Ten Tips for a Great Outdoor Wedding

I love an outdoor wedding. Heck, I had one myself! In fact, I never once considered having it indoors. Thing is, though, that there are aspects of having an outdoor ceremony and reception that might not jump out at you the instant you have the idea. Don’t panic, though. I’m here to give you some tips to make the whole thing run smoothly.

1. Have a backup plan. Weather is unpredictable. Even in areas where it’s relatively predictable, the unexpected happens. Whether your worry is rain, wind, or lightning, have a way to hold the wedding if the weather doesn’t want to co-operate. The most important thing is that you get married. Getting married where you really want to is the icing on the wedding cake.

2. Protect your guests – and yourself! Just think, it’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining almost as brightly as your smile. Everyone is festively dressed. Your guests are having a wonderful time… until they realize they are slowly turning lobster red. Consider providing a table with sun screen, wide-brimmed hats, fans and maybe a couple of fun parasols to use during the day. A few pairs of dollar store sunglasses would round it out nicely. Ask a bridesmaid to remind you to sun screen up periodically through the day. If your site has no shade, think about a tent or large sun shade, too.

3. Make sure there are adequate bathroom facilities. If there aren’t enough (or any) flush toilets, hire a couple port-o-potties to make sure that when people have gotta go, they have somewhere to do it.

4. Seriously consider the space before you decide on a train for your gown. If your outdoor wedding space is paved in some way and well kept up, a train will be fine, especially if you have an aisle runner. But I will never forget the sight of my sister-in-law’s train and hem filled with dirt, twigs, dead leaves, and other assorted gunk well before the end of the reception. When Mr. Twistie and I chose the same clearing in the woods to marry in, I had my gown made to just hit the tops of my shoes.

5. Double check your food prep facilities before hiring a caterer or setting a DIY menu. If there’s no kitchen on site, whoever is doing the food will need to consider that in their plans. Don’t be afraid to go in the direction of picnic foods or barbeque. After all, you’re outside! Why get fussy with food? Oh, and don’t go for buttercream on the cake if you can’t keep it refrigerated before the reception. It will melt.

6. If you plan to keep partying after dark, make sure the site can provide the light. One downside to most outdoor sites is that there’s limited or non-existent electricity. Fire code regulations may or may not allow candles, tiki torches, or other open flames. Make sure you know what you can and cannot do before you choose to hold a sunset ceremony.

7. Keep your guests hydrated. Sun and even wind can dehydrate your guests surprisingly quickly. That can lead to disaster in a hurry. Make sure you have plenty of non-alcoholic drink options available (liquor hits a lot harder and quicker in a dehydrated body, and it further dehydrates the drinker to boot). Make them attractive. Big glass jugs of lemonade, ice water, or agua fresca are simple and inexpensive to provide and do the job nicely. It’s also a good idea if you expect the weather to be particularly hot to provide some salty nibbles, because you don’t want any guests losing too much sodium, either. A bowl of salted nuts, a few crackers, or a couple appetizers with ham or salty cheese should do the trick nicely.

8. Make sure people have somewhere to sit. Some sites come provided with chairs, others do not. If your site is one of the latter, you’ll have to hire chairs and figure out how best to place them.

9. If the site is grassy, sandy, or paved in an uneven way, consider flats and ask your guests to do the same. Heels – particularly spikey ones – can be horrifically impractical on these surfaces. If you do decide to go with a heel, consider a wedge. Pass the word to guests via word of mouth, your wedding website, or a small notation somewhere in the invitation inserts.

10. Consider live music. A string quartet, a strolling mandolin player, a classical guitarist, or a lively Irish jig band will be right at home outside. A DJ might need extra equipment to make the music happen (see #6 in re: electricity). If you do pick a DJ, make sure (s)he knows what is and isn’t available on site in terms of electrical outlets.

Some of the best weddings I’ve ever been to have been held outdoors. With a little care and consideration of the realities of the situation, yours can be wonderful, too.

4 Responses to “Ten Tips for a Great Outdoor Wedding”

  1. Audrey says:

    Our outdoor wedding/reception was awesome. In no small part because we set up a croquet field so we could get our play on. 🙂 Re:#9 – I’d also say you should pay attention to what kind of chairs you have. There’s nothing worse than being a guest at an outdoor wedding with seating and then sitting in a chair that precedes to sink into the ground.

  2. SusanC says:

    Yup, we had an outdoor wedding by the sea. All those tips are great, but I’d specifically emphasize considering the wind factor when you are picking your decor and your dress. The right dress can even be enhanced by a bit of wind (eg. full skirts with some weight at the hem) and won’t be a train wreck on a gustier day.

  3. I second SusanC! We also had our outdoor wedding on the water and it happened to be a very breezy day. So much so, in fact, that you have all these palm trees in the background of our wedding photos with their fronds blowing sideways. I’m sad to say that I didn’t have the right kind of skirt for maximum wind fun, but it was actually lucky that the wind was so high, because in Florida in May it would have otherwise been a tad warm.

  4. Gayle says:

    Some great advice!

    Another lifesaver are those little plastic attachments (that look a bit like suction cups) that you can stick to the bottom of your high heels so you don’t sink in the grass and ruin your shoes. 😉