9 top tips to plan an outdoor wedding
There’s nothing quite like getting married in the great outdoors to a natural soundtrack of birdsong and breeze in the trees. If you’re lucky enough to get the weather for it, an outdoor space is the perfect blank canvas for a wedding ceremony of any size. From woodlands and beaches to gardens and vineyards, getting married outside gives you so much scope to style your wedding, your way.
So if you're planning to hold your wedding outside, what do you need to know before you start? We asked California wedding photographer and Fine Art Curation member Amanda Callaway, who specialises in capturing outdoor weddings, to share her top tips to plan a wedding out in the open.
1. Consider a wedding planner
There are many reasons to hire a wedding planner and they really come into their own when it comes to outdoor weddings. A planner's experience is invaluable in selecting a venue that suits your vision and requirements, and ensuring that the moving parts of the day all run smoothly.
When planning an outdoor wedding, you'll usually need to hire in many different elements of the day separately, from decor and lighting to catering and restrooms. A planner will have a contacts book of reliable vendors and will coordinate the set-up and break-down of each element at the right time, as well as managing your budget and handling payments.
2. Have a rain plan B
A contingency plan in case of bad weather is key, especially if you like in a maritime climate with changeable weather. Discuss with your planner and venue what will happen if inclement weather hits, such as move to an indoor space or sailcloth tent. This is another reason to hire a planner as they will coordinate the vendors who will need to relocate inside on the morning of the wedding, such as florists, rentals and musicians, so you can enjoy getting ready without additional stress.
Tents are in demand right now so it's a good idea to reserve one in advance and then cancel it in the days leading up to your event if the weather is looking good. While you’ll likely take a hit on your deposit, it’s better than hunting for a tent at the last minute if the forecast changes.
3. Book an outdoor catering team
Finding a catering team with experience of working outdoor weddings is hugely important. They will be familiar with the logistical challenges of outside catering and be able to advise on rental requirements, kitchen equipment, plateware, glassware and cutlery. Outdoor weddings lend themselves to relaxed dining so consider informal options like a wood fired oven or a hog roast, cocktail cart or gelato stand.
4. Create a floral focal point
If your outdoor space doesn't have an obvious focal point, such as a pretty fountain or majestic tree, simply create your own with a spectacular floral display. Nothing marks a wedding quite like a glorious flower arch full of gorgeous scented roses. Floral arches are the perfect backdrop to sharing your vows and are ideal for providing a focal point in outdoor wedding ceremonies. Just think how beautiful your ceremony photos will be!
5. Create a chill out lounge area
A lounge area is key for an outdoor wedding. Elderly guests and nursing mothers will particularly appreciate somewhere comfortable to sit during cocktail hour and the later part of the evening when everyone hits the dance floor, so be sure to factor furniture rental costs into your budget. Incorporate rugs, coffee tables, ottomans and even blankets to make the space extra cozy and welcoming.
6. Shade guests from the sun
Making your guests as comfortable as possible is key to a great outdoor wedding. If you're expecting hot weather, provide plenty of bottled water to keep everyone hydrated and consider Japanese style hand-held fans and parasols to help them keep cool and protected from the sun.
Bugs can be an issue too, particularly in the evening. Place citronella candles throughout the cocktail tables and reception space, and incorporate bug-repellent varieties into your floral design, such as lavender, marigolds, and peppermint.
7. Inform guests that the wedding is outside
Let guests know that the wedding will be outside on your invitation or your wedding website so they can dress accordingly. For example, they may wish to avoid stiletto heels that tend to sink into grass and pack an extra layer for when the temperate dips in the evening. Consider providing blankets or pashminas and flip flops to keep everyone comfortable throughout the day.
8. Illuminate with lights
Lighting is a great way to add atmosphere to your reception space. From twinkly fairy lights and festoons to paper lanterns, pendants or dramatic chandeliers, lighting is key to create a cozy ambience and special celebratory feel.
9. Keep your guests warm
Comfort is key to guests having a good time so if the forecast shows cool temperatures, heat lamps are a worthwhile investment to keep everyone warm. Serving cozy drinks like hot chocolate or hot apple cider in the evening is a nice touch too.
Photography: Amanda Callaway