How to Plan an Outdoor Wedding? Was “the question” popped? How exciting, and our sincere congratulations to you! Perhaps you have decided that you would like to hold your wedding outdoors. This is a trendy idea right now. The settings are usually just beautiful and picture-perfect; they are casual and fun and give you the ability to be highly creative. There are some different things to remember if you plan an outdoor wedding, but we will do our best to help you stay on track.
How to Plan an Outdoor Wedding?
We have broken the even down into manageable categories for you and shopping suggestions to keep things easy.
Make a Budget
Becoming engaged is a fun and exciting time. We know it’s no fun to dampen the enthusiasm with a budget. However, remember that being married will require you and your spouse to work on budgets periodically, so this is good practice. You will need to figure out what is affordable. At one time, the bride’s parents traditionally paid for the cost of a wedding. However, in this day and age, you don’t see that as often. Many couples have lived together for quite some time and are capable of paying for their special day. At any rate, your budget is your logical starting place. Even if you plan an outdoor wedding, there will still be many costs, and you will need to decide how much you can spend.
Pick Your Location
Even before you pick a date, we suggest you get your location all set. If it is a public space, you may well need a permit or to book it with the authorities, so this is a good starting place. Not sure of where to hold your outdoor wedding? Look to wineries, orchards, farms, or ranches. Some more giant AirBnb’s can host weddings. You may also have a friend or family member who has ample space. Remember, you will need room for people to park, too.
Accessibility can be a little more complicated for outdoor weddings. Your venue needs to have adequate parking. In addition, if there are older, less mobile family and friends invited, think about how they will get to your ceremony. If you are dealing with walkers and wheelchairs, this can be difficult. You might want to have the actual ceremony in a more accessible location and take pictures in other areas.
You also must remember that you may need to bring in portable bathrooms if the location does not have them. You will want the type that has hand-washing stations and towels.
Additionally, you would be wise to devise a “Plan B” location should Mother Nature not cooperate. We have been to a beach wedding that did not happen, as a storm blew in. The wedding ended up taking place in a covered driveway. While it was still beautiful and a moving ceremony, it required a lot of last-minute shuffling and changes. It was still unforgettable, though! Being flexible is an excellent way to start a successful marriage.
You can also rent tents, which are nice because you can get out of the hot sun and into the shade. They are not inexpensive, but they are certainly nice to have.
While you may know someone with a fantastic backyard, consider that option carefully. They may have neighbors who do not appreciate the crowd of people.
Looking at many outdoor wedding pictures, you will notice that most of them have great lighting. This may be something you can rent, but if not, you can buy outdoor lighting that isn’t too expensive. Alternatively, dig out those Christmas lights!
Set the Date for your wedding
Once a firm location is set, it’s time to pick the date. This is best done with your sets of parents’ input, as well as anyone you want to have to participate in your wedding. Of course, this must be done concurrently with setting up your location, so it can get tricky. You increase your odds of getting your location if you have a few dates that you can work with, not one certain one. Keep in mind that you cannot please everyone! If it becomes a source of stress, you just need to acknowledge that you tried your best and move on.
Book an Officiant
You will need someone to handle the ceremony. Perhaps this will be your own church’s pastor, minister, etc. If not, you will need to find someone to act as officiant. Include this in your budget; the fees for an officiant. As of this writing, the standard seems to be around $300. Some may advise you of their fee upfront. If it is a minister from the church, you should make an offering to cover the minister or pastor’s services.
How Many Attendees?
Having an outdoor wedding doesn’t mean you can invite everyone. You still need to factor in how much parking you have, how much your food and drink budget is, and you need to examine other costs such as music, favors, paying for the officiant, etc. Look at your total budget first, and then make a list of everyone you would like to invite so that you have a rough idea. Factor in a few extra in case of unexpected guests.
If you would like to offer “singles” the opportunity to bring a date, this is called a “Plus One.” This is a nice thing to do.
Save the Date Cards
Once you have the date, location, and officiant set up, we advise you to send out “Save the Date” cards to prospective invitees. Particularly in the case of “destination” weddings, you will want to give people plenty of time to set aside both time and money. Destination weddings are a lot of fun, but they may require some savings of funds for many people. Even if it is a local wedding, right in your town, these cards are handy, so people can hang them on their refrigerator and remember that they have a function to attend. What to put on your Save the Date cards? Have some engagement photos taken, and then add details about the date, time, and location. Also, remember to mention you plan an outdoor wedding.
