Holding a tournament is a lot of work, if you have a specific goal in mind.
Hosting a chivalric tourney in the SCA requires many issues be dealt with;
planning, inviting, setup,
conduct of the tourney, theme,
communication of an ideal,
getting or making needed items, staging the tourney,
the ladies gallery, what can go wrong, what can go right,
how much is too much, when the heck to find time to do it at all.
III. The tourney
We hold at least one meeting each year, where the only purpose and only activity we do is tourney business. In other words, we don't try this at an event, or somewhere else where we might get distracted. There is so much that needs to be decided and discussed that it usually takes 2 full days. We are always sure to assign every single task to a name, to ensure fair distribution of work and that nothing gets left by the wayside. We always discuss membership, future events and their conduct, and lessons learned from our last venture.
We have in the past limited the number of combatants in each tourney for several reasons. We like to allow for a lot of time to interact with the Ladies' gallery, and try to include a round without combat for just that purpose. This takes a LOT of time! We also like to spend a good amount of time for each challenger, allowing them time to be creative, time to say what they might wish to, etc. It is not unusual for us to eliminate a round of combat to allow for something else; people may have special challenges or presentations prepared that we do not plan for. We are very happy to have these things happen! Anyway, we usually invite 3 times the number we expect to meet on the field (usually 10, invite 30). We usually do the invitations by hand, or do 1 by hand and copy it, putting the names on by hand afterwards. We send them out with a calligraphied invitation and another sheet which explains the conduct of the tourney in specifics.
We always have a theme for our tourneys, and you can read about each of them on our Events page. Though the underlying theme is always chivalry, love and honor, there are countless ways to explore these ideals. All of our tourneys are based on actual challenges or events we have read about, or similar activities and stories. We try to always keep the ideas and rules simple, but strive for depth, so that we might educate some, entertain all, and there is no fear for someone who has not been indoctrinated to the tourney style. Even the questions we ask, or have the Ladies' ask, can all be answered in more than one way. We have all been in embarrasing situations, and there are many good gentles who do not have silver tongues; we would treat these lords and ladies as gently as we would like to be treated ourselves, while still knowing that everyone thoughts on these ideals is of value. There are few rules to the tourney, and they are clearly spelled out:
III. The tourney
IV. Stuff we have
We have regalia consisting of scarves that the Lords give to the Ladies of the company, and medallions that the Ladies have bestowed on us. We have surcoats and capes. We have a banner and list poles with a marshall's erik in our colors. We have a shield tree for small challenge shields. We have shield stands. We have a small seat and carpet for combatants to use when attending the Ladies gallery. We have several galleries, the plans for which can be found on our Links page, at Lord Charles Oakley's site. We try to have 2 shaded pavilions for the Ladies, & one for each side of combatants. We have helm tables and we always set up food and drink for our guests. We always invite every lady within sight to join the Ladies' gallery, so there must be enough for an unknown number. We put up all of our individual banners behind our shields, and we have 4 pennants that can be put up in several ways. We have a barrier in our colors, which is easily moved. We have a leather-bound book to keep the names of our challengers in. We never have a prize for winning, that would go against the grain of what we are striving for. We do, however, often give gifts to those that inspire us. Often there is not a clear winner in the traditional sense, though we try to reach a conclusion within the day's theme.
There will be more of this discourse when I have time, but please send me your thoughts in the meantime!