There’s something magical about celebrating love surrounded by the beauty of nature. But holding an outdoor ceremony or reception (or both) comes with its own set of unique challenges. With a little preparation, though, an outdoor wedding can run just as smoothly as an indoor one – and be a truly personalized experience.
“An outdoor wedding gives you more room to be creative,” says Erin Bishop, principal planner at Filosophi Event Planning in Vancouver. “It’s a blank canvas.” Lisa Lee, principal wedding planner for Shing Weddings, agrees: “If it’s an intimate space, like your parents’ backyard, it’s your own space, so you can do whatever you want.”
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Choose a place you love and figure out the logistics later. “Everything is surmountable,” Bishop notes. “Everything can be dealt with. You can make a wedding happen in a desert. Look for a space you feel comfortable in, that’s beautiful, and go from there putting the pieces together.” After all, generators, portable washrooms and pop-up kitchens can transform the most isolated of locations into a party-ready venue.
Understand the Budget
While the needs an outdoor wedding may sound overwhelming, the cost usually isn’t much different than holding your wedding at an indoor venue, where many items – dish rentals, staffing, set-up – are worked into the per-head cost. “Some brides seem to think it’s going to cost more to hold an outdoor wedding because there’s a billion line items, but it works out about the same on average, just broken up a little differently,” says Bishop. Being able to purchase your own alcohol can be a big savings, too – an option not always available at indoor venues.
Assess What You’ve Got
There’s certainly a benefit to working with established outdoor venues, points out Shing Weddings’ Lisa Lee: “Venues that have an outdoor element are prepared for everything already, which makes things easier.” But if you’re starting from scratch, remember that washrooms, electrical outlets and catering space with power and water are essential elements. If you’re setting up flooring outside, irrigation may be needed underneath. You’ll have to consider parking, too, adds Lee. “It’s not just about where your guests will park, but about just having enough time to park as well and making it easily accessible for guests with disabilities.”
Plan for Shelter
Don’t forget to rent a tent, whatever the weather. “You need shelter no matter what; there’s no circumstance in which this isn’t a good idea to have one,” notes Bishop. “Even on a beautiful day, it gets cold out at night and dewy, and a tent cuts that out.”
Just don’t leave it to the last minute. “Some people think they’ll just add a tent if it’s going to rain,” says Bishop, “but they have to remember that an entire city’s worth of brides are looking at the weather report that morning, too. Accept that deposit as your peace-of-mind payment and go for it.”
Look for Experience
Hire vendors who have experience working outdoors. This is particularly important when it comes to choosing a caterer, since there’s a world of difference between working out of a banquet-hall kitchen and creating a kitchen in the middle of an empty field. “You don’t want to be anybody’s guinea pig,” notes Bishop. Look for companies that offer “off-site catering” – they’ll provide all the equipment and generators and make sure everything’s functional and efficient (and FoodSafe, of course).
Love Your Plan B
Even in July, the elements can let you down, so be prepared to make the best of the situation. “You’ve got to get over the weather risk and accept that you love the space even if it was to rain,” says Lee. Dreading the possibility of having to execute your Plan B? Analyze what you dislike about it, and then get to the root of the problem.
“If your back-up plan was to have a tent over the ceremony, but you’re hoping that doesn’t happen, what can you do with that tent to make you love it more?” says Bishop. “Are you worried it’ll feel too small or constricted or dark? If you identify what you don’t like instinctually about your Plan B, you can eliminate those concerns. In this case, get a tent with a clear top, or a bigger or taller tent.”
Be a Good Friend (and Neighbour)
Put yourself in the shoes of your loved ones and be prepared to hand out umbrellas, bug spray or bottles of water as needed to keep everybody comfortable and happy throughout the day. “Envision yourself as a guest,” suggests Lee. “What would you expect or might cause you discomfort?”
And don’t forget about the comfort of non-guests, too: be aware of local noise bylaws so your party doesn’t get shut down too early. Bishop recommends giving the neighbours a heads-up if you can. “Dropping off a bottle of wine usually doesn’t hurt,” she adds.
The key thing to remember, whether your wedding is a DIY lakeside affair, on the grounds of a five-star hotel, indoors or outdoors, is that the “who” is more important than the “where,” reflects Lee. “You just need to be happy that you’re marrying the right person.”