Outdoor events can be memorably charming — or they can become a harrowing weather adventure you want to forget. Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do to prepare for an exquisite outdoor event — and it’s that extra preparation that can make an outdoor event fabulous despite torrential downpours, blazing sun or an unexpected spring flurry.
Tents & Structures
When planning an outdoor event, remember that inclement weather isn’t the only reason for setting up a party tent. Full-on summer sunshine can also beat down on your guests, causing sunburn and heat exhaustion. In that case, a shady tent is a welcome retreat for the event. You can consider setting up tents with sidewall enclosures if windy or wet conditions are expected. Take into account, however, that tents that are enclosed will also need ventilation fans to keep things from getting stuffy inside, particularly in the summer. In colder climes, safe gas heaters may be necessary to keep the temperature up, even inside of the tent. Some outdoor spaces also need solid flooring and carpeting under foot, particularly if this is an event where there will be a lot of high-heeled shoes. And if precipitation is on the menu, make sure the tent is set up in a raised location where the water will run away from, not into, the tent.
Even tent-covered outdoor events can experience windy conditions that can send tablecloths flapping and floral arrangements toppling. This can be a particular safety concern if you are using natural candles or oil lamps. Make sure all décor, tablecloths and candles are weighed down against the wind and that candles are protected by glass hurricane enclosures. Even little things like fishing weights can be used for some wind-vulnerable items (and nicely painted to match the rest of the décor). Bows and ribbons can also serve the double purpose of being charming decorators while tying things down to a solid surface.
Choose a caterer that is experienced working in all kinds of weather conditions and has the right equipment for keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold in unpredictable outdoor conditions. A good caterer will also have great ideas for season-appropriate foods. For example, sturdier marzipan or fondant will hold up better on a cake in hot weather than buttercream frosting. On the other hand, event attendees enjoying outdoor gatherings in the spring or fall (when things can turn chilly quickly) would probably enjoy having some hot tea, coffee or hot mulled wine instead of ice-cold lemonade.
NOTE: At the same time, guests can suffer dehydration any time of the year, so make sure there are plenty of drinking water stations set up around the event to prevent that from happening.
Security, Emergency & Traffic Control
Well ahead of the scheduled outdoor event, make sure that your security team and traffic control knows the area and is prepared for any contingency. Also ensure that the event is staffed with an emergency medical team and a first-aid area is set up, just in case. Critical event staff should be equipped with two-way radios so that any problem can be handled quickly by the professionals in charge with as little disturbance to the event and guests as possible.
Set up traffic cones and barriers in car traffic and parking areas; put up stanchions and railings where you need to have foot-traffic directed into or away from certain areas.
Ensure that there is a lost-and-found area as well as an established and secure place for lost children to find their parents, if children will be attending.
Don’t Forget the Details
· Don’t forget to make sure that restrooms are within reach, and arrange for comfortable, clean port-a-potties with staff to check that they are clean at all times.
· Have a cleanup crew ready before, during and after the event. This ensures that the festivities are not interrupted by litter. And by leaving the area in absolutely pristine condition after you leave, you will leave good will behind you at that particular venue, with the view of potentially scheduling future events there as well.
· Absolutely make sure that any automatic lawn sprinklers that could surprise your guests are turned off for the event!
· Work decorative bug lights and candles into the equation if the event is happening at night in an area where mosquitoes and other insect pests are common.
· Also check the local area and venue to make sure all parking permits, event permits and fees are paid for and arranged well in advance.
Prepare for a Magical Outdoor Event!
With the proper planning and foresight, an outdoor event can be a smashing success, no matter the weather!
About the Author
Brent Derbecker is the National Sales Manager of Skyspan Structures, a shade division of Superior Recreational Products headquartered in Carrollton, GA. Skyspan Structures designs, manufactures, and installs commercial umbrellas and shade structures. We offer custom options for your specific outdoor needs.