Choosing a marquee for your wedding ceremony or wedding reception is a little different from wandering into your local camping store and saying – “I’ll have that one” with a pointed finger on the showroom floor.
There are many considerations including size, number of guests, accessibility, wall and structure type, fit out style, flooring, windows and doors plus more!
To get the complete rundown, I spoke to Matthew from The Party Hire Co who are based in the wedding centre at Gindurra Park Somersby on the Central Coast. Matthew has the most amazing marquees and service I have seen – he really looks after his clients. Although based on teh Central Coast, Matthew is frequently setting up his wedding marquees in Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley areas.
If you’d rather listen to my interview with Matthew, you can do that here.
Wedding Marquees, they’re not all the same
Andrew: Okay I’m here with Matthew from the Party Hire Company up at Somersby, and I guess the idea of today’s interview is just to get a bit of an idea about hiring a marquee for a wedding. So maybe you want to get a bit of introduction, tell us how long you’re in business for.
Matthew: Absolutely. We’ve been here for 12 years now. Our company’s run by my wife, Lyn and I. And it’s certainly a family business, we’ve had the kids involved over the years. But we’re in the business of providing marquees for weddings, corporate events, parties, just about anything really.
Andrew: Okay if I’m talking say weddings, specifically, how far out from the wedding do people get in touch with you to book a marquee.
Matthew: Absolutely. We’re getting contacts really up to 2 years out. And we have wedding inquiries and wedding bookings up to 12 months out as a norm.
Andrew: Wow, so can you do multiple weddings on a single day?
Matthew: We can. We do usually try to limit ourselves to 2 or 3 weddings on any given weekend so we can pay particular attention to each job.
Andrew: And you can do Saturday, Sunday weddings?
Matthew: Absolutely. We’ve done mid-week. Public holiday, funny sort of days. We did Anzac Day this week, a couple of weeks ago, which was a challenge. But we did it.
Andrew: So when the girls come and they’re thinking of having an outdoor wedding or an outdoor ceremony, I guess there’s two separate categories out there. So let’s talk about say, receptions first. So they’ve got a block of land, or a property, what information do you need for them to book the marquee.
Matthew: Probably the first thing we need is to know an approximate number of guests and probably only do, is the marquee going be on a grassed area or perhaps a concrete area. They’re probably the critical things. And whether they’re going have a sit-down meal or a cocktail style function. With that information, we can then generally start to put something fairly generic together to give them an idea.
Andrew: So I can understand with the grass ground you’re going put timbered floor down.
Matthew: That’s right, yes.
Andrew: So if you’ve got concrete, obviously that’s easy. Why the difference between the meal services, whether sit-down or?
Matthew: Basically with the sit-down meal, the marquee will be sized differently. So we use more space. So whether it be a sit-down meal with table service or even buffet service, all of that comes into play as to the right sized marquee.
Andrew: So you need a larger marquee if everyone’s going be seated, rather than the stand up cocktail style wedding. Okay. And then with the marquees, say there’s a hundred person wedding. I guess that’s pretty standard with most of our weddings. Is there different styles of marquee or is there one size fits all? One stand that fits all?
Matthew: These days, there’s many different styles. So we do, what we call traditional or peg n pole type marquees. But mostly these days we do structured marquees which give us the ability to have sliding walls and make the most of the product. Styling wise, we can do everything from silk lining and fairy lights. You’ve got the ability to put in arched windows or decorative walls, we can put in full clear walls, if there’s a view to be enhanced. So all those sort of things can be talked through.
Andrew: So once a couple have decided on the size of their wedding party and the style of meal they’re having and they’ve got the location, do you have to go out to the location or you can just chat with them on the phone and work out what you’re going need.
Matthew: Basically we get most of it through the phone and email, and we can usually come up with a pretty accurate costing. We then provide a free site inspection and that’s critical to get an idea of how we’re going get in there logistically. Getting vehicles in, getting the job done right. And we might also have some good ideas as to the aspect of the marquee, to take advantage of sunrise, sunsets, the ability for guests to get in and out, so we’ve been doing it a long time so we like to be able to offer that.
Andrew: So that happens a fair way out from the actual wedding because you need to set aside the marquee for that job?
Matthew: That’s correct. We again may be doing some site meeting, typically 6-12 months prior to the actual event. And then everything’s tied up with a month to go, we’re talking with the client, the final numbers, adjusting things accordingly, getting ready for the big day.
