I was engaged, betrothed, a fiancée… I was to be married! And yet the euphoria and excitement were soon joined at the party of anticipation by the rather drabber company of both pragmatism and common sense. So, in a romantic yet practical frame of mind, I began to undertake research into wedding venues.
Not only did I fail to identify a single venue that quite conformed to my vision of nuptial celebration, but they were all so fiendishly expensive; with basic hire rates quickly and exponentially supplemented by baffling tiers of hospitality and entertainment. Desperate for a little more direct control, I casually asked my parents if we might put a tent on their front lawn (a mere stone’s throw from the church at which the matrimonial deed was to be done) and hold a party within it.
Not hearing any immediate objection, I diverted my research efforts towards pole and canvas. I quickly hit on the idea of tipis, and had no trouble convincing the husband-to-be that they would prove infinitely superior to a conventional marquee. Having seen them at various festivals, I was familiar with their elegant shape and atmospheric interiors. The structures are styled on traditional Lavvu, moveable dwellings originally designed to enable the Sami people, indigenous to northern Scandinavia, to follow their reindeer herds across the treeless plains.
I set about sending a flurry of emails to all the tipi companies that Google would spit out at me; and most replied, but largely with generic responses that lacked a great deal in the way of clear information. The majority were hugely expensive; and all but one company had copious lists of add-on costs; “Oh, you’d like your guests to be able to sit down… well that will be another £***. You’d like flooring AND lighting… well add £*** to your bill”, and on and on it went. My patience was starting to wear thin amidst this mire of spiraling costs and ludicrously inane communications.
The Natural Tent Company website stood out as colourful and attractive; and I wrote off to the company with (relatively) high hopes. I received a clear and friendly response from co-owner Paul within 12 minutes, with an all-inclusive quotation attached along with all the information I could possibly need. Within half an hour of my initial query we had arranged a site visit and plans were underway; and this level of sharp service didn’t wane at any stage. Paul’s colleague and co-owner Matt carried out the site visit; remaining consistently positive and upbeat despite various challenges presented by the site; a positivity which (it should be said) he managed to maintain throughout all our dealings with the company.
Paul and Matt founded The Natural Tent Company in 2014. Matt has a background in tipi building and years of working in the planning and catering industries. Paul has been involved in IT and the media for years. They were both looking for a new challenge and set up the company together. At every stage, I received additional help, advice and general interest from both Paul and Matt to an extent that went quite beyond the call of duty and which contributed to the overall pleasantness of our dealings with them.
The tipis themselves are constructed from canvas supported by solid spruce poles. They provide a cosy and intimate ambience; and are suitable for all weathers. The structures are fully waterproof; they can be warmed in cold weather by firepits and merriment, while on hotter days they provide cooling shade, and the sides can be opened up to allow welcome airflow.
One thinks of a tipi as an individual cone (or ‘hat’, as they are seemingly known in this context; however, it is common practice to create a larger space by interconnecting two or more hats in a variety of configurations, depending on size of the site and the requirements of the event. We opted for three hats (each with a diameter of 10 metres), in a triangular configuration with one door and two archway entrances; tables and seating for 140 people beneath two hats and a dancefloor complete with glitterball and disco lighting beneath the third.
The build took two days with the main structure being created on day one and the interiors and décor being completed on day two. The team worked really hard and seemed to relish the challenge. The finished structure was simply stunning. The hat shape creates a spacious and airy interior. The raw wooden poles give a lovely sense of warmth and were adorned with hundreds upon hundreds of fairy lights to create a truly magical atmosphere. The wooden benches were dressed in sheepskins and the tables were simple but elegant; a fire pit added energy and warmth and the perfect place to light a sparkler or toast a marshmallow. The Natural Tent Company brought spare fairy lights with them and we dressed the surrounding trees to mirror the soft illumination of the tipis’ insides.
I cannot praise this company enough. The product speaks for itself through the intrigue, elegance and versatility of the tipis and their décor; but Matt, Paul and their team were faultless; and we are hugely grateful to them for their hard work, energy and commitment. The lawn now looks rather bare and bereft with the tipis gone; and they would frankly have been welcome as a permanent feature.
Enquiries: The Natural Tent Company / 07766 667 496 / firstname.lastname@example.org / www.thenaturaltentcompany.com