published Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Summer of wet weather affects greater Chattanooga area ceremonies — but not always badly

Ryan and Cortney Fugate believe rain on their wedding day actually made the event even more special.
Photo: Ginger Sumerlin Photography
Ryan and Cortney Fugate believe rain on their wedding day actually made the event even more special. Photo: Ginger Sumerlin Photography
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    Ryan and Cortney Fugate didn’t let rain spoil their wedding day in July. In fact, they made it part of their photo package. Photo: Ginger Sumerlin Photography

Most wedding photos are pretty much the same — bride and groom, bride and groom and family, bride and groom and bridesmaids and groomsmen. Eating cake. Kissing. Smiling.

Ryan and Cortney Fugate have those photos, too, but they added a few different ones. Bride and groom kicking water on each other from puddles. Bride and groom walking hand-in-hand across a slippery bridge. Bride and groom dancing in the rain.

Like most couples, Ryan and Cortney spent months planning their outdoor wedding, set for July 6. But the weather wouldn't cooperate. So they decided not to cooperate with the weather.

"Ryan and I began talking about how fun it would be to go play in the rain," says Cortney, 23, a teacher at Brainerd High School. "We are both fun, silly people and that's just something we would do. It wasn't really out of the ordinary for either of us.

"Neither of us are great at posing for pictures and I sincerely believe we would not have had as much fun on our wedding day if it hadn't been raining," she says. "The rain gave us a chance to relax a little and enjoy the photo opportunity. It fit our personalities very well and made our wedding more perfect that we could ever have planned."

Ryan, 27, volunteer coordinator at United Way of Greater Chattanooga, agrees that the rain "made the wedding more special."

"It is also really sums up our relationship -- that it will take more than a little rain to keep us down."

Rainy days and Mondays may get some people down, but rainy days and outdoor weddings can absolutely obliterate good feelings, especially when you may be watching thousands of dollars and months of planning washing down the drains.

As of late August, Chattanooga was 20 inches above its average rain amount for the year, according to the National Weather Service. In August, the city received 6.53 inches of rain, almost double its average. July wasn't any better, with 8.5 inches of rain, about 3.6 inches more than average.

Local caterer Tara Plumlee, owner of The Car Barn (a venue often used for weddings and reunions) and A Silverware Affair, says brides have noticed the wet tendencies of this summer's weather with a higher-than-normal number of requests for indoor weddings.

"The bride would just rather be safe and have an indoor venue so they can relax and have one thing less to worry about on their big day," she says.

Still, she says, she hasn't seen an actual increase in the number of "rained-on" weddings this year than in the past, but the threat of rain always hangs over an outdoor wedding, so caterers and wedding planners, by necessity, have a back-up plan in hand.

"We know exactly what to do and can relocate an entire reception in a short time in the event of rain," Plumlee says.

And brides planning outdoor weddings aren't slackers either, she says, with many either renting a tent just in case or making sure there's nearby housing.

"As long as the bride keeps a wonderful outlook on the day, not even rain can ruin the beautiful moment," Plumlee says.

Joe Jumper, owner of The Clay Pot in Riverview, says he worked a July wedding that had to move fast -- completely changing venues -- because of rain on its scheduled day.

"It was a tented outside wedding -- beautiful with wildflowers planted everywhere. It poured," he says. "They ended up having to change the venue on the day of the wedding and moved it to the new Embassy Suites in East Brainerd."

Cortney and Ryan Fugate didn't want a huge wedding to begin with, so when rain became an issue during the week leading up to the ceremony, it wasn't incredibly difficult to shift gears. The original plan was to have the ceremony at the lake at Fort Bluff on Dayton Mountain near Dayton, Tenn., and the reception at the fort's Bluff House, she says, so the entire wedding was moved inside.

With only the wedding party and about 40 guests, the entire affair was able to squeeze onto the house's wraparound porch. Her father met her at the back door with an umbrella, which he held over her until they reached the covered portion of the porch, where the guests were.

"I still got to walk down the aisle towards my husband, even if it was a bit of a tight squeeze," Cortney says. "Ultimately, the rain helped us create that intimate feeling we wanted when we began planning our wedding. Both of our families were mixed together on the porch. Everyone seemed to be one family that day.

"No girl wakes up on her wedding day thinking, 'I really hope it's raining,'" she says. "As it got closer to 6 p.m. [when the wedding was scheduled to begin], the weather began to matter less and less. All I could think about was that I was going to marry my best friend and be Mrs. Ryan Fugate."

The rain had an intimate effect on the photos, too, she says.

"After the cutting of the cake, we headed back outside, sans shoes, to take some pictures. I know many people don't want to ruin their dresses or their hair, but I was only concerned with enjoying the day and having a great time with my husband," she says.

Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396.

planning ahead for the possibility of rain is essential for outdoor weddings. Start with having a large stash of umbrellas at the ceremony and reception location, the information notes. And, though it's unreasonable to offer "Wellies" to all the guests, in case it rains, the website suggests providing rain boots to the bridesmaids, flower girl, the wedding couple's mothers, and a white pair for the bride.

Hay is also ideal for a rainy wedding, the website suggests. "Adding a layer of hay to an outdoor location like a backyard wedding or a backyard rehearsal dinner can soak up the water and help to prevent mud from forming."

The website also suggests having towels and clear tarps (if it's just a brief shower before the ceremony, the tarp can protect the chairs, floral arrangements, etc.).

According to rusticweddingchic.com,

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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