Tornado Warnings & Lightning Storms at a Lakeside Wedding on Otter Lake

You might remember the photos of the 125-foot-long table that I designed for Janice & Romulo's lakeside wedding at the family cottage on Otter Lake last year. What you might not know is the backstory. It was one of the most memorable weddings of my career for a few different reasons.

There are two very distinctive things you notice about Janice and Romulo when you first meet them. First of all, they are completely and unabashedly head over heals in love with each other. Second, they are both incredibly calm humans. Janice's soul belongs on a beach, and Romulo is Brazilian and the ocean is a part of who he is (you'll see that the design is inspired by soft beachy tones). What mattered most to them was that they have all of the people they love surround them and celebrate with them on their wedding day.

They live together in Toronto but wanted to host their day at Janice's family cottage on Otter Lake near Perth, Ontario, when they decided not to do a destination wedding. The lake was a good compromise, but the cottage posed some very serious problems. While the house itself was a jaw-dropper and the property was lovely, there wasn't enough open space to have a standard tent to shield their 120 guests from the elements. They badly wanted to dine al fresco with no tent, but Ontario's ridiculously unpredictable weather makes it impossible. My solution? Line up 10 individual 20x20' tents all the way down the very long driveway leading up to the cottage and have everyone sit at one long table. It took a little while to convince everyone that it would work, but eventually I brought them around.

Then we had some more issues. Would there be enough room for a dance floor underneath the tent? No, not with tables under there, and the couple wanted to avoid tenting the entire property because we would lose the beautiful sightline of the trees and stars. They decided to have the dance floor in an open-air space where the ceremony took place knowing the risk it would pose if there was rain. The bride's family painstakingly hung strand after strand of lights through the trees and meticulously pruned the gardens around the cottage to really give the space there more ambiance.

All was well and everything was looking beautiful... it was hot and sticky though and you could feel a storm rolling in. We didn't realize just how bad it would be. Turns out, it was the one day last year that the region had SEVERE THUNDERSTORM AND TORNADO WARNINGS all day, all night. Just my luck.

The rain held off just long enough for the couple to have a beautiful, emotional ceremony in the open air right beside the cottage. Following which, I sent the wedding party on a little boat cruise to putt-putt around for 20 minutes and celebrate privately together before dinner. Little did I know that they'd bring so much booze on the boat that the boat would start to SINK. After some very fast thinking, the wedding party dispersed their weight evenly around the boat and they were able to stay afloat, although when the beer tub just about slid off the edge and a groomsman dove after it and soaked himself (and almost tipped the boat). It's not every wedding planner that can say the entire wedding party sank in a boat right after the ceremony.

After they returned, dinner was served under the tent. Contrary to popular opinion, I firmly believe that long rectangular tables lend themselves much better to conversation than round tables because it's just like you're at a family dinner table, elbow-to-elbow with all the people you love, and it is easier to engage with those around you than trying to yell across a formal round. With 120 guests seated at a 125' long table, the conversation was booming and it felt like a giant family reunion. It was brilliant.

Their first dance happened just after a beautiful firework show that the father of the bride had arranged. Somehow, the rain held off until after the show, after their first dance, and after the parents' dances. But then the downpour began. I don't know if I've ever been in a rain storm that bad. Again, the dance floor was outside, without a tent, and you know what? It didn't matter at all. Everyone danced in the rain. But it wasn't like a sweet summer little dusting of rain and romantic dancing... it was like someone was taking a firehose to a bunch of ravers at a club. Shoes were off, shirts off, music was pumping and it didn't matter at all that we were in the middle of a torrential downpour with lightning cracking all around us. The party was BUMPING. Check out the last shot that Janice took of a polaroid from the night and you'll see what the mood was like.

Of course, by this point my planner mind is screaming "The tornado is going to rip the tents out of the ground!! The bar is going to be an ocean of mud!! Her dress is destroyed!!! Someone is going to wipe out on the dance floor!! The DJ equipment is going to blow out from the water!! Lightning is going to hit one of these soaking wet dancers!! This is chaos!!! AAAHHH!!!!" The tents stayed down but the speakers did blow out, the bar did become a trench of mud, the lightning got dangerously close, and the power even went out a few times too, but generators kicked in, there were backup speaker, and everyone was too busy having fun to care too much. It was an extremely hard night on me and my poor assistant as we raced around trying to catch tables flying away in the wind, tying down tent flaps, covering speakers with tarps, starting generators, flipping breakers every 20 minutes and lord knows what else, but what a night. The real lasting memory was seeing the utter joy on everyone's faces as they danced under lightning in the pouring rain in all the chaos.

Janice said it best: "We got married and the cosmos exploded!"

Photography: Grace & Gold Studios // Planning & Styling: Satin & Snow // Florals: Sylvia's Plant Place // MUA: Radha Subramani Makeup // Hair: Lindsay Welton-Olotu // Catering: Temple's Sugar Bush Ltd. // Rentals & Decor: Rebel Tents & Event Rentals // Entertainment: Terence Lam // Officiant: Jill Turnbull