It’s no wonder outdoor weddings are so popular: bright blue skies; balmy, fragrant breezes; the “back to nature” atmosphere; waves lapping against a sandy beach or crashing against a rocky coast, the fragrance of a garden, the view from a mountain top, the romance of a winery. Once you have made the decision and chosen the location, there are some things you need to consider that do not come into play with an indoor wedding. We have created a list to help you plan a wedding day that is without awkward surprises—for both you and your guests.
Have a Plan B
Most important is to have a plan B that you like. Could there be a worse way to start off your marriage than by feeling resentful or cheated because the outdoor wedding is called due to rain?
- The ideal back-up plan is to choose an outdoor location that is near an indoor location so that a last-minute switch can be made without taking inordinate time and effort.
- Have a tent on standby, particularly if the area or the season is prone to unpredictable weather. Search out a tent company that will charge 50% (or less) of the full rental fee if the tent is not used. Keep in mind, however, that a tent is only an option for light or moderate rain.
Can all your guests get to the location easily? That includes youngsters, the elderly and anyone with mobility problems. Do not make even able-bodied guests walk farther than necessary. But definitely, no plodding over uneven, unstable sand to get to a remote section of a beach. No hikes over rough terrain. And we don’t have to tell you, do we, no climbing!
Make sure everything at the location is easily accessible with signage pointing to the ceremony, the cocktail hour, the reception, the restrooms and the exits.
No Surprises with the Location
Let your guests know ahead of time that the wedding is outdoors and exactly what kind of outdoors via your invitations or your wedding website. They need to know what to wear: lightweight fabrics or heavy, a coat or wrap, appropriate shoes.
Shoes are a very big deal for the ladies. Should they wear wedges or flats instead of their beloved stilettos? For those who did not get the memo or who chose to ignore it, have plastic heel protectors available to keep the stilettos from sinking into the ground.
You don’t want your guests uncomfortably waiting in line. Believe me, it’s what they will remember most about your wedding. Rent portable restrooms—approximately one restroom/stall for every 35 guests. Don’t fret, we are not talking about those cringe-inducing construction-site types. There are now upscale “executive washroom trailers.” You can get as upscale as you wish: piped-in music, marble sinks, back-lit mirrors, fresh flowers, air-conditioning or heaters.
Let There Be Sound
Unless you are having a small wedding where everyone is up close, you need to ensure that all the guests can hear the ceremony. It’s frustrating feeling like you are watching a silent movie without subtitles. The bride, groom and officiant can wear lavalier microphones (aka lapel mic, clip mic, personal mic), which are small and attach to an item of clothing. The mics are a vast improvement over hand-helds that are far too awkward for a wedding ceremony.
Ward Off Uninvited Guests
There are interlopers more annoying than the guys in Wedding Crashers. We are talking about mosquitoes, bees and the like, and there are effective means of discouraging them from attending your wedding.
- If your venue allows it, have professionals bug-proof the location two or three days before the wedding.
- Citronella candles or torches not only repel the bugs, but they also provide a lovely ambience to any location.
- Fabric softener dryer sheets are amazing repellents. Just keep them out of sight—taped to the underside of the chairs, for instance.
If, after all that, more than a few stragglers have gotten through, have individually packaged insect repellent wipes available for your guests. Some are pleasantly scented, and they are a vast improvement over bug spray spritzing every which way.
Of course, you want a sunny day. But you also want your guests comfortable.
- The hottest part of the day is usually from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. If possible, schedule your ceremony outside of that time frame so that you and your guests will not be burning up.
- Orient the ceremony so that the sun is not shining in the guests’ eyes.
- If there is shade around, avail yourself of it. Or place large outdoor umbrellas around the site for those bothered by the sun.
- Have sunscreen towelettes available for your guests.
- Keep your guests hydrated. Have ushers hand out bottles of water—personalized with the names of the bride and groom and the date if you want to dress them up. Or have bowls filled with ice-cold punch or lemonade for guests as they arrive at the ceremony.
It all boils down to ensuring that you and your family and friends are comfortable and have a carefree celebration. Outdoor weddings are well worth these extra steps, none of which is particularly difficult or time-consuming and most of which can be delegated.