25 Things to Consider When Planning an Outdoor Wedding
When we were deciding on our wedding venue, we already had an outdoor wedding in mind. It fit our personality: we love the beach, nature, and the sweat that comes with tropical weather.
Though looking back, I must confess that the sweat part was something I didn’t really think through at first. It was over 80 degrees Fahrenheit during our garden ceremony, and my makeup turned into pebbles of perspiration on my face.
Besides the heat and sweat, there are plenty of perks to having an outdoor wedding--the sky at the background, the breeze of fresh air, real flora, and the flexibility of an open space that you can design from scratch.
Couples have taken their weddings from churches and hotel ballrooms to the beach, a cliff, a vineyard, a forest, a backyard, a park, a campsite… the list goes on.
On the other hand, an indoor wedding has its conveniences. You get your privacy. You have more control over the foot traffic in a contained space. Then there’s the obvious convenience of not having to deal with weather-related contingencies.
But whether it’s an indoor or outdoor wedding that you decide on, you can still make your uniqueness, creativity, and resourcefulness shine.
Our mid-afternoon Bali wedding that had everyone wiping their forehead.
If you decide to go al fresco, I want to tell you upfront that there’s extra work that needs to be done. Like I mentioned in this post, you should treat your wedding venue as your home. You ought to extend nothing but excellent hospitality towards your guests.
But how does that look in a venue where there is no room over your head, where insects can wander freely, and temperatures, humidity, and precipitation can not be controlled?
Let me be the first to tell you that you are in for a discussion with your partner and your suppliers about these 25 things that you need to consider when planning an outdoor wedding.
Photo by Gardie Design Social Media Marketing from Unsplash.
1. An indoor space nearby in case weather changes
A sudden change in weather (rain and wind particularly) can throw you off - literally. While a venue that’s vulnerable to extreme weather conditions can be a treat for your more adventurous guests, it poses as a threat if the weather goes on a rampage. In cases like this, a tent might not be enough shelter. Thus you need to have an indoor space nearby even when you already have tentage for your outdoor event.
Another thing to consider would be the guests your are inviting for the venue. Elderly guests, pregnant women, kids, babies, and others who need the extra care might need some indoor comfort at some point.
Photo by Jenie Delunay of Unsplash.
2. Accessible bathrooms, or portable toilet rentals for remote venues
Needless to say, this is basic courtesy to your guests. Consider the ratio of bathrooms to your number of guests too. This article suggests having two bathrooms for every 25 guests. Beach weddings, in particular, may mean that you’ll need to share the bathroom with other guests of the property.
Consider the distance, too, of the bathrooms to your main venue. Are you okay with making grandma walk 100 meters in the sand, then queue up for the lone, unisex loo? Think of your guests’ basic comfort.
If you’re aiming for remoteness (e.g. forest), you may need to consider portable toilet rentals. The best gauge whether that’s a good idea is if your were a guest at your wedding, would you be alright with the setup? Since we attract people similar to ourselves, your friends may feel the same way. But then again, don’t forget about your elderly, pregnant women and differently-abled guests. They might have other needs altogether!
Photo by Denny Ryanto of Unsplash.
3. A cover, shelter, or holding area for your suppliers
As you consider ways to make your guests feel comfortable at the wedding, bestow the same amount of consideration to your suppliers. Most of the things they need on the day of your wedding like meals, transportation, and lodging, are usually already covered in your service contract.
With this, kindly check if your venue options have an area where they can prepare their supplies, have their meals, or wait before packing up. Again, count them and their paraphernalia (think sounds systems, musical instruments, and food carts) in when you make plans for a shelter.
Photo by Jenny Marvin of Unsplash.
4. The accessibility of the venue for the elders, parents with strollers and small kids, pregnant women and guests with disabilities
I’ve attended a wedding that had me walking up hundreds of steps while carrying my 10-kilogram baby. The wedding was fabulous. We love the couple. But the memory of that treacherous climb up and down haunted my memories. With this, I am resolved to share with future brides that your thoughtfulness about the safety and convenience of your guests will be more appreciated by them than the grand entrance doors or elaborate floral arrangements.
