When you’re having a marquee wedding, the sky really is the limit! Whether you’re having your reception at your own location or at one of our fantastic marquee venues, there are many different food options that will suit a marquee.

We’re here to help, by addressing some key questions:

Different catering options to consider for a marquee wedding

Whatever kind of catering, location or venue you choose, the Dine team can probably help! We’re experts at getting the food just right whatever the setting, from formal dining to afternoon tea and buffets. Check out our menus and catering section for some examples of what we can do, and see these two amazing marquee events we recently catered for.

And if we can’t do it, we can book you someone who can!

Type of catering What is it? Is it right for you and your marquee wedding?

Formal dining

The most traditional way to feed your guests is the wedding breakfast – usually a seated three course meal served by waiting staff, consisting of a light starter, a meat/fish dish or vegetarian option, and a dessert.

Formal dining can actually be great for a marquee wedding, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking marquees are just for casual receptions! (See our menus and more details of what we can do here.)

You could have your guests seated inside your marquee as you would any other venue, or you could even have the tables outside for an airy feeling. A particularly modern idea is to have one long banqueting table outside, where everyone is served their courses amidst trees and festoon lights.

Self-service buffet

A buffet of hot and cold foods set out separately from where guests are sitting, where guests can go up in their own time to choose the foods they want, serving it onto their own plate.

Buffets have traditionally been an evening choice, ideal for guests who are still full from the wedding breakfast, or for guests that are coming for the evening reception only.

However there’s no reason you can’t serve a buffet during the day, especially if it is a summer wedding when people might prefer a lighter meal.

Cantina-style

Similar to a buffet, you may have a selection of foods that people can go up to choose from, but the difference is the foods are served canteen-style by waiting staff who will portion it out on to guests’ plates.

This is somewhere between a buffet and formal dining, but it can be ideal for a marquee wedding as it is as adaptable as the marquee itself.

You can put a more formal slant on things by serving up a carvery or take it casual with individual pies!

It may cut down on the cost of waiting staff whilst still having your guests feel ‘looked after’. It often feels more like a ‘proper meal’ if guests can get a substantial portion of hot food.

Afternoon tea

A selection of formal sandwiches, cakes and petit-fours are served to the table on beautiful stands, with cake plates and tea cups.

Afternoon tea is made for a garden party – and garden parties are made for marquees. It’s a match made in heaven.

A lighter option like afternoon tea prevents you from overfeeding your guests when there will be further food later on. It can be formal with fine silverware or lend an air of yesteryear with vintage crockery.

With afternoon tea, you’ll still have waiting staff bringing the food, but the sharing of cakes and sarnies amongst your table will encourage conviviality.

Barbecue

Meat and vegetables cooked over an open grill, usually a self-service option where guests choose from a selection of meats.

Like hog roasts, barbecues are best suited to being cooked outside, although they could easily have their own tent stand near the marquee.

However, while a hog roast can be year-round, a barbecue feels more summery and offers guests more choice.

Picnic

A selection of usually cold foods eaten on blankets at floor level.

A picnic is a carefree and often rustic way to feed your guests. It can be wonderful in or around a marquee, especially if you’re going for an eastern vibe with lots of drapes, throws and cushions.

Be mindful about seating elderly guests on the floor, and bear in mind that a picnic may not be especially cosy or warming for a winter marquee wedding.

Sweet stands

Usually a table with a display of sweet treats: anything from chocolates and sweets to patisserie, popcorn or even your wedding cake.

Humankind cannot live on sugar alone! As much as we’d like to, this should supplement your main catering choice.

However, a sweet table is an easy way to bring communal nibbles inside the marquee, being relatively low-mess and not too filling. It’s a great way of keeping people going while they’re waiting for food and keeping children amused (and slightly hyper).  Also, the sweet table can act as visual focus and extension of your decorations, showcasing even more of your chosen style or theme with typography, props, displayware and flowers.

Food trucks

Quite literally: a truck serving food! Ideally parked close to your marquee, your guests can then roll up in their own time and select from the truck’s menu, or be served a set choice from the truck. Dine can source and book these for you.

