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Marquees for the Garden

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 25 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Marquee Marquees Gazebos Tent Summer

It might be because of the uncertain summer weather in the United Kingdom that we are more likely to try things that will allow us to enjoy the garden, even if the heavens open. But it's not just rain we have to cope with, there's wind and sometimes even hail in summer.

For those eventualities some people might build a permanent shelter in the garden but it's expensive and could take up a lot of the garden. A good halfway house is a marquee or other large tent that can be put in place when it's required and then put away when it isn't.

Hire or Buy

Marquees are more often hired than bought but, if you have the space to store one over winter and you entertain a great deal, it could be a worthwhile investment. They are a completely different kettle of fish to fabric gazebos although there are obviously similarities. Fabric gazebos are covered in a separate article in this section.

Although the main difference between marquees and gazebos is usual size, it is quite possible to get a small marquee. The real differences are in the supporting structure and the thickness of the fabric. A marquee should have much more of a frame work and there are two main types.

Try a Traditional Marquee……

Traditional marquees are like circus big tops in construction: one or two central poles and a tent, usually canvas, suspended from them. The strength of the structure comes from stretching the fabric of the tent from the poles down to the guy ropes, which are pegged into the ground.

Although nothing beats the look of a traditional marquee there are limitations: the poles can be intrusive, they have to be mounted on ground that is soft enough to accept pegs and you need a good few feet clearance all round to allow for the guy ropes.

.….Or Perhaps a Frame Marquee?

Frame marquees have an internal self-supporting framework so they dispense with many of the problems encountered with a traditional marquee. As long as there is room for the frame then the marquee can go up.

A frame marquee will also be fine on hard surfaces although in windy conditions you need to secure it properly. This is usually done with weighted feet or bars along the sides at ground level which have weights placed over them.

However the fabric of a frame marquee is usually PVC, because of its lighter weight. While this is perfectly wind and waterproof, perhaps even more so than canvas, it doesn't fall in quite the same attractive way. It can also be louder in windy conditions as it snaps back and forth, being pushed around more than heavier canvas would be.

Dance Floor Days

Whether you decide a traditional or frame marquee is right for you, you need to consider whether or not to go for a floor. If you are having a large event with a disco or band and dancing, a floor might be a good idea. If there will be a sit down meal as well, or instead, then it's an even better idea.

The feet of chairs and tables are likely to sink into soft ground and guests won't thank you if it rains. Even though the area under the marquee will be covered, as soon as people start walking in and out of it the main walkways will quickly become quagmires. So get a portable plastic or wood floor laid down to make everything drier and more comfortable.

Flexible for Summer

To end on a high note there's one major feature that marquees and gazebos share: the sides can be rolled up or detached completely on some models. This means that if the sun does decide to shine on your event you can enjoy the warmth and have shade too.

And one more tip: if you are having a one off event, consider buying a marquee secondhand and selling it on again afterwards. It might work out cheaper than hiring one. Roll on the summer!

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