There are lots of reasons to be married outdoors, and you don't have to be limited to the hot summer months! With contingency plans, you can tie the knot in the great outdoors during any time of year (yes, even winter). Here are some things to consider:
- Plan for inclement weather.
They say that if it rains on your wedding day, it is supposed to bring good luck to the marriage. This is only true for those couples that have a backup rain venue, or a ton of umbrellas.
- Consider time of day.
During the summer, an evening wedding might be preferable due to excessive heat during mid-day and even through the late afternoon. Also, the reception will then go into the night, when there will surely be some relief.
- Make your venue accessible and comfortable for guests.
This means providing shade if it's going to be hot, or a source of warmth if it may be chilly (consider a heated tent, although this isn't exactly cheap; blankets are a cozy alternative and can be shared how romantic). Give special consideration to elderly and handicapped guests, for whom the elements and terrain of the venue can present increased difficulty.
- Don't forget about the birds and the bees!
I mean the real-live creatures here, people. Save the figurative ones for your honeymoon. Critters can be the most relentless wedding crashers, and will prove to be even more annoying than the drunkest guest at the reception. Plan to provide citronella spray or candles around the site, or handle the pests in some other way, but do plan for them.
- Will it be windy?
This could greatly affect your guests' ability to hear the ceremony. There are other factors that could affect the sound quality also, so be sure to visit the ceremony site during the time of day (and time of year) that your wedding will take place and make note of any external or environmental noise that will likely be present. Had I done this myself before my own lakeside wedding, I would probably have realized if you choose to get married in front of a busy marina, your guests are far more likely to hear the boat engines than your vows.
- Will your food survive the elements?
This is an especially important consideration if it will be hot and particularly if there will be a buffet or other food set out. Talk to your caterer about timing and cooling of food in order to keep it appetizing and, most importantly, safe! Nobody wants to eat shrimp cocktail that's been baking in the sun for four hours.
- Keep your guests hydrated.
If you're getting married during the warmer season, offer non-alcoholic beverages before the ceremony, such as water with lemon or iced tea. Alternatively, if you're planning a winter outdoor wedding, you may want to provide hot cocoa or some other steamy beverage to warm them up upon their arrival.
- Are you breaking the law?
No, I know you're both consenting adults. I'm not talking about that. If you're getting married at a public place, such as a park or beach, check to see if you need permits, especially for alcohol on the premises. Your guests don't want to see the happy couple leave for their honeymoon handcuffed in the back of a squad car.
- Keep your guests informed.
Provide information to your guests about environmental factors that you anticipate and that they can prepare themselves for. For example, if your wedding site will be soft and grassy, you may want to advise the women (and maybe some of the men, depending on your guest list) not to wear heels. This information should be included in the invitation rather than the welcome packets, so that they have the time and resources necessary to plan for the event.
Photo: Emily Chidester Photography