Q & A

Q. I didn't notice until recently that my reception room has navy carpeting. How will this look with my sunset color scheme?

A. If you didn't spot the dark carpeting until now, it's likely you first saw the room when it was dressed up for a party—at which time the floor didn't stand out at all. "I always advise brides not to get hung up on the carpet," says Marcy Blum, a New York consultant and author of Weddings for Dummies (IDG Books). "Once you decorate the room with flowers, tablecloths and place settings, the floor and carpeting will disappear." Most importantly, the lighting—candles, chandeliers—will draw your eyes upward. And with all your guests milling around, the last thing they'll notice is what's beneath their feet.

Q. I really want an outdoor wedding, but what kind of arrangements do I need to make for rain? I'm not sure I can afford to rent a tent.

A. An outdoor wedding can be beautiful—unless it starts raining and the ground becomes a swampy mess. Need we remind you that high heels and muddy ground don't mix? So if you're trying to avoid a tent, start looking for a reception site that covers all your bases—and your guests. You can get the best of both worlds if you consider a site that offers an outdoor pavilion with a permanent roof and open air on the sides. If the site you want doesn't offer adequate shelter, ask the manager if he offers an indoor facility in case of rain. (To alert guests to a possible change of venue, tuck in-case-of-rain cards into your invitations.) If you want to say your vows on the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, however, rent the tent. Keep in mind that a tent doesn't just offer shelter from the rain. Depending on the time of year, the sun can be fierce and your guests will be grateful for the shade. Hot tip: Most rental companies will ask you if you want portable air conditioners or heaters with your tent rental. If you expect mild temperatures, and shelter is your only concern, skip these add-ons to keep your rental costs under control.

Q. Is the look of an all-white reception too boring?

A. White can be wonderful if you build in dimension. "Try white mixed with silver—white plates on silver chargers, silver ribbon wrapped around white napkins, or silver candlesticks on white tablecloths. All add sparkle without taking away from the theme," says Vanda High, an event coordinator in Rye, New York. "Crystal goblets or votive holders can also complement white, giving the room a glow." Work with texture and shade variation, such as a pearl-white satin tablecloth with a stark-white organza overlay and eggshell damask napkins. Centerpieces of white tulips, roses and lilies—each of which has a slightly different hue—are another way to create a striking look.

Q. I love the contemporary look of long tables. What are the pros and cons?

A. "Think of all the events where we sit at long tables—Thanksgiving, Christmas, Passover. Guests get the sense of being part of a wonderful feast," says New York event planner Susan Holland. But the people at the far ends may feel less connected. "You can minimize that by seating guests at the heads of the table, so there's more opportunity for conversation," she suggests. Another downside: the longer the table, the longer it takes for those sitting at the outer reaches to gain access to the dance floor, bar, bathrooms and other areas of activity. Holland's solution? Don't seat more than 20 people at a table, so guests can easily get from point A to point B.

Q. I want my ceremony and reception to be held in a public park near my family's home. What do I need to do?

A. You should start by calling your local parks and recreation department and see if you have to secure a permit to hold your celebration in the park. (Some public parks do not require a permit and you may descend upon them without notification, but we don't recommend it.) Be sure to mention how many guests will attend and how many people will be working the event. Don't forget to ask about alcohol permits, find out about restroom access and inquire about potential party pitfalls like off-limit areas, restricted hours and parking, or other scheduled events. You can expect to pay a fee for any permit you obtain, and you may have to fork over a security deposit just in case one of your guests accidentally steps on a bunch of rare flowers.

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