Outdoor events in the Pacific Northwest: do you have a ‘Plan B?”

August 11th, 2010

Above is a picture of one of our awesome cellists, Heather, at a beautiful outdoor wedding in the Columbia River Gorge, where the scenery is absolutely stunning.

Unfortunately, the ambience of said wedding was totally ruined for all by fast winds and  100-degree heat.  The wind blew our music off the stands, in spite of all of the measures we took to secure it.  Several times, the stands almost blew over completely, and blew our bows off of our instruments, causing us to have to stop playing during the processional of the wedding party!  Eventually, Heather found some big rocks off to the side of where we were playing, which she hauled over, so we could secure everything further.  Still, a stressful situation all around.

While outdoor weddings in the summer are ubiquitous and usually lovely,  there are several factors that some coordinators, clients, and a frightening number of vendors do not consider, like the following:

Do you have a “Plan B” for inclement weather?

It is amazing to me how many outdoor events we have played in the late summer where clients do not have a backup plan if it rains (or is 100 degrees, with fierce winds).  Come on, people!  Its the Pacific Northwest – in August!  It could rain at any time, OR it could be ridiculously hot.   Do you really want your guests to sit and drown/burn in an uncovered area?  I doubt it.  But I have seen it time and time again, where guests and vendors alike are all crammed like sardines under a big tree, ducking out of rainstorms…or Aunt Edna and Uncle Fred have both fainted from having to sit in the intense, 100-degree sun.  Tell me, who is really concentrating on the wedding and the couple in these conditions?

At this wedding, there was no outlet for amplification, so with the wind blowing so hard, nobody could hear the officiant except for the couple.  This may have been ok, if there was not a lot of audience interaction planned into the ceremony, with readings, and the like.  The candle lighting was a total bust, but did (thank god) provide some comic relief for the wedding party and audience.  Most of the beautiful flower arrangements had their petals blown off, and some flowers on stands blew over.  As the officiant went on with whatever he was saying for nearly 30 minutes, the guests were all baking in the intense sun, or being blown about by the wind.  Not one of them looked like they were paying any attention.  I thought to myself, “all of this preparation, and for what?”  It was visually beautiful, but I could tell the bride and groom were also distracted.  Later, the bride told me she didn’t remember anything but worrying about her dress being blown off.  That’s so sad!

In the end, this couple sacrificed a few things for a spectacular view of the Gorge.   I have played at this venue every August for years and have come to expect this!  So I’ve decided that this will be the last year that I will agree to play outdoors there.  It is a shame, as it could all be prevented.  The moral of the story is: when planning your outdoor wedding in the great Northwest, it is important to have a ‘Plan B’ in case of severe weather!  Hopefully your venue has a space where you could move things indoors.  If not, consider having large enough canopies to fit everyone under, or at least put the guests in a shaded area.  If this is not a possibility,  provide parasols and umbrellas for people.  It is thoughtful and will help to keep everyone’s attention on the wedding, not on the weather.

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