Photo: Christin Olive Photography
There's nothing quite as gorgeous as an outdoor wedding. But when unpredictable weather and a shortage of resources (electric outlets, anyone?) are added to the mix, it can be a recipe for disaster. Whether you're celebrating seaside, lakeside, in a backyard, vineyard, or garden, here's how not to plan your outdoor celebration.
1. Don't wait to pitch a tent.
Mother nature is always the biggest factor to consider when hosting an outdoor event, according to Kelly Heyn, owner of SociaLife Event Planning. Many couples dream of a ceremony in the open air, but it requires a lot of planning as well as funds. Heyn says it takes most tent companies at least three days to set up, so the rental has to be booked and partially paid for well in advance to keep it on reserve. Don't wait to look at the forecast until Thursday or Friday and then suddenly decide you'll need coverage. If you're getting married on a Saturday, make the decision by Wednesday so the vendor has enough time to do the job right. And if thunderstorms are brewing and you've planned a beach gathering, you'll be forbidden from going on the sand for at least thirty minutes before and after the storm, Heyn warns. Make sure to have a plan B.
2. Don't ignore wind.
Wind is also a huge consideration, especially when it comes to décor. Heyn says to make sure everything is stable and tied down, especially on an archway or chuppah during the ceremony. That last thing you want is banners or your aisle runner blowing in people's faces or flower arrangements toppling over. Centerpieces should be heavy and filled with water, sand, or stone to weigh them down. And don't forget your paper goods. Wedding planner Sarah Angelique advises against using individual place cards and escort cards because they can easily fly away. Instead, use one big, framed piece or chalkboard to display table assignments. Similarly, candles are easily blown out, so tasteful battery-operated ones might be wise.
3. Don't get caught under blazing sun.
Being on the beach, at a vineyard, or in a shade-less backyard in the middle of the day is a bad idea, especially when it comes to the photography. Plan your outdoor gathering for 6 o'clock or later to take advantage of the best lighting and avoid frying your guests under strong sunlight, Heyn says. And with people of all ages and abilities attending, don't be too ambitious with your location. Making everyone hike down a cliff to a remote part of the beach isn't a great idea, Angelique says. Find something with easy access.
4. Don't leave cars idle.
Parking can also be a huge issue at some outdoor venues, according to Heyn. "Beaches, parks, even wineries are open to the public during the day, so you have to be aware of when they close down," she says. If the parking lots are going to be full at the time of your wedding, consider using shuttles to escort guests to and from their cars parked at a separate location.
5. Don't let the food suffer.
The caterer should know that seafood needs an ice bar to chill it and a cheese display will only look good for the first thirty minutes, according to Angelique. If it's warm outside, anything cool and crisp and refreshing — like melon and prosciutto skewers or cucumber cups with crabmeat — will work nicely. If it's going to be chilly, a hot chocolate bar or shots of soup as hors d'oeuvres are both good ideas. Indoor venues are usually climate controlled so the wedding cake can be on display during the entire reception. That's not the case for outdoor weddings, so keep that in mind.
6. Don't get unplugged.
You may not realize how challenging it can be to power an outdoor event. The entertainment and caterer should test everything and turn on all electronics well before guests arrive. Heyn says it's often the little things that you might not expect, like the coffeemaker at the end of the night, that can shut everything down. With that in mind, don't forget to have extra extension cords on hand and also use any battery-operated or wireless equipment when possible.
7. Don't let your blooms wilt.
Sure flowers are a part of the great outdoors, but not all cut stems are meant to be outside during all seasons. "Hydrangeas are awful in the summertime," Heyn says. They can survive in well-watered centerpieces but will easily wilt if you throw them in a bouquet May through September. Also, think about bees and insects. Don't put out tons of flowers early in the day because they can attract unwanted guests.
8. Don't wear just anything.
When it comes to wardrobe, some considerations need to be made. "Lace can be difficult to work with in a garden setting because things get caught in the fabric — twigs, grass, even pieces of dirt," Heyn says. Similarly, anything long that drags will get dirty, so bridesmaids' dresses might be better off on the shorter side. Proper footwear should also be used. Heels will quickly sink in a backyard or at the beach. Flats, wedges, or flip-flops (if that's your style) are better options. And long veils should be avoided at beach or mountaintop "I do's". The fabric will likely blow in your face, so a small, pretty headpiece or birdcage veil would work better.
9. Don't give careless favors.
Heyn suggests something that people can eat or use at that moment — not knickknacks like pens or candles. Angelique agrees that you don't want to create any extra debris. "If everyone gets a cookie in a bag with ribbon and tag, that's multiple pieces of trash from each individual," she says. If you do decide to go with edible or drinkable favors, don't bring them out until later in the evening, especially if it's something that can melt, like chocolate.
10. Don't forget restrooms.
Portable restrooms can certainly be brought to your outdoor affair but they need electricity and water hookups, so you'll need to situate them close to an appropriate building, Heyn advises. Or just make sure there are some nearby bathrooms that are open during your event and send a cleaning crew to spiff up the space for your guests.