Growing up I didn’t dream about what kind of engagement ring I’d get some day, or even about the dress. Instead I dreamed about one thing, other than my husband, of course. I wanted my wedding outside. Even more specifically, I always wanted it facing Lake Ontario (one of the great Lakes in New York!) Thankfully, my husband agreed and I began to plan an outdoor wedding. Obviously getting married outdoors opens itself to a whole new set of problems but with proper planning you can pull it off without leaving anyone in the cold (get it?)
How to Plan an Outdoor Wedding
Yes, We Need to Talk About the “Backup Plan”
I feel like this is the obvious elephant in the room. So obvious that you’re probably like “Why are you even mentioning this?”
I mention it because I’ve heard of so many people who plan outdoor weddings and say, “Well it better not rain or we’ll in big trouble! But we’re willing to chance it.”
For many of those people God granted them a beautiful sunny day. And I’m happy for them. But you don’t want to be the one person who doesn’t have a backup, and your wedding was ruined.
Just ask Alanis.
Guys, it rained on my wedding day. And it was ironic. I really did think
BUT, we had a backup plan. I already decided to move dinner indoors (sad face) just to be safe. I had dreams of beautiful tables overlooking the lake but it just wasn’t practical. We had a backup plan for the ceremony too but thankfully God stopped the rain for exactly 45 minutes to have our ceremony outside. More of that later.
RELATED: Want to save money on your wedding too? Here are 10 Ways to Save $1,000 On Your Big Day.
Think Like a Guest
If you went to an outdoor wedding what are some things you would like to see to protect you from the elements?
If your wedding is in the heat of the day it might be nice to provide fancy umbrellas for the guests to sit under, or even provide cute little parasols for each guest to cover themselves with. One wedding I attended put a picture of the bride and groom on a fan for guests to cool themselves down with.
If there is a chance your wedding might be cold for your guests, think about providing heating lamps or even cute blankets that can double as your wedding favor.
Also, I’ve heard of people passing our SPF and bug spray. Thoughtful.
Give Your Guests a Heads Up
If you wedding is outdoors you will want to mention that in your invitation. That way people do not wear their formal dresses, but instead, something more fitting for the occasion. It also gives women a chance to wear flats or wedges to more easily walk on uneven or grassy terrain.
Another thoughtful thing to do is provide cheap flats for those that end up wearing heels. I ended up wearing heel protects on my shoes to more easily walk around, another option to offer to your guests. (Although I will admit they can be a little pricey if buying a lot of them.)
Make Sure Your Dress/Bridesmaid Dresses Fit the Outdoors
I’m seen a lot of women throw their wedding together with bits and pieces of what they like with no thought to the overall picture. My suggestion – for any wedding – is to come up with a theme and pick four colors that match that theme. It will make all your other decisions so much easier – trust me.
And if you have a wedding outdoors – Spoiler alert – part of your theme was already chosen for you. Now you don’t have to wear white overalls to match your outdoor theme, but it’s not necessarily the right place to pick a ballgown dress either. Believe me, I’ve seen it.
Use Your Surroundings To Your Advantage!
Friends, if you are in a beautiful outdoor setting, use it to your advantage. Face the lake/mountain/river for your ceremony. Plan your hors d’oeuvres outside so people can enjoy it.
Set up a photo booth outside. While planning my wedding I wanted to hang picture frames from trees with the Lake in the background for cute “instagram-ready” photos. We still ended up planning something cute inside, in case of rain though.
Set up lawn games.
Yes, I planned to have beautiful lawn games, but moved them indoors because of the rain. I don’t know about you when weddings are so awkward when you are just standing around talking to people. I love an activity to save me from boredom and people’s conversations. (I’m an introvert, forgive me.)
Guys, I even had dreams of offering boat rides during my wedding. I can still hear my husband’s reaction when I told him and his eyes just about fell out of his face. “Boat rides? This isn’t a carnival.”
But how fun would a paddle boat ride be at an outdoor wedding? Maybe it’s just me. Oh well.
Speaking of outdoor weddings, check out this casual background wedding from Shifting Roots.
Lastly, think about creative ways to display drinks or food to match the surroundings. Put bottles of water and special fun drinks in a canoe or old large tin buckets.
Think About What Could Go Wrong
And try to prevent it! Offering your guests umbrellas/blankets/flip-flops fits under this category, as does having a backup. Other things to think through:
If your wedding is outdoors in the heat you should consider fondant so it doesn’t melt. Are there any issues with the season you picked? Who is going to move all the benches in, then out, then in again in case of rain (Thank you wedding guests and brother in law who did this for me!) What kind of sound system will you need outdoors? Etc etc.
Be Prepared for Something to Go Wrong and Roll With it.
I like to end on the story of it raining on my wedding day because that is every brides’ nightmare but I lived to tell the tale. SOMETHING WILL GO WRONG. Something won’t be perfect. Remind yourself of that before the wedding so it doesn’t come as a shock.
Then once it hits – roll with it.
I briefly mentioned this above but we (well not me I was getting ready but someone) set up all the benches and decorations outside first. It rained. Some good Samaritans dried off the benched and moved them inside. I checked my phone and it looked like the rain may hold off a bit. They moved the benches outside again.
I’ve also seen some darn right cute photos of bridal parties with umbrellas and rain boots. I wish I would have thought of that (although up until the day of your wedding you are on your knees praying for sun!)
Our photographer, however, (shout out to Hannah at Elate photo!) took some pretty unique photos in rain puddles, and on top of that the clouds were amazing that day!
There is always a silver lining. And if there isn’t you shrug your shoulders and say, “the show must go on!”
In that case, sometimes you to have to plan an outdoor wedding indoors.
Oh, and when the wedding is over, here are 7 Places to Change Your Name After Getting Married. It took me almost two years to change everything over so hopefully this helps you avoid many of the same hassles I did.