Imagine the walking journey of your guests from where they can be dropped off by vehicles to where you exactly want them sitting. Is any path along the way unsafe? Will it be too inconvenient? Ask the venue coordinator if there are alternative routes. Or if they have provisions to make the journey more convenient, like setting up rubber carpets on the beach for wheelchairs or strollers.
5. A sheltered walking path from drop-off area or parking spaces
Again, this is all about the accessibility of your venue. Test the walking distance from the guests’ drop-off points and parking spaces to where you want your guests to go. In case the rain suddenly pours, is there shelter for guests along the way? While, yes, you can provide umbrellas at their drop-off points, do consider the same path under extreme weather conditions.
Photo by Heather Miller of Unsplash.
6. The holding area for you, the bride
Is there a nearby room where you can get ready, have makeup touch-ups, or wardrobe changes? A pretty isolated venue may leave you with a tent or your bridal car as options.
If you’re going for a tent, consider having side panels to keep the space private. You can recreate the space like your own hotel room by having a cooler, mirrors, and everything else you’ll need to keep yourself feeling refreshed. All these can be rented. Like I’d always suggest, include all these costs as part of your venue budget.
Don’t forget to think about your own access to the bathroom. Because of your dress (think train, multiple layers of fabrics, 5-kilo skirt, et cetera), you’ll need extra care when using the bathroom. (Will your dress fit inside a portable toilet? Just checking!)
Photo by Alvaro CVG of Unsplash.
7. Costs involved in using any outdoor space
Needless to say, always make sure you’re getting the cost breakdown of all the various spaces you’re considering, even within the same property. For example: You might be thinking about doing your cocktails at the garden, steps away from the hotel ballroom you’re eyeing for your reception. The hotel might charge an add-on fee for that.
Lantern release at our pre-wedding dinner by the beach.
8. Permits involved in organising a party in a public space
The municipality office or community association might charge for a permit to organise an event in a public space. While the costs may not necessarily dissuade you from booking such a venue, possible limitations might be involved.If you and your partner are gung-ho about doing a beach wedding so you can release lanterns at the reception, you might be disappointed if the town council doesn’t approve of your idea. For this, I recommend that you and your partner are clear about what your deal breakers are before booking a venue.
Photo by Lanty of Unsplash.
9. Cost of tent rentals
If you’d like your wedding programme to be outdoors even in the event of rain, consider renting tents. You might also want to consider a tent if you’re holding a summer wedding, so your guests can get some shelter from the sweltering heat of the sun.
Do your research on the costs before even booking your venue, and check out the rental services that are in the same vicinity of your prospective venues. Costs differ from place to place. Your goal should be to keep your venue cost and tent rental costs within your venue budget.
Photo by Arshad Pooloo of Unsplash.
10. Neighbor’s noise
One thing that can go out of hand (and beyond your control) on your wedding day are the distracting noises in the neighborhood. Properties advertising their outdoor spaces cannot always guarantee the behavior of their neighbors. A relaxing spa resort at the beach may be the perfect venue for a solemn outdoor ceremony, but the resort next door that holds afternoon family sports activities may compete with you for airwaves. Another example of noise competition would be a neighbor’s live band performance that may swallow up the audibility of your own band’s performance. So ask the hotel’s coordinator what activities the neighbors do on a daily basis. Better yet, go visit the neighboring properties and investigate.
Photo by Zoe Pappas of Unsplash.
11. These other extra costs related to outdoor events
Tents and related transportation and installation costs: as explained in #9
Delivery charges for remote locations: some vendors will charge extra transportation fees to get to areas outside of their usual coverage
Rental of portable toilets: as explained in #2
Hiring security: for high-risk, open locations; to make sure your guests’ or your own belongings don’t go missing
Extra manpower: for when you’ll need to move the set-up quickly to an indoor space in the event of weather changes
Lighting: I listed possible lighting requirements you’ll need in my Wiser Weddings: Budget Worksheet
Fans: because breeze is not always a guarantee, have some industrial rental fans to keep the guests cool
Coolers: for warmer weathers and locations, you might need some cooling equipment
Generator: to power all your lighting, sounds systems, and other electrical equipment outdoors (Before planning our outdoor wedding, I thought that we could just plug all the equipment to a power extension connected to an indoor outlet. Wrong!)