Food trucks can provide a range of food from pizza and pancakes to ethnic street food and fish and chips! They’re great for creating a bohemian festival feel and suit more relaxed celebrations.

Also, consider the weather (especially ground conditions) and older guests (who may not be as mobile) when deciding whether to hire food trucks. Remember that you are asking your guests to queue and eat at different times from each other, rather than together. You may need several in order to serve a larger wedding quickly, and provide guests with enough choice and variety.

Hog roast

One or more pigs roasting over an open fire on site (outside, of course), then carved up and usually served as burgers or sandwiches, or as part of a carvery.

You’ll need a good deal of extra space near the marquee. Hog roasts are smoky and can produce a strong smell, so they’re best suited to being wholly outside your marquee.

They can provide a casual party atmosphere, so are suited to less formal themes. However, be aware that a hog roast can leave vegetarian guests feeling left out if they are served something completely different. Also, remember again that this is another option that means your guests have to queue and eat at different times rather than together.

Tips for choosing the best catering for your marquee wedding

1. Consider the styling of your theme and what types of food will match it.

There are certain styles and themes that work better with a marquee venue, and there are some that can be a little jarring. Read our guide to the top themes for 2017 and how to choose a venue to suit them. However, the same doesn't necessarily extend to the food; ultimately your family and friends will set the tone of your day, so don't get hung up on trying to create a relaxed vibe with your menu choices.

Top tip: Match your style to your venue, and match your food to your personal tastes, likes and dislikes.

2. Consider the timing of your day.

You don’t want to over- or under-feed guests, so ensure you choose the right kind of foods for when you’ll be sitting down to eat. If you’re not marrying until 4pm, for example, and moving to your marquee for your reception, you’ll probably want to feed your guests only once, at around 6-7pm. By that point they might be quite hungry and want something a little more substantial than afternoon tea or a buffet.

Conversely, if you’re feeding your guests twice – once around 3pm then again around 8pm, they probably won’t want two heavy meals in this period.

Top tip: Consider how often and how much you’ll be feeding your guests, in order to choose the best combination of day and evening catering.

3. The season matters.

Not only is it cheaper and more environmentally friendly to work with seasonal ingredients, but there will also be a big taste difference between a summer and winter menu. Marquees can actually be wonderful in winter, illuminated with fairy lights and heaters, but even so, you may need to provide more hearty and warming food for your guests during the winter months. Equally, summer tends to lend itself to lighter platters.

Top tip: Marquees can be year-round, and although seasonality and ambience can influence a menu, your own favourites and style should play a big part too.

4. Think about the logistics.

It may be a boring practical detail, but if you’re having a marquee in the middle of a field, consider how your caterer might provide formal dining without a full commercial kitchen nearby; where as this is our specialty at Dine, it doesn't come into consideration for every type of caterer. The caterer will need to be able to find your venue and either transport the food to it or cook it on site. For food trucks in particular, they also need to be able to get on and offsite easily (preferably on a road), park in a suitable area, possibly access electricity unless they bring a generator, and serve your many guests in a timely fashion.

Top tip: The location and accessibility of your marquee could compromise which type of catering you can choose. A site visit with your caterer is arguably more important than a tasting.

5. Take a seat.

You can arrange tables however you want in a marquee, but consider what will be the best kind of layout for the types of food you want to serve. If it’s self-service buffets or food trucks, do you want people to sit communally, stay standing or return to their allocated seats? Also, think about how the room will be turned around for dancing later on and whether your caterers will be involved in doing this.

Top tip: Put yourself in the shoes of your guests and caterers and imagine the reality of being served and where you’ll sit to eat.

6. Who’s on your list?

The number and type of guests you’re hosting in your marquee may also affect what kind of catering you choose. If you’ve invited lots of elderly people, they may prefer more formal dining, and smaller portions. Similarly, you may want to consider how you will cater for guests with special dietary requirements.

Top tip: Your wedding is YOUR wedding, but it's always worth think about your guests’ preferences too.

Need advice on choosing your venue, your catering, or planning your wedding? Dine’s experienced team can help as much or as little as you want. Just give us a call on 0345 450 4545, email us at events@dine.co.uk or use our contact form and we’ll be pleased to help you get started.