Insider’s guide to planning your perfect tipi or marquee Wedding

They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. So, when Coronavirus hit in March 2020, and Lee from Lee Hawley Photography went from having another busy and exciting year with 50 scheduled weddings to a calendar stripped bare all the way up to September, he set about producing the ultimate guide to planning a Cotswolds Wedding.

He had always had it in mind to produce a blog or section on his website to help couples in finding the right venue, but simply never had the time with everything else associated with being a wedding photographer. But now “blessed” with plenty of time, he began a much larger project, and An Insiders Guide to Cotswold Weddings was born: a comprehensive 64-page printed guide that covers everything from how to budget to avoiding photography nightmares.

Here’s an excerpt from the guide that Lee’s offered exclusively for our readers to give you an insight into planning a Tipi or Marquee wedding.

Should you plan a tipi or marquee wedding from scratch?

For the ultimate in bespoke made-to-measure weddings, you may choose to go full on DIY and get a tipi or marquee in a local field or family garden. That’s what my wife and I did, and they are some of my favourite weddings to shoot. Long lazy summer days sat on straw bales drinking cider, listening to a band, playing games on the grass with kids running riot in the glitter stand!

But don’t underestimate the planning required here. They are weddings that suit the couple wanting the ultimate in relaxed and informal wedding days, but they take a driven team of friends and family leading up to the day itself to make it happen.

How to have the ceremony

Wedding guest having fun on a space hopper

You will have to decide how you want to handle the ceremony. You could look at using a nearby church. However, this will carry with it some hurdles depending on whether you are from that parish or not – but even if you aren’t, by meeting with the vicar and committing to attending the church on a few Sundays you should be able to get permission. The other option is to use the local registry office. These typically aren’t the fanciest of locations, but honestly, when I’m looking through my viewfinder at couples saying their I do’s, we could be anywhere and all that matters is who they are saying “I do” to!

Back in 2018 some of us in the industry got all excited when Theresa May announced plans to shake up the wedding ceremony laws, proposing to allow ceremonies to take place anywhere and not just at registered fixed structures. For me this would be a dream! Opening up the opportunity for hilltop, beachside and back garden weddings for the ultimate personal experience. Sadly, although now the two-year review is complete, there is now a further two-year consultation period, followed by the drafting of the bill and voting through parliament. Meaning we are unlikely to see this law change until much before 2023. Faceplam. 

A way around this is to sneak off the day or week before and get married with just both of you and two witnesses present at the local registry office to get the legal bit done. Then on your actual wedding celebrations have whatever ceremony you wish! Choose your own vows, celebrant, format…anything! Fancy hand fasting? Go for it! Jumping the broom? It’s up to you!

And what about food?

Ladies having fun behind a wedding bar

You can make your life easier by hiring a catering team. Anything from full on three course meals, to a pizza trailer or chip van, but just be sure everyone gets fed enough if you go for the latter options as they sometimes work better for evening food. Also consider queuing, I know us Brits love a queue, but you probably don’t want people waiting in line for 20 minutes for a pizza on your wedding day. The same applies for your booze. There are lots of options with drink supply, from simple pop up bars with or without staff, to Gin trailers and Beer Buses, just make sure people can get a drink painlessly!

Or if you are happy to take on the food supply yourself, there are plenty of options and this can also save you a bit of money too. With a bit of help from friends and family, a buffet makes a great option, as does an afternoon tea-style spread, just consider how best to manage people getting their meal.

Calling people one table at a time works well. I know this might sounds obvious, but it is worth saying as I have seen scenarios where in keeping with the laid back vibe of these type of weddings, everyone is just told to help themselves. This will lead to a long queue, as well as those with food sat in a half full marquee wondering if they are allowed to start eating yet!

When it comes to the evening food, I don’t see anything wrong with firing up one or two large BBQ’s and sticking a couple of the groomsman behind them to flip burgers! By this point in the day the guys are probably very happy to stand around a BBQ with a beer in hand, so don’t think you are be a burden to them!

Want more insights like this to help you plan your Cotswolds wedding?

The full printed guide is 64 pages and over 20,000 words covering everything including early planning, how to budget, over 20 pages on choosing your venue, catering, avoiding photography nightmares, choosing your perfect dress, 10 pages of seamless timings & Logistics, a real couples wedding journey, bridal prep, cake & flowers and the all-important evening party. With contributions from other wedding professionals and brides’ first-hand experiences and tips of their own.

The guide is available at for £15 delivered.

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