As I have mentioned before, couples that have their hearts dead set on an outdoor wedding are exactly the type of people who should never plan one in the first place. If you are making arrangements for a ceremony and/or reception in the great outdoors, you must be flexible concerning your expectations. Neat trick if you can master it, but I have yet to meet anyone who can control weather upon demand.
I have absolutely no problem officiating a wedding in the rain provided I can shelter my Kindle – I do not have every ceremony memorized after all. I am not going to set up my PA system in wet weather as it is comprised of electronic components, but if the bride and groom are fine with me attempting to project my voice or have made alternative amplification arrangements with a DJ that works for me. I am water proof. I do not mind gusty wind and can dress appropriately for the cold.
It is pretty obvious to everyone the festivities are going to be held at the alternative indoor location when in the midst of a violent storm, torrential downpour, or gale force winds. It becomes a little trickier to make the call when inclement weather is in the area, but not directly impacting the wedding venue…yet. And trust me, no one wants to be the person to make the call. Have you tried to break a bride’s heart lately? It is not a fun experience. This is where a bride can step up and help everyone else help her.
If you have thunderstorm activity in the area, even just scattered thunderstorms, you should take everyone’s safety into account and give up your dream of an outdoor wedding.
I recently had a wedding where I saw several lightning strikes as I arrived. I was stunned to learn the venue was still considering holding the wedding outside –because it was not actually raining. The radar showed thunderstorm activity swirling all around the area. The clouds in the distance were menacing and according to all weather reports these conditions were going to continue for the rest of the evening. The suggestion we hold up the wedding and start late was absurd.
I have a clause in my contract that theoretically enables me to be the one to make the call when safety becomes an issue. At first it appeared I would be heeded, but the bride was adamant about having her wedding outdoors and would agree with me one minute and then express her dissatisfaction with someone else the moment I scurried off to prepare for the ceremony. The coordinator at the venue did not want to disappoint her, feeling every bride should get her way on her wedding day. While I sympathize with this position and do try my best to be a part of bringing every bride’s dreams to reality, issues of personal safety make this a situation where it is simply not possible.
I told the bride I was willing to begin the wedding outdoors, but if either the DJ or me saw any evidence of lightning in the area I would halt the wedding mid-syllable and we would conclude the ceremony indoors. She decided to chance it. While we felt a few drops of rain during the ceremony, the violent weather held off. I have had this happen before on several occasions. Once, we were successful –and lucky—like this bride. At two other weddings, we were not. At one of those weddings, a guest was pretty badly hurt in the mad dash to reach shelter. Say hello to the paramedics.
Brides may feel they made the right decision when luckily the ceremony is not immediately caught in a storm, but in my opinion, this is simply selfish and foolish. Lightning can strike up to 25 miles away from its originating point. At this most recent wedding affected by inclement weather in the area, I spent the entire ceremony shaking internally with fear someone might be hurt. I would rather have been focused on the couple and their commitment to one another. I learned the next day that a house approximately a mile away from the venue was struck and partially burned about fifteen minutes after the wedding ceremony concluded. This happened with little to no precipitation.
Thunderstorm activity in the area can unpredictably affect your site, sometimes in a matter of moments. While the ceremony may only last 20 minutes, consider the people decorating and setting up equipment. Remember guests assemble before the bride walks down the aisle. It takes time to get everyone safely to shelter following the ceremony. You may think you need a twenty minute window when in reality we are talking more like 45 minutes to an hour. Double that if you expect to take formal pictures at the outdoor wedding site as well.
Lightning is one of the leading weather-related causes of death and injury in the United States. Here in Florida, it kills more people than all other weather sources combined. Our state holds the record in lightning deaths and injuries. Most people do not realize they can be struck by lightning even when the center of the thunderstorm is 10 miles away and there are blue skies above. I know it is disappointing when weather adversely affects our expectations. However, people’s safety should be the primary concern of each one of us, whether we are the bride, the groom, a wedding planner, DJ, photographer or officiant.
Please exhibit common sense and compassion when it comes to threatening weather. I am fairly confident the wedding of your dreams does not include paramedics, unless they are off duty and attending as guests.
This bolt of lightning may look dramatic, but you do not want it anywhere near you on your wedding day!
Rev. Ann Fuller
The commentary on this blog is my own opinion developed over years of officiating a wide range of wedding sizes and styles. I am always happy to answer any questions you may have.