Planning your tipi wedding
Where to start at this exciting time? You’ve seen the tipis online or in person and know they’re just right for you but what next? The guide below should help and covers most of the common parts we see to making a tipi wedding successful. It will require a lot of planning and work but is well worth it on the day.
If you break down the whole task into individual tasks then it becomes much simpler and more fun.
What will you need on the day?
Obviously you’ll need a dress, bridesmaids’ dresses, suits (hair and makeup done etc.) but this goes without saying!
Venue, tipis, stocked bar and staff, caterers (for day and evening food if required), place for reception drinks, music (DJ, band or both), generator & toilets (if not already on site), layout plan, decorations, name cards, tables, chairs, flowers, table plans displayed, wedding car (if required), area for parking, outdoor games, microphone for speeches, skip & bins around the site. There are so many additional options including venue dresser, wedding planner, giant letters, photo booths, chocolate fountain, singing waiters if required). A nominated person in charge is also essential.
How to find a venue: There are many fields and outdoor wedding venues but how to find them? You could try asking local farmers, friends or camp sites, but often the tipi company will know of many different suitable sites. All About Me Marquees and Events have a list on their website as an excellent starting point. We have run bars at hundreds of different locations and can also help if required.
Location of Venue?
You could get married at a church, registry office, on site (if properly licenced as you can’t get married in a tipi yet) or simply have a ceremony on site?
Depending on your chosen option, this may affect where you chose your tipi location to be. You don’t really want guests travelling too far from the church to your venue. Think about where guests will stay. Miles away from anywhere may be nice but can your guests get a taxi or can they stay on site. Glamping tents are also an excellent option to consider.
Choosing the correct amount of tipis? Getting the correct space is crucial. Too little and it will feel cramped and unusable and too much and you’ll lose atmosphere as guests will be too spread out. Your chosen tipi company will be able to provide plenty of advice and use this as a guide. Again we can advise too from experience. We often see plans with a bar literally shoved in a corner, which is obviously unworkable! There are plenty of options to increase overall space cost effectively by using extensions, catering tents (6x6 metres), bar tents (6x6 metres), Nimbus tipis (5.5 metres) or having chill out areas using Cirrus tipis (8.25 metres). We have seen many different layouts and can also advise what will work for you and your guests. As a basic guide allow 1 giant hat (Stratus) for every 50 or 60 guests. This will obviously depend on its use and what you plan on putting inside. Having round tables will use more space than rectangular tables for example and using the dance floor space for the top table is often used.
Time of Year: A tipi wedding is a special occasion no matter what time of year. In winter, adding doors, sealing off the front with clear panels and adding thermostatically controlled heating will ensure your tipis are nice and warm whatever the weather. Add a fire pit and it’s a special place. You just need to have a wet and dry weather plan especially during the summer months! When it’s really hot outside (it can happen!) plan for the sides to be open and have the tipis open at the top. Any time of year is a great time for a party in a tipi.
Setup: Your tipis will usually be completed so you can start getting ready a day or two (at latest) before your big day. Many hands make light work and recruiting family and friends to help will make the whole experience more enjoyable. Ensure you have a plan for setup and everything you need for the day (including food and drink), especially if it’s a more remote location.
Security: We would always recommend that a person or people stay over by the tipis after setup for security. Obviously some locations won’t require this, but for the majority, it’s recommended. You’ve spent a lot of money and put untold hours into this. Whilst theft or malicious damage is very rare, it can happen and this will go a long way to preventing it.
Points to consider
Licence: A premises will either be licenced (as in a pub) or not. It’s as simple as that. If there isn’t a premises licence then a Temporary Events Notice will need to be applied for online from the local council. We can help with this to ensure compliance. The licence covers not only the bar but also the playing of music and a band will need to be included on this. Failure to comply with the licence can lead to a £20000 fine plus 6 months imprisonment. Not really worth it!
Caterers: There are many different types of caterers available. Think what it is you want from them and try their food if possible. Do you want formal or informal food? 3 course meal or festival style street food? Fish & chips, wood fired pizza, BBQ? Buffet or served? Cost will obviously play an important part but you can have a combination of all or some of them. We have a list of tried and tested caterers that we can share if needed.
Power: If there’s no mains power then you’ll need to hire a generator. The tipi company will advise but expect to need one with a power output of around 40 KVA. Too small and items will trip and you’ll lose power. Bands and caterers often have the highest power requirements and you’ll need to ask them what they will need.
Space: Have you allowed enough space in the event of wet weather? If it’s wet then most people will be inside the tipis most of the time. If it’s dry then apart from the meal during the day, you’ll have a split between inside and outside.
Hay bales: A very good way to provide seating outside (or inside in chill out areas or bar tents) that look superb. Add cable reel tables or home-made pallet tables and you have an amazing outdoor space for little money.
Avoiding common mistakes we see:
Don’t site the bar next to the dance floor or band: If you want spillages, frustrated guests at not being heard at the bar, trips and falls, then this is a great idea! You get the picture. Always site the bar at the other end to the dance floor.
Plan for waste: Your guests will always make more mess than you think. Place bins outside or food, drink and any general rubbish will just be left where they are. A small skip located out of sight will ensure that all rubbish can be quickly removed and is one less task to do the following day!
Remember a microphone for speeches: It’s an obvious one, but it occurs too often. Many guests will not hear your speeches if you don’t have a mic.
Bring scissors, tape, drawing pins, a ladder etc. to secure decorations. Think in advance on what you’re planning and make sure you pack them.
Can you offer your own reception, table & toast drinks?: Many people start with the idea of doing these drinks themselves. It is possible but you really need to think about the logistics of doing this on the day. Are you able to store, chill and serve them for guest arrival, during meals and ready for the toast. You’d also need to have all glassware sorted and ensure water is available too. You won’t have this problem if left to the bar or catering company.
Remember heating. You can easily control the temperatures in tipis with the thermostats and heaters that your tipi company can supply. These can usually be added last just before setup (if available).
Have a nominated person in charge. There will be multiple suppliers and all will want to know where they should be and when they can setup. If there are any questions on the day it’s very useful to have this person available, enabling you to enjoy your day.
Allow the bar enough space. Too little and guests will have to queue. The bar needs fridges, back bar, space for staff and of course the physical bar itself. A sloping sided tipi will push the bar too far out but there are far better options such as an extension canvas or bar tent. Review all tipi plans and chances are you’ll see the bar in one corner with just a metre of space! In order to run a full bar properly for 140 guests, you should allow a minimum 2.8 metres from a side (at least 1.5 metres high) and 3.2 metres in width. Add more guests and you’ll need to increase the width of the bars only.
We have been to hundreds of different weddings & events in tipis and every single one was different! One common word that we hear every time though is “Wow”. Many guests will never have seen the tipis before and they always exceed expectations.
It may look like a lot of work at first, but it will be fun and will always be worth it. Enjoy!