Saying the weather is unpredictable in the Washington DC area is, well, an understatement. If you have your heart set on an outdoor wedding ceremony and/or reception, the best thing you can do is know (and accept!) that the weather in the DC area is crazy! You just never know what Mother Nature is going to do on your wedding day. However, after acceptance, is preparation! You must be prepared for anything. Besides, a few drops can also be an opportunity for rainy day wedding inspiration! I went to some of the best wedding experts in the DC area and asked for their best tips for how to handle and prep for a potentially rainy wedding day and what you should do if it does rain on your wedding day.
The Back Up Plan
“If you are planning a wedding at a venue where there is an outdoor option, be mentally prepared at the point of booking to have to deal with inclement weather. I tell clients that you have to be just as happy with the backup plan as you are with the ideal weather scenario.” — Courtney, owner of A Sweet Soiree
“My advice is to keep your guests as comfortable and dry as possible when facing a rainy wedding day. For some, this might mean simply having a few dozen umbrellas on hand. For others, it might not be so simple. You could be looking at adding tents, hiring additional transportation, or renting heaters. You should budget for these items from the beginning. Yes, that might mean you have to cut back in other areas. But, your guests would rather be warm and dry than feast on filet and lobster tail; trust me.” — Janice, owner of Bellwether Events
“Always have a rain plan on-hand for your wedding. If it needs to be utilized, then add something extra special decor wise, so you are excited even about plan B!” — Suzi at LongView Gallery
“If you are planning on having any part of your wedding outdoors, it’s crucial to have a back up plan. You need to be comfortable with the back up plan in advance. All you want to decide on your wedding day is whether you need to go to the rain plan or not. Some venues will give you a time in which that decision needs to be made. Your entire production team needs to be on board and knowledgeable about the rain plan.” – Vicky, owner of Event Accomplished
“Staying flexible is key to dealing with the weather. Knowing what the typical plan for your venue is can help. Having a plan for a sprinkle can be different from the plan for a torrential downpour. Check with your venue to see if they can be flexible and wait out a passing shower. The original schedule can be moved a bit here and there to avoid bad weather. Be sure to include all of your vendors in your multi-level rainy day plan. Deciding what to do in case of rain keeps everybody sane in the event the rain shows up. Having no plan is a recipe for stress and anxiety. Make a plan, it’s not going to jinx you.” – Kelley, owner of Event Studio
The Right Location
“It all comes down to picking the right location and being able to look through the bells and whistle and see the basics. A proper location should have three separate indoor ballrooms that can each host your entire capacity of guests. No columns, no squishing, no excuses. If you have three indoor spaces (ceremony, cocktails, dinner/dancing) then you are all set in terms of rain, snow, heat, cold, wind, etc…A garden, no matter how beautiful, is only usable in perfect weather, after a week of perfect weather! If it rains the day before, high heels are guaranteed to sink in moist soil. Because they are so subject to the weather, gardens are statistically the most underutilized location for a wedding.” – Antonio of Foxchase Manor and Rose Hill Manor
“My best advice would be to consider rain options when looking at potential wedding venues, especially if you are considering an outside wedding. Can your venue be tented? Does the venue provide a tent or do you need to work with an outside rental company? Does the venue also have indoor options that would work for your guest count? Ask your venue (or rental company) when they need to make your rainy day plan, some may need at least two weeks to order the tent and schedule delivery and set-up. For photos look around your venue and see if there are pretty inside spaces for photos? If you are planning to take photos around DC, ask your photographer for suggestions of covered places that you will be able to go for bridal portraits and bridal party pictures.” — Margo, owner of Bright Occasions
Making The Call
“If the forecast is looking gloomy, when will the decisions be made to go to plan B? It’s critical to set a deadline and stick to it. Who is going to be the final decision maker? Sometime couples defer to someone else so they don’t have to make the decision; others want to be intimately involved in the process.” — Bret at Mandarin Oriental Washington, D.C.
