Top 9 Tips for Planning an Outdoor Wedding

I can’t think of anything more romantic than an outdoor wedding! Imagine saying “I do” with sparkling turquoise water and sandy white beaches in the background or while you’re surrounded by gorgeous garden florals. It can truly feel like something out of a fairytale!

Planning a wedding in the great outdoors can be a bit more complex than planning an indoor wedding. No matter how much you plan, sometimes the clear blue skies we’ve always dreamt of aren’t always the reality.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t have your dream wedding when you have an outdoor ceremony and reception! Since we always try to focus on your guests’ overall experience, it’s important to be mindful of everything from ways to keep your guests cool in hot temperatures to recommendations of what they wear e when preparing for your journey to the aisle. Before you take those important first steps towards planning your special day outdoors, read on for our top nine tips to ensure  your outdoor wedding goes off without a hitch! 

1. Hire a Wedding Planner

It might sound a little self-serving, but a wedding planner is one expense that can save you bundles of money — and headaches — in the long run. Planning an outdoor event comes with an additional set of challenges when compared to indoor events. There are just so many elements involved in making your special day the one you’ve always dreamed of. This is why I highly recommend hiring a wedding planner who is familiar with coordinating outdoor weddings and events.

Your wedding planner will be familiar with vendors who provide services specific to the outdoors, such as luxury portable restrooms, generators, and so much more. They also understand how to coordinate setup, which involves a lot more than the typical setup with indoor wedding venues.

If you’ve been dreaming of having a firework display, drone show or just simply sparklers, a wedding planner will also be able to determine whether or not that’s permitted. When you work with a wedding planner, they’ll be able to coordinate he appropriate permits with the city or fire department that’ll be needed to make this a reality. 

photo of reception tent filled with guests and mountains behind them
Photo by Lauren Fair Photography

2. Have a Back-up Plan for Weather Conditions

Although superstition says that rain on your wedding day is good luck, it’s the absolute last thing you want to deal with — especially if you’re having an outdoor wedding! Extremely hot temperatures and wind can also be problematic, and depending on where your wedding will be held, hurricanes and wildfires may also be a concern. 

A top priority is keeping your guests dry if it does rain. Talk to your wedding planner about having a backup weather plan in place. One great option is to consider a wedding reception tent. Although it’s tempting to plan everything outdoors, we recommend having some kind of structure with flooring in your plans. Including this in your budget upfront will prevent you from scrambling to budget for these line items later on, since last-minute staffing and planning permits can be costly. 

In addition to having a tent or structure for your outdoor wedding reception, it’s ideal to provide your guests with shade during cocktail hour. Sitting outside for extended periods of time, especially if it’s hot out, can be uncomfortable. You might opt to use umbrellas, a covered pergola structure, or a custom-gazebo for your guests to cool off under. 

3. Keep Your Guests’ Comfort in Mind

No matter where you’re tying the knot, it’s important to keep your guests’ comfort in mind. The more comfortable your guests are, the more they’ll really get to enjoy your outdoor wedding!

Be sure to provide plenty of water and other beverages to help your guests stay hydrated, especially if you’re having a summer wedding. Offering parasols and handheld fans are great options to help them stay cool during your wedding celebration. When the weather gets cool in the evening, offering pashminas or wraps can be an amazing way to help keep your guests comfortable. 

If you’re planning a fall outdoor wedding, it’s important to keep your guests warm.  Be sure to provide warm drinks, such as hot cocoa and hot toddies, as well as blankets when nighttime falls. At dinner, implementing heat lamps can help your guests stay cozy even as the temperatures drop!

When planning your outdoor wedding, be sure to provide sunscreen, bug spray, and allergy medications on hand for your guests just in case! 

4. Find a Catering Company That’s Familiar With Outdoor Events 

Not all wedding caterers are the same! It’s important to choose a caterer that is familiar with catering large-scale outdoor events like weddings. Outdoor catering companies will understand the logistical challenges that come with holding your wedding outside. They’ll be better prepared for the setup of a catering tent and will know what types of kitchen equipment are needed to make sure the catering process goes as smoothly as possible for your outdoor wedding reception. Caterers who specialize in outdoor events will also have a good understanding of food safety concerns, such as keeping shellfish on ice, for example.

