One of the most stressful parts of planning our wedding (and there were a few) was the fact that the whole thing, ceremony, meal and reception took part outdoors. Now this was exactly how I wanted it, it was what I’d envisaged for so long, but oh my did it add a whole load of extra stress, more than the usual amount for an indoor wedding. Not only was there the constant worry of whether or not it would rain but there was also the task of making sure the indoor alternative was just as perfect and making sure the outdoor space would be comfortable for our guests.
Here are my top tips on planning an outdoor wedding, based on what I found useful and what I wish I’d been told before I started planning:
1) Make sure you have an indoor alternative. If you’re planning an outdoor wedding in the UK then there is absolutely no way of predicting the weather. Even if you book your wedding for the middle of August, right when we usually have a heat wave, good old England loves to throw a bit of hail and lightening your way just to keep you on your toes.
So if in the event it does rain, you need to have a space indoors or at least undercover to hold your wedding. Legally a registrar won’t marry you if there is a chance the paperwork can get wet so even if you and your guests are happy to wed while it showers (which would actually be pretty beautiful if it were a light shower) the final say is always down to the registrar and they make this decision no later than 15 minutes before the ceremony is due to start.
2) Make sure you love it! The indoor alternative needs to not only be easy to switch to last minute if need be, but somewhere that will still provide you with your dream wedding. I’ll be honest, the indoor option at our venue wasn’t my cup of tea. I liked it, but I knew that it wouldn’t give the same look and vibe as our outdoor option. My chosen colour scheme wouldn’t have matched the dark wood and old fashioned features of the hall, the ethereal theme with floral crowns and lace flower girl dresses would have simply looked out of place. My flowers were understated, small pots of stunning peonies as the grounds where the meal took place were full of greenery and flowers; with the high ceilings of the grand hall though, these would have disappeared into the decor.
I took a huge gamble as we were limited on time and I had my heart set on that outdoor space. I know I’d have loved my wedding no matter what but I would have been slightly disappointed deep down had it rained and we’d gotten married indoors.
Look for a space that you’re happy with indoors or outdoors, that way the worry of rain won’t effect the outcome of your special day, either way your vision will transpire!
3) Provide fans. All being well, you’ll have a lovely sunny day on your hands. Everyone loves a bit of warmth but sometimes being sat in sunlight for too long can be a bit uncomfortable, especially for any elderly or young guests.
It’s a great idea to provide fans; keep them in a small box or basket at the end of the aisle so that guests can pick one up before they sit down. You can also buy paddle fans and have your order of service, quotes from the bride and groom or even pictures printed on them. They make for nice keepsakes and put your mind at ease that your great Grandma isn’t going to pass out from the heat taking all the attention away from you!
4) Provide shade. Our ceremony area didn’t provide shade for our guests; the ceremony only lasted 30 minutes but had it been any longer I would have probably ordered in some patio umbrellas to run along the sides of the aisle to give the guests the option of shade. As it goes, we had quite a cloudy day with breaks of sunlight so my guests were fine for the duration of the ceremony but any longer they may have been uncomfortable.
For the meal part of the wedding we had patio furniture and each table had an umbrella they could move around to shade whoever needed it. Most guests wanted to be in the sunshine but for the babies and oldies it was there in case. It was also used to keep the food shaded as we didn’t want any of the delicious food going off – yuk!
5) Suitable shoes. Although my guests knew they would be on grass for the duration of the day and evening I still provided a little basket of flip flops just incase they didn’t wear the right feet, or their feet hurt from the wobbly surface. I only bought ten pairs, all in a size 5 and they were just plain black beach flip flops so not particularly stylish but in my experience when my feet hurt, I don’t care what’s on them as long as they’re comfy!
6) Notify your guests. Let your guests know the day will be outside and whether or not there will be shade. Even if you’re providing fans and flat shoes it’s always nice to know so you can dress accordingly and bring anything you may need. The majority of women wore flat sandals or wedges and brought shawls for the evening as it got cooler. Lots of guests wore sunglasses and some brought small bottles of water for the ceremony.
7) Keep hydrated. Even if it doesn’t feel that warm or if it’s quite cloudy, guests will still get dehydrated, especially if there are lots of outdoor activities like croquet, giant jenga and a bouncy castle. Sure the majority of drink that we provided was alcoholic but we also made sure there were jugs of water on each table and the kids table had a little self-serve canteen of squash.
8) Plan your pictures. Most indoor weddings will take lots of pictures outside so photographers will be pretty switched on to this but it’s still wise to think about where your pictures will be taken, the direction of the sun and any particular spots you’d like photographs taken in. I found that a lot of our ceremony wasn’t in our video as the sunlight was poor and to be honest this was annoying as I thought the videographers should have known the best angles to shoot in relation to the sun and prepared for this.
We got some gorgeous pictures just as the sun was going down with the light behind us that the photographer quickly noticed and had a real small time space to capture the pictures before the light changed.
We also decided before the day where on the grounds we wanted pictures, like infant of the pond and the big blue gates. Let your photographer and videographer know exactly what you want captured so you both have the same vision and you don’t end up disappointed with the results. You never know though, you may be pleasantly surprised with what they suggest.
9) Prepare for cooler evenings. The inside of our venue was open for our guests to use all day if need be. They only needed to go inside to use the toilet and bar and then the DJ was stationed inside in the evening as was the evening buffet. It’s great to have the indoor space in the evening as it gets cooler just in case guest feel chilly. The majority of people stayed outside though as it was such a lovely light evening so perhaps consider patio heaters if your guests want to remain outside.
10) Be an outdoor bride. Last but by no means least, as the bride you should really fit with your outdoor wedding. I went for a simple lace dress, no layers no poofy-ness. My hair was simple and I wore flat shoes to keep comfortable. My make up was light and certainly not enough to melt off in the heat. I think my look went perfectly with the surroundings as did my bridesmaids in their floral dresses, my flower girls in their lace dresses and the page boys and men in their casual outfits.
Well those are my top tips for holding an outdoor wedding. Of course my major major point is to remember why you want an outdoor wedding. I wanted it to fit the relaxed vibe that we were trying to achieve. We wanted everyone to breathe the fresh air, for the kids to have lots of space to run around and of course for there to be plenty of beautiful photo opportunities. I did see so many pictures on Pinterest that I loved but many of them were more fitting for indoors, they were more formal than we wanted so try to pick your ‘feel’ and stick to it. You can’t include it all or it would look like a jumble sale!
I hope you’ve found these tips useful and please do feel free to add your own. I’m hoping I won’t be planning another wedding but I know many a bride to be and would love know what made yours special or what you’d change if you could.
Thanks for reading!