Outdoor weddings are often a good fit for couples who want to plan something unique, fun and laid back. Choosing to have your wedding ceremony and reception outdoors definitely has it's advantages! Many times you aren't held to as many hard and fast rules by a venue, you can have fun activities like yard games and roasting s'mores, and it's usually far more beautiful outside than in. That being said, planning an outdoor wedding is much more difficult and has more moving parts than a traditional indoor celebration.
These tips will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes or oversights that I see couples make:
- You MUST have a backup plan! You MUST have tents! We live in Alaska. Weather is unpredictable and oftentimes we have wet and cool summers. Make sure that you have the necessary tent space to accommodate your ceremony and reception should it rain or become extremely windy. It's also very important that you are ok and comfortable with your back up plan should things shake out that way because it's entirely possible that it will.
- Hire an experienced caterer. Catering outside is a whole different ball game than cooking for a large group in the comforts of a kitchen. Make sure your caterer has experience working in all types of weather and situations and that they have the proper equipment to execute the event. It's perfectly ok to ask them how many times they've catered an outdoor event and what their "rain plan" is.
- Let guests know it's a completely outdoor event. In your invitation suite indicate that it's necessary to wear proper shoes (i.e. no ten inch heels) and that bringing warm clothing is necessary. There is nothing worse than seeing one hundred guests freeze their tushes off because they thought wearing spaghetti straps and stilettos was ok.
- Rent space heaters. Again, we live in Alaska. Always plan for the worst and hope for the best. Space heaters are great because even if it's gorgeous out, you can turn them on when things get chilly at night and your grandparents can cozy up to the heat with a cup of coffee and stay and enjoy the event.
- Bathrooms! Do you know the bathroom situation at your venue? Or, should I say, let's make sure there isn't a bathroom situation at your venue! This gets overlooked way too often. If guests have to walk two miles to get to a bathroom, or there isn't really a proper bathroom area onsite, it is a requirement that you rent in port-o-potties. Some companies offer a more upscale choice of an actual portable bathroom with a sink and washing area. If your budget permits those are definitely the way to go!
- Have a "just in case" basket of goodies. I usually recommend having a little basket of bug spray, sunscreen, hand sanitizer and moist toilettes or baby wipes. If you're in the middle of nowhere you'll want to have these to make your guests more comfortable.
- Transportation. How far is your location from hotels, the nearest city and where you're staying? You'll want to really take this in to consideration and possibly charter a shuttle or bus. If it's really remote you don't want guests drinking for six hours and then send them off to drive home a really long distance. You also have to factor this in to your timeline. If it takes thirty minutes to get to the venue from your hotel, expect that everything will take a bit longer than anticipated and account for the fact that some people may get lost or arrive late.
- Hire a professional DJ. This is soooooooo important! Outdoor wedding ceremonies can be very difficult to hear, especially if it's windy or rainy. A professional DJ will have all of the necessary equipment, including speakers and microphones, and they'll know how to set up correctly to ensure there aren't any hiccups. I can't tell you how many times I've attended an outdoor wedding where no one can hear anything that's going on with the ceremony and it's awful!
- It's better to have too much than not enough. If you're providing all of the beer and wine, the ice, the firewood or if you're bringing all of the s'more supplies for roasting over the fire, it's always better to have too much than to run out. Usually when you're outdoors, it means that you're not close to town or a grocery store. You'll want to have enough items so that you don't run out. No one wants to leave your event to drive for two hours to get more ice or more beer. Sometimes this may not even be an option depending on where you are hosting the event.
In general it's good to be open to the suggestions that your vendors have for you. Heed their advice. If your catering is going to cost a bit more because the chef needs to bring out additional equipment, or if your DJ recommends a slightly more expensive package because they need more equipment because it's outdoors, don't haggle them. They are only telling you this because it is true and it's for your benefit. It's a misconception that outdoor events are simple. I LOVE outdoor weddings in Alaska, but just be sure to plan for the worst and hope for the best!