Special Events

Backyard and Beyond

WHEN YOU HEAR the phrase "backyard wedding," you typically think of a small, garden affair, held perhaps under a tent or canopy. When Therese Forton, owner of Buffalo, New York-based Events To A Tee was hired to produce a "simple backyard wedding for 150 guests" for the daughter of a prominent Buffalo businessman, she envisioned just such an event. Three months-and 120 more guests later-Forton crea-ted one of the grandest weddings of her career, a multiday, multitented affair in a remote part of the Pennsylvania countryside. "It turned out to be a bit more than I thought, a lot more than they [the client] thought, but exactly what they envisioned," Forton says.

Held on the grounds of two of the client's 11 country homes, the weekend wedding, which included a tented rehearsal dinner the night before, was planned in just three months, with a two-week installation period. Such a short lead time meant that the client had little opportunity to bid vendors. "Typically, I get three bids for my client, but with the amount of work that needed to get done in such a short time span, there just wasn't enough time," Forton says. "The bride had to go with my recommendations."

Bringing in caterer Jeff Lange from Daffodils, floral designer Tom Markel from The Floristry and Stan Forestal from Forestal Tents & Party Rentals, all of Buffalo, Forton and a round-the-clock crew created a wedding that resembled a small tented city. The rehearsal dinner, catered by Old Library Caterers of Olean, New York, took place in a 140-by-40-foot clearspan, clear-walled Anchor tent, while the reception site comprised two Anchor modular tents (one for cocktails, one for dinner), as well as foyer, connecting, kitchen and restroom tents. Clear tent walls afforded guests a view of the lush, autumn-hued surrounding countryside. A 20-by-30-foot "getaway tent," installed for quiet conversation, featured antique furniture supplied by the client and potted ficus trees. Billowy white tent liners, installed by the rental company, and apricot swagging gave the reception tent a formal feel. For continuity's sake, one person was responsible for all the tent swagging. "It took that person five full days-from 8 in the morning until 8 at night-to swag that tent," Forton recalls.

Dining tables were dressed in white linens with Battenburg lace overlays. Traditional candelabra centerpieces incorporated garden roses, stargazer lilies and dendro-bium orchids. Gold Versailles chairs completed the formal look.

Indeed, a far cry from the typical backyard affair.

* The challenge: The wrong side-walls were sent with the reception tents. The solution: After the rehearsal dinner, the crew immediately tore down the walls from the rehearsal dinner tents; they then transferred them over to the reception tents.

* The challenge: Days before the wedding, the bride decided that the apricot swags were too bright. The solution: The designers toned them down by wrapping ivory tulle over the apricot fabric.

* The challenge: Cellular phones didn't work in the remote location. The solution: Two phone lines were installed in the tent, allowing for on- and off-site communication.

* The challenge: Just a few days before the wedding, the father of the bride decided he wanted to light an adjacent pond. The solution: Three Airstar lighting balloons were shipped overnight to the site, providing a natural, moonlit effect.

* The challenge: Unanticipated heavy rains the day of the wedding caused a small, insignificant leak in one of the tents. The solution: Humor. "I said, 'My client ordered everything-even a natural rainforest," says Forton. -S.C.

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