Best start looking now!
When we think about planning, one of the first things we imagine is the photos and what kind of backdrop they'll have. A gorgeous harvest field, a fairytale forest or in your very own back garden! Whatever you decide, it's really important to consider the venue and the Big Top simultaneously. Ideally you'll have a venue booked before you start looking at structures as some places can get booked up 2 years or more in advance, so we advise you make a start on that right away. If you're struggling for ideas, then consider day trips out to see farms, campsites, National Trust sites, Hotels, Golf courses or privately owned estates. Whether you want the entire event outside, or a combination of inside a building and out in the grounds, there will be something to spark your imagination
How much space is Enough?
Endless rolling fields aren't available to everyone so it's important to understand what footprint you're working with. Tell your hirer the length and width of your footprint, send them a picture if you're feeling really generous, and they should be able to figure out the rest.
Expect that in certain circumstances they might require to carry out a site visit so that they can see for themselves what it is you're asking them to do. Most hirers will carry this out free of charge if they are local enough and might occasionally charge for transport costs if you're far away. In this modern world of technology though you should be fine with some photos and images on Google Earth.
You may be asked to confirm the 'footprint' of the tent will fit. A Footprint is the full, clear space that you have available. It might be a patch of grass, a bit of tarmac or a combination of the 2. What's important is that you measure the full space (using a tape measure in metres & centimetres is good enough) and avoid any bushes, trees, buildings or anything else which can get in the way of the marquee & guy ropes. Any questions just ask us for an architectural elevation....
Another venue consideration is how flat the ground is. Putting a temporary structure on a hill can be done but it's worth considering moments like a sit-down meal or dancing - people can get disorientated in a closed environment which has a sloping floor - our brains just aren't used to it! Fear not though because it takes a considerable hill to cause any issues.
You are likely to be choosing between two surface options - grass, or what we call 'hard standing'. This includes concrete, tarmac, compressed gravel and anything you can't hammer a stake into.
- Grass is the simplest to deal with because anything can go up on it. Marquees can be staked into the ground to keep them up or hold them down (we'll get to the difference between the two later) so it's nice and easy.
- Hard standing is a little more complicated because you normally end up with having to use weights to serve the purpose that stakes would normally serve, which is known as 'ballast' and can take the form of concrete blocks or water tanks. These can be used on hard standing or on grass, but can get expensive.
- Another option is to use stakes even with hard-standing, which can certainly keep costs down. It's worth considering the additional labour needed to make this happen and also whether you have permission to put holes in the hard surface. Always check with the venue before requesting a site visit.
Amenities and Comforts
Are toilet facilities provided by your venue? If not, you'll need to hire some in. These can be individual ones or a trailer with a few inside. You'd be surprised at how posh you can get temporary bathrooms these days – imagine backstage VIP at Glastonbury, they have running water and mirrors. There are also now companies doing very hygienic and professional temporary compost loos, for the more environmentally conscious.
If you're having overnight campers you may also need to provide them with showers. Generally, your venue will have these facilities organised or have a local company that they regularly refer to. Quite a lot of companies will do both toilets and showers. In terms of toilet ratio to guests, again it's best to check with your hirer or even have a look online at the useful 'toilet calculator' information. Numbers vary depending on female or male guests, the length of the event and whether you're serving food and drink.
Are you serving food? If so is there a kitchen on site? Whoever does the catering will have some requirements so it's best to talk to them first in terms of dimensions and what infrastructure they provide. Equally, some venues are less keen to have different caters using their kitchen, so make sure you check with them before making any commitments.
You may find that you need another small marquee to serve the purpose of a kitchen if they don't have their own. You may also need a marquee to serve food in if neither the kitchen or main marquee has enough space.
Ask for Help
As will all other aspects of event planning and management, we have a lot of experience and contacts. We even have a page for venues on our weddings website so don't be afraid to drop us a line or just fill out the form below for super-quick help from our team.