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Warm-Weather Wedding Advice with Matthew Robbins

Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 2009

Sunny skies are one thing, but sunburned guests? Quite another. Event designer Matthew Robbins shares his tips for warm-weather weddings.

The beauty of outdoor weddings is, well, the beauty of the outdoors. And the bane of outdoor weddings is, well, they're outdoors, so no matter how much you want a perfect summer celebration -- temps in the 70s with a light breeze and cumulus clouds overhead -- what you may get instead is mugginess and mosquitoes, with a chance of thundershowers.

Indeed, you can't control the weather, but you can prepare for it. And event designer Matthew Robbins is here to share his summer-specific tips.

Your Wedding Location
Don't underestimate the havoc-wreaking power of high temps. Hot weather doesn't just mean sweaty guests. From wilted flowers to melted desserts, heat can affect just about every detail of your wedding, so keep it in mind at each decision-making turn.

Be over-prepared. Walk through the site and take notice of the little things that may mar your ceremony. Planes buzzing overhead? Tree branches in the way of your tent? A nest of angry insects with stingers, tucked into that bush?

Get yourself a rain plan and make sure it fits your budget. If there are no indoor options, reserve a tent. And if you get a tent, be sure to rent flooring.

Where, exactly, will you and your groom say your vows? Robbins suggests looking for "architecture, garden structures, landscaping, or trees "that can provide a natural frame and backdrop for your ceremony. If that doesn't exist, you might want to think about building a simple structure that will provide you with cool shade (dark-suited, overheated grooms will especially appreciate this) and a dramatic stage. A canopy of flowers or branches is especially beautiful.

bd0607_summer1.jpg

Will your guests be protected from the sun? If the answer is no, you should hold your ceremony later in the day. Robbins is a big fan of the hour between 5 and 6 p.m. "It's cooled down by then. The sun has moved beyond its highest point, but it won't be setting in your guests' eyes at this hour. "Speaking of which, always keep in mind the position of the sun in relation to where your guests will sit during the ceremony. Seat them either facing away from the sun or at an angle, never directly into it.

Will mosquitoes be a problem? Unfortunately, the best time of day is also the buggiest. If it's a concern, offer insect-repellent wipes. They come in single-use packages, and because they're wipes, dressed-up guests don't have to worry about accidentally spraying their fancy duds.

Will guests be traveling far between the ceremony and reception? It's best if the party is within walking distance, but if it's not or if the walk is more than a few minutes, serve beverages as people exit the ceremony. "For one wedding in upstate New York, we presented guests with ice-cold water and lemonade, "Robbins recalls. "They needed something refreshing for the walk to the reception. The party was just around the corner, but it was a hot day. "Just be sure not to serve alcohol until guests arrive at the site.

bd0607_summer1.jpg

Handouts that Save the Day
You may be ready for your summer wedding, but your guests may not be quite as prepared -- especially if it's being held outdoors. Help them out by providing sun-relief items, such as parasols, misters, sunscreen wipes, blotting tissues, and insect-repellent wipes.

Food and Drinks in the Heat
"During the summer, you'll want the meal you serve to your guests to feel more like a tasting," says Robbins. "Keep portions small and offer tasting plates for each course to keep the menu interesting. "What type of food suits hot weather? "Light bites like veggies and fruits and all types of seafood," he advises.

"Shots of chilled summer soups during cocktail hour are also a great idea." Here's what Robbins says to avoid: fried foods (which turn soggy quickly in the heat), potato dishes (who wants hearty potatoes when you can have a refreshing tomato salad instead?), and bread (it suffers in humidity). More advice from Robbins, on behalf of all sweat-prone wedding guests: Save the dancing for after dinner. "You don't want to feel sweaty before you eat your first course."

bd0607_summer1.jpg

Thirst is heat's constant companion -- so for outdoor summer weddings, the potables you serve to parched guests become even more important. Robbins suggests creating invigorating nonalcoholic signature cocktails using fresh ingredients. Your guests will appreciate the deliciousness -- and you'll love how pretty they look! Here, Robbins offers five ideas for booze-free beverages.

Sparkling Ginger Lemonade: This fizzy delight gets its kick from honey, fresh ginger, lemon juice, and club soda.

Lavender-Mint Iced Tea: If you're planning a garden wedding, consider this brew of dried lavender flowers, mint, and honey.

Pure Mojito: Arum-free mojito sounds sacrilegious, but this mix of fresh mint, lime juice, and agave nectar will make you a convert.

Refreshing Bellini: The beauty of this drink is its versatility (use any seasonal fruit ) and simplicity (fill a glass halfway with fruit puree and finish by adding chilled club soda).

Watermelon-Ginger Sparkler: Nothing says summer quite like sweet watermelon. For this cocktail, all you'll need is watermelon, lime juice, ginger, sugar, and club soda.

Keep Flowers from Wilting
"Some flowers just don't like the heat," Robbins says. So if you're a summer bride, you'll want to pick blooms -- for your bouquet and centerpieces -- that can stand up, literally, to the sun. Lilies of the valley and tulips, for example, are beautiful, but put them out on a hot afternoon, and you'll have a droopy-looking mess well before you can say "I do."

What flowers weather the heat and humidity best?
Orchids
Roses
Callas
Celosias
Lisianthus
Hydrangeas

Robbins also suggests decorating with less-traditional greenery such as rosemary, olive branches, and eucalyptus leaves. They can add a surprising touch to a ceremony or reception site, and they have the added bonus of smelling terrific.

No matter what you choose, if you're throwing an outdoor affair, keep arrangements simple and low. This is not the time for 3-foot-tall centerpieces that sway with every gust of wind. Besides, with Mother Nature as a backdrop, there's less need to gussy up your venue.

As for bouquets, he says, order two -- "a smaller bouquet for photos and a more dramatic option for the ceremony. There is nothing more depressing than seeing wilted blooms in your wedding photos."

Comments (4)

  • JoyOfWeddings 13 Jun, 2010

    We like in the Caribbean, and I thought I knew all about hot-weather weddings, but I found this quite helpful. Love the non-alcoholic suggestions too.

  • britishexpat 13 Jun, 2010

    Ditto Juliettavirgo on the bug wipes. My wedding will be a late august outdoor affair and there will be water nearby that will attract bugs. Would hate for my guests to be eaten alive!

  • Juliettavirgo 13 Jun, 2010

    Does anyone know where you can order those bug wipes in bulk?

  • BFem 13 Jun, 2010

    Thank you so much, this is really helpful!