Today I am on site for a Sperry tent build, for one of my client’s who are getting married in a few days’ time. As a UK based wedding and party planner, I am involved in the whole process of putting an event together. I am there every step of the way and I essentially am the project manager; the event is my “baby” and I am overseeing the execution of it on behalf of my client. On the day of a marquee build, I would usually meet the company onsite first thing, run through the plans and let them get in with it, coming back at the end to sign it off, but not today!

PapaKåta, who are the exclusive providers of Sperry tents and the leading Tipi company in the UK, have invited me to stay and have a go at the build and see first-hand what is involved in putting one of these beautiful sail cloths up! Sure, why not! It can’t be that difficult….

It’s 8:30am, there’s a chill in the air and it’s been raining overnight so the ground is damp! But the forecast looks good for later and regardless of a little rain or wind, the tent is going up!

PapaKåta arrive in convoy in their branded vehicles, which are each towing the components of the Sperry. How on earth that becomes a glorious tent, is a mystery but I’m soon to find out.

So, first things first, we look over our plans from the site visit we had earlier on in the year. I think it’s easy to forget that today isn’t the first stage of PapaKåta’s involvement for this wedding. Months of conversations with the office, numerous floor plans, adding finishing touches, power supply planning, set up and cleardown scheduling has all enabled us to be here today for a seamless build.

I have arrived on site this morning empty handed, but the guys have been up since the crack of dawn, loading the trailers and ticking off their inventory to ensure they have everything they need for the day ahead.

We re-asses the site, measure out the area and confirm the precise location. It’s not just a case of measuring the ground; you have to look at potential obstacles up above, such as trees and then also check for underground obstacles such as electrical cables! PapaKåta have a rather technical looking device to ensure they aren’t going to hammer a peg through a wire and previous assessments of the area confirm other important factors before we start.

The guys have to measure the outline of the Sperry onto the lawn and lay out their stakes, rachets and tie downs. This is the time-consuming part, as they have to ensure each stake is in the correct position and is all accurately measured out. They also lay out all of the outer and internal poles where we need them ready for lifting. I tried picking up an end of the pole and they are heavy! I absolutely wouldn’t need to go to the gym if I was building marquee’s week in, week out! It’s true with most things, but the majority of this build is taken in the careful preparation.

By about lunch time, we’re ready to get the canvas out. This is a beautiful canopy and it can’t get marked market, so we lay out a protective film over the lawn first. It’s this attention to detail, care and precision that make PapaKåta one of the best marquee suppliers to work with. And seeing the team all just get on with their role is amazing.

Suddenly, it becomes quite windy as we’re trying to put down the film, so my very small contribution to today’s build has me laying on top of the plastic to get the air out and stop it flying away! You are welcome boys; I don’t know how you would have coped without me today!

The next part is super quick; the lads go around and hook the outer poles to the canvas and hook the tie downs to the stakes. Then all 7 of us (again, I’m sure they would have struggled without me at this point), take hold of the centre poles; one person guiding the top of the pole as the other person walks towards the middle and lifts it up. Ta da! And up it goes. That’s it, my work here is done!

Oh no, wait; we have the flooring, the lighting, the power, the bar, the walls, the catering tent, the furniture, the dance floor all to put in! We’re having boarded floor and carpet for this wedding, so all the boards are laid out and then interlocked and fixed together. Again, that took measuring, time and precision!

I am possibly being more of a hinderance than a help but the last thing I want to have a go at is climbing to the top of the pole. I’m not sure if I like heights or not but there is only one way to find out! Climbing a ladder is easy. I won’t lie though; I don’t feel comfortable doing it as I can see far too much around me. And when I get to the top, I am more than happy holding on with two hands, smiling and coming back down. But I have no idea how the guys let go to string lighting or fixing a disco ball or a floral beam. Not for me!

Once I’ve stopped messing about and climbing ladders, the guys move onto hooking up the walls, laying the carpet, stringing the festoon canopy lights and the uplighters, building the catering tent and connecting tunnel, building the circular oak bar, laying the dance floor, putting in the tables, cleaning down the windows, rigging up the power, setting up the heater… the list is endless.

It gets to about 19:45pm and we’re packing up ready to leave. This Sperry is one of their smaller tents and although the boarded floor is more time consuming than matting, this fairly straight forward build has taken about 60-man hours! That doesn’t take into consideration their travel time, loading their vehicles that morning, and coming back after the wedding to take it all down, ready for the next event!

Working in the industry I already had a good insight into the sheer hard work, time and strength that goes into providing these incredible structures, but actually seeing each and every step of the process and “having a go” has been an eye opener, even for me!

Being a wedding planner means that I see both sides; the supplier’s side and the client’s side. And as much as items may cost to hire or buy, a good proportion of the fee is paying for knowledgeable people, to provide a product or service to you, with a high level of customer service, advice and execution!  You absolutely get what you pay for and these tents are worth every penny! I can’t wait to get back in tomorrow and style it for my clients wedding, giving them their individual and unique look to this beautiful tent.

Thank you so much PapaKåta for allowing me to take part in today’s build. And a special thank you to Mamad from Twig and Vine who came to photograph my Supplier Challenge… possibly because he just wanted to laugh at me, but we all had a great day and Mamad and I have a newfound respect for marquee builders!

With special thanks to:


Twig and Vine