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How to Plan an Outdoor Wedding
More and more brides are opting out of traditional indoor weddings and choosing to get married in the great outdoors. Whether your marriage takes place in a field, backyard, mountain top, or on a beach, an outdoor wedding really captures an air of romance. Use scenery and natural landscapes to your decorating advantage, and embrace a less-is-more approach.
A primary concern when it comes to planning an outdoor wedding is the lovely weather. However, there are other wedding planning points that you will need to think about including: logistics, contingency plans, décor, and even the restroom situation! Not to worry. I have put together a quick guide for “How to Plan the Best Outdoor Wedding Ever!”
Location, Location, Location
A rustic open field wedding is a stunning location. What happens if it starts pouring rain, where do all your guests run and hide? It is important that you choose a location that is both meaningful and practical. Here are five of our favorite types of outdoor wedding locations:
A top pick for an outdoor wedding venue, the beach can be a magical choice. Be sure to look into required paperwork to conduct a beach wedding ceremony, especially if you want to have it on a public beach. There are usually great restaurants near beaches. Scout around and find a tasty restaurant that will accommodate your guests for the wedding reception.
If you are fortunate to know someone with a big backyard, and you have the budget for a large tent, then this can be a great budget-friendly option.
3. Inns and B&B’s
The best thing about a B&B is that you don’t need transportation after the wedding. Also, they usually provide stunning outdoor areas as well as indoor options.
4. Local City Park
Large cities usually allow couples to rent park space to get married. Some will have a rose garden, solarium, or other area that can accommodate a wedding reception.
I was engaged in Tuscany, Italy, a destination renowned for some of the best wineries and vineyards in the world. I remember my (now) husband and I traveling through this part of the world and being smitten with the romantic winery estates. Wineries usually have a gazebo, canopy tent, or indoor dining option for either inclement weather or should you prefer an indoor reception.
The Logistics of an Outdoor Wedding
Focal Point – You know how guests tend to congregate in the kitchen at a house party? Well, when it comes to planning the set up of your outdoor wedding reception, choose an area that will serve as a focal point, like the kitchen, so that your guests aren’t spread out and feeling lost. When you employ a vast space, don’t be afraid to break up areas to create intimate lounge settings.
Accessibility – Whether you host your wedding on the beach or in a field, there needs to be easy access to the venue for elderly or handicapped guest. Make sure signage is visible to ensure that guests know the location of key facilities (i.e., ceremony, reception, or restrooms).
Movement of Décor – When planning make sure to think strategically, as you want to have a great flow to the day. Think about the whole wedding time frame from pre-ceremony to post-reception. You want to have a minimum amount of “flipping” (as they call it in the industry), which means moving decor and furniture in one area to replace it with another. The less movement of furniture and décor the better.
Weather and Temperature – Timing is truly everything, especially when it comes to the hot sun. If you envision an outdoor ceremony, keep in mind the hottest part of the day is usually from 1-3 pm in the afternoon. Try and schedule your ceremony start time after that time-frame so that the sun won’t be as strong for your guests. You don’t want guests to be burnt to a crisp before their first glass of champagne.
Permits - Don’t forget to research permits at your local city park department for park and beach weddings. Also, ask about policies around alcohol, music, trash removal, candle light, fees and timing of rentals.
Pesky Insects – Protect buffet and dessert stations by having proper protection and covers from both wind and insects. To control insects on your wedding day, think about placing citronella candles throughout the space. If you plan on having your wedding in a humid area prone to pesky bugs, like mosquitoes, see if you can hire an exterminator and spray the area a couple of days beforehand. Insects are the ultimate wedding crashers and can ruin the outdoor experience.
Lighting – Outdoor lighting is key for a wedding reception that carries into the evening, and can really set the mood. Check your location to see if you are allowed open flames like candles or tiki torches. If you want to go with the ever so popular string/bulb lighting, make sure there are attachments from which the strings can hang.
Perhaps you want to have spot lights in some areas such as on a curtain or building. There are many options to choose, just make sure you have done your homework on placement and that spot lights are acceptable.
