Wedding Venues

How to Have a Park Wedding

Insider tips for the perfect alfresco affair.

If you're an outdoors kind of gal, take a fresh approach to your wedding and get married in a park. Nothing beats a natural setting and plenty of sunshine. And the cost is tempting—most permits and location fees are nominally priced. However, if you're not prepared for the possible pitfalls—bad weather, annoying insects—your dream day can play out like an Outward Bound adventure. To help you plan a snafu-free ceremony, here's a garden's worth of good advice.

Laying the Groundwork

Before settling on a ceremony site, visit it several times during the same season, day of the week, and time of day as you plan to marry. Take note of pedestrian traffic and the position of the sun—this will determine where you place your officiant, bridal party, and guests. (For example, you don't want people squinting into late-afternoon rays.)

Try to anticipate potential problems beforehand. Are there any restroom facilities? Is there ample parking? You also need to find out if other events that might be disruptive—a concert or Little League game—will be taking place during your vows. Park officials may be able to clue you in.

Official Business

Once you've determined the perfect place, contact the park's administrative office and find out if weddings are allowed there. After you get the OK, ask about regulations and if you have to reserve the site. You'll most likely need at least one permit, which is usually issued by your local parks department. It will state whether you will be allowed to bring in chairs and toilets, play music, and have guests throw birdseed. Read the fine print to see if there's a cleanup stipulation—many parks charge fines for garbage left behind.

Permits are usually issued free of charge, but you'll probably have to pay a small location fee. "National parks charge anywhere between fifty and two hundred dollars," says Roger di Silvestro, senior director of communications for the National Parks Conservation Association, in Washington, D.C. "State, city, and town parks each have their own fees, which will vary from place to place."

Stems That Beat The Heat

An outdoor wedding calls for a bouquet that can brave all sorts of weather. "Mums, alstromeria, and calla lilies survive better than other blooms on a sultry day," says Carole Langrall, of A Garden of Earthly Delights, in Baltimore. "Tropical flowers, like orchids, are also good choices. They're used to heat, so they stay fresh and vibrant longer."

Roses may be popular wedding-day picks, but they don't make the cut when it comes to a bouquet that will be used outdoors. "They wilt pretty quickly," explains Langrall, "but if they're your favorite flower, choose leonidas roses, which have hearty, bicolored blooms with terra-cotta and apricot hues." Avoid wildflowers and bulb flowers (tulips, daffodils); sturdy blossoms like sunflowers and heather are better bets.

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