Andrew: Right, okay. Just going back to the style of marquees. When I think marquee, I guess a lot of brides think that the standard canvas marquee with the arch style windows, and you saying you can have sliding doors now?
Matthew: Absolutely. These days we’ve got sliding doors. We’ve got full clear walls. We can even do hard-fixed doors, there’s lots of different things that you can do and we encourage people to have a look through the magazines. They may see things from overseas or here, and often a client will send us a photograph and if we haven’t got it, quite often we can get it for them.
Andrew: Okay right. I imagine sliding doors, is that a hard style rather than a canvas isn’t it?
Matthew: It is actually still an acrylic door, a vinyl door, so it will slides back and concertinas back to a point where it can then be tied with a ribbon or something that’ll take it out of the way.
Andrew: And can the couples choose windows, how many windows, or that just comes sort of a standard with the marquee?
Matthew: No, absolutely, everybody is individual so we sit down with the bride and their request is met so they can have walls clear all the way around to take advantage of the view, they can have half the blank walls, though a lot of photography takes place, the photographers like to have a blank backdrop, so we provide that behind the bridal table. So that’s all down for discussion.
Andrew: Wow, okay. And if it’s a grass surface, obviously their’s flooring, is that’s plywood?
Matthew: Absolutely, there’s different types of flooring these days. So there’s probably 3 or 4 different options and people can go from typical plank and ply flooring, right through to fully carpeted options and what we call integrated flooring, which is a polished timber floor. So there’s, again, 3 or 4 options these days. Things have come a long, long way.
Andrew: That’s for sure. So is price based on the style of marquee or the location or per head?
Matthew: It’s probably a little bit of both but normally we can give people a fairly good indication on a per-head basis to start off with. Cause most people are ringing up, trying to find out what’s it going to cost. They might be in the early stages of ‘do we go to a venue?’ or ‘do want a marquee on a beach?’ whatever, so that initial conversation we can determine on a per-head basis.
Andrew: Okay let’s say a scenario I’ve got a hundred guests, I’m at my Auntie’s property at Matcham. And she’s got a nice acreage there, it’s going be on the grass and I want a timber floor.
Matthew: Roughly you’re gonna be looking at about $5000 to $6000, and that’s absolutely everything, ready to go. So your venue’s set and ready.
Andrew: Is it set up the day before the wedding? Or 2 days before?
Matthew: Now we always do it a couple of days before the function to give the bride plenty of time to be able to decorate and do all those last-minute things. So normally a Saturday function would be set up on a Thursday, so hand it over to decoration and caterers on a Friday. So it’s a no fuss, everybody can get in and do their job and we then pack up on the Monday.
Andrew: So once you guys go in, you basically erect the structure and then inside it’s just a totally blank canvas and that’s where everyone goes in and does their bit?
Matthew: That’s correct. We provide silk lining and silk walling throughout the marquee. But what we find is that most of the decorators take over so we might place the tables, but after that comes in all the linen and centrepieces, chair covers and things like that.
Andrew: Sure. And then if we’re looking at a ceremony style. I know I have done a few weddings recently, we’ve had a lot of rain, and they are outdoor ceremonies and couples have had their marquees booked. And I’ve noticed the new marquees, they’re really like solid good structures. They’re not flapping around the wind, is that the sort of stuff that you guys do?
Matthew: Absolutely. We’ve invested a lot of money and time and research into what’s the best. And we use a German type structure, it’s very, very heavy. Being a builder by trade myself, I love the fact that I can sleep at night, these things will take the wind and the rain that’s been thrown at them, certainly in the last twelve months.
Andrew: So they’re basically an Aluminium sort of structure with the canvas over the top?
Matthew: That’s right. The modern marquees are a solid Aluminium rigid structure, and then all the roofs and the walls are actually pulled through a tracking system. So they’re absolutely water tight and wind tight.
Andrew: And on the day, if the couples turn up to the venue, or to the location for the ceremony, and it looks like the rain coming from the one side, and they picked this spot because of the view, can they elect to have say ‘no walls on one side’ or ‘walls on one side’?
Matthew: Absolutely. And again this is where the modern marquees come into play. Because we can either remove the walls or we can open the walls. So if the wind’s coming from the north, we can close the north walls and open the south, and vice versa if the winds swings around by the time the bride arrives, we can run around and slide it all open and shut the other way. Very versatile.
Andrew: So for a ceremony it’s actually a bit different. You’re actually there on the day rather than for a reception where you set up on a Thursday before Saturday.
