It's one of those perfect images that great romantic
Yes, wedding marquees can sound like a wonderful way of turning a beautiful outdoor spot into a fabulous wedding venue but they have their problems, as Dave Simms, head of wedding insurance for specialist insurer Ecclesiastical, knows only too well. Dave's been helping to insure weddings for Ecclesiastical right across the UK for over 10 years and has handled a number of claims relating to marquees in that time. 'They're not the number one problem for most weddings,' observes Dave, 'but they come fairly high on the list. Anything that's made of fabric and is white is a natural target for calamities of all shapes and sizes.'
But before we get to the problems, let's start with the basics: hiring a marquee in the first place. Generally speaking, couples tend to hire marquees because they either want to use a venue that can't cater for their guest numbers - say a smaller hotel with grounds - or they have a particular outdoor spot in mind, such as the garden of an abbey or Victorian folly that isn't able to accommodate guests. Then there are the couples who hire marquees so they can have their wedding overlooking the sea, and others who want to use one of their family's gardens, perhaps to keep costs down.
Marquees come in three styles - traditional tents with poles standing on the inside; frame tents with poles built into the walls and Chinese hat tents, which are open at the sides. Prices vary widely but can range from anything between 300-5,000, which will usually include tables, chairs, flooring, lighting and possibly heaters for chillier evenings. Some companies will put up the marquee for you; others will leave it to you and your friends to grapple with the instructions yourselves.
It's when the marquee's up and running that the problems tend to start, according to Dave Simms. 'Extreme weather can be a big issue. We've had a number of claims over the years for marquees that have been damaged by high winds and thunderstorms. You may not think you're liable for the weather, but some marquee companies say you are.'
Flooding is also a common source of woe. The marquee is erected on a lovely expanse of lawn beside a babbling brook, only for the brook to turn into a raging torrent overnight and flood the lawn, thus staining the material and wrecking the electrics. This can be quite an expensive bill for newly-weds still counting the cost of the honeymoon.
'The number one problem, though,' says Dave, shaking his head, 'is the wedding guests. Usually they either lose their balance somehow and end up falling onto the tent and ripping it, or they throw a glass of red wine over the white fabric, creating quite a costly mess.'
Insurance is one way for a couple to protect themselves against damage to a hired marquee, but they shouldn't rely on their own home insurance. 'If you have the tent in your own garden, home insurance may apply but you usually need to tell your insurer in advance and may have to pay extra,' advises Dave.
Marquee hire companies will often try to sell their own insurance as a part of the package, but this can be expensive for covering just a single element of your nuptials. 'Wedding insurance is really worth thinking about,' says Dave.
So if you're entertaining a romantic vision of a regal white marquee billowing softly in the sunshine while your guests prepare for a night of partying, you might want to add a wedding insurance policy to the scene. And just why is Aunt Dot wandering around holding a glass of champagne and a tent peg?