Yesterday morning I went outside and discovered much to my dismay that it was sleeting…at the end of March! Since the last couple of weeks have been warm and sunny, this turn took me by surprise and immediately made me think of a comfy chair, a warm fire and naturally, a big mug of hot chocolate. I also started thinking about outdoor weddings and the weather surprises that can ruin them. There are many absolutely stunning outdoor venues in Hampton Roads from the Norfolk Botanical Gardens to the lawns at Kingsmill, the Williamsburg Lodge or The Founders Inn, and what’s more beautiful than a garden wedding in the spring, or summer, or fall? We are so fortunate to have such a long season of great outdoor weather that many brides and grooms see the garden wedding as a natural choice.
I agree that if you are not planning a church wedding, the garden wedding is right up there as a perfect choice for your ceremony. After all, the natural beauty of the surroundings provide the perfect decor, so you don’t have to do anything but put out some chairs and show up! There are some things to think about, however, when planning an outdoor wedding.
Always have a backup plan, and don’t be afraid to use it. I have known many couples who had a backup site in case of inclement weather, but when push came to shove they really, really didn’t want to use it and everyone suffered for it. I know that the weather is often very different during the site visit from what it will be on the wedding day so try to envision the actuality when planning rather than the fantasy. For example, a site visit is made in February for an August wedding. The landscape is somewhat barren and the temperature is cold, but your guide from the site says, “Imagine it in the summer: flowers in bloom, warm breezes and bluebirds singing in the trees!”. So you do, and it’s perfect so that’s it. The reality is more likely that it will be an inferno with humidity approaching 100%, no breeze and some birds wheezing from exhaustion off in the distance! Even with that reality in mind, a lot of couples say to themselves, “Yes, it’ll be hot, but it’s only for 20 minutes.” Wrong again. Your guests must be out there sweltering in the heat for at least 10-15 minutes before that while you are finishing preparations in lovely air conditioning. And even before that, the musicians are generally there at least an hour before to set up, and will more than likely be in formal wear, which is designed for its elegant looks, not its comfort in the sun. Please keep all of these people’s health and well-being in mind when making your plans.
The best solution for this dilema is to provide shade, either in the form of a grove of trees or a tent. There are a number of really fine rental companies in our area (Distinctive Event Rentals and Williamsburg Event Rentals being 2 of my favorites) who can put just about any area under a tent. Sure, it’s an extra expense but it really should be considered a necessity for any summertime outdoor event. Also, when considering tent size, don’t forget the musicians! I have been at so many weddings where the guests were comfortably seated under a tent but the musicians were left outside. When questioned, my clients have said, “Well, we would have had to get a bigger tent and we figured that it was only for 20 minutes so we decided that you could last that long outside”.
Another consideration for the musicians is their instruments. On average, especially if there are stringed instruments involved, there will be $20,000 or more worth of very sensitive equipment being used and these instruments cannot be exposed to direct sunlight on hot days for long periods of time; they would be ruined. In my contracts I have a clause stating that we reserve the right not to play if it is over 90 degrees and there is no cover from the sun. That isn’t there because we just don’t feel like being hot; it’s there to protect our equipment and our health so please don’t be offended if your musicians ask you about cover.
The same logic applies to cold. Last spring I played a wedding where it snowed in May! The event was moved indoors but the bride still wanted to “Just run outside and do the ceremony really quickly” even though the temperature was around 35 degrees. The answer from us was no because our instruments would be ruined and even if they weren’t, the sound would be atrocious! We would have been unable to provide the beautiful music that they paid for through no fault of our own. The guests actually applauded when they heard that the ceremony would not be moved outside!
So, in closing this rather long entry: Go ahead and plan your perfect garden wedding. More often than not things work out beautifully. Just think realistically about weather patterns in Virginia and also be emotionally prepared to move inside if the situation warrants it. Remember that in the end, it’s not where you have your ceremony that is important but rather who is with you to share it!