Transportation for guests: especially for remote locations, you may have to provide the transportation for your guests from a common meeting place
For this next part, I am assuming that you have already decided on a venue. Congratulations, you can start planning for these things:
Communicate to your guests what the theme of the party is and your suggested attire early on.
12. How to communicate your venue and set-up to your guests
One of the most treasured feedback we’ve received from our wedding guests was “great communication of information”.
“There can’t be too much communication for a wedding event,” said one of our friends. And since then, I’ve started to believe that.
The main hosts of the wedding (that’s you and your partner!) will be too preoccupied during those times when your guests would need crucial information the most. And those moments would be when they need to get to the venue, or move to a backup venue in the event of weather changes.
So it’s best to provide all these information to your guests ahead of time - meaning, before they even get to your wedding venue. It would be great to include this in your invitations or wedding website, and to communicate these things together when you ask your guests to RSVP.
13. Communicating to your guests about the attire
Specify in your communication channels to guests (in your invitations, wedding website, et cetera) what type of venue it is. Are they going to stand on grass, sand, cobble stone or an outdoor carpet?
Give them a good lead time to prepare for their wardrobe by having this detail announced at least a month before your wedding.
Photo by Thomas William of Unsplash.
14. Having mobile, easy-to-set-up decors
If you’re not going to use any tentage, the next best insurance you can have are easy-to-setup and ready-to-install ceremony and reception set-ups.
First, you’ll have to agree with your vendors how much time you can afford to wait the rain out. If the rain stops, great; then you can have your troops re-setup in a flash. I’ve seen this happen time and time again - the things that make it to the set-up are the ones that have wheels and big display pieces. For this, you must understand that a certain table’s place card slipped inside a cut cork standee that will only stay up if positioned at a certain angle will be the least of the troop’s priorities in a 20-minute re-setup - if the rain stops at all.
15. Decors and displays that won’t be blown away
I’ve been talking about the sun and the rain as key elements that can make or break an outdoor wedding plan. But let’s not forget there’s also wind.
Plan for decors that won’t easily be blown away and end up in the sea or another couple’s wedding reception. Again, you may refer back to # 14 when you decide on weighty decors. Loose paper items, fabrics, and lightweight floor decors are the usual victims of the wind’s wrath.
My husband Michael rocking it as an emcee at our friends' wedding. Key to a flawless hosting, he says, is getting all the information he needs from the couple.
16. A Plan B script for your master of ceremonies (A.K.A. emcee)
After you plan your plan B in case of weather changes, brief your emcee about it. He or she is the other person, apart from your coordinator, who should know exactly what will happen in case the bad weather ensues. He or she represents both of you, so bring up with him/her how you’d like to address your guests during this critical period of logistical changes - if he/she is writing his/her own script. If you’re writing the emcee’s script yourself, please include this bit of information.
A small tweak to your setup can give guests and yourselves loads of comfort - like making them not face the sun directly!
17. Consider where the sun is pointing
If you have options as to where to face your guests and yourselves during the ceremony, ask where the sun doesn’t point directly towards. If placing your guests in a specific position would ruin the concept of the backdrop that you’re aiming for, perhaps consider angling the guests even just a few degrees away from having to face the sun directly.
18. Seats that can really be sat on
With the advent of Pinterest came the unique wedding locations and creative seating furniture. We’ve attended a wedding in the forest and it was beautiful. I observed though that the older and weightier guests were not comfortable, let alone fit, on the tree stumps as seats. Again, think about how you’d want to make your guests feel comfortable. Think about the grannies, the pregnant women, and your other guests who need extra care and attention.
