PREPARE FOR BAD WEATHER: SUMMER EDITION (An Alaska Event Planners No Fail Plan)
Updated: Jan 16
You see a gorgeous spot of lawn and think its the perfect place to hold your next event. You can already imagine people enjoying fabulous lawn games you pinned on Pinterest. The barbecue is going and you think to yourself that you have a plan in place.
But what happens if it isn’t a beautiful summer day and it is a cold, wet, rainy, blustering, or windy kinda day?
Photo credit: Chugach Peaks Photography
Is the pavilion with no walls really going to keep your guests out of the rain and cold? Probably not.
Providing a space that is cold and wet is a sure way to get your guests to go home early. By planning ahead and budgeting for an event tent, you can have a space that can be heated and kept dry on a cold, wet or windy day or provide much needed shade on a hot day.
Summer in Alaska can mean all kinds of varying weather patterns: from hot desert sun to torrential downpours, to hail and snow (yes snow), to drizzle and sharp winds. If you are having an outdoor summer event, you need to be at least thinking about the many different kinds of weather patterns that can come across this great state and what it can mean for your planning process.
Here is the down low on preparing for bad weather - the summer edition!
ONE: If you are having an outdoor summer event then renting an event tent is an absolute must! Event tents can be erected pretty much anywhere. We have had events down in ship creek next to the port of Anchorage in the absolute pouring rain. Inside guests were enjoying live music and a lovely catered meal snuggled around a beautiful ice sculpture. Guests were warm and cozy and completely oblivious to the weather, because precautions were taken.
TWO: Event tents can include moveable walls so you can always open them up if the sun comes out and it warms up. You can also rent several different kinds of heaters to go with the variety of different kinds of tents and just how warmth you need to add to the space. Make sure to talk specifics with your tent rental company about which heater goes with which sized tent. They own the equipment and are very knowledgable about the appropriate sizes for your guest count and where best to erect said tent.
In the above photo this was a tent used for a not-for-profit dinner. We used the walls to protect guests from wind, and had the other side open to enjoy the view. Just within a few hours, we had rain and wind, and then scorching hot sun.
THREE: Tents need planning. If you have a tent going up, make sure to call the Alaska Digline at 811 “remember to call before you dig.” There can be utilities all over the place in the ground, especially in a lawn area. We have seen tents staked in grass, asphalt, boulders, concrete, a deck… there are so many options here and so many possible utilities buried in the ground. Calling 811 is free and it is safe. Just make the call to ensure that you aren’t putting a tent right on a gas line.
FOUR: Permits. Thankfully because you are in Alaska, you can benefit from a culture that is not real interested in government bureaucracy. Therefore, there are few times where you have to actually have a permit for an event. I was recently talking to my pal Kerry Quade of Kerry Quade in Brooklyn New York, and they are required to have several layers of permitting for most events. If you are within the city limits (of any city in Alaska) and are blocking roads, sidewalks, or city utilities then you are probably going to need a permit. If you are going to be on city property, such as a park, you will need a permit. Different rules apply when you are in a village or a borough. This is where having an experienced event planner can save you oodles of time and effort by directing you to the correct person.
FIVE: Don’t assume you can rent a tent last minute. Yes there are several places to rent them; however, in Alaska outdoor summer events are extremely popular. Just like you, many people all over the state are planning outdoor events that require a tent and event rentals. Book early. Should I say it again? Book early!
SIX: Many event tents require additional clearance around the permitter of the tent in order to accommodate for stakes, poles and water weights. It really just depends on the type of tent you rent. We have rented huge event tents that require no clearance at all. We have had them butted right up against a building and the stakes were flush against the tent. The rental company used a special piece of equipment, similar to a jack hammer that drove stakes right into the asphalt driveway. They even repaired the asphalt as part of take down. You would have never known.
Last summer, we had a couple who opted to plan their own wedding and just have us come in to coordinated on the day-of. They rented a tent from a company we were not as familiar with and unknowingly selected a tent that required a clearance of about 8 feet around the tent. Thankfully in the process of triple checking all of the details with their vendors, we discovered the tent they had ordered did not in fact fit the area the couple had measured. We worked with the rental company to come up with a different tent that would fit the area. If you aren’t working with a planner who will triple check your plans, make sure you are very clear with the rental company about where the tent is going, and how much clearance you will need.
SEVEN: Consider getting a beautiful tent liner as they make a gorgeous impression. However, you should know that a tent liner costs about the same as the tent itself, so while they are grand and beautiful, they are not budget friendly. Instead consider using the tension tent. This is a favorite among our clients as they have a high peaked roof and look elegant even without a liner. Below is an example. You can see the main post is connected to a series of heavy duty metal wires that are distributing the tent's weight and still allows for there to be no poles coming down in the middle of tent.
