Outdoor Event Planning Tips
Hosting an outdoor event — whether it’s a wedding, private party, corporate retreat or something else entirely — offers a unique experience in a natural setting. Being outdoors for an event gives attendees the chance to enjoy the fresh air, natural sunlight, and beautiful views of nature.
Most events require advance planning and organization, and outdoor events have their fair share of special considerations. If you are considering hosting an upcoming event outdoors, here’s everything you need to know to ensure your special day goes smoothly for you and all of your guests.
Types of Outdoor Events
When you think of outdoor events, weddings might be what first come to mind. As a beautiful and popular choice, many couples want an outdoor wedding. However, there are many other events that can take place outdoors — some great examples of private parties and gatherings to have outdoors include:
- Birthday parties
- Bar and bat mitzvahs
- Retirement parties
- Engagement parties
- Family reunions
- School reunions
- Wedding rehearsal dinners
- Bridal showers
- Baby showers
Business gatherings and corporate events are also often outdoors. These can include company picnics, executive retreats, business luncheons, team-building events and more. You can host just about any event — large or small — outdoors, and you’ll reap all the benefits of the natural surroundings.
Outdoor Event Planning Checklist
When you’re planning an outdoor event, there are many things to consider to ensure a successful, enjoyable event for all who attend. To get you started on the planning process, here are some of the top considerations for outdoor event planning.
Venue and Location
Your choice of venue can set the stage for your event and may be one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make when planning for your event. Consider the estimated number of attendees you will have, as well as the location, cost, convenience and other factors. You’ll want to weigh your priorities for planning while choosing your location.
For example, a public park or beach may be free or low-cost to use as a venue, but you’ll have much more work and cost involved in organizing and hauling in everything from food to decor to furniture and utilities. You may also have to deal with other members of the public in that space. On the other hand, a private venue such as a golf course or event center may come with a price tag, but that cost includes many additional amenities that will make planning much easier.
Do plenty of research, and tour your top choices to get more details and a feel for the event space. As you tour, ask lots of questions to ensure you have all the information you need. Find out if there are any restrictions you should be aware of, such as special hours, additional fees, use of outside vendors, rules on decorations, etc. You’ll want to know what is included and what you’ll need to plan to bring in yourself, or what other vendors you’ll need to hire. Once you’ve decided on your venue, book your date as early as possible to avoid any conflicts.
Permits and Ordinances
While it’s definitely not the most exciting part of event planning, checking on permits and local ordinances is a must. Certain events in certain locations require permits, so make sure you have what is required for your event. Some areas require a permit simply to have an event at all, while you may need additional permits for food service, alcohol service, having tents or other structures in the space, use of sound equipment and fireworks or other special effects.
Other things to be aware of are local ordinances regarding noise levels, quiet hours, serving food and alcohol and fire and safety codes. Be sure you know what the rules are beforehand. If you are using a private venue, most of this may not apply, and often the event staff will take care of it for you — however, it’s still a good idea to ask about all relevant regulations to cover all your bases.
Another important aspect of outdoor event planning is organizing all of the various logistics. This could include many different things, depending on your type of event and location, but some important things to think about include:
- Loading and unloading of any deliveries or rentals at the site.
- Planning for setup and cleanup.
- Securing directions and parking for all attendees.
- Organizing the layout and timing of events.
- Finding necessary utilities, such as electricity sources.
- Setting up sound and lighting equipment.
- Planning out any needed staff, like security or valet.
These are the details that will help your event run smoothly and are important to confirm well in advance of your important day. Because public spaces include an element of uncertainty, logistics for private events are often much easier to control. Venues like country clubs and event centers have dedicated staff who can take care of logistics and anticipate your event’s requirements.
Sanitation and Waste Management
When choosing an outdoor venue, consider if the site has restrooms available or if you will need to have portable toilets brought in. Even if restrooms are available, you may want to add more for a larger event. Make sure you have the right amount of restrooms for the size of your guest list or estimated number of attendees, and also have proper hand washing stations and hand sanitizers available.
If you’re hosting your event in a public location, you’ll also need to plan ahead for dealing with garbage and other waste matter. Make sure that you have proper garbage and recycling receptacles clearly marked, labeled and in easy-to-find locations. You may also want to consider having a cleanup crew dedicated to picking up any excess trash or directing guests to the right receptacles.
Pests are a part of nature too, but they can easily ruin an event if not taken care of properly. Your guests certainly don’t want the distraction of swatting at bugs all day at your event. If pests like flies and mosquitos could be a problem at your event, you may want to consider taking preventative methods. If you are on private property, such as a backyard, a professional spraying service can reduce pests just before the event. You can also use large fans, citronella candles or torches during the event to deter bugs. Consider setting out bottles of bug spray for guests to use themselves too, if they’d like.
