More couples are opting for outdoor weddings than ever before. Here’s everything you need to know, plus some handy tips and tricks for planning a wedding outdoors.
An outdoor wedding can really be a picture-perfect affair. Think jaw-dropping sunsets, or saying your vows against the backdrop of a perfect summer’s day. However, there are a few practicalities you need to consider if you’re opting for a wedding outdoors.
As we continue to adjust to life in – and after – the pandemic, we’ve consulted the industry experts on everything you need to know about hosting an outdoor wedding.
Can you legally get married outdoors?
First up, check the legalities and official rules for the country you are marrying in. If you’re getting married in England, unfortunately you can only be wed under a fixed roof.
This could be a verandah of a house or even a bandstand but it has to be fixed. You can’t get married in a marquee. You can however get married in a beach hut – Bournemouth beach has recently been licensed for marriages so a traditional wooden beach hut is an option here.
“A Registrar can only marry you in ‘approved’ rooms or space; so if you don’t want to be tied by the legal obligations, why not consider a celebrant?” suggests Kelly Sinnott, Venue Manager of Baddow Park House.
“If you’re happy to hold off on officiating your marriage, a celebrant can host your wedding pretty much anywhere meaning that the possibilities really are endless.”
Consider the weather conditions
Generally speaking, we don’t think an outdoor wedding is an option in winter. Spring is possible but while the day might be sunny and bright, the evening and night can be chilly with a frost, so you need to think about that, the same applies in autumn. Summer is the best season for having an outdoor wedding but you’ll need to have a backup plan in case it rains – despite the recent heatwave here in the UK you can never totally rely on the English weather.
Think about shelter
“Taking the weather into consideration, and even if the weather forecast is amazing and there’s not a cloud in sight, you may want to consider some form of shelter for your outdoor wedding,” says Craig Pannozzo, manager of events specialist Gazeboshop.
“Some outdoor wedding venues may offer up a small marquee (or you can enquire about hiring your own) or a sheltered area for any unforeseen weather disasters.”
Provide some umbrellas
You might need to have a few brollies to hand and maybe some wellies, too, if the weather is forecast to be wet.
Tell your guests you’re having an outdoor wedding
It’s likely that in the heigh of summer, an al fresco ceremony and reception will be most welcome, perhaps even expected. However, it’s important your guests are aware of what’s in store for the day ahead.
Make sure your invitation clearly states that some or all of your wedding will be held outside. This way they can plan their wedding guest outfits accordingly.
Ditch the traditional wedding breakfast: food to serve at an outdoor wedding
Outdoor weddings give you an opportunity to ditch the formal three-course meal often served at weddings. If you’re holding the wedding ceremony in an open-sided barn or marquee, then a buffet-style set up can work well.
You may also want to consider something a little more quirky, like food trucks or wood-fired pizza. P.S. It may also work out cheaper, especially if you’re handling the catering yourself and you’re planning a DIY wedding.
Think about décor
While you may not need to spruce up a reception room, you may still want to think about adding some personal touches to a marquee or your outside area.
“Perhaps a simple flower arch that smells as good as it looks would work well,” suggests Jennifer Claire Constant, Founder of The Celebrant Directory.
You might also want to include blankets for the chilly evenings, or match up some table clothes, throws, cushions or table decorations to reflect your themes.
Maximise the outdoor space you have
As well as keeping your guests dry, gazebos can also help you to maximise the amount of outdoor space at your disposal whilst maintaining social distance.
“We’ve had lots of enquiries about using marquees or gazebos at outdoor weddings recently. They’re great for creating covered areas to keep your guests dry,” says Craig, manager of specialist events supplier Gazeboshop.
Take inspiration from nature
When you get married outside you have the wonderful advantage of working with nature. This is particularly handy when it comes to props and décor.
“Beautiful trees, for example, can play a lovely part as a backdrop or as an interactive prop,” says Natalia Willmott, Owner of My Billet Doux
“[Why not] think of a dedicated “love note” area near a beautiful tree that can be decorated with bunting or ribbons or fairy lights or little lanterns.”
