The sky's the limit with outdoor weddings and events
Story by Lynn Hobbs
Photos of the Cook-Miller wedding & the Lovell-Aldridge wedding provided by Ashah Photography.
After she says “yes,” and he places a ring on her finger, one of the next big decisions for any bride- and groom-to-be is the venue for their big day. When the 2020 coronavirus pandemic hit, the new norm became small, outdoor events. And Josh Stamps, manager of Lake Oconee Event Company, found himself handling 10 to 14 weddings every weekend, and loving it.
“To be honest, I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and I’ve never had an unhappy bride, ever,” he said. “I treat people like I would want to be treated, and it works.”
Business will pick up even more this year as Lake Oconee Event Company will be handling events at Reynolds and the Ritz-Carlton, but with the company’s extensive history and experience, Josh is ready. During our visit in November (2020), he said they were in the process of building a new 16,000-square-foot warehouse “to hold everything under one roof.”
Outdoor events can have all the amenities offered by any upscale banquet hall without the worry of attendees being enclosed by walls and increasing their risk of exposure to airborne viral germs. In fact, the amenities can be anything the host dreams of.
“Most brides have their Pinterest pages and we tell them to send it on over to us so we can see what they have in mind,” Josh said, referring to the social media service dedicated to discovering and saving ideas.
The first important detail needed is the number of people invited and the style of the event – formal, sophisticated and dramatic; casual fun or rustic charm; a seated dinner or a cocktail party; subtle and intimate or energetic and lively.
The next detail to consider is whether or not to use a tent. Josh’s favorite events are those without a tent. “I just like the outdoor events with strings of lights in the trees and the stars in the sky. They’re not as profitable for us, but I like them,” he opined, and showed photos with examples demonstrating how string lights are used to define an event area.
Whether indoors, outdoors or in a tent, other lighting can be added or used to enhance the ambience, including café lights, chandeliers of all types, cascading lights, hanging pendants, globe lights, white paper lanterns, can lights, table lamps, floor lamps, candelabras, uplights, lanterns, and even an Airstar, which is a large, white balloon light that looks like a moon floating over your event.
A tent not only adds security from inclement weather, but can add a majestic touch. There are two basic types to decide between – a pole tent or a frame tent.
“I prefer to meet at the location of the event so I can measure for the tent, see what they want and what to recommend,” Josh said. “That way, I get to see where the trees are, how level the ground is, and where we’ll have to park the truck.”
As the name implies, a pole tent is supported by poles. Although the poles in the center create tall spires on the tent and graceful curves in the ceiling, the poles in the center also impact the layout, table placement, dance floor/stage placement and traffic flow. Also, pole tents need to be set up on a flat, grassy area. Pole tents are available in 30-, 40-, or 60-foot widths and can be expanded to virtually any length.
The frame tent is supported by a frame structure so the space inside is open. Frame tents come in white or clear, with the clear option providing an open-space dramatic appearance. Frame tents can be set up on uneven ground and hard surfaces.
Josh told of a wedding this past summer that was in someone’s backyard on Harmony Road. The yard was on a slant, so he was able to build a platform to set the 50-by-120-foot tent on. “The difference between the sides was 12 feet, so that was a big slant, but we made it level,” he said proudly, and noted there was no sign of the platform having been there when they removed it and left.
Josh says LO Event Company has a “fair weather plan and a rain plan” for events, and a deposit is required for all tents.
Tents and lighting are just the beginning of the many options available for any bride or event host/hostess. Offerings include arches and arbors; dance floors, stages, and carpets; farm tables or folding tables in all shapes and sizes; table linens, drapes and fabric panels; about two dozen different types of chairs as well as church pews; a variety of arbors and arches; lounge furniture and upholstered furniture (there’s even some cowhide chairs!); and one-of-a-kind items such as a champagne/wine wall, canoe server, bride & groom cornhole sets, boxwood wall panels, galvanized tin tubs, whiskey barrels, market umbrellas, as well as many other items customized to fit the event.
“Most of the time, we’ll either buy it or build it. We’re always open to expanding our inventory,” Josh said. “We have a woodshop where we custom build almost anything. We’re a fully capable and customizable wood shop.” He pointed out some tables in the showroom that are a new, popular feature – pipe leg, bar-height tables with a live-wood edge. “People have them at their event and then some people attending the event see it and want one of their own, so they order one and we’ve been building them. Woodworking is my passion, so it’s good to do both jobs together.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This story appeared in Lakelife magazine, Volume 15, Issue 1 and is the property of Smith Communications, Inc. No portions of the story may be copied or used without written consent from the publisher.