Why The Hell Does It Have To Be In August??
January 30, 2009 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Summer wedding logistics. Been there? Done that?

A friend is having an outdoor wedding for 250+ in August. We're going to help and have been gently coaching her on logistical things she'll need to consider -- porta potties, parking, trash, etc. We have two questions:

* She would like a cake. Fondant's not an option and the best we can come up with is 7 minute frosting.

* Have you had or helped with an outdoor wedding? Your advice/tale of woe/success story would be appreciated.
posted by Atom12 to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My wife and I got married a few years ago on the hottest day of the year. Outdoors. Keep water handy.
posted by ducktape at 10:05 AM on January 30, 2009

Swiss meringue frosting. Read smittenkitchen's story of making her first wedding cake (also for a summer wedding) for tips. She also explains why she chose swiss buttercream over 7-minute or meringue frosting.
posted by amelioration at 10:11 AM on January 30, 2009

August where? Climate (humidity, heat, precipitation, etc.) would be handy to know.
posted by teamparka at 10:13 AM on January 30, 2009

Response by poster: Good point, sarabeth. It'll be in Nebraska, on a farm. We haven't been out to the farm yet to see the proverbial lay of the land yet.

Oh, the future brother-in-law's an electrician, so at least that aspect should be covered.
posted by Atom12 at 10:17 AM on January 30, 2009

You might want to check out some wedding websites and boards- bitchy bridezillas aside, there is a lot of help out there. The boards at The Knot are pretty active overall, and it looks like there are two Nebraska area Local boards.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:25 AM on January 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I went to a summer wedding in an old, un-AC'ed church once. The bride and groom had kindly provided little paper fans and bottles of water before the ceremony. They were a lifesaver.
posted by juliplease at 10:33 AM on January 30, 2009

I was in a wedding in San Antonio in August. It was an extra-hot day and the wedding was at 2pm. It was brutal watching the guests baking in the sun. It was a beautiful, touching wedding, but the guests were miserable. One of the flower girls picked up her skirt and lifted it over her head to get some air moving. I didn't blame her.

Here's my advice:

Shelter - you need it. You need some area that has shade with chairs and tables.
Time - there's no reason to have the wedding in the most sweltering part of the day. If the evenings are cool, start the wedding then.
Hats - Either advise people to bring them or have a basket of hats available. Really.
posted by 26.2 at 10:41 AM on January 30, 2009

July 10th/ 6 pm/SoCal The worst thing that happened was that our spun sugar swans on top of the cake melted. People were trying to figure out why we had dolphins.

Also, people were thirsty. For some reason they stayed away from the beer on tap and all the mixed drinks but drank champagne like it was water-- possibly because the champagne fountain was enticing? My mother had to rush out and buy another crate of wine.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:09 AM on January 30, 2009

Portapotties at a wedding?
posted by rhizome at 11:23 AM on January 30, 2009

Portapotties at a wedding?

Word. If the couple and their friends are crunchy that may fly, but not for relatives. What about washing your hands? I'm sorry, but at a 250+ wedding, that's just not acceptable. You need access to plumbing.

I had friends who got married at an orchard in California in the summer, but it started at dusk and ran into the evening, which was quite pleasant.
posted by mkultra at 11:33 AM on January 30, 2009

I had some very fancy portapotties at my wedding. Seriously, they were very nice. They did have water for handwashing, although it was not super hot...and that gel stuff. There were flowers inside and they were meticulously clean.
posted by miss tea at 11:36 AM on January 30, 2009

Response by poster: Hey, I'm with you on the portapotty thing. Believe me. This is just one of the things we tried to impress upon her in the early stages.

But do you really think a single bathroom in a home is going to work for 250 plus people? What else would you suggest?
posted by Atom12 at 11:36 AM on January 30, 2009

Seconding that there are really nice "temporary bathrooms" out there. A friend got married outdoors in Vermont last summer, with approximately 100-150 guests, and she had two super-swank port-a-potties. They were white, roomy, and had a sink and mirror - think airplane bathroom material. There was a basket with hand wipes, sanitizer, bobby pins, breath mints, hand lotion, super thick paper towels, etc. It was as nice as a hotel bathroom.
posted by kidsleepy at 11:47 AM on January 30, 2009

Best answer: I went to a Tahoe wedding on top of a mountain on a hot August day.

Bride and groom provided an assortment of beautiful Japanese paper umbrellas for shade(which all the girls absolutely loved, and made for some great photographs). And I think that the wedding program was pasted onto a simple wooden paddle tied with a gorgeous ribbon that everyone used as a fan. It was a great way to help keep guests cool.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:53 AM on January 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There are "luxury" portapotties available that are not blue plastic boxes. Imagine one of those construction-site offices, only a little smaller and only a bathroom.

Here's an example.

At our August 17th wedding [1991, at a farm in MN], we had outdoor games [croquet, badminton] set up 100 feet away on the lawn, so bored fidgety kids could go play.

We served ice cream sundaes; the cake was a tomato soup cake. Went over really well. IIRC, we had non-alcoholic drinks in a galvanized trough full of ice.

We should have had a PA. Even though there were only about ten rows of seating, it was very hard for the attendees to hear anything.
posted by chazlarson at 12:05 PM on January 30, 2009

I was all set to respond because my brother's wedding was in August, but it was in Vermont, at the bride's family house, overlooking a lake. So heat was probably less of a factor being in New England in the mountains.

