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Zika virus mosquitos are popping up in a whole lot of places right now, and depending on where you're getting married, there are various levels of alert being issued by the CDC and local health departments. As with any potential health hazard, people are panicking.
But unless engaged couples just steer clear of hosting outdoor weddings all together (or at least for the next couple of years), we simply have to make the best preparations possible at weddings to protect the wedding party, the wedding guests, and the staff against mosquitoes.
I plan a lot of destination weddings in Puerto Rico, where everyone has been on high alert for Zika for the past eight months. As a result, I'd like to think I've become a bit of a pro at mosquito preparedness for outside weddings. Keep it safe at your wedding, and follow these five tips:
1. Patrol your venue a couple weeks before your wedding, if possible.
If you're not getting married in your hometown, ask your wedding planner to do it for you. Take a look at the property and make sure there's no standing water, dead fountains, or other typical breeding grounds for mosquitos. If you find there is a big problem, notify the management immediately. A serious mosquito infestation isn't something you can solve if you discover it the day of the wedding.
2. Arm your wedding guests with bug repellant.
Put them in the guests' welcome bags at their accommodations. Wipes, or spray bottles, or other cool gadgets you find will be appreciated and will get used. Urge everybody to wear the bug repellant whether or not your wedding events are being held outside. They're walking around outside before and after, right?
3. Put cans of bug repellant in visible spots throughout your outdoor wedding venue.
The bar is one place that everybody will see it. I've also seen small pump tubes of bug repellant that kind of looked like the bubble tubes you see at wedding. Those look cute with bows around them in a basket in the bathrooms at the wedding reception venue.
4. Burn citronella candles or citronella tiki oil around the perimeter of your event area.
Don't just use them in the mix as part of your décor (besides, the candles smell pretty distinctively horrible, and you're better off having them away from the food). Literally enclose your exterior space in a ring of protection. Might sound silly to you, but we've been doing it for years with outdoor weddings in the Caribbean and it's very, very effective.
5. Get mosquito-repelling bracelets for your wedding party.
This is especially helpful if you're planning to make them tramp around a golf course, or in the woods, or on a beach for wedding photos in the late afternoon or at dusk. Traditionally, they're going to do a lot of standing around. Best to avoid having them eaten alive in the process.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.