Note: Running a residential electrical cord from a house or building will typically not be enough to sustain the caterers, bands/DJ, music, and lighting. You want to make sure you are well equipped with an adequate power source that is noise free. I can’t imagine a wedding with rolling blackouts during the evening!
Scout the Venue – A good idea before you rent items or buy decor is to view your venue ahead of time. Physically walk throughout your venue during the same time of day that you plan to have the ceremony. It will be easier to make contingency plans for insects, strong wind, outdoor lighting, heat, or weather. Spend a bit of time creating a realistic contingency plan and get a better idea of where to place your decor.
Wedding Cake – The wedding cake is a yummy treat that many couples spend a lot of money to purchase. Keep in mind the outside temperature and placement of your cake. You don’t want to find out that your 3-tier butter cream wedding cake is now a 3-tier naked cake because all the icing has melted away! If you do plan on displaying your cake in the blistering sun, fondant is a better option over a butter cream cake and will hold up longer. Make sure to plan accordingly with your cake maker for this lovely treat. A shady tree or tent to shade the cake will certainly come in handy.
Humidity Headaches – When it comes to weddings, the cup half empty bride will tend to focus on the ‘what if it pours rain?’. Whereas the cup half full bride will focus on the chance of too much sun melting everyone. A clear hot sunny day is what we all wish for when throwing any outdoor soiree, but the sun can be just as unbearable as cold, wet weather. Neglecting your guests on a hot day and letting them melt is not much fun. Make sure to offer shelter from the blazing hot sun as best you can, especially if you are looking for a good dance party later in the night. Guests won’t be much fun if everyone is exhausted or has heat stroke!
A great way to remedy this problem is to rent a large wedding canopy for your reception. Tent rental prices can be steep and may extend belong your wedding budget. If that is the case, then beg, borrow, or steal your neighbors’ patio umbrellas and scatter them about the reception area.
Outdoor Wedding Woes
Although we are all for outdoor weddings here on L&L, as like any indoor wedding venue, there are a few drawbacks.
Outdoor weddings can be more expensive when you factor in the cost of a shuttle bus, tent rental, toilet rental, or electric generators. Many wedding venues will provide most of what you will require as a package price. Whereas an outdoor wedding ceremony in an open field will require you to satisfy the missing must-haves.
L&L readers: you are inviting guests from all parts of the country to your wedding and paying thousands of dollars for them to be present. Even thought they probably won’t remember your personal hand written vows to each other, you still want them to be able to hear them. Nothing is worse than a wedding ceremony where you cannot hear what is being said.
You may picture your dream wedding on a white sand beach, but may not consider the crashing waves, the strong gusts of wind, and the local kids frolicking about. Use a clip-on microphone for the bride, groom, and officiant. Even with surrounding noise your guests will be able to hear your nuptials.
The best part of an outdoor wedding is being able to use the natural landscape to your decorating advantage. Prepare by visiting the site a week before the wedding to ensure everything is in good order – the leaves are raked, the grass is cut, and the flowers are in bloom.
If the wedding is taking place in a public park, ask a groomsmen or friend to make a quick trip on the morning of the wedding ceremony to make sure everything is up to snuff.
A spring season ceremony may still hold remnants of winter’s long and cold weather. You may need to buy extra potted flowers if nature is late to bloom.
Choose the right decor accessories for your outdoor wedding to make it charming. Your overall wedding style will dictate the decor items. A few decor ideas for an outdoor wedding ceremony and reception include:
1. String lighting to illuminate your evening
2. White Paper Lanterns that hang from a tent ceiling
3. Floating Candles in a pond or clear vase
6. Lanterns add a nice rustic ambiance
7. Use a trellis or arch as a focal point. Cover with gorgeous flowers, foliage, or twigs
8. Hang fabric from between two tall trees
Take a bit of the stress out of planning an outdoor wedding and consider renting a few items:
Bathrooms: If your big open field does not come equipped with public restrooms, you will want to rent a portable bathroom. Don’t fret, not the blue kind you are thinking of that you see at a construction zone. These are called ‘executive washroom trailers’, and some of are quite posh looking!