“We have hosted weddings in every type of weather….Snomageddon in Feburary, Hail in May, Tornados in September, Durechos in June, and Snow in October. We’ve seen it all and made it work. My best piece of advice for our clients in these instances is to go into the bathroom to cry, scream and complain for ten minutes. Then come out with a smile and ready to enjoy the day. Your attitude permeates through to the bridal party, guests and vendors. As the hosts, set the example for everyone else.If you are a sourpuss then everyone else will also complain and be grumpy. Be upbeat, feel blessed to be getting married and go with the flow.” — Laura Ritchie, Events In The City
If It Rains…
“If you are able to stand in the rain, your guests should be able to stand in the rain. The couple will set the tone for the weather. The best pictures I have seen have been couples in the rain. I have had three weddings recently where rain started and the brides laughed it off. I ran up and put an umbrella over their head and they continued on. The important thing is that the bride and groom remain calm, be able to laugh it off and make the best of it. The rain weddings make for some of the best weddings!” — Angie, owner of AJK Events
“Remember that even if the weather is beautiful, but it’s been a rainy week, the ground will still be wet, furniture will sink into the ground and things will be muddy. No matter where you are having your wedding, remember that rain will slow everything down. Be prepared to start a little late. Traffic in DC gets delayed in a few raindrops and will inevitably run a bit behind.” — Bret at Mandarin Oriental Washington, D.C.
“Don’t get too worked up about the rain. Your guests will understand that you had no control over the weather and that obviously the rain plan was not your first choice. It will still be a wonderful celebration.” – Vicky, owner of Event Accomplished
Tents, Tents and More Tents
“Unfortunately, when planning a wedding theres one factor that you truly cannot help: Rain. Our best advice is to work a rain-plan into the wedding to begin with. For an outdoor ceremony or reception, we always suggest having a tent rain or shine. Even on the nicest of days, brides are always glad they had a tent to protect them from the outdoor elements. You can bring the outdoors inside with a clear-top tent with the sides open and still see the gorgeous skys above. Most importantly, planning a tent into your ourdoor wedding takes away the stress of worrying about rain so that you can focus energy on planning your big day!” — Julia from Sugarplum Tent Company
“In the DC area, you can never expect it not to rain! We are not in Southern California! If you are having an outdoor ceremony or want your reception with farm tables in a field, you have to have a back-up space for both. Whether it is another part of the venue for the ceremony or a tent for the reception, the ideal is to have two separate spaces where you can your entire guest count. Always have in-depth conversations with your tent company. Be sure you find out how many days in advance you can cancel your tent and the day of the installation – the latest time you have available to cancel it (which will typically be without a refund).” – Katie, owner of Elegance & Simplicity
“Tenting can be very expensive, and if the weather is lovely on their day, the tent will block out the sunshine and the outdoor views. An indoor backup plan is likely a better option, simply because if the weather isn’t great, being outside would put a damper on the day.” — Bret at Mandarin Oriental Washington, D.C.
Accessories + Props
“Always, always, always have a rain plan. But, a rainy day doesn’t have to put a damper on your day. Use it as a great way to accessorize and show off your wedding colors! Get those pretty pink Hunter boots you’ve always wanted! They can make for some great photos. I always advise couples if there is even the slightest chance of rain to purchase “rain props”; matching umbrellas, rain boots and more to ensure less stress leading up to wedding day. If the rain stays away you can always return them, but it’s always better to be prepared.” — Ashlee, owner of Ashlee Virginia Events
“If they are calling for rain, have towels available for guests to dry off after the ceremony. They won’t be completely dry, but it is better than the guests dripping with water. Clear umbrellas look the best, but any umbrella is better than none at all. When I have couple getting married in the drizzle, I hold an umbrella open at the end of the aisle ready to run if the rain gets heavier.” — Angie, owner of AJK Events
“If it’s raining in the week leading up to your day and/or raining on your wedding day, consider having rain boots and umbrella’s available for outside photos. Instead of avoiding the rain, make it a part of your story. The pictures can be really beautiful!” — Margo, owner of Bright Occasions
“In cooler months when it rains, make sure you have umbrellas handy and extra pashminas on tap for the ladies as it can get pretty chilly during the spring or fall when it rains in the Washington DC area. If your guests have to trek through a field or grassy area, make sure you have plenty of flip flops available to let their shoes dry off or stay off during the reception!” — Katie, owner of Elegance & Simplicity
Thank you so much! Be sure to check out the fabulous DC area wedding vendors who helped with this advice post possible! They truly do know what makes having a wedding in this area unique! And, don’t forget, if you need a little rainy day wedding inspiration, we have you covered!
If you are planning a wedding in the DC area, there is plenty on United With Love for you. From tips and advice form DC area wedding pros, a real wedding gallery for beautiful Washington, DC area weddings and loads of inspiration in our DC area wedding idea galleries. You can also join the local wedding conversation on our Washington DC area wedding forums!