquees but the lessons are applicable to all outdoor, tented events. 


Marquees, or party tents as they are known in America, are very popular in Australia and California, where it is hot. So, you need to take a leaf out of their book and do the following:

 Action # 1: Put removable or roll up walls on the marquee

That way if it is a red hot day you can take them off or roll them up to let some air or breeze into the marquee. I mean you wouldn’t sit in your house or a hotel in the middle of summer with all the windows shut would you?

 Action #2: Have ceiling fans

Get the marquee company to add some ceiling fans in between the chandelier lighting. You could marry them in with a Tropical wedding theme.

 Action #3: Check the site for which direction is south

Give some thought to the layout of the marquee and the direction of the sun on the site. If you are having the wedding reception when the sun is at its strongest then make sure any windows are not on the south wall. I would recommend windows face west, that way the marquee will get the evening sun which isn’t as hot.

Put the top table against an east facing wall then the bride won’t boil in her wedding dress! Position the dancing area, which is likely to have no windows, to the south.

 Action #4: Have an outdoor covered verandah

That way you get a shaded area. If you do site outdoor furniture in the sun make sure you include parasols. Position the verandah facing west to pick up the evening sun.


Aah, the biggest concern of them all in the UK. No one wants their marquee wedding celebration to turn into a Glastonbury mud bath! So, what can you do?

Action #5: Hire a marquee with a proper wooden flooring system

This type of floor provides a gap between the floor boards and grass for rain to drain underneath. Save cost by putting carpet on matting on grass at your peril! There is nowhere for rain water to go other than up through the matting and into the carpet. In my article aboutcowboy marquee builders I explain why there are a lot of marquee companies who don’t have wooden flooring systems.

Action #6: Make sure that proper guttering is fitted

The marquee company must fit guttering between the main marquee and any smaller marquees that are joined on, such as catering tents, porch pagodas or toilet blocks, as this is the most likely place for water to leak in.

Action #7: Use a weather proof surface for paths

Paths across grass need to be laid especially if you are going to site a toilet block away from the marquee or there is a reasonable distance from a house or hotel. If your budget can stretch to a covered, carpeted walkway, even better.

Action #8: Incorporate a toilet block into a small marquee and join it to the main marquee

Your guests don’t have to go outside to the loo if the toilets adjoin the marquee. It can be partially lined and a lining hung as a seperator can create a distinct area for a ladies powder room with easy chairs and a full length mirror. It can also double up as the cloak room.

Action #9: Provide a good supply of brollies and wellies!

Ladies can slip off their Jimmy Choos and don a pair of wellies if they must walk on the grass!

Snow and Ice

A winter wedding with the  marquee seasonally decorated, with snow on the ground is a wonderful site.

The biggest problem with snow is whether we can get to site to build the marquee, and the inevitable delays. But that hasn’t stopped us yet. My motto is “we’ll find a way”! So, you need to consider the following:

Action #10: Make a contingency for delays

Delays are likely when it snows so factor in some contingency in your schedule for dressing the marquee later than you thought. Best not to make arrangements to pamper yourself at the nearest spa the afternoon before!

Action #11: Make sure you have got adequate heating and fuel

I recommend a minimum of two heaters, and that they have thermostat controls.

Heat your marquee gently after an overnight freeze to avoid condensation, starting at a low temperature, but enough to fire up the heating. Too high and you will get condensation which can drip all over your nice carpet and table decorations. Insulate the heater and fuel pipes. You can’t put a gas or diesel heater inside the marquee, so check the weather forecast and if a big freeze is coming then ask the marquee company to provide insulation. If snow is forecast overnight, then fire up the heaters on a low setting throughout the night so that snow will not settle on the roof to any great extent. A marquee roof cave in the night before your big day because of heavy snow is, they tell me, not a pretty sight.

Get some electric blow heaters as back up.

Action #12: Double skin the walls

Some marquee frames have two grooves into which the PVC walls slide, which can take two wall sheets. One wall is the norm but in extreme weather conditions two can be fitted which will provide extra insulation.

Action #13: Snow shovels at the ready

The marquee company are unlikely to be contracted to clear snow from the site so make sure the groom, best man and groomsmen are on hand with shovels on the day the marquee company are due to build.


The main issue with a strong wind is the marquee lifting and collapsing. This can only happen if it is left partially completed with the roof on and/or some walls fitted, which effectively turns the marquee into a giant kite!

Action #14: Never allow the marquee company to leave a marquee partially  completed with roof and walls in place in high winds

Use a reputable marquee company and this won’t happen, because they would leave a marquee with frame up only and all roofs and walls removed. So, the wind can blow through and not lift the structure.

Action #15: Ensure the marquee has been staked and weighted sufficiently

Once the marquee is completed and properly staked and/or weighted it will not blow away.

Action #16: Fit solid walls and windows

I’m afraid that there is not a great deal you can do about the noise inside a marquee with PVC walls from a strong wind, other than turning up the music loud, because it is, after all, a temporary structure and doesn’t have the same rigidity as a permanent building.

You can reduce the effect of wind by fitting solid plastic walls and glass windows to a marquee instead of PVC, but that will increase the cost.

 Finally ...

... there is no guarantee of perfect benign weather conditions in any part of the world but if you use a reputable marquee company they will watch out for all the above contingencies, and advise you on the best course of action to make sure your event goes ahead without any hitches.  

 Article by Sharon Maher of myweddingmarquee.com 

Kate Holt

Kate Holt has organised events in both the public, private, not for profit and voluntary sectors for many years. She is currently the Managing Director of event creation and management company Happening up North.