What You Need To Know When Planning An Outdoor Wedding
By Robert Hawkins
Vice President of BobHawkins.com
Every year, BobHawkins.com attends numerous outdoor weddings so that I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of our experiences. Of course, with the weather in Ontario being what it is, one should never have an outdoor wedding without a tent! I’ll assume that a tent is in your wedding plans, and concentrate on this aspect of the event. There are many factors to consider.
Unlike a banquet hall, where almost everything is supplied, an outdoor wedding starts with an empty piece of ground. You have two options from there: You can find a rental company all by yourself, and deal with the renting of the tent, tables, chairs, dance floor, dishes, cutlery, and so on; or, you can deal with a caterer that will source everything on your behalf. I recommend the latter, as unexpected costs can pile up quickly. Also, with the former option, you will be responsible for lost or broken dishes, linens, glassware, or cutlery, and so on. That’s right! You are responsible for everything that is not returned in the same condition you received it. (Missing cutlery can cost $5.00 apiece.) Let a caterer take care of such problems. You don’t need the burden of that kind of responsibility for your wedding.
An average tent wedding will have an attendance of over 100 people – too many people for the bathroom in your house! Therefore, it would be better to provide an alternative. When it comes to renting washroom facilities, there are two types of portable washrooms to consider. First, there is the standard Porta-Potty found at many construction sites. These are cost effective. Also, there are the more elaborate trailer-mounted units that come with running water, lighting, and in some cases, air conditioning; these units are more expensive, but are more suitable for a formal event such as your wedding.
One of the major issues you need to remember when using Porta-Potty is the lighting. I have seen many different ways of lighting them, from a bunch of chem lights to two tap lights stuck to the walls. Such lighting, however, is insufficient for your guests especially after nightfall. Lighting is not a problem with trailer-mounted bathrooms.
The ground chosen for a tent is usually grassy. As a minimum, a dance floor is usually set up under the tent; however, some couples will install flooring over the entire area for a number of reasons. One is that the flooring protects the grass. Another is that the ground may be soft. If the ground is soft and spongy, then the chairs might sink into the ground, and ladies’ high heel shoes might get stuck in the muck.
If you decide not to floor the tent entirely, then the next best way to prevent any unforeseen incidents is to place 1 foot by 1 foot squares of ¾ inch plywood under the feet of each table. Doing so will distribute the weight of the table, and prevent the feet from sinking into the ground.
A tent wedding requires a large amount of electricity; each different draw requires its own circuit. There must be a circuit for the DJ, one for the lighting & decor, one for coffee urns and another one for incidentals. Your caterer may provide you with a distribution panel that plugs into your dryer outlet, or if the tent is far from a building, you can rent a trailer generator from a construction equipment rental company.
Since your reception is taking place in nature, you are going to have uninvited bugs inside your tent including wasps, flies and mosquitoes. Here is what you can do to cut down on bugs. First, use a pair of bug zappers, one about ten feet away from the entrance to the tent, and another where the caterer is preparing the food. Second, use a propane mosquito magnet to draw mosquitoes away from your tent.
I have also seen citronella candles on the tables, and torches around the outside of the tent. Just be aware, however, that while these can be nice additions for the ambience, you must be careful of open flames inside the tent; in the case of torches, beware of inebriated guests, as I have seen one try to pretend he was on Survivor with them.
Noise will not be an issue, if your nearest neighbor is half a kilometer away; otherwise, I recommend contacting your municipality to see whether you can obtain a special occasion permit for your party until 1 am. Also, as you don’t want the neighbor from hell wreaking havoc on your special day, ask your neighbors politely to be forgiving of whatever disturbance your party will create. It might even be a good move to invite your neighbors to the dinner or the party that follows.
Liability insurance is a must if you are having a wedding on your property. Both the property owner and the couple should purchase additional liability insurance when hosting a tent wedding. You could be liable if a guest is injured on the property, or has an accident while driving home inebriated.
Contact your insurance agent to discuss the purchase of special occasion insurance.
Parking is an important consideration, as you must ensure that you and your guests will comply with the by-laws dealing with street parking. If you intend to let your guests park on your grass consider the effect if there are any heavy rains in the days leading up to your wedding. It is possible that cars will get stuck – not nice for the lawn afterward – and guests will fall on the wet ground.
Make sure there is a parking spot for your DJ, and two for your caterer, and place them as close to where they are to set up as possible. The easier it is for the vendors to access where they are working, the better it will be for everyone.
Poor weather is the biggest risk that you face with a tent wedding, and there is nothing you can do about it. It could be hot, humid, cold, windy, frosty, or wet. If the weather is not perfect, your guests may be tempted to head home early no matter how hard your DJ tries to keep the party going.
This is just a sample of some of the things you need to keep in mind when planning a tent wedding. I hope this article helps with your decision making and planning process for your upcoming wedding. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss how BobHawkins.com can help take your reception to the next level, please call our office at 416-580-3649, 905-853-8705, or 1-800-364-2855, or send me an email to Robert@BobHawkins.com.
As always, may all your wedding day dreams come true, and no matter whom you select for your DJ for your wedding, may your event be a great success!
Vice President, BobHawkins.com