There’s something so dreamy about saying “I do” on a rooftop. Whether it’s the dazzling New York City skyline or the vibrant beaches of Miami, framing your vows with a jaw-dropping backdrop will make your ceremony that much more memorable. When you make your marriage official several stories above the ground, you and your partner will feel like you’re on top of the world.
With open floor plans, rooftop nuptials offer ample space and a blank canvas to design your dream day. From a modern aesthetic with a black-and-white color scheme to a colorful celebration with elaborate floral arrangements, there are so many ways to elevate the space.
Since you’ll want the surrounding scenery to be the focal point, it’s important to think strategically about your decorations. “If the rooftop is open air, then it’s best to let the view do the work and not try to compete with high arrangements or any kind of draping that would create a feeling of obstruction,” planner Annie Lee notes. “Try to enhance the vastness of the skyline by keeping the design airy.”
Another factor to consider before planning your vow swap is the weather. Because rooftop venues provide an outdoor area, you’ll want to host your event in the warmer seasons. Of course, you can’t always predict inclement weather, so planner Lauren Dickens suggests having a backup plan. “Either be ready to move your wedding indoors or have alternatives, such as a tent,” she says.
Besides the rain, Lee recommends planning for windy conditions as well. “Make sure your designs are windproof and that nothing can become a projectile because serious injuries and damages can occur if the wrong item is whisked off the side of the building,” she explains. By preparing for any kind of scenario, you’ll set yourself up for success.
From fun fashion moments to breathtaking dinner setups, here are 17 ways to host a rooftop wedding your guests will never forget.
Meet the Expert
- Annie Lee is the principal planner of Daughter of Design, a wedding planning company based in Miami that she launched in 2008. She’s also the founder of Plannie and the author of Learn to Speak Wedding: Flashcards for Beginners.
- Lauren Dickens is the founder of Elle Audrey and a wedding planner with 14 years of experience. She’s based in New York, Maryland, Washington D.C., and Northern Virginia.
Set the Tone
Give your guests a glimpse into your rooftop nuptials with a polished stationery suite. Through your invitations, you can establish your color palette and aesthetic while also providing key details about your event, such as the date, time, and location of your ceremony and reception. Saying “I do” on top of a building overlooking the city lends itself well to black-and-white invites with a modern flair. Consider including an illustration of your rooftop venue to give loved ones more hints about your upcoming day.
Sport Something Sleek
Although you’re entitled to wear whatever you want on your special day, a glossy gown coordinates especially well with a rooftop setting. This bride’s long-sleeve, off-the-shoulder satin dress with a trail of buttons down the back was a timeless and elevated choice for her rooftop nuptials in Savannah, Georgia. We love how she wore her hair in an elegant chignon to show off her dress details.
Play Around With Fun Accessories
Of course, no wedding dress is complete without accessories. If you’re swapping vows atop a building, the supplementary pieces you select will help you build upon your venue and create your intended look. For a rooftop wedding, think stylish accents with a hint of glamour, such as this sweeping cape, fashion-forward headband affixed with a birdcage veil, and printed heels featuring Swarovski jewels. The simpler the dress, the more fun you can have with your accessories.
Spotlight the Scenery During Your First Look
For a moment as touching as your first look, you’ll probably want picturesque views to accompany your grand reveal. There’s no better place to show off your attire than on the rooftop of your venue. Not only will the backdrop render stunning photos, but you’ll also be able to admire the setting—just the two of you—before the busyness of the day.
Use Minimal Décor
The view is the strongest asset of a rooftop venue, hands down. So, you’ll want to make sure your decorations enhance the scenery rather than overshadow it. “Accent your rooftop views with low lush décor versus obstructive decor,” Dickens says. If you’re hosting your ceremony high above the ground, a triangular arch decorated with flowers and ghost chairs are understated decorations that won’t outshine the surrounding landscape.
Select a Classic Color Palette
Black and white is a timeless yet modern color combination, making it the perfect accompaniment to city weddings with an industrial feel. Painting your rooftop ceremony in neutral hues will blend into the terrain, ensuring the surrounding cityscape is the focus of attention. This wedding accentuated the New York City skyline with black Chiavari chairs, white floral arrangements, a white runner lined with white votive candles, and a black acrylic arch topped with blooms.
