Planning a rustic or outdoor event

Are you well prepared for your outdoor event?

In this article, I’m discussing the extra things that need to be considered while planning for a rustic or outdoor event, such as a ceremony, party or even a picnic. PARKING: An indoor facility almost always has a paved parking area while rustic and outdoor event locations more often are less accommodating with regard to parking your vehicle.  If the parking area is along a driveway, in a field, a gravel lot or even less ideal, wherever people can find a space, guest’s cars may need to be parked far away from where your event is actually taking place.  Consider providing parking instructions within your invitation or confirmation on attendance.  You might also consider a valet service to handle the parking. SIGNAGE: This goes very well with rustic décor themes and assists your guests in where to park, the path to take to the first and next portion of the experience, where the restrooms are located and more. GUEST FLOW: If guests have to walk a long distance from their cars, consider having some large golf umbrellas on hand and even a way for less mobile attendees to be dropped off close to the action.  Also consider the path where people will walk from their parking location to your event. Is it along a street, a sidewalk, a pathway or driveway?  Will they be able to see their way back after dark?  Consider luminaries that can be set in place and lit or turned on at dusk.  One outdoor facility in Wrightsville has even provided a person on horseback to direct guests to the correct location for the wedding ceremony they are attending (mostly because they host multiple events simultaneously in different areas of the property). RESTROOMS: There are different levels of restrooms from the traditional single-person plastic stall all the way up to travelling rooms that are big enough for all of the bridesmaids at a wedding.  Some portable restrooms are nicer than bathrooms in a house, minus the shower, of course. SEATING: You will probably have some guests that are a little bit older or less able to stand for long periods so you might need to provide seating.  Of course most wedding ceremonies are a sit-down event for the guests.  Note that if the same chairs are needed in more than one location as your experience progresses, a team of people with a cart or wagon may be needed to move the chairs and set them up in the second location. ELECTRICITY: Do any of your services require power?  If you are planning to have a bartender make frozen drinks, they will probably need a blender.  If your event extends after dark, you will want to have lighting.  If you are planning to have a sound system for one or more locations, make sure to find out if power is available and where.  I have seen and heard generators used for a power supply.  Note that large ones you get from a rental company may be quiet enough that you don’t even hear it but smaller, more portable generators make significantly more noise.  For a battery-powered, wireless sound system, contact the Rhythm System at TRASH and CIGARETTE BUTTS: You may need to consider trash receptacles: how many, where to locate them and who is going to empty them during the event if they get full.  Those people may also need to know where to get fresh bags and where to take the full bags.  If you don’t supply a place for cigarette butts, you can probably guess what people will do with those.  You may consider posting signage to designate the preferred location for a smoking area too. NOISE: There are two things to consider here: 1) If you are planning an intimate event where sirens, helicopters and loud motorcycles could disrupt a ceremony, you may need a sound system and technician to adjust the volume as necessary to ensure that any ambient sounds don’t delay or foil you’re your experience.  2) If your event is in a place where there are neighbors, there is most likely a noise limit and/or curfew (typically 10:00PM) for noise generated by your festivities.  Pennsylvania state liquor laws require that any property that has a liquor license meet certain restrictions with regard to amplified sounds crossing beyond the property boundary. CATERING: Food for your outdoor or rustic location is not typically included as it is with indoor facilities.  Consider the needs of the caterer as they will possibly require a tent or room in which they can prepare or ready your food.  They may need electricity, tables and even dishes and silverware.  It will depend on how thorough the caterer is as to whether or not you need to supply various things such as linens/napkins, salt, pepper, spoons, plates, glasses, ice, water, etc. DRINKS: Some caterers include a bar tender and others don’t.  You may need to buy and supply everything related to the drinks including cups/glasses, liquor bottle pour spouts, decanters, mixers, bottle openers, cork screws, keg, tap, ice, coasters, napkins, cherries, etc.  Bar tending services may be available for your event too but be sure to ask about their license to provide such services.  The last thing you need is for a guest to be served 12 drinks then drive into an oncoming car. BUGS: Bug management may be an issue depending on location and the time of year.  Consider the pesky may flies, house flies, bees, horse flies, mosquitos, gnats, etc.  Will they dampen your experience if they are bad?  Some tent rental companies offer quiet bug zappers while citronella candles and torches may also be an option for pest control. WEATHER: Precipitation can literally rain on your parade.  If any portion of your plans is out in the open, create a “plan B”.  I’ve also done events where rain turned to snow as the temperature dropped.  I have also done many outdoor ceremonies which have relocated and have been delayed due to flash storms and isolated rain clouds.  If you are planning for specialty entertainment for perhaps one hour but your ceremony is delayed for 45 minutes, determine what to do about the timing.  This also applies to your officiant and even live musicians.  If they have another wedding to perform, they may not offer the option to delay their services.  If you are renting a tent, get the side panels that can be pulled back in case it is nice.  If it’s windy, you will want some way to prevent the tent wall curtains from just flying in and knocking over the chairs and tables.  Who will adjust the walls, chairs, etc. in case of uncooperative weather? SHADE: While talking about tents and cover, it’s important to note that the blazing sun can really have an impact on some people, especially the elderly.  Consider and plan for a sunny day as well as a rainy day.  Sunscreen, umbrellas and tents are a few options. TEMPERATURE: There’s a good chance that the temperature is not going to be ideal from start to finish no matter what time of year you plan your outdoor or rustic event.  Tent rental companies more often than not, offer heaters and AC units designed for tents.  They will be placed outside the tent with ducting to get under the wall.  Even barns without climate control can get sweltering hot during the day or chilly at night.  Motorized fans may be an option too.  I’ve even seen handheld fans (paper on a stick) with ceremony itinerary information and even bridal party members’ names printed on them as one of the favors handed out as people arrive for an outdoor summer ceremony. ENTERTAINMENT: One thing that is important to consider is that many outdoor events involve multiple areas on a property as your itinerary progresses.  You may want to consider music or entertainment for the various locations.  Some entertainment companies can supply the same sound signal to multiple areas through a wired or wireless technology so that announcements and those songs that were requested don’t get missed and then requested again because the requestor didn’t hear it the first time.  I once did an event where guests arrived and gathered in one location for a wedding ceremony, moved to another area for a cocktail hour, a third area for appetizers and toasts and then moved inside a building for the meal and dancing… four locations for one event. DÉCOR: Although you would surely be considering various decorations for an indoor event, outdoor spaces are much larger and although the landscape is likely part of the reason you selected the location for your event, you may want to add some elements such as an arbor or gazebo, bench, bicycle, door, wagon or an old window. CLEANUP: Do you need to return the space to its original condition or will someone else handle that?  If you are off to a hotel and even a honeymoon, someone else should handle the logistics of cleanup. If you should need any assistance with your indoor/outdoor, rustic or isolated location event planning, perhaps I can help. I’ve been providing DJ entertainment, lighting, sound and various other services since 1989 and probably have had an experience from which to better prepare you for your upcoming event.  Ask me how my back up plans can help protect your event’s success.  Contact Matt at The Rhythm System Pro DJ Entertainment: or 717-540-8826.