Planning a cottage wedding: The grounds

Few hosts go to the lengths of the family that re-landscaped and levelled their hilly property (complete with retaining walls) to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in order to accommodate a bloated guest list. But the ability of your property to cope with the demands of a wedding is definitely an important consideration.

Although most septic systems can handle a lot of use on an occasional basis, both septic and party-planning experts suggest the use of portable toilets for convenience and reducing line-ups outside your indoor bathrooms.

“Health authorities recommend two porta-potties for every 100 people,” says Mike Shepherd, of Shepherd Environmental Services in Coboconk, Ont. “But no matter how many guests people have, they usually just rent two.”

The good news is portable toilets are now available in more colours than construction-site blue, and with many more features. Prim white portables, in fact, have become standard fare at almost all rental locations (a “natural” dark green is also available). They come with lights, mirrors, and sinks for handwashing, and you can always stock them yourself with special toiletries like hand cream, bug spray, and biodegradable soaps. Check the Yellow Pages for local resources.

Electricity is another factor that can limit or enhance your options — for everything from the kind of food you serve to lighting. Henry Blanchard, a Port Carling, Ont.-based electrician, says that 30 amps of electrical service is adequate for a modest cottage wedding, although he has been asked to install permanent outdoor outlets in order to reduce the number of extension cords snaking around a property. If you have a couple of free breakers in your electrical panel, you’re in business.

For situations where you need electricity away from the cottage outlets, a local electrician or equipment rental company can use an adaptor from your existing system to run heavy cables where power is needed. If you are planning to bring in large appliances such as refrigerators or convection ovens, you may need to upgrade your system or rent a generator. (But don’t underestimate how much energy small appliances can draw; even coffee urns pull a lot of power.)

You can also lessen some of the demands on your electrical system with creative solutions such as lighting paths using battery- or solar-powered outdoor lights.

If you draw your water from a well or filter lake water, test it close to the event to ensure it isn’t contaminated. If adequate potable water isn’t at hand, you need to have plenty available on-site. Sandra Morandin, of Morandin Catering in Bracebridge, Ont., says that for a 100-person wedding you should bring in about eight large office-cooler-size bottles, which is roughly 1.5 thirst-quenching litres per person.