Ask about noise.
“New York is a dense city, so when you do outdoors there are rules regarding noise and setup,” says Josh Brooks of Fête. “Many venues do not allow music after a certain hour—or, sometimes, any amplified music at all.” On your first visit, ask explicitly about the rules. (Venues generally won’t volunteer the information.) No glass containers, and no music after 10 p.m. are frequent buzzkills. For a park or museum, ask how late it’s open to the public. “Sometimes spaces are open until 5 or later, so your setup time is limited,” says Brooks. Others don’t close at all; find out in advance, so you’re prepared for unwanted guests.
Make peace with the rain.
“You can’t go with an all-outdoor space if you’re not ready to consider the possibility of rain,” says Lee. From day one, establish a backup plan. Many New York venues—like the Bowery Hotel, Stage 6, Central Park Boathouse, and the New Leaf Café—have built-in options in case of bad weather, but sometimes tenting is the only choice. Most vendors will let you hold a tent up to 48 hours before an event with a deposit of 30 to 50 percent. Leave nothing to chance: “Ask your vendors when they absolutely must know if it’s outside,” Lee adds.
Hire a pro.
Many venues have preferred tent vendors, and it’s usually a good idea to go with one that’s familiar with the place, even if it costs more. “They will know the space and any peculiarities, like areas that tend to flood,” Nicky Reinhard, of David Reinhard Events, explains. “They can be expensive, but with tents, you get what you pay for.” Cost depends on features. Frank Ditillo of West Side Party Rentals estimates that a 30-by-60-foot tent for a 150-person dinner with lighting, installation, and breakdown will run you $3,000 or more.
Greet the fire marshal!
All materials in the tent must pass fire code. “That includes carpet, Astroturf, drapery, table linens—everything,” says Walker. “And you have to have all candles enclosed in glass.” She recommends finalizing your plans two to three months before your wedding, then submitting them to the local fire marshal. Your tent will be inspected the day of to make sure exits are clearly marked, everything is fire retardant, and there are extinguishers on-site.
“You don’t want them cutting the grass the morning of your event,” says Walker. The last mowing should be at least a day before, so allergens can dissipate. Stock the bar with bug-repellent wipes (Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Towelettes are $12 for a pack of eight), or Reinhard suggests burning a natural repellent like lavender (English-lavender incense from Ashleigh & Burwood is $7 for 30 sticks).
Do a walk-through after dark.
“With outdoor weddings, you have to also think about safety,” says David. Ensure that dim spaces are well lit. If you’re in a remote location, consider paying an EMT to be on standby. “You can hire someone for a couple hundred dollars, and you’ll have peace of mind,” David notes. To find an EMT, David suggests calling the town hall, firehouse, or police department in the community where you’ll be wed. Park the ambulance out of sight, though—it kind of spoils the view.