Teepee couple see the romance in the great outdoors

There was a time when high-end wedding venues consisted largely of using hotels and country houses but the great outdoors has seen a surge of popularity.

Papakata is a growing business in Acaster Malbis.
Papakata is a growing business in Acaster Malbis.

Whether the plethora of wedding-based TV programmes has been the cause of this is a matter of conjecture but there is little doubt that the appeal of hosting such an event in a marquee has been on the rise for some time.

Richard and Amanda Monaghan run one of the UK’s busiest marquee enterprises at Manor Farm in Acaster Malbis, near York, but they didn’t set out with a business in mind.

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“We were both working in London at the time,” says Richard. “We’d become engaged and wanted to get married in the village where Amanda grew up and where her parents still live in Acaster Malbis.

“We’d looked at three marquee companies but their products didn’t really set our world on fire. Then one of Amanda’s colleagues showed us some photographs of a party she’d been to with these teepees. We fell in love with them and knew that was exactly what we wanted for our wedding. Then we discovered there was nobody doing them in the north of England.”

With the couple having backgrounds in product design, marketing and branding you might think it wouldn’t take them long to work out that this may be a project worth following.

Amanda tells how they took their first tentative steps.

“We just said why don’t we buy one?” says Amanda. “At least then we could hire it out. We did use them for our wedding but by then we’d also done about 12 other events. When we started I think we imagined Richard would put teepees up in the summer and we’d use the van for deliveries.”

The teepees are manufactured by Tentipi in a small village of just under 300 inhabitants called Moskosel in northern Sweden and are made out of canvas and synthetic material that are fire retardant. The poles come from managed forests within the Arctic Circle.

One of the features for those hosting weddings and any special occasion is the fire that burns continuously during the event inside the teepees. The fire was a central focal point for the Sami people of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola peninsula of Russia who were and continue to be reindeer herders.

“Swedish people think it’s hilarious that over here they’re used for posh weddings because they use them more for trade shows and rural events such as shooting weekends.”

Using her branding experience, Amanda, who has worked on brands for Cadbury, Nokia and Unilever during a spell spent working in London, settled on the name ‘Papakata’ for their fledgling marquee company.

“The tents are called Katas, which means home in Sweden. I was flicking through books and coming up with ideas for our company name when I came up with Papakata. I loved it because to me it came over as the daddy of the home or the daddy of tents. I thought it sounded strong.

“In Maori it means one leg shorter than the other. That sounded okay too as alluding to going round in circles fitted with the conic shape.”

Papakata was responsible for more than 300 weddings and other events last year and their success shows little sign of abating.

Richard tells of where they are now, which is a long way from when he received 90 pence per pallet made in his home country of Northern Ireland.

“Weddings account for around 75 per cent of all our business but we do cater for any special event and now offer a complete package not just the marquees themselves.”

The business has even seen the couple have an unsuspecting brush with international music stars.

“We have been at all the major music festivals and at a festival in Dublin we decided we had had enough one night and booked into a boutique hotel where we talked with a couple of Americans who said they were appearing at the festival,” Richard says.

“I wished them well with their careers thinking they were maybe some up and coming band. They were the Kings of Leon!

“It’s been amazing where this business has taken us.”