Invitations are another area where you may find significant savings for your wedding budget. If you are even mildly crafty, you can make your own. Or, how about using a template that you can download? Stamps add up; we have seen invitations done as postcards. If your attendees are e-mail savvy, you can do invitations that way (you may wish to set emailed invitations to show if received/opened).
Most people like to ask that invitees respond to an invitation called “R.S.V.P.” This enables you to get a headcount for caterers. However, be warned that this can be frustrating. Many people simply don’t do it. If this information is vitally important due to your budget constraints, you may need to make phone calls or send emails to chase this information down. It can be hard not to take it personally if you don’t hear back, but not everyone loves to go to weddings.
Unless your ceremony is extremely short, you will need seating for your guests. Some outdoor wedding venues will have these available, but you will need to rent chairs in some cases. It is a good idea to inspect the chairs before you rent to ensure they are clean and sturdy. You will also need tables for people to sit with their food; for the buffet, the gift table, the cake table, and the guest book. Draw a diagram once your location is nailed down to see where everything will go and how many chairs and tables you need.
You will very likely want tablecloths on all of your tables. Most catering and/or rental companies will have one you can rent, along with tables. Professional venues may have their own. Even if they are only available in white, you can decorate your tables with your colors by putting colored runners over the tables. Adding candles, photos, and other decorative items is also lovely. Watch Craiglist or yard sales for boxes of leftover wedding decorating items. It is common to find boxes of vases, ribbons, and other items you can use for very little cash.
When you plan an outdoor wedding, a wedding arch is usually used as a focal point in outdoor weddings. Again, some venues may have them available. If not, you may want to build or purchase one of your own. Arches are excellent in photos and lovely to decorate with flowers or flowing fabric. If your backdrop is an old barn, you can “fake” an arch by draping flowy fabric and/or flowers in an arch pattern on the barn itself.
Galvanized steel looks great at an outdoor wedding filled with flowers in just about any way, shape, or form. This is an expensive way to decorate. Fun also are old barrels, tractors, or hay bales. Use what you can find to keep the cost down. Check for mice or critters first!
Music is a fun way to express your mood on your special day. Outdoor wedding venues, especially popular/often-used ones, will likely be able to accommodate musicians, both live or via a DJ. If you have your day in a neighbor’s field, you will want to take that into consideration. You may opt for live music during the ceremony with a band to follow or to hire a DJ who will play your favorite tunes and entertain. Live bands can be difficult to find unless you are in a more metropolitan area. This is an area where you may want to ask around to see if you can find someone.
If you plan to have dancing, you’ll need a dance floor. This is a pretty tough order unless your venue has one already.
Many weddings also feature slide shows featuring the new couple, which are a lot of fun to put together and then watch during dinner. These are challenging in a meadow, but they can be done if you are at a professional outdoor wedding venue. Sometimes, you may need a generator. Keep in mind that they are smelly and noisy if you want one.
Attendants at the outdoor wedding
How many attendants do you plan to have? There is, of course, no set number; it usually ranges. You may also want to ask someone to be your maid of honor and best man. Do you want to have a ring bearer and a flower girl? If so, this is something to remember and ask about early on.
If you opt to use a flower girl and ring-bearer, keep in mind that they may have a plan of their own. That’s okay, though! They are so cute that they may steal the show.
What to Wear at an outdoor wedding?
It’s your day, and the sky is the limit! One caveat: remember, you are at an outdoor wedding. It may be hot! It might be asking a lot of your groomsmen to wear tuxedos and your bridesmaids to wear long sleeves and long dresses. There are beautiful ideas on the internet and in magazines for outdoor weddings. Brides, be kind to your attendants! Remember that by participating in your special day, they also incur costs. If you want them in matching dresses, please consider the cost. At one of our favorite outdoor weddings, at a park in San Francisco, the bride simply told her attendants to pick out whatever they liked in navy blue. That way, she reasoned, they would still be in a “theme” for pictures but be able to wear the wedding finery again. No matter what your taste is in bridesmaids‘ dresses, it will not look good on everyone, and the likelihood of their ever wearing it again is practically nil. Think about it: don’t you have an old one or two in your closet?
Again, think “outdoor” for the groomsmen and keep it simple. Many outdoor weddings have the groomsmen in shirts and ties, or shirts, ties, and vests. To put on a jacket in the summer heat is pretty uncomfortable.
And most importantly, how about your wedding dress? Again, something overly formal will look odd at an outdoor wedding. Your best bet is to look at pictures to see what appeals to you. You also want to be comfortable, not hot, and sweat your makeup off. You may also want to be careful with high heels, lest you trip on the ground. Outdoor dresses tend to be light, flowing, and maybe sleeveless. They don’t have as much as the heavy ornamentation of traditional dresses, which may be just fine with you.
