Sally's Top Ten
Top Ten Tips For Outdoor Weddings
My number one tip for assuring a beautiful outdoor wedding, is for you to move to Southern California.
But barring that possibility, the rest of these tips may be helpful.
1) Make sure your guests are comfortable.
Consider what the weather may be at the time of day and month of the year of your outdoor wedding. This can be particularly tricky in the Midwest, where weather is unpredictable and can vary greatly from year to year. So really covering your bases is extra important in these climates. Will it likely be sunny and hot? Then don't leave your guests melting or passing out from heat stroke! Have your ushers, or the serving staff give guests ice-cold bottles of water as they are seated. Or have an attractive "lemonade stand" set up at the back of the outdoor venue. Consider printing your wedding programs on a fan, or have attractive fans with the couple’s photos on them, sitting on the chairs. For couples who really want to add a nice touch, provide beautiful parasols that match the bridal colors. These can be paper, just to shield the sun, or serve a dual purpose by being made of a heavier fabric to shelter guests in case of rain also. These can be engraved with the couples names and also serve as beautiful keepsakes for the guests. You also may consider a large tent a to shade the suns rays. Don't forget to have plenty of sunscreen on hand as well. If you think the weather may be cold and damp, make sure you tell guests that it will be an outdoor wedding so they can wear extra layers. Also during the colder months plan your wedding during the early afternoon, as this is likely to be the warmest part of the day. Other options are to have lap blankets available or to rent portable heaters. For outdoor weddings it is not necessary to seat the guests long before the ceremony will begin. Wait until the bridal party is ready, then have the guests seated five to 10 minutes before they begin their procession.
2) Will your guests be able to hear?
If your outdoor venue is not surrounded by walls, or something to contain the sound, you are almost certain to need sound equipment. The nicest microphones to use are clip mikes that attach to your clothing. These are much nicer than hand held mikes and mikes on stands that stand between the officiant and the bride and groom. These tend to be clunky, difficult to maneuver and just generally in the way. They are also unattractive and detract from the beauty of the setting. Good quality equipment can be pricy, but often times can be rented from your venue, dj, musician, or officiant.
3) Have that back up plan
Whatever you do, please, please, please have a solid back up plan in case of bad weather. The stress alone from a failure to do so can kill you! I know you want to get married outside, but Mother Nature does not always see things your way. Have your back up location, do what you can to make it a pretty one, and rehearse briefly in that location, as well as at the outdoor location. Decide long ahead of time when the cutoff time to call it an indoor wedding will be. Will you decide three hours before the ceremony? An hour before the ceremony? A half hour before? There is often more involved in a move than moving bodies. Musicians, dj's, photographers, videographers, etc may also need to relocate. Talk to the venue and each of the mentioned service providers about this. They may have very expensive instruments and equipment that could be destroyed by rain. I have heard these professionals on more than one occasion, refuse to set up or perform, because the bride or groom insisted on being out in bad weather. Don't let this occurrence take you by surprise. Plan ahead. Possibly you can order a separate tent/shelter for musicians and other service providers. This may help them hang around and feel secure even with the threat of rain.
4) Dodge the bugs
While outdoor weddings are beautiful they can also be a feast for hungry insects. Try to select locations away from standing water and dense woods. This is especially important for weddings around dusk. When possible have the area sprayed for insects before your ceremony. Avoid wearing colognes and perfumes as they attract insects, especially bees. You may even want to make this suggestion to your guests. Also have bug spray on hand just in case.
5) Prepare for wind
Wind can have an impact on your ceremony in many ways. Select a hairstyle that will not blow all around and get in your face during the ceremony. Consider how your veil may move and be prepared with a clip, or other means to secure it from blowing in your face. The veil fabric can also make a significant difference. For an outdoor wedding consider a heavier fabric, like chiffon. The heavier material will stay in place better than a finer fabric would. Also, other things that will add weight around the bottom are helpful, such as decorative jewels and crystals. A long veil may be draped over your shoulder during the ceremony, or held down by attendants. It is also possible to bring a beautiful piece of matching lace. If the veil starts blowing around, your maid of honor can tie the lace around it to stop the flying. These are things you will want to consider and practice before the ceremony. See how the veil looks tied, or over your shoulder before you purchase it. Speak to the sales person in the store. What recommendations do they have?
Runners can also blow from the wind and need to be heavy for outdoor use and secured on a flat level surface. The wind can also make it extra difficult for guests to hear. Outdoor unity candle ceremonies are particularly difficult. Lighters sometimes won't light, candles won't light, or stay lit. Couples who still want to attempt a unity candle ceremony outdoors need to bring their sense of humor along. There are many other beautiful and meaningful unity traditions better suited to the great outdoors.
Runners can also blow from the wind and need to be heavy for outdoor use and secured on a flat level surface. The wind can also make it extra difficult for guests to hear. Outdoor unity candle ceremonies are particulary difficult. Lighters sometimes won't light, candles won't light, or stay lit. Couples who still want to attempt a unity candle ceremony outdoors need to bring their sense of humor along. There are many other beautiful and meaningful unity traditions better suited to the great outdoors.
Take parking into consideration.
If you are having your wedding at a home, or somewhere else where parking is at a premium consider hiring a valet for the event. Walking a long distance can be difficult for your older guests, or those with challenges. It can also be bad if the weather does not cooperate. Walking through grass, or down dirt roads in heals is very also uncomfortable. Walking in the rain, when you are all dolled up is worse. Plus a valet adds a true touch of class to an outdoor wedding. There are several professional valet services available. Just Google it!
7) Dress for the weather.
The vast majority of formal and semi-formal gowns are sleeveless and/or strapless. This makes summer weddings the easiest for selecting attire. In the very warm weather it is important to select light fabrics such as cotton, organdy, linen, chiffon, crepe or silk. Brightly colored sun dresses or short floral cocktail dresses can make the occasion very festive. The latest trend in ladies outdoor bridal footwear is wedding flip-flops. They come in an amazing variety of styles and colors, with everything from fabric flowers to genuine diamonds adorning them! Just be sure to stay away from shoes with spiky heals if your wedding will be on grass or sand. The heals slide into the ground with each step taken and can present a significant challenge. Heals can work nicely as long as they have chunky heals.
And ladies, be kind to the guys when making decisions about their wedding attire. Full suits with vests can be brutal in the summer heat! Lightweight linen suits, or dress slacks and shirts, possibly with vests only can be a good choice. If tuxedo's are desired, look for light fabrics and light colors.
8) Natures Bounty
Take advantage of the bounty of summer flowers. For outdoor weddings you might even want to consider fresh wildflowers or daisies, tied in loose bunches as bouquets and decorations.
9) Accesibility is vital
Select a location with adequate accessibility and facilities for your guests. A beach or park wedding may be beautiful, but if you are inviting elderly or disabled guests make sure there is an easy way for them to get from A to B without struggle.
10) Location, location, location
Before you select an outdoor location for both the ceremony and reception, speak with several caterers about what it would take to host an event there. People often think an outdoor wedding is less expensive, when often times the opposite is actually true. Since EVERYTHING must be brought in, the wedding can be very labor intensive and require a lot of equipment for warming, cooling, etc. If there are no available electrical outlets, or running water, all of that needs to be brought in also. Sometimes the most economical alternative is a nice restaurant that doesn't do catering of events on a regular basis. You can hire some additional servers and decorators who are experienced in the field of catering to make it all look beautiful and professional.
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