Live Music for Outdoor Weddings: How to Plan for Oregon’s Unpredictable Weather

So far this year, our outdoor wedding musical adventures in beautiful Oregon have included a thunder and hail storm, soft sneaky rain that kept appearing and disappearing prior to the ceremony—just toying with us, 90 degree heat and 54 degree temps with periodic downpours intermixed.  There were also a few of those amazing Oregon summer days that we try to keep secret from the rest of the country so we can maintain our reputation for being a rainy, flannel wearing kind of place.

We at Effesenden Music LOVE your unique venue ideas.  We are all for bringing beautiful musical atmosphere to match your gorgeous outdoor venue and with just a little forethought, you can ensure that your music will be great no matter what Mother Nature decides to present on the big day.

Here I was in mid May, rocking my black winter scarf and down vest.  During the prelude and ceremony, it kept raining on and off so we were under shelter but then the sun came out and created the most beautiful natural lighting so we were able to setup al fresco for the cocktail hour.

Effesenden Performing at Bridal Veil Lakes
Photo Credit: Caressa Rogers Photography

If rain is not a concern, setting the musicians up under the shade of a tree is usually totally adequate to keep instruments safe and music sounding awesome.  If you’re dealing with a drizzly forecast or epic summer heat, here are some tips on how to ensure that your music will not be negatively impacted by the elements.

What’s the big deal about violins in the rain?

Okay Lindsey Stirling, seems able to play her violin in a pirate costume surrounded by Bellagio-like fountains and Cirq du Soleil worthy dancers… but take a close look at that fiddle:  my soon to be blissfully wedded friends, it is a specially made electric violin.  Now if you’re interested in this type of musical performance at your wedding, let’s chat.  I really like the guy with the harpoon. . . but assuming you’re thinking of more like professional musicians dressed in classy black and performing beautiful music for you and your guest to enjoy for prelude, processional and cocktail hour please read on about how to make music possible outdoors even in um…challenging weather.

What happens to a violin or cello if it gets wet?

Kennedy Violins has a wonderful blog post you can check out to get the full details.  In a nutshell, wood is porous and if the wood of an instrument absorbs water, it can expand causing major damage like warping and cracking.  (Shudder.  This is R rated stuff for a string player to even think about!)… and to put it simply, thousands of dollars of damage or possibly irreparable damage can be caused to instruments that are often hundreds of years old.  You don’t want that bad juju happening at your wedding!

Okay but it’s sunny!  Not a cloud in the sky— so I’m good right?

Unfortunately direct sunshine and heat can do serious damage as well if temperatures are hot.  Remember the whole porous thing… if the wood gets direct sunlight and high temperatures, it can shrink those pores and again cause cracking, warping and discoloration.  All this stuff that costs a lot of money and a lot of worry to repair.

This is not about high maintenance vendors trying to ruin your day, but rather that we really really want to play for you and make it awesome and share all the music we’ve prepared just for you.

Okay but lets say you are an evil person who does not care about other people’s prized musical instruments… why does it still matter to you?

Because when instruments get exposed to weather extremes, they go out of tune.  They sound bad.  They sound like this guy:

SO What to do?

If we’re talking rain, and you are not planning to tent the ceremony area for your guests, consider renting or purchasing a 10×10 open-sided canopy tent and setting up your musicians to the side or behind the guests. The music will still sound great. The tent won’t inhibit the view or pictures if positioned behind and your musicians can concentrate on beautifully performing all of those songs you carefully selected.

Here’s a video of our String Trio and Guitarist performing on a 90 degree+ day at the Resort at the Mountain in Welches.  The elegance of the acoustic instruments and more importantly, the gorgeous sounds they create more than make up for a little infrastructure amidst the natural beauty.

What type of tent should I get?

This tent  pictured below from Costco sells for just $149.50 and would be totally adequate for providing shelter for your live music if needed. Ask around too… often there is someone on your guest list who already owns one and would be happy to help out!

Sample Canopy Tent for Musicians

You should plan on having a tent for the musicians even if your backup rain plan involves moving to an indoor area. Why? Because many times, if you’re just seeing a little bit of drizzle, you’re going to want to go ahead with your original plan.  Your guests can snuggle under umbrellas or pull out a jacket but the musicians are then left with the problem of not having a way to protect their instruments from that precipitation.

A word of caution, many people think of possibly using a circular bistro umbrella (such as the one pictured below).  They look really classy but the problem is that they do not provide enough shelter for more than maybe a soloist.  The central base takes up the most sheltered area of the umbrella.  What’s worse is that I have personally seen them catch wind and tip over on more than one occasion, especially for Gorge weddings:  there’s a reason that Kite Boarding and Wind Surfing are so popular around here!  This is not only a liability for the musicians but for your guests as well!

Patio Umbrella

 

Closing Thoughts

Most Oregonians really pride themselves on being creative and undaunted by crazy weather.  When we accept the responsibility and privilege of providing the live music for your wedding, we want to absolutely ensure that things go as smoothly as possible.  By taking just a few precautionary steps, you can relax in the confidence that live music is possible just about anywhere you can imagine getting married in this beautiful state!

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