Don’t let hot weather ruin the big day. Find the right cooling solution for your needs and your venue.
Feeling hot, hot, hot might be fine for a reception’s conga line, but unbearable heat is not what you want people to remember about your wedding day. Whether your outdoor wedding or reception will take place in an event tent, a rustic barn, a lovely hotel courtyard or a family member’s backyard, here’s what you need to know about air conditioning for outdoor weddings.
Consider your budget
One of the biggest factors driving your decision will be your budget. It might sound ideal to bring the entire event space down to a cool-as-a-cucumber 72°F, but for most people, the cost is a deal breaker. That level of climate control typically requires air conditioning, and air conditioning for an outdoor wedding, including the generator rental, fuel delivery and labor charges, adds up fast, whether you’ll be cooling a barn or a tent.
Before you consider a tent air conditioner, remember: Tents are not insulated, so cold air leaks out.
Another reality check: the rental period. You might think you’ll rent the equipment for one day, but with equipment set-up at least one day before the wedding and pickup on a Monday, it usually makes sense to pay the weekly rate.
Decide what level of cool you need
How cool does the space really need to be? The answer depends in part on your guests. If elderly grandparents, other seniors and/or people with health issues will be in attendance, they may need cooler temperatures for reasons beyond mere comfort.
If cooling the entire space isn’t feasible, you have other options. For instance, you can focus on cooling a few select areas, such as the grandparents table. Or set up cooling stations — strategically placed spots inside the space or outdoors where people can go for relief from the heat.
Even simply ensuring good airflow can keep temps a few degrees cooler and more comfortable in many situations. Fans for an outdoor wedding can go a long way.
Know your venue
When it comes to figuring out climate control, the size and type of space is a critical factor. How open is it to outdoor airflow? Cooling strategies will be different for a barn with open barn doors, an enclosed tent and an open meadow.
The availability of electrical outlets will factor in. Also: Will the venue allow a generator and other heavy equipment on their lawn or patio? Knowing any restrictions in advance will help guide your decision.
A range of portable cooling options
Once you’ve considered your budget, your guests and the venue, it’s time to evaluate your cooling options.
Portable air conditioners
Air conditioning tends to be the first cooling option people think of -- but it’s the most expensive solution, and for outdoor spaces, it’s typically the most impractical.
Part of the purpose of having a wedding event outdoors is for the natural setting. Keeping big barn doors open or tent flaps up so guests can enjoy the view makes total climate control nearly impossible.
Even if you’re willing and able to close things up, air conditioning can be complicated to install. You need the generators and the AC units placed a good distance from the tent because of noise and exhaust. The necessary ductwork adds to set-up time and complexity. In many instances, the cost and impracticality of this option puts it out of reach. If you’re willing to cool the space to, say, 82°F instead of 72°F, that’s often more doable.
Spot coolers: the AC compromise
Spot coolers like the MovinCool are a good alternative to portable air conditioners. These AC units, which roll on casters, are smaller than regular portable ACs. And they plug into a standard outlet, so you don’t need a generator if there’s a nearby building with a power outlet.
You can place spot coolers inside a tent in strategic places — at the bridal party table, around the dance floor and buffet line, near the grandparents’ table — to cool specific, small areas. Is grandma particularly susceptible to the heat? A spot cooler aimed her way can keep her comfortable.
As with an air conditioner, a spot cooler’s hot exhaust air must be vented outside.
Evaporative coolers: Cooling fans for outdoor weddings
In many cases, evaporative coolers are a better choice. These are designed to work best in outdoor areas or indoor spaces with plenty of airflow. Place them inside your tent or barn, or create outdoor “cooling stations.”
As with spot coolers, evaporative coolers plug into a standard wall outlet (or they can run on a small generator). Unlike spot coolers or ACs, they don’t produce hot air that needs to be vented away from the space.
Evaporative coolers work by blowing air through water, causing evaporation, which has a cooling effect. The water can come from the unit’s water tank or from an attached water supply, such as a garden hose attached to a water faucet.
There are a variety of types of evaporative coolers, each with its own pros and cons.
Portacool evaporative coolers
Portacool evaporative coolers produce a large swath of cooler air. Water runs down a cooling pad that looks like a honeycomb. When warm air is pulled through the pad, the water evaporates, cooling the air around it. A fan pushes that cooler air out into the environment.
These coolers are big, about the size of a desk, so they produce a nice, large swath of cooler air. On the other hand, they’re not especially attractive, and the fans don’t oscillate.
Power Breezer coolers
Power Breezer coolers atomize water, creating tiny droplets that quickly evaporate, cooling the air around them. That cool air is blown into the surrounding space via a high-powered oscillating fan.
Power Breezers are compact and do a great job providing a cooling zone for guests. They have an optional misting feature that keeps people nearby cool without getting them wet.
They do add moisture to the air, which may not be desirable in humid climates, but they can also be run without water, which turns them into high-powered fans. Simply moving the air around within the space or moving fresh, outside air into the space can make a big difference.
Vector coolersare arguably the most popular choice because of their convenience and their appearance. Compact, sleek, and quiet, they fit right in with formal events. These coolers are 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide and can be tucked into a corner or against a wall. Like other evaporative coolers, they are a good alternative to ACs and spot coolers because they don’t produce hot air that needs to be vented.
Like Power Breezers, Vector coolers work by atomizing water, have a misting feature and can oscillate. They can function as a simple, attractive, high-powered fan if you don’t want to add humidity to the air.
With the variety of portable cooling options available, there’s no need to let the heat put a damper on everyone’s enjoyment of your big day — or break the wedding budget. You should always consult with an expert regarding the specific circumstances, applicable rules and regulations related to your site and to your situation.