Tents: Does your outdoor location not have a respite from the sun? Rent a tent for your guests to escape the heat.
Heater or Heating Lamp: Even the summer can cool down once the sun sets. Heaters are perfect for spring and fall weddings too.
Rain On Your Wedding Day
“Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best & Prepare to be Surprised!”
Have your heart set on an outdoor wedding? Make sure you have a backup plan as well as an alternative location. When I was planning my wedding, my venue made sure that we had a rain plan in case of rain. This ensured that all the vendors knew where everything would go. Our wedding ceremony was at 3:30 pm and my wedding planner said she would decide at 12 pm whether to use the rain or sun plan. After 2 months straight of no rain on the west coast, rain was forecast for our wedding day the entire week leading up. Fortunately, the morning of our wedding it rained its heart out and the blue sky broke just before noon. We didn’t have to use our rain plan, thank goodness! A plan B isn’t something to stress over. It will actually be one less thing you will have to worry about if you do have to go with plan B, and your guests will never know.
Keep your Guests Informed and Happy
Drink up: Water that is! Brides and grooms can often get wrapped up with the grand vision and forget about little things like keeping your guests hydrated. Although drinking champagne and dancing on tables is a necessity at a wedding, so is keeping hydrated. A lovely bowl of punch or a drink dispenser full of cold lemonade or iced tea is a great option for when guest first arrive at the ceremony. Personalized water bottles with the bride and grooms name on the label are another option. Don’t forget about drinking some H2O during the reception too.
Footwear: It is important to let your guests know what kind of footwear is appropriate to wear to the wedding. The best way is via your wedding website. If your dream day will take place in a big open field, let guests know that they will be walking on a grassy surface most of the day. Aerating the field in stilettos is not what guests are expecting, so please forewarn them!
Sunscreen: Just like in the bathroom of an upscale club, offer your guests sunscreen. Okay, they might not offer you sunscreen, but they do offer other toiletry products. Guests should focus on looking their best for the wedding, not worried about getting sun burnt.
Baby it’s cold outside: We have all seen photos, or been to a wedding, where flip flops are offered to get you out of your heels and onto the dance floor. If you find you are going to be outside during a cool night, why not offer your guests blankets so that they can keep cozy?
Dress for Success: When it comes to your bridal party, don’t forget about their comfort too. An outdoor summer wedding with a floor length, 3 layer, crinoline gown for your bridesmaids is not going to be forgiving in the heat. That type of dress would be more appropriate for the air conditioned banquet hall downtown.
Thanks for taking the time to read my wedding guide on how to plan an outdoor wedding. Feel free to leave me a comment or suggestion below. I hope you are well on your way to planning your own successful outdoor affair!
If you haven’t seen the 3D animated movie “Up” then I highly suggest you add it to your holiday movie list! It is a sweet story of a man who wants to fulfill both his and his late wife’s lifelong dream.
I especially love a good engagement shoot that has meaning to a couple. For this couple the movie Up encapsulates a special moment in their relationship. Linda and Marcus’ have a scrapbook that they call their Adventure Book, which they both put together chronicling their relationship. The first Christmas with each other was spent apart, but one night during the holidays they decided to watch Up while Skyping many miles away from each other.
Keep scrolling below to view a balloon engagement shoot that incorporates many colorful balloons as an ode to a special moment shared between a couple and the movie Up.
Balloon Engagement Shoot
For the proposal Marcus had a friend help him set up a special spot in one of the Muttart Conservatory’s Feature Pyramid: a bench laid out with their adventure book and ‘married life’ (the theme song from Up) playing in the background. When they reached the bench, Marcus’ friend started snapping photos for their adventure book as Marcus got down on one knee and recited words he’d memorized for this very moment.
Photographer: Infused Studios
Other Location: City of Edmonton