Afternoon lovely people. We have the perfect festival wedding supplier to share with you all today. Not only do they supply big top wedding tents for hire, those amazing circus like tents that are famous on the festival scene, but also Arif and Elise, the owners of Big Top Weddings, have years of experience in working at festivals, events and weddings across the country, including the mother of them all, Glastonbury Festival. They know exactly what it takes to create an awesome event and can offer you invaluable advice and step by step guidance on how to plan a wedding that you and your guests will never forget.
Arif and Elise started Big Top Weddings in 2012 because they wanted to mix their passion for music festivals with their experience in events and offer something unique to the cookie cutter world of the ‘white wedding.’ Fast forward 6 years and they now have a plethora of the most amazing big top tents, all ranging in size, colour and style and all offering something completely unique to your big day. They also have an incredible work ethic and pride themselves on offering the best possible customer service available in the industry. Through reading our Q&A with them today, you can really get a sense of the care and passion that goes into their business and how customer focused they are with everything they do. Planning an outdoor wedding can be a daunting task and can often leave couples feeling overwhelmed and stressed. They want to alleviate this stress as much as possible and offer support so you can enjoy the planning process. They have even put together a step by step guide to planning an outdoor wedding that is free to download via their website. Its companies like this that really stand out to Festival Brides. You can tell that they genuinely have their couples best interests at heart and will go that extra mile to ensure the planning process is as easy and as fun as it can be. To us, that is all you can ask for.
We asked Arif and Elise all about Big Top Weddings, how it has evolved over the past 6 years and more details on the awesome Big Tops tents that they supply. Oh and before you read on, we should mention that Arif and Elise are offering Festival Brides readers 10% off of their big tops! This is an amazing offer so get in touch now!
Tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Arif started the company in 2012 after spending his twenties working with Marquee companies across the UK Festival scene and planning Events in London. His fundamental focus is on providing a top quality service both in terms of the kit and customer experience. The end production is always his main focus – does it look and feel good? He is a very disciplined and organised person and you see that immediately in the way he runs his business.
Elise (his little sister) joined the party in 2016 when she spent part of the summer crewing and then got involved with customer relations in 2017. Having planned her own DIY wedding in 2013 it seemed sensible that she should use that experience to help other people. She brings even more focus to the client experience and production / event management side of things. Needless to say, they’ve not looked back since.
If you had the chance to go to any music festival, which one would it be and why?
We usually go to Glastonbury every year that it’s on (it’ll be strange this year, so we’ll have to fill it with a Wedding or two!). There simply isn’t anything like it. An entire town pops up out of nowhere for a few weeks then goes back to being a field – mental. In fact, Glastonbury is where it all started – seeing that many people in a field for the same reason…fun.
Arif has been going since he was a teenager and between us we’ve done all sorts there. Put up tents (obviously); built bars; installed lighting; worked The Rum Shack; compered the main stage in Theatre & Circus; worked backstage on some smaller stages; and dressed up as a Bolshy Ballerina in knee-deep mud.
What made you decide to start Big Top Weddings
We began as Terrapin back in 2012 and have started to work more specifically with the wedding market in the past couple of years as Big Top Weddings owing to the fact that Wedding clients need a more specific service. It’s evolved as we’ve learned what works best and what products are most suited to those clients. We realised that the kinds of things we were providing for festivals and corporate events could work really well here.
A lot of time and effort from all sides goes into planning parties and it should be made as simple as possible for people to enjoy themselves. There’s an expectation (rightly so in some cases) that events are stressful, but we want people to be able to sit back and relax because they trust us and trust that we will deliver what we say we will. The Wedding Industry (and to some extent the Events Industry as well) has been missing that for some years now and turned in to a flat-pack version of itself, running the same thing year after year. We wanted to inject some spark and fun back into things.
People as a collective are at their best when they’re chilling out with friends and family and sharing a space and time to celebrate – who wouldn’t want to be a part of that and see human beings at their best?
What makes your Big Top Tents and the services you supply stand out from a crowd?