Flowers and Bouquets
Your outdoor wedding setting may be so perfect and idyllic that you can save money in the flowers department. This is also an excellent time to be creative and casually utilize natural items. An outdoor wedding is not a place for formal, stiff bouquets. Also, go with what is in season, rather than buying unseasonal flowers, which will cost more. You may have a friend or family member who is creative and good at arranging flowers. Ask for help! In our experience, people love to help with weddings, and they would probably enjoy the privilege of being asked. If you need inspiration, here is a helpful book with examples and instructions — plus gorgeous photos.
Hiring a good wedding photographer is so important! You will want to remember this day forever. Take your time to view their work. Ask around. If you have friends who were recently married, reach out. It is tempting to skimp on this because photographers are often quite expensive, but since you are going to all the trouble to put on a wedding, make sure it is properly memorialized. Check the internet, Yelp, and even the Better Business Bureau. Ask to see the photographer’s outdoor wedding portfolio. You want to ensure they have experience in this type of photography.
Print up some fun thank-you cards with your pictures, and make sure you get those thank-you’s sent out!
Plan the Food and drinks for an outdoor wedding
Food is always something that people look forward to at a wedding. It’s bound to be high-quality and delicious. Don’t disappoint! With an outdoor wedding, there are a few different ways to go. We have been to barbeques, farm-to-table types, potlucks on the beach, etc. If you plan to work with a caterer, let them know your food budget and see what they suggest. You can certainly talk to several caterers to see what sounds good. Many offer tasting menus so that you can try out the food. What fun this is! If your budget is such that you cannot afford a caterer, scale down your food and serve chicken or sandwiches. Again, if you want to ask for help, do! We have enjoyed potluck weddings and think they are a lot of fun. Part of the joy of having an outdoor wedding is the casual, fun vibe, so don’t fight it with overly fancy foods.
Be sure to include a variety of beverages, especially if it is hot out! Have iced water (float some lemon slices in it), and offer lemonade, too. You will need to decide if you are serving alcoholic drinks based on your budget. If you are at a winery, you may be able to serve their wine; you may also wish to offer beer and seltzers. You may also like to offer coffee for parties in the late evening. It is also lovely to have a tub with various sodas on ice.
The Wedding Cake
Do you have any idea how expensive wedding cakes are? For 100 people, plan for about $5 to $6 per serving or guest. Consider cupcakes if you want to look at something less formal than a wedding cake for an outdoor wedding! You can order a tiered cupcake stand that will look like a tiered cake, but cupcakes cost much less than a wedding cake. Another fun alternative: doughnuts, iced in your wedding colors. Who doesn’t love a doughnut? We loved a Hawaiian outdoor wedding where, instead of cake, individual malasadas were served (traditional Portuguese doughnut, much-loved in the islands). Even a tiered fancy cookie tree is fun if you have the cookies iced in your colors. Sheet cakes are another good option because they are much more affordable. You can combine things, make a small cake for photos, and then serve it plus the sheet cake. Whatever you choose, you’ll need to keep your cake (or whatever) safe from bugs until it’s time to pass it out.
Gifts for the wedding
Gifts for Bridesmaids and Groomsmen
After having participated in various weddings, we have accumulated a collection of gifts. Our groomsmen gifts favorites: an engraved pocket knife and an engraved flask. Our women’s favorite: an engraved, high-quality Christmas ornament, pretty earrings, and a bracelet. Bottles of good wine are excellent, and you can add your unique label.
Commemorate the day with wedding favors so that your guests remember how much fun your wedding was. We love refrigerator magnets (so handy) with photos on them. For country weddings, tiny bottles of jelly, jam, or honey (with a fun label) are a hit. We also cannot resist small boxes of chocolates. Favors do not need to be excessive but a nice small day souvenir. Another favor we love for outdoor weddings is folding fans. Scatter them over the tables, or have your flower-girl hand them out. They help your guests to keep cool.
When you plan an outdoor wedding, also remember this
Beware of Bugs!
One issue with outdoor weddings: bugs. You may want to put some sprays on your tables so that people can partake. Nothing ruins a party like having to swat mosquitos. Do ask about bugs, though, when setting your date and location.
The clean-up costs will likely be factored into your rental agreement if you use a professional outdoor wedding venue. However, if a friend or neighbor has been kind enough to loan you the use of their property, enlist a clean-up professional or put together a team. You don’t want to leave trash or messes behind. You may also need to move things back to where they were.
That is how to Plan an Outdoor Wedding! We hope your special day is fun and exciting. Congratulations!