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Pray For Good Weather

A nuts-and-bolts mini-guide to pulling off a wedding reception outdoors.


A reception at Wölffer Estate Vineyard.  

GET A TENT
Prepare for Cats and Dogs

Do yourself a favor and resist making your computer’s home page weather.com. Though it must be said, they do have a very handy, personalized “My Weather” page that tracks the forecast for your wedding day, with a spiffy sunset calculator, determined by wedding date and zip code, so you can perfectly calibrate your I Do’s with the sinking orange wafer in the sky. Err on the side of caution, even if your personalized forecast calls for blue skies: Invest in a tent, at least for the reception. Get one with Astroturf flooring so stilettos don’t sink into grass. You’ll need a separatecatering tent (make sure there are eaves over the walkways connecting the tents). There are also electric considerations to dwell on: power supply for the caterer, the lighting company, and the band. And the portable toilets! Be sure to find a company whose inventory doesn’t look like the scary outdoor johns of beer-soaked college tailgates.Says planner Loulie Walker: “There are now plush trailers with marble counters, air-conditioning or heating, and sound systems. A Royal Flush and Nature’s Calling are two reliable companies.” Discuss power and water-line requirements with the reception site’s managers first. All of this said, it isn’t as tricky as it may seem. The tent-rental company will take care of all required permits, too.

PUT AN INDOOR SPACE ON HOLD
Nor’easter anyone?

Tents are erected with the worst case scenario in mind. Still, arrange to have an adjacent indoor space on hold where you can relocate if lightning strikes. “If the venue has some indoor room available, the additional cost should probably be nominal,” says Judy Hundley of Gracious Thyme Catering & Events. On top of the additional venue expense, nominal as it may be, consider the price of preparing a second mini-wedding of sorts. Include a separate rain-card enclosure with your invitation and instructions on where guests should go in case of a downpour. If El Niño haunts you in your sleep, get insurance through wedsafe.com. You can insure everything: outfit mishaps, cancellations, lost photographs, and even posttraumatic counseling.

FIND A GOOD CATERER
Don’t Let The Food Spoil

“People think rain, but extreme heat can be just as debilitating as a stormy day,” says Linda Abbey of Great Performances. Choose a caterer with relevant experience to assure that foods are served and stored adequately. Think carefully about your menu—the first course is typically preset so it has to be something that will hold up. Avoid food that might wilt or spoil (salad, sushi, shellfish, buttercream cakes). Building a kitchen from scratch is obviously a challenge and water access can be a major issue. Choose flowers that hold up to heat and humidity. The saddest thing in the world is a vase of flaccid calla lilies.

ADJUST ACOUSTICS
Inaudible Toasts are Even More Forgettable

Audibility is always an issue, especially near water. Rent a sound system with microphones. In terms of music, D.J.’s need to set up on solid ground. Get superlong extension cords and a generator that’s compatible with your D.J.’s setup. Place speakers on the ground so they won’t get knocked over by wind, and set them at an upward angle for superior acoustics. Ironically enough, you’ll also have to consider noise ordinances and music restrictions enforced by irritable neighbors. Often music is shut down altogether by midnight.

MAKE GUESTS COMFORTABLE
Keep Sweat and Bugs at Bay

Have the lawn treated the day before with a nontoxic pesticide, and place unscented bug spray in the WC units. Serve guests icy drinks, and get chairs that are UV-protected to keep thigh-scorching to a minimum. Before the wedding, make sure that the air-conditioning is working. On a windy day, keep your veil from flapping all over the place by sewing teensy fishing weights into the border or wearing an elbow or fingertip style so there is less fabric to blow around. Though often those candid veil-gone-awry shots are gems worth framing.

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