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Ah, wilderness! Outdoor events at the mercy of Mother Nature

The backdrop of Fort Lauderdale beach, as shown in the picture below, is about as picturesque as one can imagine for an outdoor wedding. And while jaw-droppingly beautiful, planning such events requires several areas of expertise, anticipation of the unexpected, and back-up plans.

This balcony is the known as the BalQony at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. The wedding pictured was for 75 people, including the (standing) bridal party. Brittany Manzie, catering manager at the property, speaks about some of the special circumstances presented by being outdoors. For example, timing for events is a key element, especially for photographers. “We try to plan the ceremonies as the sun is setting. This helps alleviate any shadows in the bride and grooms photos or squinting eyes from the sun shining in the celebrating couples’ faces.”

Then, there is the heat.

One way to keep guests cool, Manzie said, is to pass chilled oshibori towels that are soaked in eucalyptus and mint overnight, along with a glass of champagne. This gives the guests a cool and refreshing atmosphere while waiting for the ceremony to begin. At another wedding, as guests walked into a cocktail hour, they were greeted with a triple grapefruit fizz cocktail that consisted of fresh grapefruit juice, grapefruit vodka, and grapefruit soda with pink sugared rim. 

Finally, says Manzie, “Wind is a challenge with any event in regard to arches, linens on tables, and place card setups. We always make sure the florist comes prepared with a sturdy arch that is heavy enough to withstand any strong winds. When placing linen on our tables, we use clips to secure the linen to the tabletop and weights attached to the bottom of linens to keep the wind from blowing them up onto the top of the table. Tent place cards cannot be used at an outdoor event because of wind. We recommend unique alternatives such as seashells, framed place cards, or even a decorative seating chart placed on an easel.”

The great outdoors

Another outdoor venue in south Florida, the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, is quaint, beautiful, and historic. There’s just one problem; there’s no kitchen.

“An off-premise caterer must create his own kitchen by constructing a tent in the parking lot,” says Christi Bick, CPCE, Principal Event Designer, Blondevents. “Caterers are responsible for bringing in all appliances and utensils needed including stoves, ovens, warming boxes, refrigerators, ice, pots, pans, and serveware.” Bick says only caterers with established reputations are selected for events at the Bonnet House.

That said, Bick is always surprised at how different event planners, caterers, and clients reimagine the space to make it their own.

The underlying principle for any outdoor event is to have a back-up plan. Bick says Murphy’s Law applies: “The more you talk about and plan for a backup, the less likely you are to have to use any of the plans.”


To learn more, visit This summer, NACE and its South Florida chapter will host the Experience Conference and Expo in Fort Lauderdale with even more tips and advice on all types of events.

Photos courtesy Emily Harris Photography


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