Matthew: That’s right. For a ceremony, if someone was booking a ceremony marquee. Someone would be on site for the bride’s arrival. We would be basically waiting out in the wings, to pack it all up again once it had been finished.
Andrew: So you can adjust the walls and get everything right just for them on that day. That’s fantastic. So you pack up once the ceremony is finished and everyone’s left?
Matthew: That’s correct. Yeah, that’s right.
Andrew: Now a lot of these sort of ceremonies they happen on council lands or parks, are you aware of the permissions that couples have to get? Or can you give them some advise with that or…?
Matthew: We just give them advice that they can speak to the local council.
Andrew: It’s always council?
Matthew: It’s always council, unless it’s a private property that’s available for ceremonies, but normally if it’s council land we recommend that they go and see their council, obtain the relevant permission and then we can come along and do the job for them, no problem.
Andrew: So do you need to sight that permission in writing? Or do they just give you a call and say “Matthew I’ve got permission”.
Matthew: I have to say it’s probably up to the bride and groom, and we’d like to sight it but normally they just say, we do have permission, and what they have to be aware, is it if we get told to go away by council office because permission wasn’t gained, we have to act on that. So hopefully the bride or groom or the family are doing the right thing in getting the permission. We can come in and happily, we had an occasion where we needed to move other people, asked them very nicely to move, because an area was booked for the marquee. So we’re happy to do that. And we do that very nicely so we can get on with the job with the bride.
Andrew: Sure, okay. That’s great. And I know that with the ceremony style often, they’re a little bit small because most people are standing, so not as large a marquees as your reception. Is that a little bit cheaper? Or it works the same price?
Matthew: Absolutely. It cheaper, based on the marquees generally on a square metre basis. So a marquee for a standing-room only function would be significantly smaller than something with tables and chairs.
Andrew: Okay, right. So for a hundred people with the immediate family sitting for a ceremony at a local park. Do you have a rough idea?
Matthew: Could be in a vicinity of anywhere between $500 and $1,500.
Andrew: Okay, right. So it’s pretty reasonable. Good peace of mind.
Matthew: That’s right. If the weather’s looking dodgy, it is a huge peace of mind.
Andrew: I spoke to some celebrants recently for a blog interview, and I know myself as a photographer. I hate to have ceremony outdoors, booked without a backup plan. A marquee’s a good peace of mind.
Matthew: We get lots of phone calls on a Friday afternoon when the weather’s looking a bit dodgy and we can’t always promise that we can do it.
Andrew: Okay, so they haven’t actually booked you but they’re getting worried the day before.
Matthew: That’s correct. So there’s a lot of rainy weekend, late Friday afternoon phone calls. We get a lot of them.
Andrew: And teary brides.
Matthew: That’s right. Some we can accommodate, others we can’t. So it’s always best if you think it’s cheap insurance for a big day.
Andrew: Definitely. Look if it turns out to be sunny or hot, it’s still a great place to serve drinks or have some nibblies.
Matthew: It provides even an atmosphere, we’ve done them on headlands around the coast in Toowoon Bay sitting up amongst the pinetrees, overlooking the water, a white marquee. It sets a scene.
Andrew: Yeah sure. I know that your prices, you told me earlier that they’re pretty much all-inclusive, but you’ve had had a couple of weird ones, where you’ve had to go up on the sand dunes or cross creeks and up crazy places, so you look at those sites and you adjust the price according?
Matthew: Absolutely. And we do that with the client so we meet on the site, look at how we’re going to get the gear there, the men there to provide the job, and then we’d price it accordingly. So that’s probably the only real variable that we can’t see from doing it in the office.
Andrew: Okay. I know when the couples, they book you, you are actually looking after the jobs, that it’s not a bunch of foreigners turn up that you’ve never met before and…
Matthew: That’s right. I think one of the things, we’re a small company, we do specialize more in the wedding side of things so I’m on each and every job. So I’m making sure that it’s done how the bride, the groom, the family sat down with me, this is what we envisage and that’s why I’m there to make sure it comes out as the end result.
Andrew: Right, okay. Fantastic. Is there anything else that brides would normally ask that I haven’t sort of covered that would help them when booking a marquee?
