I always say that meteorologists are the only professionals who can get it wrong 99% of the time and still have a job. No disrespect to the science or their degrees, but weather can be very unpredictable.
I’ve planned outdoor events that had to be evacuated due to terrible storms. I’ve also had to push events into their “plan B” scenarios due to deteriorating weather conditions. It’s ok to plan an outdoor affair—you just also need to plan a backup.
Below are the main weather incidents that could take place and some ways to mitigate the unpredictability.
- Depending on how cold it is, consider moving the event indoors. Your Certified Wedding Planner will always make sure that you have a backup location in your contract. But who knows? You may end up getting a 70-degree winter day (lucky!), and if the weather is that gorgeous, you will be outside! However, if it’s below freezing, move that baby indoors.
- Don’t forget to account for wind chill when calculating the outside temperature. Even a sunny, cool day can feel frigid with strong enough winds.
- Consider the locations your guests are traveling in from. If some guests are from out of town, they may not own the appropriate jackets and sweaters to keep them warm. You could always pack some extras in case anyone needs to borrow.
- Stainless steel outdoor patio heaters are an option to rent from most rental companies. If you know it is going to be cold, a few of these heaters will make a big difference in temperature.
- If it’s cold, organize a coat check. Guests will appreciate that they don’t have to hold onto their jacket the entire night.
- If a nor’eastern or blizzard is approaching, either move it indoors, or consider cancelling your event.
- Update your timeline to account for excess travel time for yourself, your vendors, and your guests.
- Have your planner reach out to every vendor the week of your event to ensure they are still coming. I have heard horror stories where hair dressers backed out the day of the wedding because of snow. This type of vendor (who isn’t paid a deposit in advance) has nothing to lose besides your kind online review.
- Keep in mind guests who were planning on driving may no longer be able to attend. Ask your venue if they will allow you to change your final guest count that week. If they oblige, you can give them a reduced headcount and save a few bucks rather than have empty seats you paid for. This will mean either yourself or your planner will need to confirm with guests. And if you do have guests backing out due to snow (or for any reason), consider changing the place settings to avoid empty seats.
- On the plus side, you could get incredible snowy pictures. It would be magical.
- To me, nothing is worse than being hot. Not being able to take off any more clothing, and feeling the sweet bead roll down your back, is just a nightmare. Now think of that in your wedding dress. This type of weather may not threaten a cancelation, but it will threaten comfort.
- Shade: Umbrellas or tents are a must. You may feel up to 10-15 degrees cooler in the shade versus direct sunlight.
- Electric Fans: Most rental companies offer fan rentals. They have large industrial fans, and they also offer misting fans. The mist is so fine, it evaporates right off the skin, allowing you to feel cool but not wet.
- Favors: You could make fun programs that can double use as a paper fan, or you could also gift a favor fan, hat, personal umbrella, lip balm, etc.
- Beverages: If you are going to be outside when it is hot, offer your guests some ice cold refreshments. Even if just water, your guests will appreciate the gesture. If your entire event is outdoors, keep in mind your guests may drink more throughout the day and therefore use the restroom more. Make sure the bar and restroom are stocked with sufficient supplies.
- Set up a sunscreen station with odorless and clear options.
- If your entire event is outdoors, you should try to offer at least one small option to cool down. If that means an indoor bathroom with a couple seats inside, great. This will give guests with heat sensitivity a little retreat to cool down.
- In addition to my note above about wind chill, here are some more tips on planning for high winds.
- An important thing to think about is items blowing away: tents, flowers, flower petals, bridal veils, arches, etc. If possible, tie these things down, or remove them all together.
- Tents and arches can be weighed down by sand bags or cement blocks. Most rental companies will provide these, and sometimes they are included by default.
- Florals are pretty delicate. Certain flowers can break in the wind, and flower petals can just blow away. If in a windy area, ensure to ask your florist for a sturdier flower option.
