Private venues set the stage from scratch

Tent cover is a must for any outside event, like at this wedding taking place at Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester. Photo courtesy of Amy VanMeter

WINCHESTER – Many brides may think they can save some money by planning their wedding at a private or family owned spot, but there’s a lot of details to consider when setting up a tented event.

Event planner Amy VanMeter said she’s seen more and more weddings on private land and at barns in recent years when working with clients across the Northern Shenandoah Valley. But while planning tented events, people tend to forget about needed resources and the little details.

“That’s a whole other animal than just planning a regular wedding at a venue,” she said. “I’ve actually created checklists for myself … there are so many moving parts and things to consider.”

Not only can weather patterns literally rain on a bride’s parade; the venue might not have adequate soil drainage and turn into a mud pit days after a storm. Additionally, things like water, electricity, restrooms and lighting need to be set up for a comfortable and enjoyable celebration.

Some brides can face less-than-magical experiences because of unexpected complications that arise, while other wedding parties end up having a blast – whether rain or shine. Personal stress levels and adaptability should be taken into account when opting to set up a venue over renting one that’s already event-ready.

“I really try to get a feel for couples when I’m talking with them, if it’s in the planning stages … to see how they’re going to handle it,” VanMeter said.

By the time all expenses have been accounted for, a tented event can end up costing just as much as renting a venue. Setting up a comprehensive budget early on can help eliminate forgotten incidental costs that can add up later.

Anytime between a year and nine months before the big date, wedding parties can meet with event planners at the site to start visualizing the wedding. VanMeter said sometimes she’s managed to scope out the location herself and plan from there, but meeting with clients is ideal.

After her customers give their personal input and ideas, VanMeter then works with planning software to set up and finalize all the elements, tweaking the setup with clients along the way. She said tents are a must for outdoor events, no matter how pleasant the day may seem.

Barns erase the necessity for a tent (and the costs involved) in most cases, but other expenses can come into play depending on the structure – usually setting up restrooms and fans. Tents can also provide some extra space when needed, but VanMeter said one close encounter with a tornado warning made her and her clients sitting ducks without a building nearby.

The sentimental value of a family campsite or hallowed old haunt can definitely make the checklist worth the work. Even the smallest of design touches that incorporate personal elements can distinguish the day with flair to spare – and guests will put it down in their books as one to remember.

VanMeter said that the transformation from before to after can make a blank canvas of a space into a unique tableau. And seeing the wedding party unwind and reap the rewards of a long planning process always makes for a fulfilling job well done.

“For me, the payoff’s always been amongst the event happening – all the hard work for the most part is done and everyone is enjoying and celebrating,” she said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com