If you are planning a wedding for the summer months, what could possibly be better than having a romantic and stylish outdoor wedding ceremony in the sunshine followed by drinks and canapés on the lawn, prior to going inside – either a marquee or a venue – for dinner and dancing? If this is your dream, then read on for our top tips on what to bear in mind during your planning.
Firstly, check that your venue is licensed for outdoor ceremonies. Many venues these days are licensed for outdoor weddings which means they have a small permanent structure - such as a pagoda, bandstand or arbour – under which a registrar can perform your legal ceremony. It just has to be big enough to hold the two of you, the registrar, your witnesses and a table where you can sign the documentation. If your venue does not have a license for outdoor ceremonies, you can still work around it and have a celebrant led wedding or a blessing on the lawn with all your family and friends but you need to be legally married already which can be as simple as having made a 15 minute appointment at your local registry office with two witnesses a few days before your big celebration – you can save your vows and readings for your big outdoor ceremony.
Secondly, your guest numbers. If on the day you are not lucky with the weather, then you will need to retreat inside your venue for the ceremony – to a licensed room – and to have another room set aside as back up for the drinks reception. Assuming you want all your guests to witness your ceremony inside, this means you must only invite the number of guests to your wedding that can be accommodated inside for the ceremony and drinks – in separate rooms - irrespective of how many could have fitted on the lawn outside.
Thirdly, the weather. As our great British weather is so unpredictable, my advice is always to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Have wraps or boleros on standby both for yourself and for your bridesmaids in case the sun goes in and it gets chilly and if you have any elderly guests attending, or those who are less mobile, it’s best to let them know in advance that part of your day will be outside so they can dress accordingly and perhaps bring knee blankets.
My last piece of advice is with regard to the practicalities – it’s so easy to fall into the trap of admiring all the images on Pinterest of outdoor ceremonies but in practice, little things like the wind can play havoc with your perfect plans. I always recommend having an aisle carpet - which looks really smart laid over the grass, and which MUST be pinned down properly – but when it comes to sprinkles of petals up the aisle, this works perfectly only if you are in a sheltered location with no wind. Similarly, if you are planning to lay orders of service or reserved signs on your chairs, or you have any signage leading to the ceremony, just consider that these might need to be weighted if it is gusty. Wind will also naturally have an impact on your veil and hair so it would be wise to discuss this with your hairdresser during your trial so you can plan a ‘do’ that will work with a breeze. Finally, depending on your guest numbers, if you want your vows and readings to be audible, you may need to hire a PA system and a sound engineer to install and manage it. If you don’t have any musicians for your ceremony but instead are playing recorded music, again you’ll need to put this through an outdoor PA system – venues often have built in speaker systems in their indoor ceremony rooms but if your ceremony is outdoors, this is an additional expense to take into consideration.
Having an outdoor wedding really is an idyllic way to say your “I Do’s” but it is not without its challenges – as a planner, my job is to think through every eventuality and to have a contingency plan in place accordingly – so as I said above, hope for the best but prepare for the worst, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.