Photo by Jez Timms of Unsplash
19. Food that won’t easily spoil
Putting out food outdoors makes it more vulnerable to changing temperatures. And you know what thrives in such? Bacteria. Especially for food that doesn’t keep in the heat.
No matter how amazing a cheese bar would look at your wedding, it might spoil even before your guests enjoy it (Unless it’s cheese fondue!). Your local caterers should know about these things so they can prepare for proper storage. If you’re going DIY, then there’s more to the food planning than just doing away with dairy on the menu. Here is a guidance I found online on DIY Weddings and Food Safety.
Photo by Bruno Cervera of Unsplash.
20. The amount of time your florals stay out
If the flowers of your choice are extremely sensitive to heat, then plan with your vendors on when to set these up. Your florists should know this. However, if you’re going DIY and it’s your friends or family who’ll do the setup, research more about the florals you’re using. If they’re not tropical and are known to easily wilt under the heat, then only pull them out right before your guests arrive.
Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography of Unsplash.
21. Your dress
I’m talking to you, bride. A wedding dress designers’ first two questions are usually: “When is your wedding?” and “Where is it going to be?”
What they really want to find out with the second question would be the actual venue. The beach? A church? A hotel ballroom? A castle? That’s because the dress has to be functional enough to allow you to move around the wedding venue with ease. A ball gown with multiple layers of fabric is the last thing they’ll suggest for a beach wedding.
22. Your hairstyle
This is again for you, bride. An outdoor wedding in the tropics, like ours, might make you want to consider having your hair worn up. There’s just something very stressful about having your hair touch your neck or shoulders when it’s warm, you’re starting to sweat, and your hair has made its way around your neck. Do you feel me?
Photo by James Bold of Unsplash.
23. Flowers that are natural pesticides
Insects are another natural element you have to contend with outdoors. Many florists are smart enough to have flowers on their menu that repel insects. Options are citronella, lemon balm, lavender, marigolds and peppermint.
Photo by Nick Fewings of Unsplash.
24. Outdoor weather survival kits for your guests
Thoughtful gestures for your guests include giving them the following (and in no particular order): umbrellas, fans, hats, tissue, bugs spray, water, sunscreen, first aid kits, paper towels, bath towels, scarves, pashminas, plastic heel protectors, flip flops, and other easy-to-carry accessories.
These come at extra costs, but become memorable and useful to your guests. Just make sure to place them where they can be easily seen by guests. Oftentimes, I’d only find out in photos that there were these thoughtful items at a wedding I had just attended. If I only knew, I wouldn’t have gone home with bug bites.
Photo by Nic Co UK of Unsplash
25. Agreeing with your fiancé on weather-related responses
Last, but definitely not the least, it’s important to agree with your fiancé on two things:
What your plan B should be in the event of weather changes
How you’d like to be supported/comforted if plan A doesn’t push through
Some brides end up being too emotional hours or minutes before the wedding when they hear that their plans have been overruled by the sudden weather change. Since you and your partner most likely won’t be together during this critical decision-making moment (as you both are getting ready in separate rooms), make sure to agree ahead of time on the two things I mentioned.
The groom is usually the one consulted by the wedding coordinator about the contingencies on the day itself, while the bride waits somewhere else for her dramatic entrance. Would you like to be consulted by your groom first before making any decision? You can agree to have your maid-of-honor or someone you trust to liaise with the groom on your behalf. This is in case you want to maintain the element of surprise, and not talk to your groom directly before you walk down the aisle. You can also break the “rules” of not seeing each other before the walk down the aisle and decide to pray together and make the decision together.
Whatever you think will comfort you the most, bring honor to God and one other, and provide convenience to your guests will be the decision you will want to make in the event of the unexpected.
I’ve pretty much exhausted all possible considerations for an outdoor wedding. But the truth is, there’s still a possibility for your well-laid out plans to face challenges.
What else is there to do then? Here’s something I wrote to help you prepare for any weather on your wedding day. Hope it encourages you!