Katie & Patrick

Weighing options to dodge Hurricane Nate at a beachfront private estate previously ravaged by Hurricane Katrina

With a 100-year-old family beachfront property in hand, Katie and Patrick asked us to plan, design, and produce a wedding ceremony and celebration where no infrastructure, utilities, and resources were readily available. All but wiped off the map during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the couple wanted to bring memories back to the place where the groom’s family had once enjoyed generations of laughter, love, and fun. Not only was our team required to build a venue from the ground up, as is often the case at private estate properties, we were also tasked with the challenge of reestablishing electricity, running potable water, and developing landscape where there had been nothing in place for over twelve years.

With the wedding ceremony and reception designs installed and in place, the sudden news of another hurricane threat mere days before the scheduled event put our carefully laid plans for the beachfront estate in jeopardy. Faced with losing everything as the eye of the storm laid its target at the event location, our team successfully expedited the timing of the ceremony and reception ahead of the storm.

See how we preserved the emotional and financial investment put into this private estate installation, and what went into the complexities of the day.

The Client:

The couple, residing in New Orleans, met at a dog park; Patrick is a local, Katie is originally from Massachusetts. They wanted a destination wedding on the beach in Mississippi with 200 guests traveling from the Gulf Coast and the Northeast.

The Objective:

An outdoor ceremony as close to the beachfront as possible for 200 people, followed by cocktail hour and a cocktail-style reception featuring heavy passed hors d’oeuvres, active food stations, a centralized round pit bar; seating for 60% of the expected guest count, dancing to a brass band into the wee hours. The most important aspect of the planning process to the clients was to bring memories back to the family property, while hosting a lovely and understated celebration for their closest friends and family.

Challenges

  1. Building an infrastructure including water, electricity, landscaping, and waste disposal was our first step. The property had not been in use since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and was not connected to any city utilities since before the storm.

  2. Installation of the tent subflooring Sunday prior to the wedding was compromised by a sudden rainstorm that flooded sections of the wood, which immediately began to buckle. Because the town was still in a state of rebounding after Hurricane Katrina, supplies to replace the wood boards were not readily available.

  3. Sixty hours prior to the wedding, the event location was placed under hurricane watch, with an imminent landfall predicted for Saturday at the event site. Wind gusts of up to 45 mph were expected to start late Friday night/early Saturday morning increasing throughout the day Saturday. The tent would not be a safe structure in the event of strong winds.

Design Plan

Our Strategic Solutions

  1. We enlisted the help of the city utilities and local subcontractors to install our basic needs that would support the scale of the event. Working closely with local officials, we established a plan to prepare the property by connecting to the city water supply for running water; installing a transformer and electric panel with sufficient power to supply for lighting needs, band equipment, and an outdoor kitchen; hired landscaping and gardeners to conduct brush removal, stump grinding and removal, grading the land, sod installation, and planting; and established dumpster capacity with waste removal before, during, and after the event as well as sewage and sanitation for restrooms suitable for the guests as well as staffing on site.

  2. Once utilities were established, we constructed a lay of the land with proper placement of a sailcloth tent for the reception, a holding tent for the bridal party prior to ceremony, and catering tent, ensuring logistics supported the flow of events and maintained reasonable access to electrical and water sources. We lead a comprehensive team meeting with our entire production staff to conduct logistics health checks, establishing a complete manifest for the necessary order of load-in for event day.

    When the tent subflooring became compromised due to water, we worked with our tent company to have a new order of subfloor drop shipped to the event site to replace the compromised pieces and stay on schedule for the install.

  3. Thursday prior to the event, we analyzed the pros and cons of our options given the news of the impending storm, and presented the clients with our best suggestion: in order to preserve the investment in everything that had already been installed, we needed to stay ahead of the inclement weather and have the ceremony and reception a day early on Friday. We connected with our vendor team to make sure that in order to pull the event off a day in advance we would be able to accommodate their ability to deliver given the accelerated schedule.

    With approval of the clients to move forward with the new plan by noon on Thursday, we sprang to action confirming with all vendors the details of the new schedule to host the event on Friday instead of Saturday. For the out of town guests arriving Friday afternoon at the airport, we routed our previously booked charter buses to pick up guests from the arrivals deck and drive two hours directly to the event in time for the start of the ceremony.

Results

Taking advantage of the “calm before the storm,” we executed this private estate tented event without a hitch, with load-out completed just as the wind gusts began to pick up Friday at midnight. The clients’ vision for an outdoor ceremony and tented reception was salvaged, as was the investment that they had made in the event itself, by strategically planning for a healthy load-in schedule with cushion time for the week leading up to the event, as well as quick thinking and taking initiative when the news of the storm hitting at the location of the event became a reality. The ceremony started right on time (a day early!) and everything ran according to schedule. It was a night to remember!

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