I think that bathrooms were taken care of via some kind of setup in the barn next to the house -- I don't recall it being "porta-potty" kind of scale, but I can't remember exactly whether it was a fixed feature that had already been there or what. (Mainly because I was trying to hurry up and finish so I wouldn't miss the cake cutting.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:09 PM on January 30, 2009

We should have had a PA. Even though there were only about ten rows of seating, it was very hard for the attendees to hear anything.

Seconding this. That's a very good point -- it was a very simple and lovely wedding, but no one could hear anything. Well -- everyone could hear me, but that's only thanks to three years of stage speech training that would let me enunciate and project my voice through a full theater. But the guests didn't hear anyone else.

I'd second a PA -- unless you're going to give everyone a crash course in breathing from the diaphragm or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:12 PM on January 30, 2009

I went to an outdoor afternoon wedding in a park in NYC in the middle of a July heatwave. In fact, it may have been the hottest day of the year. The bride and groom told everyone to dress in cool clothing and told the men to wear shorts if they wanted and definitely not to wear suits. I think that helped a bit. Not too many people danced--it was just way too hot--so they should keep that mind. They might not want to spend so much on a band or dj for dancing if it's an afternoon wedding.

I also went to a sort-of outdoor wedding in Washington, DC in late June. Steamy! They had the wedding and reception in a giant tent in the courtyard of a building. The tent had these massive air conditioners and fans (it had walls and doors and everything), so it was pretty comfortable. Not sure how do-able that is, but maybe worth looking into? The tent was especially appreciated when there was a massive thunderstorm during the reception.

Fans and water a definite must. And you might want to make sure your food doesn't contain mayonnaise or anything else likely to spoil quickly. Giving all the guests food poisoning would really suck.
posted by min at 12:15 PM on January 30, 2009

Seconding so many things: fans/programs (I saw an example of these that were really nice and professional looking, they don't have to be pasted on, unless that's the look you're going for), definitely need a PA outdoors, shade is necessary, as is lots of water.
At my wedding we had an ice cream bar, but I dunno how you'd arrange it to keep the ice cream from melting before people got to it. Maybe have a dedicated server to take it in and out of the cooler.
Keep the cake indoors as long as possible, If it has to be outside keep it in the shade, maybe with a tub of ice under the table or something (would that even help? probably not) We had cupcakes instead of one big cake, but we still had a small round cake top to do the "ceremonial cutting of the cake". Maybe you could try that and just keep the cupcakes inside until time to serve?
Alcohol is dehydrating, so maybe limit that?
We made a point to remind our guests that the wedding was outside so they should dress accordingly, most got the memo, but a few still showed up in stilettos, which didn't mix super well with the lawn games, so maybe going above and beyond to set wardrobe expectations (super casual, it WILL be hot, sundresses and shorts, short sleeve shirts) I really hope the bride doesn't have a super heavy gown.
Ok, I am done
posted by purpletangerine at 12:32 PM on January 30, 2009

Best answer: We got married in July in rural Massachusetts, and it was nearly perfect. However, there were a few rough edges:

- Farms will often have a septic system going to a leach field out back instead of town sewer; these can be quickly overwhelmed by too many flushes from the 250 plus visitors. If they have well water, they may run the pump dry- so portapotties are pretty much required if this is the case.

- Definitely get tents; summer weather can be unpredictable, and even a short thunderstorm will be an issue.

- We had a very hard time keeping the booze cold. We couldn't keep the kegs cold enough, so all our beer-swilling friends drank the hard stuff. This got them extremely wasted extremely quickly. Our wedding started at the top of a hill; by the end of the reception, most of our friends had rolled down it. Make sure that you have adequate cooling for drinks as well as for the caterer.

- Make sure the caterer scopes out the site early- preferably as part of the bid process. We had a problem because the van with the wedding cake had to drive up the hill; the cake nearly toppled, which would have made my wife really sad.

- get a dance floor for the reception if you can; a couple of barn doors or cheap plywood will do in a pinch.

Enjoy the party!
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:46 PM on January 30, 2009

Yes, you need some big tents, preferably with screening, but, in any case, people need shade.

Are there mosquitos?

Are there farms nearby? A friend of mine made a lovely cake for an outdoor wedding. There was a dairy farm nearby, and the cake was enjoyed greatly by flies. ick. It even looked awful in the photos.

Outdoors, summer, no such thing as too much ice. Consider making a really great alcoholic punch, as well as an alcohol-free punch. Or great iced tea. And have big tubs of ice & beer. Hot weather can lead to too much booze.

For handwashing, maybe you could set up a sink w/ a hose. Handwashing water isn't toxic and could be drained to the lawn. Portapotties have alcohol gel, but lots of us still like to wash hands.
posted by theora55 at 1:03 PM on January 30, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses -- each has been informative.

And though this wasn't some sort of competition, you guys totally kicked eGullet's ass. Thanks again to all who took the time to chime in. Much appreciated.
posted by Atom12 at 3:45 PM on January 30, 2009

I attended a wedding in SC in June that was made bearable by being held in the early evening, with an air conditioned tent and some of those mini-bathroom portapotties that chazlarson linked to (no need to worry about handwashing, they come with sinks and everything - very swank).
posted by clerestory at 6:36 PM on January 30, 2009

A fun fact: I was sunburned for my entire honeymoon thanks to my failure to remember to put on sunscreen for my wedding. Happily, I wore a foundation that kept my face from burning, but my neck and shoulders were absolutely baked.

This was not something that I even thought about while I was planning my wedding, which is weird because I wear sunscreen everyday in my regular life...so make sure it's on the bride's agenda to find a sunscreen she trusts not to make her look a weird color in photos. My regular sunscreen looks purple under fluorescent lights, for example.
posted by crinklebat at 6:08 PM on January 31, 2009

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