An oceanside ceremony taking place as the sun sets on the water, a hilltop lunch looking over a beautiful valley, or a backyard reception transformed into a night time wonderland... These are just a few of the outdoor locations which couples have used to create a spectacular ceremony and reception site for their special day. You too can use nature as a wedding backdrop as long as you follow a few bits of advice and take the precautions to plan things properly. Just imagine, a gorgeous arbor dripping with flowers, lots of candles in hurricane vases, paper lanterns bedecking the tent, and all of your favorite people surrounding you and wishing you the best for your future life as a newlywed.
If working with a wedding planner, be sure to hire someone who has experience working with outdoor weddings as they require a slightly different take on the details.
The first thing you'll need to do is scout for a location. Maybe you have a park, beach, or garden already in mind, and perhaps you need to consider your options first. Either way, it's always important to do a visual inspection of the site and the facilities before committing. You'll also need to verify that the conditions will be suitable for your needs. For example, if you are choosing a public location, keep in mind that you might need a permit to host a wedding there. You'll also have to verify if there are any restrictions, such as a limit on the number of guests you can invite, noise levels, alcohol consumption, or a time when you must leave the location. With private locales, there is typically more liberty to do what you want and fewer distractions; no uninvited children, and no strangers walking by.
Planning an outdoor wedding whether in a public or private location will often cost more than you think once you add up all the rentals and extra facilities you'll need to ensure you and your guest's comfort. Here are the basics.
In most case, part of the reason for choosing an outdoor wedding site is so that you can reduce costs on decorations as natural settings instantly add beauty and ambiance to the wedding. However, there are times when you'll need to spruce things up. Consider some of the following decorations:
Nature and the Elements
* ''Sun and Heat''
** The best defense is to rent a tent or tables with umbrellas. That will keep the sun off people, reducing heat.
** Fans and air conditioning units powered by generators may also help combat sweltering summer heat. In the cold (below 65 degrees), make sure to have either electric or gas heaters. Don't forget with either electric heating or cooling elements you will need a way to keep the wires from becoming a tripping hazard. Use duct tape, carpeting, or cord covers/protectors.
** To keep people cool from the get go, offer cold bottled water as they arrive and give out programs printed on fans.
** If there is no tent and people will be in the sun, sunscreen is very important to keep on hand. Surely people will forget to bring it themselves, so thinking ahead will keep your guests in better spirits.
** Go to the location where you plan to have the wedding beforehand at the same time that you plan to have the wedding. Check and make sure that the sun won't be in your eyes during the ceremony or that it will cause problems for the photographer.
** Finally, be sure to create a menu that can stay well even in the heat. In other words, choose light refreshments, such as iced tea, lemonade, mojitos, or margaritas. Keeping people hydrated in the heat is especially important when consuming alcohol.
* ''Birds and Bugs''
** Bugs can be a major issue, leaving guests and the bridal party squirming. Invest in lots of bug spray or do an extermination prior to the wedding. You might also consider using decorative citronella candles as part of the wedding look.
** Birds are a problem? They can be if they are making a lot of noise. They can also leave droppings as they fly overhead.
** Wind can be disastrous in so many ways.
** Make sure that if the location happens to be windy that you have a sturdy tent with thick, weighted sides that can be held down securely. While this will help, remember that tents can only withstand so much. Light breezes to moderate winds are the limitations. Gusting winds will cause far too much havoc.
** Always be sure to buy weighted centerpieces and candle holders that will protect the flame. Also pin down tablecloths. The best way to make sure that the decorations and table settings you like will hold up to the wind, is to test it out for yourself. In the end you might need to change some things around, but it will be better than having a glass of merlot toppling down onto your gown.
** If it is both hot and windy, strike a balance between a lightweight, but not flimsy fabric for your wedding gown. You don't want to overheat, but you surely don't want your dress falling apart or blowing up so that everyone can see your garter belt.
** Be sure to get your stylist to create an updo that can withstand wind unless you're going for a sexy, tousled look.
** Wind happens to be very noisy and can pose a problem when filming.
** There is no weatherman that can predict the weather a year in advance. And, unfortunately, that means that you could get a rainy wedding day. Just in case you feel that the wedding might be rained out, order a tent in advance. Tents will keep everyone dry underneath in light to moderate rains. Anything heavier though and the ground will become soggy and ruin people's shoes.
** Many people plan their outdoor wedding in conjunction with a reception site. That way, you can have the ceremony outdoors and keep things outdoors if the weather holds. Otherwise, if needed, the party can be moved indoors.
** Sometimes an outdoor site will not have ample parking, regardless of whether it is private or public.
** A simple solution to parking limitations is to either rent a trolley or shuttle bus to escort people from a larger parking area to the wedding site.
** A few hours in the sun, drinking, eating, and dancing, you'll eventually need bathrooms (one per 50 people).
** If you don't have enough nearby, you'll need to rent them.
** Portable toilets even come in blue and pink to differentiate between the men's and women's facilities.
** You'll always have to inspect the location beforehand.
** Make sure the grass is mowed (about a week in advance so that it won't stain shoes and long dresses), that flower beds have been weeded, and that there is no garbage or other debris around the site.
** The bride should avoid long dresses with trains as it is easy to stain them outdoors. Dyed wedding shoes are especially prone to running if the grass is dewy or wet and narrow high heels have a tendency to sink into the ground.
* ''Power Supplies''
** Verify that you have a nearby power source or invest in a generator to power sound systems, lighting, and cooling systems.
** If there is a lot of noise nearby it is advisable to rent a sound system and microphone so that everyone can hear. This can be the case on a beach where there is the crashing sound of the waves, people talking, and seagulls squawking. Wind also creates noise as do nearby highways or intersections.
** Having an outdoor wedding in the afternoon may mean that you and your guests will be partying past sunset. In this case, it's a good idea to have some lighting. You may also want to buy candle centerpieces for the tables to create a nice ambiance.
** Don't forget to keep the wires from becoming a tripping hazard. Use duct tape, carpeting, or cord covers/protectors to keep wires at bay.
Always do your research well in advance before renting. Make sure that the company in question is reputable and has been operating for a good amount of time. Ask around, check with your wedding planner if you are using one, and even check out the Better Business Bureau. Always remember to ask for the details in writing, including payment procedures, a comprehensive invoice, cancellation policies, complete contact information for the vendor, and a summary of the services that will be included in the total price. That includes fees for delivery, setup/tear down, and pick-up. Also inquire about how soon in advance you can get the rental items in order to start setting up. In some situations you might want to have emergency rentals in place just in case you think the weather might pull a fast one. Finally, ask them about any liability insurance they might have.