Personally my favorite way to decorate the inside of a tent is with greenery chandeliers and cafe lights as seen above. With some creativity you can hide the wires, extension cords and a power strip that we needed to provide electrical for all those lights!
EIGHT : Tents aren’t cheap. I had a client once who saw the price of renting a tent and decided it would be cheaper and smarter to just purchase a lighter duty pop up tent from Fred Meyer, regardless of my advice. On the event day, the tent went up and immediately went end over end sailing across the lawn with ropes and stakes flapping all over. Thankfully no one was hurt. I learned my lesson and won't work with clients who make risky decisions. Event tents are rated to withstand significant weather and wind. You get what you pay for, and unless you want your guests impaled by tent stakes, it is important to go with the pros.
NINE: There are many other associated rentals or purchases to consider if you have an outdoor event. If you are putting up a tent, it is likely that you are creating a venue where there was none. Many people are under the mistaken impression that they will save money by creating their own event venue. But don’t forget that guests will have to go to the bathroom, which means you will need to rent port-a-potties. You will also have to bring in water. Guests will need to drink water in addition to all the draft beer you are providing. Plus you need water for good old fashion clean up. Where will guests sit? How will catering keep beverages cold and food hot? These are all questions that can be easily answered, but keep this in mind because these costs add up quickly to thousands of extra dollars. So if you are thinking you want to skip the cost of renting a venue and go with a cheaper option, creating your own venue is NOT the cheap option.
TEN: Be careful with Alaska weather. The saying “wait 5 mins or drive 5 miles” is a popular saying here in Alaska because we have so many different kinds of weather patterns coming across mountains, glaciers, ocean, rivers, lakes, rain forests and tundra. Be warned that bad weather can come out of no where.
Several years ago we had a couple who had booked a venue with an outdoor ceremony location. This venue had an inclement weather backup plan that allowed the couple to get married indoors where their reception was held. On the week of the wedding, we reviewed the upcoming weather patterns and there was a slight chance of rain. After again reviewing all the pros and cons and different options, the bride realized she really didn't want to get married indoors, so she decided last minute to rent a tent. It was a huge weekend for tents, but we managed to get the very last tent.
The day of the wedding dawned clear and beautiful. We were watching the weather closely. Again, there was only a small chance of rain, so I wasn’t worried. The wedding day continued to be gorgeous and bright. An hour before the ceremony there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The ceremony started and because they had a huge wedding party the procession took some time. As the grandparents were sat the sky seemed gray when it had just been glorious sunshine. The bridal party started the procession and a slight wind kicked up. The bride made her entrance and as she took her place, a dark rain cloud rolled over the tent and let loose the most torrential down pour we had had all summer. Not a big deal because they had a wedding tent and the couple and their guests were completely covered and dry. By the time the ceremony was over, the storm had passed and guests were able to get indoors without so much as a sprinkle.
Crisis averted? Sorry no. The DJ had not been anticipating the weather and had set up his equipment outside of the tent where he was more comfortable enjoying the sunshine. The torrential down pour ruined his equipment and the sound was cut out from the tent so guests couldn’t hear the vows. Later the videographer confessed to me that she had left her equipment outside of the tent as well. She had on a whim covered it with a little plastic shield she carries around “just in case.” The weather had been so nice, she hadn’t really thought about it, but had tossed it on her equipment just out of habit. None of us were anticipating how badly and how quickly that storm would roll in. But those of us who didn’t take any chances were okay. The vendor who chanced everything ruined thousands of dollars of equipment because he wasn’t careful.
Summer in Alaska can mean all kinds of weather. We can have hot summers with scorching sun and we can have cool weather, torrential downpours, snow and sharp winds. If you are having an outdoor summer event, you need to be thinking and preparing for a variety of different weather patterns.
I hope this has given you some things to think about for preparing for bad summer weather in Alaska, and that you can see how a working with a planner can help you think of all those little things!
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MEET REBECCA AND SARAH
We are: planners, memory makers and purveyors of joy!
Our events are a true reflection of our clients, as well as the best vendors Alaska has to offer. We work with you to find that perfect scenic Alaska venue, find the best most delectable local foods and drinks and coordinate a party to remember.
We specialize in one-of-a-kind weddings and special events, inspired by the adventures of our incredible clients. Both Sarah and I love working with joyful, adventurous, fun-seeking individuals who want to create an incredible Alaskan experience for their big celebration. Planning a wedding is an exciting time full of emotions and ideas!
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