Escort "cards" -river rocks with guest's names & table numbers on a bed of moss.

A wind-proof idea: Escort “cards” -river rocks with guest’s names & table numbers on a bed of moss.

Chances are you’ve put a lot of thought into your special event or wedding.  From inspiration boards on Pinterest, bridal shows, magazines and much more.  So, when you found your dream location and booked it, it was like finding “the one” you would marry. It just clicked.  Santa Barbara’s own wine country, The Santa Ynez Valley (made up of five towns: Buellton, Solvang, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and Ballard) are filled with epic outdoor event gorgeousness and charming rustic chic glamour.  No wonder so many decide to get married in our wine country.  That said, there are some items that , if known in advance, will not only help you manage your spending plan (budget), but contribute to a seamless event and help ensure the details that you put into all your planning and special touches is actually realized and that your guests are having a great time.  Here are our top highlights of the most common items clients are not told or are overlooked when booking an outdoor special event venue in the Santa Ynez Valley.

“Gone With The Wind”

Pretty much without exception, the wind kicks up in Santa Ynez Valley around 2pm each day and continues until about 7pm.  Whether it’s a hot or cold day, the valley is almost always dusty and it is windy – religiously.  How does this translate to your event?   

Escort Cards – need to be anchored down.  You know those little traditional tented escort cards?  They are less than ideal unless they are taped down, or a more creative approach such as having names written on rocks that can be used as paperweights and favors later, or tied on clotheslines creatively (but even then, the wind can whip them so strongly, they break and are blown away).  Your professional wedding planner should have several ideas – including, perhaps a protected area away from the wind (but do remember, they need to be displayed where guests can see them in a logical place as they make their way from ceremony to cocktail hour and/or dinner).

0073Placecards, Table Numbers, Menus, etc.  on the dining tables, if you have them, should also be anchored down.  See your planner for creative ways to balance creativity with practicality.

Centerpieces: Especially tall centerpieces do not work well at outdoor settings, as the wind repeatedly knocks them over.  Staff will be fighting to re-set them, but the spilled water marks on linens don’t lend to an especially lovely look when guests arrive and you don’t want to burden your guests with having to fight to keep them upright the whole first part of the event, either.  The best centerpieces are low and anchored well with a broad base.

Linens.   While dining tables generally can be weighted with flatware, china and glasses, cocktail tables that may have just a few candles and small floral arrangement on them can have linens flying up and in doing so, bring everything on them with them.  This causes broken glass, arrangements that cannot be used once they’ve had a broken vessel – as well as candles that cannot be used.  These are all wasted unless the caterer (or client provides for the caterer) linen clips to help secure the linen to the table.  Ask your caterer to provide them and secure every linen on any table that does not have something heavy on top weighing it down.

Candles.  This is a huge one.  There is nothing more romantic than the soft glow of candles bathing an event in wine country in the evening hours as the stars come out.  We are completely behind candles at every evening event – indoors or outdoors.  But please, please, make them battery-operated.  Even tall cylindrical hurricane lamps do not hold a candle flame in the wind.  The wind comes right in on the top and extinguishes it – every. single. time.  If you must do a live flame (and it is allowed at your venue), the entire candle holder must be closed- think “lantern style” with no way for the wind to reach the flame.  Battery-operated candles ensure the glow you want never dies at any point, no matter what.


The Extreme Temperature Differences:

The Heat: Even with many events starting at 5pm, oftentimes in summer, this can be the hottest part of the day.  Make sure your guests have ample shade to stand around and be protected while waiting for a wedding to start or other festivities and that they have (at the very least) cold water available to stay hydrated.

The Cold:  Even on hot summer days where temperatures can soar to over 100 degrees by day, the temperatures can get quite cool in the evenings.  With a traditional mushroom heater renting for about $75 each and the recommended number of heatlamps to keep guests comfortable being 1 heat lamp per 8-10 guests, it’s no wonder many event clients think they can save money and have guest tables “share” heaters.  In all 600 weddings I’ve done that involved outdoor settings for the entire evening, I have never seen this work.  Guests end up fighting over heaters and asking catering staff to roll them back and forth between tables to keep everyone warm;  many guests end up leaving early because they are cold;  and consider this:   it is absolutely typical that a heater or two will not be working at all (this happens with every rental company, no matter who they are). Offering guests blankets and wraps for the ladies is another lovely way to ensure guests are kept warm.  But heat lamps should never be a  part of a budget cut.  Ever.


Maximizing Your Location’s Surrounding Beauty: 

Lighting:  If you have booked a vineyard location, remember that at night, when the sun sets, guests cannot see the vineyards.  If you are dining and dancing surrounded by vines, make sure the investment money you put into booking a venue like this includes a lighting plan to highlight the stunning surrounding views and even architecture so guests can actually see what you paid for.


Photo by Jose Villa

Photo by Jose Villa

Pay Attention to Travel Distances in the Valley

Distances and Festivals, oh my!  Distances To/From Wedding Locations and Accommodations:  The Santa Ynez Valley is home to many festivals , races and community events.  Because it is a small valley, often main roads can be backed up with traffic that lasts for miles.  Knowing the distance between your accommodations and the location of your event is a starting point and then check the community calendar for weekends of festivals and events to build in extra time . Few are aware that even without traffic in “slow” season, it can take about 20 minutes – one way – to cross the valley to get from accommodations to many vineyards or private estates, depending on where they are located. Keeping your event on time is mission critical, as running late can cause a domino affect with every service provider and cause event suppliers to go into overtime, food to be overcooked or cold and much more.  Your professional event planner can help you work out solid transportation and logistics timetable that will help keep the rest of the event running on time.