How to Plan an Outdoor Wedding Yourself (and Not Go Crazy While Doing It)

Do NOT forget to rent bathrooms!

Updated 05/29/19

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We don't need to tell you that wedding planning can be a serious undertaking—especially when you're doing it without the help of a wedding planner or coordinator. There are so many pieces to the puzzle that need to fit perfectly together to pull off a seamless celebration. Make that wedding an alfresco one, and things just got even more complicated. Wondering where to start to plan an outdoor wedding yourself? Right here!

When you get married at a typical wedding venue, you can check so many things off your to-do list all at once. You probably won't have to worry about finding separate vendors to supply the food, tables, chairs, microphones, plates, or cutlery, for example. However, when you decide to plan an outdoor wedding, you'll have to fill that grassy field, botanical garden, quiet forest clearing, or sandy beach with all of these essential items yourself. Talk about daunting!

Bride-to-be Sara Lanoir and her fiancé, Matt Paszko, knew that they wanted to take on the challenge from the start. “After getting engaged, neither of us had any interest in looking at indoor venues,” Lanoir explains. “For us, it was simple. We are way more comfortable when we're outside in nature. Our favorite things to do together are outside—hiking, biking, camping, skiing. We agree that really anything is better outdoors.” Growing up in the Adirondacks, the couple settled on a woodsy venue nestled in Fort Ann, New York for their outdoor wedding, which actually goes by the name, “Once Upon a Time.” (How dreamy is that?!)

Here are 11 tips for similarly brave brides and grooms who are willing to take on the challenge and plan an outdoor wedding themselves:

1. Tick Tock, Check the Clock

Make sure that you have the time to take on such a venture because even though it’s in the right setting, planning a wedding outdoors is certainly no picnic. “The reality is that it's a lot of work!” says Lanoir. “It's a lot of time spent researching and contacting vendors, and there are lots of moving parts. For me, it's worth the work to make our day really feel like Matt and I. We both wanted something different and, to get that, it is more work.”

2. Don’t Go It Alone

It’s important to have your friends and family help you along the way. “One thing that's been super helpful for us is support,” Lanoir says. “The owners of our venue have been very supportive and available through this planning process. Our parents and friends have been amazing; they're open to all our ideas, and here to help in any way possible.”

3. Enjoy Every Minute

Choosing to have an outdoor wedding is similar to having a blank canvas. You can create a masterpiece. “If you're interested in putting it all together yourself, whatever your reasons, it's a lot of fun!” notes Lanoir. “You can build the whole day to be whatever you envision!”

4. Enhance Nature

You’ve already picked a beautiful setting, so just have some fun when it comes to decorating. Dangle string lights from tree branches. Utilize different fabrics to section off areas. Play with chandeliers, colorful curtains and centerpieces. “We stumbled upon a venue that is covered in flowers and surrounded by trees,“ explains Lanoir. “I feel almost zero pressure to add anything in terms of decoration because it speaks for itself! We also got lucky with timing as our good friends Colleen and Erin recently started a decorating business called Simply Staged and they are assisting in decor.”

5. Keep Your Vision

Surrounded by Pinterest ideas and expertly curated Instagram posts, it’s easy to be influenced by the weddings of others. But getting swept up in the magic of pictures, like a tornado, can cause some devastating effects. “It's easy to begin to compare your plans to other weddings that you've been to,” Lanoir says. “In the last few years, we've been lucky enough to attend so many incredible weddings and although we envision something a little different for our own, it's hard to not get swept up! Matt has kept me grounded by bringing me back to our original ideas over and over again when I begin to get carried away.”

6. Power it Up

If you’ve picked on open field full of greenery and trees, don’t forget the lights! Having electricity is essential, not just for the lighting but also for the equipment of your band or DJ. Even though this seems like a tough obstacle to overcome, it’s completely doable. You can rent generators for power.

7. Don’t Stall

Warning: If you forget this particular detail, your wedding will be a disaster. Can you guess what it is? Imagine everyone dancing and having a marvelous time, and that’s when chaos strikes—you realize that you don’t have a bathroom. Yikes! Since you don’t want your wedding to stink (literally!), be sure to rent bathrooms. “You can actually rent fancy bathroom stalls!” Lanoir says with a laugh. “They are so beautiful!” Luxury portable restrooms are pretty impressive and come equipped with amenities such as granite countertops, music, and floral arrangements.

Generally speaking, you’ll want to have one bathroom for every 35 guests.

8. Get Rid of Pests

There is nothing worse than being eaten alive by mosquitoes or being surrounded by a cloud of black flies. Something you may want to consider is having your site sprayed by an exterminator a couple of days in advance or, at the very least, strategically setting citronella candles on tables to keep the bugs at bay.

9. Don’t Skimp on Refreshments

Have enough to drink. Period. There needs to be plenty of cold water (dancing makes people thirsty!), as well as ice—probably one pound per person. Plus, you also have to factor in the number of 21 and older guests who will be drinking alcohol.

10. Weather or Not, Here We Come

The downside to the great outdoors is that mother nature rules all. Rain is a possibility. Whether you are going casual or formal, renting tents is essential. Luckily they come in all shapes, materials, and sizes to match your decor. Having a summer wedding? Bring in fans and portable air conditioning units. If your big day is set for fall or winter, ensure that your guests remain cozy and warm with propane heaters. (Teeth chattering might ruin the mood.) Also, in order to save everyone from a very muddy situation, you have to remember to rent a dance floor.

This was one detail that Lanoir didn’t have to fret about. She explains, “Our venue comes with a beautiful raised wooden floor for the reception area.”

11. Make the Menu

The true beauty of having an outdoor wedding is that you get to pick the menu. Get creative with it. Spring for a savory barbecue, sizzle things up with stir-fry, have a New England clambake, or even set up a “build-your-own” bar full of tacos or burgers. Yum!

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