This article has been provided by Eryn Jones Fuson. www.erynjones.com
Outdoor weddings are the best, aren’t they? There is just something about having the openness and fresh air and nature all around to set the tone for this incredibly special day in your life, whether it is up on a mountain, down by a quiet river in your backyard, or in a spectacular garden venue. I was one of those brides myself, and my husband and I found the perfect little park by that quiet river with trees for a shaded ceremony and an expanse of grass for our guests’ kids to play in at the reception. We had one of my harp students play the prelude, creating an atmosphere of peace and delight, then a dear musician friend from Nashville sang and played guitar for the processionals, ceremony music, and recessional. It was perfect. And we were lucky because the weather was also perfect.
But what happens when you have this dream wedding planned and then the week before the wedding you see that there will be bad weather? Sure, your planner has made sure that you have a backup venue or at least a covered alternative of some sort, but is it really worth considering moving to plan B? I am here to say that if you have hired live musicians to be a part of your big day, the answer is a resounding, “YES!”
I draw not only from my own experience, having been a professional wedding musician for 14 years now, but also from the experience of fellow wedding musicians with whom I network and who I interviewed for the sake of this article. So many of our couples and even planners we work with don’t realize the effect weather has on instruments, not only for potential damage, but at the very least causing the instruments to fall out of tune. And believe me, you do NOT want to be walking down the aisle to off-key music! Wedding musicians have in our contracts our policies regarding weather, and we all notice that they can tend to be overlooked by our couples even though they mention that they have read through everything and agree to the terms. I understand that this is easy to do since ours is not the only contract you are having to look through and sign; all the agreements with all your vendors can definitely get overwhelming, and keeping up with everyone’s provisos is a task unto itself. Be sure to ask your planner to keep track of these things if she is not already and remind you to consider them closer to the big day.
After gathering info from my fellow musicians, the general consensus on safe playing temperature is nothing above 90° and nothing below 55° (though there is a slight variance depending on the individual or group), and absolutely no inclement weather. Rain, drizzle, or even heavy fog have the potential to seriously damage wooden instruments. We make these policies not only to protect our instruments, but to provide our clients with the best quality music that we can play. Drastic changes in humidity and extreme temperatures, if nothing else, cause wooden instruments to fall out of tune, which believe me, nobody wants in the middle of their wedding! A fellow professional harpist friend of mine Michelle Cobley brought up a good point regarding colder weather; not only can it cause damage to our instruments, but it also causes our fingers to stiffen and not have the dexterity they need to play smoothly and at peak performance. Hot weather with or without humidity can cause equally as damaging conditions to the wood and tuning, even having the potential to melt the glue that holds the wood together. This can even be the case in comfortable temperatures 70-85 degrees if we are in the direct sunlight, as the sunlight puts an even more concentrated heat source into the mix.
Before you go asking your DJ to just take over everything, though, there are several options some wedding musicians offer when the forecast is not looking instrument-friendly. Udeshi Hargett is a violinist serving the greater Triangle are of North Carolina; she points out that if extreme cold is the culprit we can set up a tent with walls and a heater. This would work best in a sunny spot and in the absence of strong wind. Or another option is to have the musician play just on the inside of the heated venue and amplify out to the ceremony. If extreme heat is the case sometimes it is possible to create a cooler space within a tent in a shaded spot or inside the air conditioned venue as well. With inclement weather a tent, gazebo, or other shelter around the site is also a possibility as long as the wind is not going to be so strong as to blow the rain underneath.
Some musicians including myself also offer alternative instruments in case of undesirable temperatures. For example, harps, violins, and cellos are more affected by weather than guitars, and electric pianos and carbon fibre instruments are not affected at all! Recently I had a couple who had hired me to play the harp for their ceremony, but when the weekend came and the temperature was going to be in the low 50s and windy they made the choice to still hold the wedding outside rather than in their indoor alternative, and I was still able to play all of the songs we had chosen on my electric piano since it didn’t mind the cold, then I played the harp inside for the reception. Dean’s Duets is a collaborative event musician group serving North Carolina, and when they have gigs that move forward despite cold or mist their guitarists can still perform even if some of the other instruments can’t.
Another very important aspect to think about in regards to moving forward with an outdoor wedding when weather is looking iffy is the comfort and even safety of your guests. A friend had a lovely mountaintop ceremony a few years ago I had the pleasure of being a part of, and am so grateful that I thought to bring a tent with me because several of the elderly guests were taking prescription medications that necessitated they stay out of the sun, and my tent was the only shade around, so I let them pile in with me! They would have had no other safe option to stay for the ceremony otherwise. I have played at one wedding where a bridesmaid fainted due to heat, and another where the bride herself fainted due to the heat.
Those of us who have envisioned our ideal wedding day all our lives may find it hard to consider our plan B when and if that decision needs to be made, and that difficulty is absolutely valid. But you can still have a stunning and perfect wedding in the comfort and safety of a secondary site if the weather decides to misbehave. Keep in mind that when you hire professional wedding vendors, you procure the help of those who have majored in Plan A, B, C, and beyond when it comes to experience, and they will do everything within their power to make this special day one you and your guests will remember forever.
Eryn Jones Fuson is a professional event musician, recording artist, singer/songwriter, and music teacher out of Pinehurst, NC. www.erynjones.com