An outdoor event can be a lovely way to incorporate nature into your special day. However, Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate. The weather conditions can be one of the most important aspects of planning an outdoor event, so you’ll want to monitor the conditions constantly. Plan ahead for the average local weather conditions, and keep an eye on the forecasts leading up to the event.
Find out if your venue offers weather insurance in case of inclement conditions. And, most importantly, have a backup plan in case of bad weather — decide if you will cancel or postpone the event due to weather, or if you can move to a nearby indoor location if needed. Be sure to also communicate these plans to your guests so that everyone knows what to expect and where to go.
No matter what type of event you’re hosting, you’ll want to ensure that all of your attendees have the best experience. Consider the weather and other conditions at the venue to ensure you have what your guests need to feel comfortable and enjoy the event. Having portable heaters, fans or air conditioners at the ready, depending on the temperature, can make all the difference. You may want to have tents to offer shaded areas out of the direct sun as well.
Instead of providing favors or swag bags at your event, consider providing supplies that enhance the event’s experience for your guests. If the weather is hot, be sure to provide plenty of drinking water and other cold beverages. You could also offer sunscreen, hand sanitizer, paper fans, sunglasses, or bug spray. If colder temps are possible on your event day, you may want to have stacks of blankets around for guests to wrap up in and personal hand and feet warmers if needed, or extra umbrellas and towels in case of rain.
You’ll also want to think about accessibility for event attendees. If you will have elderly guests or anyone with wheelchairs or other mobility devices, consider how they will be able to get to your venue and what kind of terrain they’ll need to navigate. Brainstorm any special accommodations you can provide to ensure everyone on your list can be a part of your special event. These considerations may also include concerns such as sound and lighting adjustments, as well as dietary preferences and food allergies. If you’ll be serving food, you want to be sure there’s something that everyone is able to enjoy!
Rentals and Vendors
Depending on the location you choose, the venue may be able to include additional amenities. And for others, you may need to take care of renting extra items yourself, including:
- Tents, stages and other structures.
- Tables, chairs and other furniture
- Sound, lighting and electrical equipment.
- Dance floors and stages.
- Dishes, glassware, linens and cutlery.
At a public outdoor venue, you may also need to hire staff for cleaning, food and beverage service and security.
Food and Beverage
Most types of events will need to have some type of food and beverage available, and when you’re outside, there are a few special considerations for choosing what to offer. First, let the season and weather guide some of your choices. In the summer, you may want to have lighter fare, classic picnic foods, salads, BBQ and of course cold cocktails. During colder weather, consider hot soups, heartier meals, hot chocolate and hot toddies.
Aside from planning your menu, consider how certain foods will stand up to the current conditions. Make sure you’ve got the right equipment and supplies to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot according to food safety guidelines. You may need to have coolers, freezers, food warmers and other equipment available. You don’t want your cheeses or ice cream melting in the hot sun before it’s served — or your warm soups going cold.
From the beginning of the planning process, communications are key. You may want to have a planning committee that can help with all aspects of the event, and have a plan for frequent communications. Determine who will be in charge of which aspects of the event, and make sure to check in on progress periodically. During the event, especially if it is a large event, you may want walkie-talkies for your team to make communications easier.
Communication is also important for your guests or attendees. Be sure that they know that it is an outdoor event so they can plan ahead and dress appropriately for the weather. Your guests will be happier knowing what to expect. You’ll also want to give clear directions to the event, and make sure that on the day of the event, you have clear signage so guests know where to go.
How to Plan a Successful Outdoor Event
Planning an outdoor event takes a lot of research, organization and coordination. It often comes with additional considerations and challenges beyond what it takes for planning indoor events. If you start planning early, assemble a team of helpers and follow all of the above tips, you’ll be set up for a successful event, no matter the occasion.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the event planning process, consider choosing a private venue, like a country club and golf course, that’s already knowledgeable and experienced in event planning. Going this route means you can avoid many of the top concerns about event planning, as the staff will take care of many of these things for you. This takes much of the stress out of the planning process and makes it easier for you to enjoy your special day, along with your guests.
Outdoor Events at Colonial Golf and Tennis Club
Colonial Golf and Tennis Club can help you plan the outdoor event of your dreams. Whether you have an upcoming wedding, corporate event, shower, or other party or event, we can provide the perfect location for events large or small. Our gorgeous location is the perfect backdrop for a wide variety of outdoor events, and we offer indoor spaces to use for your event as well.
At Colonial Golf and Tennis Club, we only book one wedding or event at a time, so it’s easy to move your outdoor event inside if needed, taking the stress out of planning around the weather. Our in-house catering means you don’t have to worry about outside vendors, and our team will work with you to create the perfect menu for your special day.
Plan your event with us, and take the stress out of the planning process. We have many event packages to choose from, perfect for all sorts of events, and you can work with our dedicated catering director to craft the right menu for your event.
We can’t wait to help you plan your special day — get in touch with our team today to get started.