It’s ideal to figure out what caterer you want to use early in the wedding planning process. There are budget considerations to keep in mind since a catering tent will add to your overall budget. 

photo of bride and groom kissing, surrounded by flowers, and with mountains behind them
Photo by Annie Randall Photography

5. Evaluate the Venue for Wedding Ceremony Spots

You’ve probably chosen to have an outdoor wedding ceremony because you’re drawn to the natural beauty in the area. Taking a good look at your venue can help you to determine the best focal points for your outdoor wedding ceremony. For example, you might find a beautiful tree that will be in bloom on your special day, a cascading waterfall, a running stream, or an area with a good view of a vineyard. 

Embracing your venue’s natural beauty will also help your wedding photographer capture gorgeous pictures of your special day, and it will also lessen your need for additional decor —and keeping things simple means one less wedding expense and a more eco-friendly wedding

photo of outdoor reception space illuminated with string lights
Photo by Lacie Hansen Photography

6. Create a Floor Plan for Your Outdoor Reception

Just like you’ll be figuring out the best focal points for your ceremony, you’ll also want to map out each of the events of your outdoor wedding reception. It’s important to plan how guests will move from ceremony to cocktail hour. They should be able to safely navigate their way there, whether with a walkway, signs or illumination such as floor lanterns to guide them. Take note of any obstacles that may interfere with guest safety, such as fencing, streams, or unlevel ground.

Be sure to plan a walkthrough with your wedding planner and other essential wedding vendors. Your catering team will want to evaluate the space for your event to ensure there’s a flat space where they can set up a kitchen tent away from where the main reception tent will be located. Your wedding photographer and videographer will want to consider the direction of the sun for lighting purposes. This will also help your production team to discreetly find a place for the generator where it’s also out of earshot. 

It takes some careful planning, but creating a floor plan will ensure your outdoor wedding runs as smoothly as possible. 

photo of reception tent filled with guests on wedding day
Photo by Laura Gordon Photography

7. Be Sure to Illuminate the Area Well 

Lights, camera, action! Be sure to choose fun, decorative lighting for your wedding reception tent! Use candles, pretty pendant lights, and dramatic chandeliers to create a romantic ambiance and celebratory vibe for your special day.

Choosing lighting is about so much more than decor! Safety should also be a priority when choosing lighting. Although you will want to make sure your outdoor wedding reception tent is well-lit, it’s important to make sure you think about lighting for other spaces.

There should be adequate illumination to help your guests safely find their way to the restrooms. The dance floor should be sufficiently lit to ensure your guests will be safe on the dance floor, and the bar should be well lit from the front and sides to ensure that the bartenders will be able to see what they’re doing as the sun sets. 

Your wedding planner will be able to best help you navigate this process with the venue and/or lighting professionals.  

photo of band performing on a stage at an outdoor wedding surrounded by flowers
Photo by Lacie Hansen Photography

8. Consider Factors That May Affect Noise

One thing that most couples never think about is the fact that outdoor weddings can be noisy! Outdoor venues can be affected by sound issues like wind, water, or general open space. It’s important to make sure there’s a good sound system in place to ensure your guests can hear the wedding ceremony and speeches well. Microphones are a good option for the officiant or anyone else who may give speeches during your special day.

If you’re planning to have a wedding band, you’ll need to make arrangements for them to have a green room, which may be a tent or another designated area. You’ll also want to ensure the band is well-equipped to play outdoors. The last thing you want is to not be able to dance the night away because you can’t hear the music!

It’s also important to have your wedding planner check for any noise ordinances, which could affect your wedding timing and whether you can have that band you’ve always dreamed of. Depending on the ordinances you might need to choose a different time for your wedding reception or choose a different venue entirely. 

photo of night time outdoor ceremony with candles
Photo by Justin Lee Photography

9. Make Sure to Prepare your Guests Ahead of Time 

When you plan an outdoor ceremony and reception, the last thing you want to do is leave your guests in the dark! Be sure to let your guests know the type of terrain they can expect when it comes to your outdoor wedding so they can plan their attire accordingly. Your wedding website is a great place to provide this information and offer any suggestions you have. For example, you might advise against stiletto heels if they’ll be walking on sand or suggest that they pack an extra layer of clothing for cool evening temperatures. 

Keeping these wedding planning tips in mind can help ensure your day goes as smoothly as possible. If you’re looking to hire a professional to ensure your outdoor wedding ceremony and reception go off without a hitch, be sure to contact us at HauteFêtes so we can help you start planning the outdoor wedding of your dreams!

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