10 Dos and Don’ts of Outdoor Weddings

DON’T Forget: Location, Location, Location

With so many options, ranging from backyard bliss to beautiful beaches, choosing just the right spot for your big day can be daunting. To make it easier, consider whether your tentative date and venue fit the season. If you have always dreamed of a fall wedding on the beach, you may want to reconsider. Fall foliage is a perfect backdrop to a harvest wedding while the springtime is great for winery weddings. Also, try to avoid extreme points in the season, like August for a summer wedding or February for a winter one, as your variables for disaster and discomfort will increase.

DO Scrutinize the Venue

Now that you have selected your space, it’s time to put it under serious scrutiny. If you’ve chosen a lovely park for your spot, do you need permits? How about access to electricity? Make sure that the terrain itself is usable — a field with too many divots or a ground that can be ruined by previous day's rain make it tough for guests to enjoy the beauty of your event. Choose the right tent that will allow you to occupy the allowed amount of space, and learn what is required to power an outdoor wedding to help you perfect everything from the lighting to music. While you may have selected a gorgeous setting, it just might not be feasible for a successful soirée. One way to circumvent disappointment would be to have the ceremony outside and the reception indoors. Go for a space with a porch ordeck that you can dress up or move inside if things go south outdoors.

DON’T Go Too Formal

Your wedding should be the grandest affair of your lifetime, but if you hope for crystal chandeliers and overwhelming ice sculptures, you should put your outdoor wedding dreams to rest. Typically, outdoor weddings air on the more informal side — but that doesn't mean it can't be classy. Rely heavily on your natural surroundings for your colors and themes. Choose light, cotton linens for your tables, and be sure that your floral arrangements complement the space. Incorporate your venue's theme by bringing the outdoor world into your tent/event space. Centerpieces can feature natural elements like scattered fall leaves around your tables or candles buried in shells. Your invitations should be simple as well and reflect the space for the date ahead.

DO Consider your Caterer

Of course, the food is one of the most important things to worry about when you’re dining outdoors. To start, you want to make sure that your menu complements the theme and the conditions surrounding it. Heavy meats may be too much in the summer sun, and seafood has no space at a harvest table. You also want to be sure that, if you aren't connected to a main building, your caterer can make the magic happen outdoors. Provide them with the appropriate space and consider your refrigeration and heating options. But most importantly, keep the menu light and fresh so that guests feel comfortable in the great outdoors.

DON’T Forget About Time

Timing is everything when it comes to any wedding, but an outdoor wedding requires extra special consideration. The sun can prove to be a friend or foe to your plans for the ceremony and the photographer. You definitely want to avoid a high-noon wedding, since the sun reaches its peak then, causing climate discomfort and awful glare. Research the sunset time, so you can exchange vows before dusk and flow into the reception just about when the sun sets. Take your photographers for a road trip to the space around the time you’ll be hosting your events. This way, they can plan for lighting and poses that will truly capture the moment.

DO Worry About Weather

A rainy day is not the only thing that can put a damper on an outdoor wedding. Be sure to consider your guests when making arrangements. Let all attendees know that there will be an outside portion to your event, so they can dress accordingly. No amount of planning can predict an extremely warm day, but you can prepare for one with plenty of refreshing, non-alcoholic drinks and early party favors, like wooden fans for the ceremony. When choosing the bridal party's outfits (and your own big-day dress), you want to avoid fabrics like silk and chiffon, as your pictures may be full of poorly windblown dresses. Your hairstylist should know that the event will take place outside, so that your up-do is tightly secured and the wind won’t wreak havoc on your hair.

DON’T Let Anyone Crash The Party

Though we doubt Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn will crash your party, you still have to be wary of moochers. When you host an event in a public place, passersby are always curious and sometimes opportunistic. While hiring security may be a bit extreme, request that the catering and serving staff be on the lookout for any outsiders not present at the ceremony or ask that guests bring their invitations along. Other crashers to worry about are those pesky pests that show up when lots of food and people are around. Protect your guests with citronella candles as part of the lighting and centerpieces as well as protective coverage for your food.

DO Select Mood Music

If worrying about a power supply big enough to support a DJ's elaborate sound system is too much, hiring a band might just do the trick. Beach-bound weddings can set an island feel with groups that use steel drums. Autumn weddings can turn to folk or country music to bring the back-home feel alive. If your setting is more intimate, like a winery or a garden, think more along the lines of a string band. Whatever you choose, don't forget to give guests a sturdy dance floor that they can party on all night long.

DON’T Forget the Amenities

A completely outdoor wedding requires the couple to be extra considerate of the guests, and one thing your attendees can't do without is a restroom. Even if you are connected to a main building, it may be a good idea to rent a portable restroom, as there are options for upscale bathrooms. Take cue from a hotel welcome package, and set up an area for guests to refresh, like a tented comfort station. Offer a basket that will help them weather the elements with sunscreen, aloe ointments, deodorant spray, hair spray, and bug repellents and set up mirrors for their convenience. Don't forget that your guests plan on dancing the night away. To avoid the ladies’ heels getting stuck in the mud, offer a tub of flip flops to protect their toes while twirling the night away.

DO Accessorize Your Space

If you do decide to take it totally outside, don’t forget to make it as homey as possible. While incorporating nature is key, you don't want to take away from the elegance of your formal affair. Place furniture or pillows around your rented tent to make sure everyone has a comfortable place to hang. Make sure that your tent is ready for inclement weather in case a downpour crashes the party. Even if you have rented a generator, don't overdo it with the lights. Think subtlety — lanterns, lighted mason jars, or scattered twinkle lights in combination with candles will create the perfect ambiance for an outdoor soirée.