Thursday, May 19, 2011

6 Key Tips on How to Keep Rain from Spoiling Your Outdoor Wedding

As a wedding minister who’s officiated over 1000 weddings in North Carolina over the last 17 years I’ve gotten rained on at lots of weddings.  There are only a few key differences between rainy weddings where the couple had a great time and those where the couple’s joy was significantly dampened. 

1.    Let your guests know your plans.  Couples tell me all the time that they’ll just tough it out if it rains.  That’s fine with me.  I come prepared with an umbrella.   But your guests might not.  At the first drops of unexpected rain, they’ll seek shelter.  In their finery they’re not equipped to tough it out.  And if your guests leave, what will you do?

If you want your guests to stay, tell them of your intentions and to come prepared. While it might not look elegant on a wedding invitation, the line ‘In case of light rain, the wedding will continue outdoors’ can save headaches later.  If not on the wedding invitation, put it on your website, on the directions, or on the reception card.  Then buy some inexpensive umbrellas to make sure there will be enough.   

2.    Don’t assume that overhead cover will keep you dry.  Are you imagining that the roof on your deck will do the job?   In renting a tent consider what you need.  I’ve officiated weddings where hard slanting rain drenched those under tents with no sides, and others where ankle deep rain pooled despite the tent sides.    It’s also easy to forget just how wet you can get in your walk to the tent.  Wedding stress can be eased by having flip flops to wear just in case, rain coats handy and, once again, informing guests of rain risks and the preventative measures you have in place.  A bride I married recently at a rainy wedding laughingly wore a rain poncho to the tent and cowboy boots under her long white gown.

3.    Take time before the wedding to ensure guests will be as comfortable as possible.  As the minister I’m often the one who instructs guests on Plan B when the skies look iffy.  Whether by taking the chairs from around the edges of the tent to removing the chairs altogether, or assigning people to hold umbrellas at key positions, it’s easier to adjust quickly and easily before the ceremony.  Share your rain strategy with your wedding minister so they can represent your desires to your guests at the critical moment.

4.    Think of the impacts and create a rain backup kit. 

Will your musicians stick around if it rains?  String quartets and music requiring electricity are out.  Too risky.  A CD player or an I POD with a battery operated amplifier work well.  At one wedding I officiated everyone was issued a kazoo to play the couple into the ceremony.   They even played the Wedding March!   Unique, fun, inexpensive, and rain proof.

How else might nature intervene?  Summer rain brings out mosquito, flies and gnats.  So do verdant golf courses and lush lawns, even on pretty days.   I’ve officiated weddings where the women in the wedding were covered with red welts that showed up all too well in the pictures and where guests, the wedding party, and I, were surreptitiously scratching our ankles throughout the ceremony.   Invest in bug spray.  Have it available if your wedding will be in a warm moist location.  Invest in paper fans, cold bottled water, or wetwipes to handle other weather needs.  Storms darken the skies, too.  At one rainy evening wedding I officiated the skies got so dark that a groomsman had to stand behind me with a flashlight so that I could read the ceremony.   We were lucky he had one in his car.

Will decorations be compromised by the wind or rain?  Unity Candles should be under hurricane glass (any clear glass taller than the candle will do).   And have a lighter nearby.  These simple preventions will keep the ritual meaningful.   I’ve seen vases blow over and break because no one thought to put marbles in their base to make them heavy enough to withstand even a breeze.  Beautiful vases of flowers have gone unused because they couldn’t fit in the rain location. Paper wedding runners blow away and become a tripping hazard.  At one windy wedding I officiated, a hotel staff member stood behind the trifold screen holding it up during the entire wedding ceremony to keep it from blowing over.   

What about the cake and the food?  The guest book?  The photographs?  When the wedding ceremony begins these can be forgotten and may get drenched in the few minutes you’re distracted.   In addition to umbrellas, your kit bag might include foil and tarps for covering food and photos, wire for attaching decorations to trees or trellises to walls, sand to put in the bottom of luminarias, rocks to weigh down wedding aisle runners, and a flashlight. Check out your wedding site with possible rain or wind emergencies in mind.  Here an ounce of prevention will serve you well.

5.    Have a team of people who know they’ll be called upon if needed.  Once I officiated a wedding where the bus bringing guests from the hotel to the outdoor location got stuck in a muddy rut.  Luckily we were at the house where the groom’s men had changed into their formal wear, so they changed back into jeans and T-shirts and got the bus moving.  I also officiated a wedding where male guests moved 150 chairs in the rain from location A to location B, only to have the rain move again, driving us all to Location C under the porch without chairs.  These guests had no change of clothes.  In both cases their labor was a gift of friendship.   Designating a back up crew will keep responses to emergencies fast, organized and with minimal impact.  Choose these friends well and make this gift of friendship their gift to your wedding.   You’ll be more relaxed as your wedding day approaches and your friends will know they’re giving a really wonderful gift.

6.    Remember what’s important about your wedding day.  You can create a work of art out of a soggy day by your joy in your love for each other.  Couples who are flexible and considerate of their guests and of each other create an atmosphere where people want to help out and their love outshines the rain.  In these times we laugh and know that whatever happens will make a good story later.  One time a sudden rain drove all of us to the shelter of a gazebo only to find that its roof was only loosely woven vines.  With rain streaming down our faces we decided to finish the ceremony.  When I spoke the sentence, “May your marriage stand victorious against the storms of circumstance that beat impartially at every person’s door,” we all broke up laughing and I knew that this couple would be fine.   A wedding ceremony is a ritual.  It’s not a performance.  Choosing a beautiful outdoor setting for your wedding means choosing the unknown.  Flowing with what happens is an important part of wedding.

An old folk saying is ‘A wet knot is harder to untie.’  Perhaps that’s because if the couple doesn’t let rain spoil their wedding day, then little else will.

For more great tips and ideas for all aspects of your wedding ceremony, see my wedding ceremony resource book at, 

No comments:

Post a Comment