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Peter's Pointers: 9 Steps to Weatherproof Your Outdoor Wedding Reception

Hosting your wedding reception outdoors? An outdoor reception can be lots of fun, but it's impossible to know exactly what kind of weather your wedding day will bring -- especially when you start planning everything a year (or more) in advance.  You can't just cancel or postpone everything due to rain.  But with some planning, you can prevent bad weather from ruining your big day.

Here in Central New York, our average summertime temperatures range from the upper 70s to the low 50s. We have triple-digit record highs, and record lows dipping into the 30s. Snow has been seen in Syracuse as late as May, and as early as October. Although your wedding day will hopefully (and probably, statistically-speaking) enjoy "average" weather, you still need to be ready for anything.

Here are some pointers to prevent Mother Nature from crashing your outdoor wedding plans.

1. Rent a big party tent.

It will protect you, your guests, your vendors and everyone's "stuff" from the elements.  Most people only think of a tent as a protection against rain or hail... but it can also prevent sunburn and heat exhaustion on a sunny day.

2. Make sure the tent has walls.

If it's a nice day, tent walls can usually be rolled-up or otherwise stored out of sight.  You may never need them, but if it turns out to be a windy or rainy day, they'll prove to be extremely valuable.

3. Stay High and Dry.

Our good friend Gravity will be at your wedding, invited or not. If there's a big rain storm during (or even in the hours or days before) your wedding, where will all that water go? Try to avoid setting-up your reception near the bottom of a hill or in low-lying areas near a body of water. Nobody wants their wedding remembered for the way everyone had to evacuate from a flash flood. Even if there's no rain in the forecast for wedding day, a rain event in the days prior could lead to plenty of shoes, tables, chairs and cars getting stuck in the mud.

4. Rent a Dance Floor.

It's acceptable to have your dinner tables right on the ground, but when it comes to dancing, you definitely want a flat, sturdy surface for your guests. It'll be better for your guests, and better for the lawn they'd otherwise be dancing on directly.  You can usually rent a dance floor from the same company that provides your party tent. Depending on your guest count, anything from 10x10 feet to 15x15 should work.

5. Be Mindful of Temperature Extremes

For daytime receptions, pedestal fans can provide comfort on a hot, humid day.  Also make sure plenty of water will be available.  For evening receptions, be ready for an unexpected chill: consider renting portable heaters and arrange with your caterer to have warm beverages (coffee, tea, hot cocoa, apple cider) on stand-by.  You may never need them if the weather cooperates -- but it's better to be prepared, just in case.

6. Make Sure Your Guests Know!

Your invitations should clearly indicate that the reception will be outdoors.  Guests who are sensitive to temperature extremes will appreciate having "notice" to dress accordingly.

7. Make Sure Your Vendors Know!

All your vendors -- your DJ, caterers, photographer, cake decorator -- should be notified that the reception will be outside.  Some vendors may need to take extra precautions or use different equipment for outdoor events.

8. Insect Control.

If your reception will extend into the evening hours, the heat and lights in the tent could become a magnet for mosquitoes, moths and other annoying insects.  Your tent vendor may have some suggestions.

9. Somewhere to "go."

Portable facilities are an absolute must if your reception is not within walking-distance to indoor facilities.  But even if your reception's at someone's house, do they really want guests constantly parading in and out of the house to use the restroom?  If you think regular porta-potties would look tacky, a restroom trailer (like these) serves the same purpose, with a more upscale appearance.

The "Savvy Scoop" blog also has some great advice for outdoor weddings -- be sure to check out their thoughts too.

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