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Backyard wedding features unconventional clearspans

Project Briefs | June 1, 2007 | By:

With over 35 years of event experience, Chicago Party Rental Inc. in McCook, Ill., would normally view a standard backyard wedding as a relatively simple event to do. There are the usual challenges, such as weather problems, site layout issues and tight timelines, but these can be fairly easy to predict and account for when you’ve been in the business for so long. But even Chicago Party Rental encounters unexpected problems, as was the case when this bride’s father stepped in late in the process with some unusual requests.

Chicago Party Rental (CPR) was first contacted by one of its catering clients to help plan a 200-guest wedding that was five weeks away. This particular bride left the planning of her wedding arrangements to her sister, and their parents planned to host the reception in their backyard. The caterer and an event coordinator from CPR called a meeting with the bride’s sister, and the team set out a plan for a simple backyard party.

The group developed a layout that included two dinner tents and another tent for dancing. CPR had to design these separate tents to accommodate the yard’s limited party space, which resulted from both size and the existence of several trees, bushes and flowerbeds.

“The biggest challenge at this point was to design custom clear tops for the existing lattice pergola, which was to be used for additional dinner seating,” says Valerie Braun, of CPR. But this may have been the least of the problems the CPR team would encounter.

Since the CPR event coordinator would be on vacation the entire week of the wedding, she worked closely with her production manager to develop a very specific timeline along with a detailed floor plan. Everything was in place, and the installation process began with the laying of the subfloor four days before the wedding.

That same day, the father of the bride arrived home from traveling and reviewed the plans for the event. He discovered that the plans were very different from what he had imagined for his daughter’s wedding. CPR quickly assigned a new event coordinator since the initial contact was on vacation. That afternoon, an emergency meeting was called to revise the entire plan. To complicate matters even further, the weather was cold, rainy and windy—and all forecasts said it would last the entire week.

“There was no doubt that this wedding was to be a very special occasion, from the pre-wedding luncheon to the post-wedding brunch,” Braun says. “The father wanted to create an extension of the house and felt that everything should take place under one continuous covering in a more formal atmosphere.” He wanted the guests to feel they were actually in his house, Braun says, and he felt the tents’ flooring should be more consistent with the carpeting in the house. His vision was to incorporate the flowers, bushes and trees instead of working around them. Protecting the guests from the potentially inclement weather that was predicted was also an important concern.

The emergency meeting concluded at 7:00 p.m. on the Monday prior to Friday’s wedding, with several changes identified. First, a 40-by-40-foot clearspan structure for the reception area would have to be replaced with a 40-by-50-foot clearspan for the orchestra and dancing area, which would transition into another 30-by-50-foot clearspan to accommodate the reception. This entire area would then have to be removed by 10:00 a.m. on the next day, because the space would need to be open for parking at the post-wedding brunch.

Second, the dining tents, which were originally two separate frame tents with white tops guttered together, would have to be replaced with a 40-by-100-foot clearspan. “Creating this larger area allowed for the trees, bushes and flower plantings all to be incorporated in the dining area,” Braun says. For additional ambiance, a custom tent liner would be installed to create a dramatic ceiling effect. The tent liner was ordered from California immediately after the meeting on Monday evening.

Since the bride’s father wanted to incorporate as much of the backyard as possible, it became clear that the subfloor would have to be changed throughout the clearspan structures in the backyard to follow the curving flowerbeds. The team decided to use custom-cut plywood sections, which would be covered with Berber carpeting. The carpet was ordered Tuesday morning from Atlanta, and it arrived at a local freight station on Thursday for installation. The carpet installer began at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday and finished at 6:00 a.m. on Friday. Within the extremely short timeframe, the plywood not only had to be measured, cut and installed, but since it was being used throughout the whole backyard, it had to be leveled over three different surfaces with definite pitches.

The new plan also stipulated that all of the poles for the marquees, tents and structures were to be hidden. Therefore, approximately 250 custom pole wraps had to be made to cover the aluminum.

Finally, the placement of the walkway in the front yard from the gravel driveway had to be repositioned to a higher area that was not as pitched, to avoid any puddles from the impending rain forecast. This new configuration required installation to be done at more of an angle, which required a custom-designed piece to accommodate the turn of the marquee. Because of the rain reports, the team also decided to add a plywood base under the canopy walkway with artificial grass covering to avoid puddles.

In the end, the last-minute changes were taken care of just in time for the event. Everyone was very happy with the final results since almost all of the limited backyard space was used. The new space also fit perfectly between the house and the garage, which was used by the caterer for a cooking and prep area. “While we are always very conscious to make the customer happy,” Braun says, “this event was of utmost importance to us, since this was the first wedding in a family consisting of twelve children—of which seven are daughters!”

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