||A wavy but wonderful wedding
Joran Thompson is an RM staff editorial intern.
| Even two years after it happened, George Coates, president of Eventmakers International of Stuart, Fla., is talking about the wedding and brunch Mother Nature nearly washed away at Bathtub Reef Beach in Stuart. The full-service special events company that provides tents, party rental equipment and catering services was hired to produce and cater a wedding for 200 guests and a surprise Sunday brunch for 150 guests on the weekend of Jan. 10-11, 2004. Little did they know that they would have more than 30-mph winds and that both events would almost be underwater. Luckily, Coates and his staff were prepared.|
Planning for the project began a year in advance. When initial measurements — including elevations — were taken there was plenty of beach available, so they quoted a custom wood floor. Several months later they ran into a problem.
“Due to an enormous amount of beach erosion over the summer months, we knew we had to do something different,” Coates said, and added that at one point in late August there was no beach. “I was working with John Clark, owner of Super Stages, on another project and took him to the beach site. After telling me I was crazy to even consider doing this project, I got him interested in the challenge.” The two dug down about a foot and realized that there was a rock reef under the sand, which brought about some ideas. They decided to raise the entire platform at least three feet off the sand to allow water to run under it during high tides.
“Because of elevation differences, the east and south sides of the platform were over 6 ft. off the sand, which would later turn out to be our saving grace,” Coates said.
About a week before the big event, the Eventmakers staff became anxious about the weather. There was a full moon, which signified high tides, and there were reports of a cold front due to hit the area late Friday or Saturday.
“The photographer that we hired for the aerial photos called me around 3 p.m. to tell me that the pilot had to fly the helicopter at 30 knots just to hover over the site,” Coates said. “By showtime at 5 p.m., we had sustained winds of well over 30 mph. There was definitely anxiety on our part.”
That Saturday the Eventmakers staff was hard at work. The high winds began to blow in under the tent walls so the tent crew put sand from the beach in empty rice chair bags to weigh down the bottoms of the tent walls.
“Once we did that, you couldn’t really tell it was windy outside, except of course for the 10-ft. [waves],” Coates said. In fact, the wedding ceremony, dinner and reception couldn’t have gone more smoothly.
“Although the weather was very windy, there was no rain and a full moon, which was perfect under the clear tents. Everyone, from the bride and groom, to their parents, and all of the guests complimented us repeatedly for ‘pulling it off’,” he said.
Although Saturday went well, the Eventmakers still had to put on the surprise Sunday brunch at the same location. Coates said that on Sunday morning the wind shifted and the waves began to crash under the platform. He was ready to cancel.
“About 6 a.m., three of my tent installers and I went to the site to inspect the tents and the platform. Although everything was all right at that point, the tide had just started to come in. I thought we should cancel the brunch. While our catering staff continued to prepare, I kept monitoring the deteriorating situation.” By 7 a.m., Coates reported that he was drenched from being under the platform observing the waves.
Fortunately, the brunch was able to take place, but around 1 p.m. the platform began to sag and the teardown needed to begin. He called in his crew and John Clark’s platform crew to do the breakdown that afternoon instead of Monday.
“I knew by Monday it would all be in the Bahamas,” Coates said. By 5 p.m. that night, the rental equipment, tents and platform had been cleared.
Coates suggests that rental companies prepare for situations like this.
“Prepare. Check the weather reports all week long. If it’s going to be a windy one, plan on having some of your tent staff on site during the event. When you go to a site to measure for tenting, don’t just look at the site to see what will fit or where you are going to put the tent. Look at the site and see what can go wrong with it. [Find out] where the low points are and [plan for] if it rains,” he said.