I’m getting married on the fall equinox this Sat. Sept. 22 in Gloucester, Va. The ceremony is at 5:30 p.m. in the backyard of my childhood home overlooking Mirror Cove, the name we gave to our muddy creek for its curious reflection. The same creek that flooded the first floor of our old farmhouse in 2003 during Isabel. We’re no strangers to high winds and breaking waves, which is perhaps why we thought planning a wedding during hurricane season would be, well, an OK idea.
As a mostly non-religious family, we chose this date based strictly on the scripture of mother nature. She’s a bit hard to read — just a week ago we feared she may pull another Isabel — but she’s also ever so regular: high tide is 8:27 p.m., the sun sets at 7:03 p.m., and our food truck will be onsite with a dinner of gourmet tacos and fried caramel churros to be served, against the soft light as we end our first dance, at approximately 7 p.m.
Of course, I’m not the only bride-to-be who thought a fall wedding would be lovely — according to Wedding Wire’s 2018 Newlywed Report, these were the top five wedding dates in 2017: Oct. 7, Oct. 14, Sept. 30, Oct. 21, and Nov. 11. Behind the venue, the report says that couples spent the most money on catering their big day, some $6,600 on average. (By the way, the average total cost? $27,000.)
So, if you think getting married in September at sea level in general is risky, try catering the damn thing in the “number one city in the world” which, coincidentally, is not the most-prepared when it comes to storms.
Salthouse Catering owner/operator Tanya Gurrieri says that last week, the popular catering company had “five or six events between Wednesday and Sunday either cancel or postpone/reschedule. It was not a huge week for us, just a rehearsal, wedding brunch, political fundraiser. It wasn’t heavy hitting, but we had between $12,000 and $15,000 worth of events being shuffled around.”
Now, it could rain on any wedding. Winds could pick up. The groom could no-show. There could be a tragedy in the family. Karen Moran, owner of Sweet Lulu’s Bakery, Cocktail Caravan, and Pedal Pub, says that for every event, she “monitors the weather like a hawk. I just don’t want to be the vendor who over promises and under delivers. I relay everything a bride could need when booking and do my best to help guide them — it’s why I have info on my website about insurance.”
Money, contracts, and inconvenience aside, Gurrieri says that in severe storm situations, she worries about the “hourly people out of work, the poor brides, and poor people who have been planning for so long.” The caterer says that this is the third year in a row that Salthouse has had to deal with cancellations and postponements during hurricane season, and she does think people are becoming more educated about getting insurance.
As a Charleston native, Gurrieri also thinks the call to evacuate was too early and cost a lot of people money.
“We’re cautious people,” she says. “We would’ve left. So many weddings are almost all destination in Charleston. It’s really a strain. The only upside is we can’t get upset, we know it’s going to happen, it’s just ‘how are we going to deal with it best?'”
Moran says that this year she’s had several close calls, “literally sitting in my car waiting for the downpour to stop so we could set up … And in a few instances getting completely dumped on.”
When hiring a caterer, especially in a popular wedding town that is prone to flooding, Moran says couples should be sure to check out the kitchen that the caterer is operating from; defer to a wedding planner for vendor suggestions (they should know the good ones, it is their job); pay attention to how long it takes the caterer to reply to emails; be proactive with questions; and perhaps most importantly, be prepared for anything.
In 96 hours we will know if my passed apps — deviled eggs, sesame ginger chicken bites, a variety of dips — will be served under a shining sun or the big white backup tent. Or if we’ll be huddling inside that 100-year-old farmhouse that doesn’t quite fit 60 people, but could, maybe, if we squeezed in tight. We’ll know if my food truck can travel an hour-and-a-half with his pulled pork and blackened mahi, or if he’ll be stranded on a flooded road. There’s much to consider, and even with family, friends, and planners on your side. You know what they say about the best laid plans.
For all brides in the southeast lucky enough to still be holding their ceremony on dry land, grab a gourmet taco, a glass of Champagne, and toast to whatever mother nature may bring — and then toast to your caterer.