What to Consider for an Outdoor Wedding
What could be more beautiful and romantic than an outdoor wedding? Whether at a beach, park, backyard or golf course, hosting your wedding outside adds charm and allows you and your guests to celebrate while enjoying the natural light, fresh air and gorgeous scenery. However, this type of wedding requires some special considerations while planning to make sure that your day goes smoothly. If you’re planning an outdoor wedding, take all of these factors into account so that you and your guests are comfortable. Here are our best outdoor wedding planning tips, collected into one. Consider this your outdoor wedding checklist.
Weather and Venue Considerations
With an outdoor wedding, you don’t want adverse weather conditions like rain or wind to ruin your day. But, some careful planning ahead of time will ensure you’re ready for anything Mother Nature has in store. Start by considering what your venue will be like on your wedding date. What is the weather generally like for that area and time of year? What is the average temperature? Is there much chance of rain or other weather conditions to be aware of? Be sure to choose a date for your wedding when you’ll have the best chance of good weather.
For an outdoor ceremony, consider hosting in the evening if the weather will be especially hot and sunny. Also, figure out where the sun will set at your venue, and at what time, and angle your ceremony in a direction that will take advantage of the natural light, but that won’t leave your guests staring into the sun. Choosing the right positioning and timing with the sunset also ensures you’ll have gorgeous photos of your special day. If bugs could be an issue, look into professional bug spraying before the event, or have citronella torches around to keep bugs away.
Even if you want everything to be in the open air, consider having a tent on standby that can be set up in the case of rain. However, if the rain is prolonged, the ground may be soaked and moving to an indoor “plan B” location may be necessary.
Keep in mind that with outdoor weddings, often everything needs to be rented and brought in to the venue. Here are some rentals to consider for your planning process:
- Tables, chairs and other furniture: You’ll need tables and chairs for dining, and rows of chairs or benches for the ceremony. If your ceremony will be short and casual, you can opt to forego the ceremony seating, but do make sure to have at least a few seats for any elderly or pregnant wedding guests. Another option that gives a more bohemian vibe is couches, lounge chairs or large pillows. Let guests relax in style with these fun choices.
- Linens, glassware and dishes: Tablecloths, cloth napkins and chair covers will add elegance to your outdoor wedding. Be sure to have enough dishes, glassware and flatware to serve all of your guests.
- Dance floor, lighting and sound systems: Rent a dance floor so you and your guests can dance the night away! Do check local ordinances beforehand and make sure to follow any noise restrictions. Without any inside walls to reflect sound, it can be difficult for guests to hear the vows at the ceremony or toasts at the reception. Microphones and sound systems make sure everyone can hear the “I do”s. If your party will stretch into the evening hours, you’ll need some type of lighting. Many styles of lighting exist, so you’re sure to find one that fits in with your wedding style.
- Portable restrooms: Even if your venue has some indoor restrooms nearby, you may need to rent additional ones for a larger event.
- Electrical systems: Make sure you have enough electricity to power your lighting and sound, including extension cords and generators, if needed. Check with your caterer to see if they will need electricity on-site to power any equipment, and have an electrician go over your location and plans to make sure there is enough power for your needs.
Be sure to plan out your décor and food menu so they remain appropriate for the season and weather. Flowers are beautiful, and a mainstay of traditional wedding décor, but many blooms just do not hold up in direct sun or extreme heat. Ask your florist for tips on flowers that will look beautiful for the whole day. Also, be aware of which flowers may attract bees to your party and avoid setting these blooms out too early. Incorporate natural insect-repelling plants into your arrangements, like sprigs of lavender, mint or rosemary.
Lightweight vases can tip over easily in the wind, so use heavier, sturdier containers that are less likely to tip and spill. Breezy conditions also easily blow out candles and blow away place cards or paper decorations. Consider alternatives like battery-operated candles or string lights, and use chalkboards or other creative elements for seating placements.
Make sure your cake will stand up to the heat. Some frostings, like buttercream, can melt in the heat and ruin the look of your beautiful cake, but fondant will be more likely to stay put. It’s nice to have the cake on display for the whole party, but if heat is a concern, it may be best to keep the cake indoors until it’s time to serve and enjoy.
Work with your caterer to design a menu that’s seasonally appropriate and full of delectable foods that won’t be ruined by weather conditions like too much heat. You may want a fancy cheese plate, but the cheeses can melt and look unattractive in hot, summer weather. Opt for cool, crisp, fresh foods and have plenty of ice on hand to keep foods cool. Consider fun treats like ice pops and snow cones for a summer wedding. If the weather is chilly, consider mini cups of hot soup as hors d’oeuvres, marshmallow roasting stations or mini cups of hot cocoa to keep guests warm.