But Don’t Be Afraid to Embrace Pops of Color
Although using too many loud colors can detract from the views, infusing a few pops of color can have a strong impact. If you want to incorporate a bold decoration into your rooftop wedding design, choose one element you want to play up, and keep the rest of your décor to a minimum. This couple’s ceremony backdrop was a low installation of exotic flowers in pink, orange, and purple tones and disco balls. Since they opted to just use simple wooden chairs, their altar design made a statement without distracting guests from the skyline.
Give It a Tropical Touch
Saying “I do” in the midst of skyscrapers isn’t the only option for rooftop nuptials. There are plenty of rooftop venues, from Miami to Los Angeles, that face the water, so you can swap vows with a backdrop of the beach. To enhance the coastal setting, deliver your vows in front of a wooden arch accented with palm leaves and white buds.
Take Portraits at Sunset
After the ceremony, you’ll probably want to document your first few moments together as newlyweds. Once your friends and family leave for cocktail hour, stay on the rooftop and snap couple portraits while the sun sets. The hour before and after sunset is considered “golden hour”, which provides the most flattering lighting for photos. By having a photoshoot on the roof, you’ll also preserve the exquisite views that made your wedding unforgettable.
Highlight the Skyline at Cocktail Hour
From the ceremony to the after-party, a rooftop is a show-stopping location to celebrate your nuptials. But, if you’d rather host just one of the day’s events at the locale, your cocktail hour is an excellent option. Noshing on appetizers and sipping signature drinks while overlooking the scenery is a dreamy setup your guests won’t stop talking about. Make sure to provide plenty of tables and chairs for a comfortable spot that your family and friends can congregate around.
Welcome Guests With Lucite Signage
Lucite decorations are ideal for rooftop nuptials because the transparent material reflects the surrounding environment. Instead of hogging all the attention, the glass-like element will blend seamlessly into the landscape. Since acrylic is a trendy alternative to paper, you can use it as the base of your welcome sign. With a black stand and a contemporary font, you’ll give your signage a modern edge.
Assign Your Seats
Since everyone will be taking a look at your seating chart, you’ll want to place it in the best possible spot. For rooftop weddings, that means right on the periphery of your venue. A black-and-white structure decorated with gold lanterns is the perfect blend of modern and glamorous that makes rooftop nuptials so enticing. Beyond the aesthetic of your display, Lee recommends choosing one with a substantial size, so it won’t blow away in the wind.
Design a Lounge Area
A lounge area with plenty of plush furniture adds comfort and a stylish design element to your rooftop setup. Scattering couches, chairs, and rugs across the surface will also create an appealing outdoor living feel. Since you’ll likely be outside on the roof all night, consider draping your furnishings with throws, so everyone will stay warm.
Provide Ambiance With Live Music
What’s a party without music? Hiring a string quartet for cocktail hour and a live band for your reception will set the right mood for your event. If your celebration is going to last well into the night, Lee recommends chatting with the staff about sound restrictions. “Ask the venue what time the sound cut-off is on the rooftop area,” she advises. “Outdoor areas tend to have an earlier sound ordinance than inside since the sound will carry, and I’m sure the neighbors don’t love the weekly late-night music no matter how good your band is.”
Decorate With Natural Accents
If you’re wondering how to decorate your tablescape, neutrals are always a good idea. Versatile hues will give your reception a timeless touch without overpowering the picturesque backdrop. White chairs tucked into wooden tables with a greenery runner and minimalist place settings heighten the bright blue ocean in the background. Low centerpieces are your best bet, so you don’t obstruct the main attraction.
Enjoy Dinner With a View
There’s nothing more magical than watching the sun go down and the buildings light up. To top off your rooftop reception, savor your special meal overlooking the horizon. Create a romantic and intimate atmosphere with rattan lanterns and string lights.
Frame Your Sweets
Taking a bite of decadent cake is the best way to conclude your reception dinner. Position your sugary confection front and center, so your photographer can document the terrain as you cut that first slice. An all-white cake looks sleek and clean, and it lets the view shine.