We really do give a damn. We care about the service we provide being of the highest quality; we care about our kit being well-maintained (when you invest that kind of money in a structure you want to look after it); we care about the people we work with (both customers and suppliers); and we care about being friendly and professional (believe it or not, you can have both).
We work really hard to always be friendly, honest, committed to a quality end result and loyal. People are important to us and we try to do good things for good people. That’s why we’re also a Living Wage Employer offering more than minimum wage to everyone who works for us. It’s a small thing but integrity is really important to who we are as a company.
Getting married in particular is a huge deal. You’re committing to sharing a journey with someone and that deserves a huge celebration. Frankly we consider it an honour to be part of that and often build strong, friendly relationships with those we work with.
As if the big, colourful, stripey Big Top isn’t enough to stand out from the crowd, we are constantly looking for people to inspire us. There’s nothing we love more than a challenge and someone coming to us with a Big Idea that we can work together to make happen. Our first question is often, ‘why a Big Top?’ ‘What inspires you?’ We genuinely want to help people create memories to last a lifetime and push the boundaries on what can be done in a field and what’s expected from a wedding.
To that end, everything we do is bespoke. There are no off-the-shelf package deals. It’s fine when people come to us and say, ‘I dunno what I want, but I want a Big Top.’ Those people we work with and ask questions in order to help them form their vision (which in itself is great fun), so what you end up with is a unique and individual event which best-reflects who you are as a couple.
We are also willing and able to do the entire thing for you, from start to finish. We run procurement services on as much or as little as you need. Whether it’s just a generator for the sound and lights, or everything from the toilets to caterers, DJs, entertainers and even the coaches/taxis to pick up your guests. We can be as hands on as you need or want us to be.
You mention that your big tops come in a range of styles, sizes and colours. Can you tell us a bit more about what is available to book?
The Regal is our biggest Big Top and can seat anywhere from 140-400 people. It’s the newest addition to the collection and has it’s first outings this summer. Purple and cream makes it perfect for weddings with a theme or colour scheme.
All our tents are modular, meaning they come with 2 end sections and then we add centre pieces to make them larger if necessary. So we have a red and white striped tent called the Candy Cane which can host up to 120 seated, depending on what else is going in there. We can make this larger if necessary, up to 220 seated.
Our Mulberry is a very popular wedding marquee because of the square edges, making it easier to fit stuff in there. It’s blue and cream which is a lovely relaxed vibe and perfect for the more traditional country/farm wedding. That can be as small as 70 seated, right up to 190, depending on how many centre sections we add.
Then you have some of the smaller ancillary structures which can be a white canopy (often used as catering tents and can come with coloured walls), or again with the colourful stripes (red and yellow or red & cream) which we tend to put up as separate bars for the larger events.
There’s a whole host of other Big Tops on our books but the list is endless. These are just the most popular ones. The best thing to do is to get in touch and tell us what you’re looking for and how many people are coming.
As well as the Big Tops we provide the bits to go inside as well – matting, dance floor, bar frontage, staging, lighting, festoon, outdoor lighting, decor. Again, an endless list of opportunities which we love discussing with people.
If our readers were to book you for their wedding, what sort of service can they expect?
It can be a minefield if you let it. That’s why we created a step-by-step guide about how to plan an outdoor wedding. It’s downloadable for free from our website. It can be stressful, that’s understandable, but it doesn’t have to be.
There is some basic information you need to decide on: where (ideally get a venue sorted first, although we can help with that); how many guests you’re having; what’s happening in there (sit down dinner or dancing the night away). That information helps us gauge the size of Big Top you’ll need and we’ll even draw it out to scale so that you can see it before you book it. We’ll send you a list of suitable marquees and some images of past events to get your creative juices flowing.
You’re welcome to come back to us with changes, ideas, additions at any point along the way. We don’t expect it to be a final version straight away and the most important aspect is that you get what you want.
We like to be on site the day before the event (or earlier) so that we can set up and make sure everything is good to go for you. It also takes a day to de-rig so it’s worth booking extra days either side of the actual event. Some companies charge extra for a de-rig on a Sunday but we definitely don’t.
Do you have any good tips for styling, dressing and lighting your big tops and tents?
