There are so many details involved in planning the perfect party, which the businesses who work behind the scenes know only too well. One of our favourites is Inside Outside Marquees, who create unbelievable temporary structures for all kinds of celebrations. We sat down with Gary Duarte for a chat to find out a little more about the art of a memorable marquee and how creating your very own venue for a day puts you in complete control of your event…
Q: Tell us about your business – how did you start out, and how would you describe Inside Outside today?
A: The company was started in 1980 and it was a pretty simple affair – a man, a car, a roof-rack, a marquee and a lot of enthusiasm! Since then, we’ve gone from strength to strength. From day one the company ethos has been to deliver exceptional marquees and exceptional customer service. Today we have a large team and we build premium level, luxury marquees across the south east of England.
Q: You seem to have lots of marquees to choose from. What kind of events do you cater for, and how varied can a marquee actually be?
A: It’s difficult to know where to begin. Marquees can be incredibly varied – for starters they are modular structures, so size and shape varies depending upon the clients needs, the available space, garden features to be incorporated or worked around and views to be shown off. They can also be set up in so many different ways, and we can create distinct and different areas – they don’t have to be one big rectangular structure. Sometimes a series of marquees working in conjunction offers the best solution and can create additional areas with different vibes. A popular set up for weddings and parties offers three distinct areas within a single marquee: a reception area, a dining area, and a nightclub. We can separate these areas by using a series of ‘reveal curtains’ so that the marquee metamorphosizes over the course of the evening – culminating in the reveal of the funky night club area – a real ‘wow factor’ for the guests. Floral decoration, different internal styling options, and lighting choices all play a part in really setting the scene and vibe of the event.
Q: Who and what inspires you in your work?
A: Our customers and their vision and enthusiasm for their events. There’s nothing better than looking at the blank canvas that is a back garden on a rainy winter’s day and going through the process of turning that space into something incredible. We love to see our client’s reaction to the finished product, it’s a great feeling. We also work with some fantastic event planners and caterers, such as Kalm Kitchen, whose ideas are inspirational. We love to be set a challenge and we love to be known as the company that goes the extra mile to create something extra special for our customers.
Q: You’ve worked quite extensively with Kalm Kitchen. What has been your experience of collaborating with them?
A: It’s simple: Kalm Kitchen = Happy clients. We can refer our clients to Kalm Kitchen with complete confidence because we know that they will have a great experience. The feedback on the catering is always outstanding and we love to be associated with a brand that expects and delivers the same outstanding standards that we do. Plus the Kalm Kitchen team are brilliant – really friendly and ultra professional.
Q: Who are the other suppliers you enjoy working with?
A: We work with lots of suppliers across the whole of the events industry. There are some great creatives such as florists and lighting specialists whose displays can really transform the marquee. But it isn’t necessarily the overt, visual stuff that makes the difference – if you don’t notice the toilets, the electrics, the heating etc, then it’s job done. Ultimately it comes down to professionalism. We aim to be as organised and as professional as possible and we liaise with all of the third party suppliers working alongside us. If we are collaborating with brilliant, communicative and organised companies then it makes everyone’s lives easier; it doesn’t matter how great a service you offer if you don’t work well with the other teams involved. Ultimately it’s all about the client – if you’re that good then let your products and services do the talking and leave your ego at home.
Q: What are the decorative aspects that can really make a difference to the appearance of a marquee?
A: There are so many factors and it varies by event but I’d say that lighting is always important. Lighting can transform a venue – get it wrong and you just won’t get the right vibe, but get it right and your event will go off. Floristry too. Sometimes it’s overdone and can actually detract, but a good florist that understands marquee spaces can work wonders. With regard to the marquee itself, window walls and clear roof panels that let in light are important and attractive. Good quality lining is crucial and can come in a variety of colours and styles. Features such as drapes and roof sails can add interest and really set a marquee space off beautifully. Star cloth ceilings look incredible and funky dance floors and bars create exciting feature areas.
Q: What are some of the most impressive or memorable projects you’ve worked on?
A: One that really stands out is a three marquee set up that we built across a lake. It was a feat of engineering and required us to have the lake drained before installing a scaffold system, which the marquee was built on, and then having the lake refilled. We connected a completely clear bar marquee to the main marquee with a small bridge and managed to incorporate the fountain from the lake into the marquee too. It was beautiful and featured clear glass window panels and doors as well as clear gable ends so that the guests could enjoy the wonderful views. I also recall, not long after joining the company, walking into a wood-paneled marquee that featured stags horn chairs and chandeliers, a carved ice bar, spectacular food stations and a huge stage, all built over a swimming pool using boarded, carpeted flooring – I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a marquee!
Q: What would be your dream event to work on?
A: It probably sounds like a cliché but we really don’t have a dream event. We work on so many fantastic and varied builds every year and there’s really not much we haven’t seen or done. We like a challenge though, so something that involves a bit of lateral thinking and clever planning is always good.
Q: What advice would you give to couples who are currently contemplating a marquee for their big day?
A: A marquee is a beautiful and bespoke space for a wedding reception. You can create something unique and personal to you and pretty much guarantee that no other couple has had the same set up in the same location. It isn’t necessarily a cheap option and there are lots of marquee suppliers out there all working to different standards and with a different quality of product. When gathering marquee quotes make sure you are being quoted like for like. Some companies, such as Inside Outside, offer an all inclusive price at quote stage – so they may appear more expensive initially, but they won’t be up-selling or adding essential items to your bill after you’ve signed on the dotted line. It’s vital to remember that you will get what you’ve paid for. Think of marquee hire in the same way as you would when shopping for a new car or a dress. You understand brands and the qualities associated with them, you wouldn’t just say you were trying to buy a car – you’d know if you were after a BMW or a Lada.
Q: What are the biggest challenges and the biggest benefits of choosing a marquee for an event?
A: A marquee is your very own venue, it’s unique and you can design and style it yourself. You’ll be in complete control of your event too, you can choose your own caterers, bar suppliers, music and styling – and no one can tell you when the party has to end. The downsides? You’ll love it but it’s temporary and you’ll be sad to wave goodbye! A good marquee takes a couple of days to install and a day to take out, so there’ll be a little bit of disruption either side of the event but it will be worth it.