Matthew: Well, question, I think a lot of brides ask about, you know, ‘should we have a floor in the marquee?’ or ‘should we have silk lining?’ or things like that. Cause they’re not quite sure so if they’re not quite sure, my advice to them is give us a call and have a chat. We can show them photographs of I guess before and after shots or discuss with them their site. Because every site is different. Some sites would absolutely need a floor. Whereas other sites there’s nothing nicer than a beautiful white marquee over fresh-cut grass or lawns. It can look lovely. But other areas, if it’s a little bit boggy or damp, it’s absolutely essential that we get a floor in there for the ladies in high heels and things like that. But really, we’re here for anything the bride’s got anything that comes to mind and usually that comes out over the period of our discussions, which we’ve become quite close with some of our clients because we’re dealing with them in such a long, long period.
Andrew: Yeah, sure. So just back to the flooring, if someone has got this beautiful spot picked out with nice freshly-cut grass and it looks like that there’s rain coming, can you add a floor then to any marquee? Or do you have to have a specific marquee that would take a floor?
Matthew: Any of the marquees can take a floor. So that’s not an issue. It’s more of looking out ahead as to again, the logistics and stocks. We don’t want to be trying to rush in with the floor at the 11th hour. So forward planning takes away a lot of that worries.
Andrew: And what about the footprint left on the premises? Say, I’m at my Auntie’s place at Matcham, I don’t have any Auntie at Matcham but just say I did and she’s worried about what the ground’s going to look like when you leave. How is that?
Matthew: Absolutely. That’s a good one. Because a lot of people ask that I’ve done them on tennis courts, I’ve done them on croquet lawns, beautifully meticulously kept lawns, and we’re very proud of the fact that I say we leave nothing but footprints. So when we come in, that’s something we look at the site meeting. Can we get a truck close to the site, how far we have to carry it, because we won’t drive across someone’s lawn and leave big truck tyre marks across it. When we leave, the lawn is reinstated as it was. So normally what we find is once everybody has been in that area, there’s been a floor down, it might have some browning over the grass, but I can absolutely say that with a water and another mow, you wouldn’t know where we’ve been.
Andrew: Alright, so that’s great. So I’m thinking with the croquet surface, you won’t drive pegs in the ground with ropes and things.
Matthew: No, absolutely not.
Andrew: That’s a freestanding marquee?
Matthew: That’s right. Freestanding marquee. We can even put down carpet pads under the feet of the marquee to protect the surface, we do marquees around pools and surrounds, things like that. So it’s gently, gently and every job is individual.
Andrew: Fantastic. Awesome. So how can couples find you if they want to book you guys to do their wedding?
Matthew: Yeah absolutely, we’d love them to come in our showroom here in Gindurra toPark, we’re at Unit 12, 54 Gindurra Road at Somersby. There’s a number of wedding companies up here so it’s worth a trip up and having a wander around. They can have a look at our website, which is www.thepartyhireco.com. Or jump on and shoot us off an email. Our phone number is 02 43 400 500, nice easy one. Give us a call. Any of us up here would love to have that chat.
Andrew: Fantastic. And just one last thing, I know there might be some girls or couples listening to this that don’t live in our area. They could be overseas or interstate, if they’re looking to have a marquee for their wedding, what should they check for with their marquee company, their local ones? Is there anything they can check to make sure they’re going do a good job like you guys.
Matthew: I think check references, you know.
Matthew: Testimonials, look at past suppliers and have a chat to local caterers and photographers and other like-industry people. Because you get to know in an area, the good people are working together and providing a great service. So you can get a lot of good feedback that way. Having said that, we’ve provided weddings for people from England. In recent times, we’ve done 2 weddings for lovely English brides they come and being married here on the Central Coast. We’ve never met them, until the day that they’ve arrived for their wedding, it was all done over the internet. Photos, references, testimonials, long chats, often late at night to suit and it all came together.
Andrew: Fantastic. So just look into the background of the company and try to get some referrals?
Matthew: Absolutely. And essentially look at what sort of product they’re using, we constantly referenced against lesser marquees so in this industry there’s what’s called structured marquee, which is what I said, it’s a big aluminium frame work, these things aren’t cheap to purchase. And they are the very best, so they will hold up to the weather. And fortunately being back and seen after a weekend, the remnants of lesser marquees, all the traditional style, peg n pole marquees, lightweight products that have been brought in over the years from China, and they just don’t stand up. If we get a storm, you could be in trouble. So essentially, you look at the product that your supplier is using.
Andrew: I know you guys are first rate of a… I’ve stood under yours in massive winds and rain and got great photos. Thank Matthew, that’s awesome.