There is something magical about having a celebration outdoors. The foliage, warm breezes, setting sun, and sounds of nature all add an element of beauty that an indoor party wouldn’t be able to replicate. However, unless you live in a place that boasts blue skies every day and a temperate climate year round, planning an outdoor event can be nerve wracking. Whether you’re planning a lavish courtyard wedding or a swanky rooftop soiree, follow these tips from the pros to make sure your party doesn’t get rained out.
THE BACKUP PLAN
The first rule of planning an outdoor event is that you must always have a backup plan.
“Forward planning is an important part of successful event management, and planning for poor weather is part of this,” says Karen Finlay, instructor at The Art Institute of Vancouver and president of Karen Finlay Marketing.
Items like golf umbrellas, heaters, and air conditioners can make up for some bad weather, but sometimes the event needs to be moved indoors.
“Keep in mind that backup plans shouldn’t look or feel like backup plans,” says Maya Kalman, CEO and creative director of Swank Productions, an award-winning New York City event design company.
According to event planner to the stars Preston Bailey, the best way to protect against unforeseen weather and avoid having to switch locations is to use a tent.
“Generally the events I do outdoors are held in a tent, which is the safest way to go,” says Bailey.
The tents that can be used for outdoor events are often stunning, and provide a great level of protection from the elements. Even if you don’t get bad weather, they are still great for ensuring the comfort of guests.
“An enclosed tent will allow you to install cool air which can circulate throughout the event,” Bailey says.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
An outdoor event is all about location. Of course you want a gorgeous backdrop, but you also have to think about practical concerns. Kalman suggests finding a place that has an indoor space that you love as much as the outdoor space, particularly if you aren’t planning on renting a tent. Don’t forget to check on the regulations of the event space and to obtain the proper permits. Kalman notes that sometimes the rules can affect your backup plan.
“Some have wind regulations for tents so you shouldn’t assume you can just tent in case of rain,” Kalman says.
“The best types of locations are areas that have an abundance of land as well as power,” Bailey says.
He explains that space is vital, particularly if you’re holding a larger event. Power is something people don’t always think about, but if you’re planning on using electric lighting and sound equipment, access to electricity is a must.
DINNER IS SERVED
Serving food at an indoor event is usually pretty simple because the food can be brought straight from the kitchen. Outdoor events pose a bit of a problem, especially ones in warm settings. Food safety is essential when serving your guests, because no one wants to be responsible for widespread food poisoning.
“If a kitchen space is not available, items that can be served cold are best,” Finlay says.
Cold foods can easily be chilled on beds of ice. A chafing dish can keep foods warm for longer periods of time, if you want to serve hot foods.
“The easiest way to ensure proper food standards are met is to hire a professional catering or event planning company,” Finlay says.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
It would be great if the moonlight would be enough to light up your nighttime outdoor event, but that’s usually not the case.
“Lighting is everything — it creates, décor, drama, ambiance,” Kalman says.
Event planners have to get creative with lighting solutions so that the environment still looks beautiful and natural, but well-lit.
“For outdoor events, tea lights and lanterns are very romantic and beautiful. With the event being outdoors, it’s often easier to avoid any fire hazards, allowing for lovely evening lit events,” says Finlay.
If a power source is available, small clear strings of light can look beautiful. For a more dramatic effect, LED lighting and projections can make quite an impact.
Nothing ruins a party like flies buzzing around the cocktail shrimp and mosquitoes snacking on unsuspecting guests. There are some steps you can take to keep the bugs from crashing your party.
“This is a must, especially for outdoor ceremonies outside at dusk or sunset,” Kalman says.
Bailey recommends using candles that contain an insect repellant and are scent-free.
“These candles are a good way to maintain the décor and ward off bugs at the same time,” he says.
“Torch smoke also works,” Finlay says. “You can plant tiki torches around the area for a unique look, and the smoke will drive away the mosquitoes!”
Written by freelance talent for Ai InSite
Contributing writer for EDMC.