Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Great Outdoors

Given the fact that we reside in southern California, it is to be expected of wedding musicians that we perform for outdoor weddings in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties, almost year-round.  As a harpist, I have had the opportunity to perform for many outdoor events over the years, and I thought it might be a good idea to share some ideas and suggestions should you decide to plan an outdoor event.

I think it is important to remember the practicalities of holding events outdoors, and to always keep in mind the comfort of your guests when doing so.  Are you getting married in August?  Do you have adequate shade and/or cover for your guests?  I recall performing for a wedding in Fullerton two years ago where it was 105 degrees out at 5 p.m., and the guests were sitting in the full sun (my flutist and I were in the shade, as it's mandated in our agreement).  Here were men in coats and ties, and women in formal wear, and the guests put them in the full sun on an August afternoon.

Similarly, I've done weddings outdoors in January or February, when the temperature has been in the 50s, and the family consisted of a number of elderly people who had to brave these temperatures, not to mention the bridesmaids in the strapless gowns, literally shivering in their heels.

So, with that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind as you plan your outdoor event:

  • Is there adequate shade if there is a possibility of warm weather?  This is the biggest mistake I see at events.  If you are asking your guests to show up to your event and bring you a nice wedding gift, make sure that they are comfortable and do not have to tolerate an hour in the full sun.
  • Is there adequate seating?  Don't make your guestst stand for the ceremony unless it is very short.
  • Is there adequate shelter from the wind?  If you are at the beach, the wind may be blowing so hard that musicians may not be able to keep music on their music stands.  Your beach wedding that you saw on a soap opera might not go as smoothly as you saw on television if the wind is howling, your dress is flying all over the place, the flowers won't stay up,  and guests can't hear anything.
  • Are there flat surfaces for seating?  Harpists and other musicians can't play on slopes or tall grass.  Make sure that your surfaces are paved or at the very least, short grass.
  • Is there amplficiation provided?  This is another one of the biggest errors I see with outdoor events.  When couples do not use amplification, almost no one can hear the officiant or musicians.  Without some sort of natural amplification (i.e. a wall), sound dissipates very quickly, and I have seen events where no one except the bride and groom could hear the officiant because of the lack of amplification.  Make sure your venue provides it, or have a sound engineer on board to amplify (I always amplify when playing outside with a battery-powered portable amp).
  • Are you near any airports or trains that will be disruptive for the ceremony?  There are a few venues in Newport Beach that are right over the flight path to John Wayne airport, and although they are beautiful venues, the officiant has to usually stop two or three times during the ceremony to let a plane pass overhead because the noise is so loud.  There is another that backs right up to the Back Bay, and the sound of boat engines punctuates ceremonies I have done there constantly.  Visit your venue on the same day of the week and same time where you are planning your event.  You might be surprised as to what you see and hear.

In general, if you are considerate towards the comfort of your guests in mind, you can find a great venue.  See my previous posts regarding the Tivoli properties...all are enclosed, shaded, and lovely venues, as is the Wayfarers Chapel.  Feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions.

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