Personal Considerations for the Bridal Party
For an outdoor wedding ceremony, there are a few things to consider when planning the bridal party’s attire. Outdoor weddings can be very casual or very dressy — either way, make sure your bridal party is dressed appropriately for the weather and conditions. For example, high heels and stilettos just don’t work on grass or sandy beaches, so find elegant footwear that will keep you safe and not get ruined. Also, consider dress lengths and if they will drag on the ground. This can be an even bigger issue if the ground is wet.
Be aware of the average temperature when you select your formal wear so everyone in the wedding party is as comfortable as possible. If the weather will be chilly, you may want to add a sweater or wrap to your outfit to keep shoulders warm or matching shawls for bridesmaids. Choose hairstyles for yourself and your bridesmaids that won’t be too delicate for windy conditions. Wearing your hair up will keep it from blowing around in the wind, and will help keep you cooler on hotter days.
Make sure your updo is secured, and use plenty of hairspray to keep it in place. Inform your hairstylist and makeup artist that you are having an outdoor wedding. They may have certain styles or products to suggest to keep you looking your best in any weather. Try out your desired hairstyle and makeup before the wedding and see how they hold up in various weather conditions.
You may want to have a separate reception dress that will be more comfortable and keep you cooler in hot weather. Many wedding dresses can be quite warm, so a dress that is shorter or lighter weight for your outdoor reception might be a good idea too.
Considerations for Your Guests
Even though this is your special day, you’ll want to make sure your guests are well taken care of too, and with an outdoor wedding, there are some special things to think about. You want your guests to have fun at your wedding, and not have to worry about any discomfort from the elements.
Think about providing transportation if your ceremony and reception are not in the same location or if it’s necessary to park far away from the ceremony location. Having shuttles or a few golf carts at the ready can help guests easily get from the ceremony to the reception, or from a parking area into the celebration. Think about any guests who may need special accommodations, such as elderly relatives.
Use your invites or your own wedding website to keep guests informed about the venue. Give helpful hints, such as, “We recommend wedges or sandals for our beach ceremony.” Also, be sure to list the location and directions to your “plan B” venue should you get rained out. You can also update a wedding website with this information even last minute, so encourage your guests to check the site on the day of the wedding to be sure of the details and rain plan.
An outdoor wedding is a perfect opportunity to provide little surprises for your guests that will make their experience even more special. Here are a few ideas to wow your guests:
- Umbrellas and towels: If rain is a good possibility, have some baskets of umbrellas around for your guests to use. You could also provide stacks of towels in the restrooms for drying off.
- Sunscreen and bug spray: Especially on sunny days, consider providing some bottles of sunscreen or bug spray. Both of these are also available as towelettes too — a basket of the towelette packets makes a quick and convenient grab-and-go station for guests.
- Paper fans: Inexpensive and simple, paper fans are a nice touch to help guests keep cool and comfortable. Choose a fun pattern that complements your décor. You could even have your programs printed on paper fans to do double duty.
- Flip flops, hats and sunglasses: Flip flops are a nice touch, especially at a beach wedding. They also could be nice by the dance floor for tired dancing feet. Consider having a few extra floppy sun hats and sunglasses around for anyone who may need them.
- Water: Feel free to provide other beverages too, but know that alcohol can be drying and everyone will need water too, especially in the hot sun. Set out coolers full of bottled water, set up dispensers for flavored waters like lemon or cucumber, or offer iced teas and lemonade, along with plenty of glasses.
- Blankets: If your wedding is during the cooler months, set out some stacks of pretty blankets or shawls for guests to wrap up in as the night gets cooler.
Many of these items can be given in place of a favor or as part of a favor bag. Instead of consumables or disposable items that will create more waste, consider useful items like these examples to keep your guests’ comfort in mind.
Making a Backup Plan
An outdoor wedding may be what you’ve always dreamed of, but nature may not always cooperate. If you’re planning an outdoor wedding reception or ceremony, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan.
Some venues like hotels and golf courses have the option of using some indoor space too, and you could always move back outside if the weather improves again.
If it appears that the rain will quickly pass through, another option would be to postpone the ceremony just a little. Move to an indoor location and see if the caterer could start in early with cocktails and appetizers while you wait out the rain and can go back outside later. It may not be exactly what you planned, but your guests will still have a great time, and when you’re prepared for last-minute changes, your dream wedding will still go off without a hitch.
Weddings at Colonial Golf & Tennis Club
For a gorgeous wedding set in Central Pennsylvania, Colonial Golf & Tennis Club can make your dreams come true. Plan your special day in our indoor or outdoor spaces — or a combination of both. We offer several outdoor spaces, make things easy with onsite catering, and will only hold one wedding per date so that in the event of inclement weather everything can be seamlessly moved indoors.
You don’t need to be a club member to host your wedding with us. Whether your guest list is large or small, our experienced team will take care of every detail, creating the wedding of your dreams.