The beauty of a Big Top is that it comes with built in decor. The stripes bring enough character to a field that you don’t need to spend loads of time hanging decorations. Bunting is always a fun addition (and something that mothers often love to make and contribute) and table decorations are a popular feature. The marquees also come with a built in colour scheme, which is helpful.
We’ve seen couples really go to town with their personal expression, having features specific to their interests or showing off their quirky side. Flamingoes, name boards, fairground attractions, lawn games. It really is up to you.
Fairy lights work beautifully in a Big Top. We run them up the king poles and around the valance and they sparkle throughout the night. We also do a lot with festoon lighting over the top of the valance or to indicate pathways outside. We put in a lot of outdoor up-lighting for trees if they’re nearby and bounce colour-changing lights off the canopy as the evening draws on. We can also provide dance floor lighting and sound if you’re dancing the night away with your guests.
What’s your best piece of advice to couples trying to choose a venue where your big tops can be used?
It needs to be grass so that we can stake in to the ground. Big Tops are held up with tensions on ratchets and whilst you can ballast them (concrete blocks), it gets expensive and doesn’t look as pretty. The ground should be reasonably flat but you’d be amazed how much of a gradient you can get away with. Some people worry about high heeled shoes on grass, which is why we often provide matting and a wooden dance floor. It also stops the furniture legs sinking. We’re able to use the matting to provide walkways if it’s really necessary but some people quite like the look of a wedding dress with DM boots or wellies. Quirky, right?
What do they need to think about/look for? What questions should they ask the venue?
Power and amenities are key points to discuss with venue. Be clear about what they are and aren’t providing so that you know whether you need to get a generator and toilets etc. If there are cables already on site to distribution boxes then we need to look at where the Big Top can go so that those cables remain protected.
We’re always happy to liaise directly with venues and genuinely enjoy meeting with them. Often they’ve not seen a Big Top go up and can be weary of the process. It’s our job to alleviate their fears so feel free to put them in touch if you’re having trouble and we’ll work out how to make it happen. If that involves a site visit and a measuring tape ahead of the Big Day, then so be it.
Find out the dimensions of the lawn or grassed area so that we know the Big Top can fit. Sometimes we can look at the postcode on Google Earth but it’s definitely more accurate to have someone on the ground doing it. Access to the site also needs to be reasonable. Can we get our van, truck or trailer on to the site or do we have to carry stuff? That’s a big consideration for how many crew we bring and how long the build will take.
Noise is another one. How late can you have music and how loud can they be. Even if it’s a farm seemingly in the middle of nowhere, you don’t want to be upsetting neighbours at 2am because you didn’t know ahead of schedule that your live band needed to stop at 11pm.
Make sure you book enough time either side of the actual event. If you’re having a festival Fri-Sun then you need the venue Thurs-Mon at least. A Saturday event means having the site Fri-Sun as a minimum. All our tents are booked as a weekly rate so don’t worry about having them up one day either side. We’ve done it this way because we understand that it’s not your fault they take time to put up, and a good venue will understand that as well.
You must have done your fair share of outdoor weddings and festival style events in the past. Are there any that really stand out and why?
Chilled in a Field is definitely a stand out because it feels like ours. The TE Group as a whole runs the Production and provides all the infrastructure.
There was also a couple who met at Glastonbury and wanted a Glasto-style wedding. We were able to source the original ‘Gargoyle Gates of Doom’ from the first time they met and they had them as the entrance to the Big Top. That was a pretty special moment and everyone really enjoyed the selfie opportunity.
Our other stand out Wedding was at Ogmore Castle in May 2017. We used UV uplit white darts in a striped big top to create a hybrid of the traditional white wedding and coloured circus look with modern lighting to give it a dynamic feel. It looked stunning and like nothing anyone there had seen before. We were also responsible for the full site plan and procurement of all ancillary services, providing a one-stop-shop to the happy couple. The groom had a suit made to match the blue in the tent. That’s what we call dedication!
Finally, what’s your life quote/motto at Big Top Weddings?
Forget about asking, ‘why?’ Always ask, ‘why not?’.
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