Use the outdoor landscape to tie in colour themes and sensory elements to your wedding.
“Flowers and lush foliage are a colourful delight full of vibrancy and fragrance,” reveals Vaishali Shah, Stationery Designer at ANANYA Cards.
“The rise in temperature can be mirrored by tropical vibes, bright colours and bold patterns. Shades of yellow, green, orange, and fuchsia are some of our favourites, depicted in watercolors or vibrant contrasts.
A palette of greens, ambassadors for the power of nature can capture its full luscious glory in an outdoor wedding.”
You can also apply this to your wedding invitations (to hint at your theme) and the wedding stationery on the day.
Vaishali adds: “Consider soft dainty flowers or large oversized florals for your design. Think about using organic, wild, delicate visuals that echo nature itself.
“Handmade paper in gorgeous shades, dyed with natural, plant-based dyes has a texture that gives it a charming and earthy dimension. Print techniques that use embossing and engraving are lovely to touch. Hand torn edges can complement either a rustic or Luxe look. When you have beautiful paper, a natural and minimal design showcases the paper to full effect.”
Embrace the informal
At an outdoor wedding venue you could have a table plan or free seating depending on numbers and how formal you want things to be. The great thing about planning a wedding outdoor is that your options with spacing and set up can be vast and fairly free. Why not simply direct guests to a particular table or area but let them pick out their own seat.
Get creative with your seating plan
“With an al fresco ceremony you can be more creative,” explains Jennifer Claire Constant.
“How about rethinking the seating layout and creating a circle with you stood in the middle, giving all your guests a ringside seat. Or creating beautiful semi-circles with the chairs or hay bales. This can be such a great way of making your ceremony more inclusive and intimate; after all, you’ve invited your guests because you want them to witness this magical moment.”
Toilets are a must at outdoor weddings
With all the recent outdoor socialising in recent months, one thing we’re no longer taking for granted is access to a toilet after some al fresco eating and drinking. You may well need to hire some outdoor toilets if their isn’t safe and easy access already in place – again ask your venue or your hire company about what’s on offer and accessible under the new social distancing rules.
Don’t forget generators
If you’re using marquees, remember to hire a reliable large generator. You’re going to need to power lighting, heating, a sound system… get advice from your venue if you’re unsure.
Think about lighting
As well as lighting for inside your marquee, you’ll need to light your guests’ way to the car park and toilets. Fairy lights look attractive strung through the trees and can be used to highlight paths and walkways.
You’ll also want to think about how the natural or night lighting will work with your wedding photos. Consider where the lighting is before deciding on where you and your partner should stand for the ceremony.
“If you work with a celebrant, they will advise you as to where to stand and make sure they liaise with your photographer, so you get the best ceremony with photographs to match, suggests Jennifer Claire Constant of The Celebrant Directory.
Outdoor weddings are versatile but still hone your guestlist
An outdoor wedding can works for all different size weddings with varied numbers of guests. You can have a small intimate weddings or micro-weddings with just 25 guests and a cosy reception or you could have a huge open-sided marquee that seats 250. It just depends on your budget!
Don’t forget about transport
You’ll still need to arrange transport to your outdoor wedding or celebration, and with social distancing to think about you may have to get creative – or at least let people know they may have to prepare for a short walk.
“Particularly if you’ve got families coming, always make sure to arrange transport,” Mr Pannozzo adds. “For most people, a short outside walk between venues would be ok, but when your evening reception is outdoors, you don’t want your guests getting soaked through before they get there.”
What about wedding favours for outdoor weddings?
When it comes to choosing wedding favours for a wedding outdoors, stationery designer Vaishali has a lovely idea.
“As a wedding favour, to tie in with your outdoor wedding and as a way of giving back whilst providing an everlasting keepsake, why not plant a tree in the name of each guest? A gift that keeps growing!”
Check for any restrictions
If you’re outside there may be restrictions on how long you can play music for, especially if it’s loud. Make sure you know any limitations on music before you decide on a venue.
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