- Bridal veils often have rhinestones or lace on the ends not just for beauty but for function. Those details provide just enough weight so the veil doesn’t blow, or blows less, in the wind. However, if you wear a veil on the beach, it still may get a little twisted up. That light weight fabric is not really meant for wind.
- Your hair may get wrecked. Consider that you may want to curl your hair again after your ceremony. I sure did! I had this beach vision, and the wind was no joke that day. We rolled with it though, and my hubby’s aunt assisted me in re-curling a few bits of my hair during cocktail hour. I had already taken all formal pictures prior to that. However, you may want to pay your stylist to hang out an extra hour to fix you up after the ceremony.
- Of course, the show can go on with a little rain. However, plan for backups.
- Check the weather forecast leading into the week of your event. If rain is possibly in the forecast, get yourself online and buy umbrellas for yourself, the bridal party, and/or key guests. Best to have them on standby. You can buy bulk black umbrellas reasonably priced. You can also purchase a cute lace or “Mr.”/“Mrs.” set.
- If you are selecting an outdoor location for ceremony or cocktail hour, always have a backup indoor location written in your contract. Discuss the point in time at which that call needs to be made. If the venue says by 11am on wedding morning, the call needs to be made whether the outdoor ceremony at 5pm is being moved indoors, then set an alarm and work it into your timeline.
- Tent it: If your family has a great property, or you are using a park space, rooftop terrace, or estate and there is NO indoor option, then you MUST rent a tent. It can get costly, but don’t chance a storm ruining everything you worked for. Rental companies will come to set up the tent and break it down, so no stress on you. At a minimum, tent the area where guests will sit down to eat. You may leave a portion of the lawn or pavers open for guests to hang out during cocktail hour or to dance. Just ensure everyone has enough space to be comfortable and remain dry.
- Rain is one thing, but lightning is a different ballgame. Even being under a tent may be unsafe if there is lightning. Ask your venue what they have done in the past for these scenarios. Large rental tents are most likely not grounded so are not the best place to wait out a lightning storm.
- If the tent structure is grounded, then at least consider that thunder may be quite loud over your music.
- Your Certified Wedding Planner and your venue should discuss the different thresholds for how many miles away the lightning can strike before the call is made to move the event indoors. I usually start to monitor when the lightning is 20 miles away then work down in 5 mile increments.
- The official hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin (the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico) is from June 1st to November 30th, with the peak of the season from mid-August to late October. To avoid hurricanes, try to avoid planning events during hurricane season.
- You will most likely have the time to plan for this type of weather incident. Some slow-moving storms will give you weeks of storm models to track. There is a chance you can hold off from canceling the event by waiting to see if the storm changes track.
- If the storm is fast-moving, talk to your professionals and get their advice right away. If you are getting a direct hit, you will probably need to cancel your event, or the venue may wish to do so.
- Keep in mind that hurricanes are very large storms. Often, they affect multiple states at the same time. Even if you can move ahead with your event, don’t be upset when some guests have to cancel their attendance due to flight cancellations, airport closures, etc.
- Not all parts of the world get frequent tornados, but if you live in a region where these are common, discuss the shelter plan with your Certified Wedding Planner and venue. Should the sirens go off, most families would know where to shelter in place or evacuate to. However, when you gather 100-200 guests at a large venue, where do they go? A great question to ask your venue is if they have the capacity to safely shelter everyone.
Pro Tip – Always buy wedding insurance. Some storm types listed above will be covered under the Force Majeure clause in your contracts, so you will cover yourself if you have to cancel and reschedule (fingers crossed that doesn’t happen to you!). If you are hiring your venues from websites such as The Knot or Wedding Wire, sometimes companies and venues throw in wedding insurance for booking consultations through those websites. Read the fine print, and don’t miss out on FREE wedding insurance if you can get it.
The goal is to have a happy and safe event. Think of the scenarios that can happen, think of backup solutions, and hopefully you won’t have to use your backups, but know you are covered.