No one wants an unpleasant surprise in their meal.

By Blythe Copeland
March 27, 2020
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The perks of an outdoor wedding are abundant—stunning views, lush landscapes, dancing under the stars—but summertime events require couples to address one big con: bugs. Whether you're battling annoying insects like mosquitos and flies or something a little more aggressive (wasps!), keeping flying or crawling creepies away from your big-day food is a must. "Bugs are a part of nature and when you want to be outside, you have to be ready for them," says wedding planner Jove Meyer of New York City's Jove Meyer Events. But a few simple tweaks can keep your outdoor meal bug-free—and let your guests focus on the beauty of your location instead.

Keep it moving.

Though a buffet or food station-style dinner service might seem like a better option—since stationary food can be covered—plated service often draws fewer bugs. "Serving a plated meal helps keep bugs away as the food is in the kitchen and then served directly to guests, not out in the open!" says Meyer. Chef Jessica Lasky of Jessica Lasky Catering in Oakland, California, also avoids letting the food sit out. "If we think we're at a venue that will get a lot of bugs, we try and dissuade our clients from having many stationary tables and to simply pass our appetizers, for example, to keep the bugs away," says Lasky.

Guard your spreads (and cake).

For foods you can't pass—like a crudite, bruschetta bar, or antipasto spread at your cocktail hour—a few minor menu alterations can help deter bugs. "Best to limit the cured meats for sure," says Lasky. Meyer suggests tweaking the look of your food, too. "Bugs tend to be attracted to bright colors," he says, "so if possible use as few of those as possible in your spread."

Food covers may feel a little too backyard-picnic for your elevated outdoor reception, but they are a reliable way to stop bugs from finding your snacks before your guests do; Meyer also suggests putting small fans on the food table and letting the air flow divert bugs, or adding a covered cocktail hour spot. "Place the food inside a tent with some draping to create a more elegant area for the food that is both shaded and harder for bugs to get to," says Meyer. If you're displaying your wedding cake outside, choose your timeline and presentation spot carefully. "If you are in a buggy location," says Meyer, "I suggest placing the cake out shortly before cutting it, or placing it very near the airflow of a fan."

Let your floor plan do the work.

As you decide on your reception floor plan—including where to raise a tent, arrange the tables, and set up for food preparation—choose a layout that will discourage bugs from joining your party. "Be smart about your outdoor locations," says Meyer. "Do not be near standing water or mud. Keep trash away from guests. Hang lights up high—bugs will follow the light, so if it is up, that's where they will go, and if you have the lights low and near guests' faces, they will be right there. Also, hang fans in your tent or place them near food or areas where guests will be eating; they really do keep the insects away."

Other pre-party options include treating the grass for mosquitos and flies, lighting citronella candles or tiki torches, and setting up bug catchers. And if you're still concerned about insects getting in the way of your guests' outdoor experience, says Meyer, stock up on bug spray: Add travel size containers to the welcome bags, or have spray bottles available at the reception for guests to reapply.

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