How To Plan An Outdoor Wedding That's Beautiful & Affordable
Getting Married Outdoors?
You've taken the giant leap, from just a couple to engaged couple! Congratulations! You're getting ready to embark on one of the most emotional, beautiful, stressful, and meaningful all-rolled-into-one times in your life! One of the most important decisions you will make in all this wedding mayhem is where you will say your "I do's." Will you get married in a beautiful cathedral or a tiny chapel, a sandy beach or a charming park, a friend's backyard or a huge hotel ballroom? If you're like many couples, you can't imagine yourself tying the knot anywhere except under a beautiful canopy of gorgeous blue sky, birds flying overhead, and a breeze blowing ever so slightly. Although there's no denying the appeal of an outdoor wedding, the realities of planning a successful one are quite different.
Picking The Venue For Your Outdoor Wedding
You may have a favorite park, beach, or even a national forest where the two of you have spent lots of time together. Maybe it's the spot where he proposed or the site of your first date or numerous Sunday picnics. Although it's a wonderful notion to pick your site based on romance and romance alone, you can't just arrive at the site, bridesmaids and groomsmen in tow and have a wedding! Most venues require a permit to have a public gathering, so check with the city or town before printing those invitations. Even public beaches have rules about using the beach for weddings and as far as beaches in tropical locations, a hefty "beach use" fee may be attached. Check it out before you get hit with a big disappointment and possibly a fine for holding a public gathering without a permit!
Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia
Outdoor Weddings: The Weather
The first and foremost problem with outdoor weddings is...you guessed it...the unpredictability of the weather. Although there are now actually websites where you can type in a date months into the future and it will tell you the weather, that doesn't mean that you can take that as the final word. Meterology is not an exact science, especially months in advance, so it's smart to have a back-up plan. Although it's supposed to be good luck for it to rain on your wedding day, for the outdoor wedding, it can be disastrous! Hopefully, your venue has some type of shelter available that you can quckly move to if skies become threatening. However, a tent rental company standing by may be your answer if the skies decide to rain on your parade. Even if the skies clear and there is only rain leading up to the time of your actual ceremony, be aware of the fact that you may be dealing with expensive shoe heels sinking into wet ground, not just yours, but those of your guests.
The Lake House @ Lake Carolina- Columbia, SC
Wind: A Potential Outdoor Ceremony Wrecker
A secondary weather issue that can have almost as disastrous consequences as rain for an outdoor wedding is wind. If you are picturing beautiful candelabras flanking the end of each row of chairs going down your aisle, you might want to reconsider. Wind can quickly blow out candles and nothing is more frustrating than continuously relighting candles leading up till the ceremony or looking back at wedding pictures and seeing only half of your candles lit! A good alternative to traditional candles is LED candles which cannot be blown out no matter how fiercely the winds blow. Wind can also make a shambles of lightweight wedding decor like paper parasols and vases, so make sure things are cleverly held down with hidden weights to prevent an unexpected lift-off during the ceremony!
Outdoor Wedding Dresses
Of course, we've skipped over the best part of the whole wedding for the bride...picking that gorgeous wedding dress! However, outdoor weddings pose special issues for brides when choosing a wedding gown. Depending on the season and temperature, fabric is important for your outdoor wedding dress. If the wedding is on the beach, you want a fabric that has the ability to be dry cleaned, with some hope of sand and salt actually coming out of the dress. Crepe, lightweight washable satin, jersey, or chiffon are good choices for outdoor wedding dresses, because the fabrics are fluid and breathable. If your wedding is in the early spring or fall, be aware that the beautiful strapless outdoor wedding gown you chose may work in the afternoon, but after sunset, temperatures can drop drastically. Unless you want all of your wedding photographs showing you clenching your teeth to keep them from chattering, invest in a wrap of some sort, either a pashmina to match your gown, or a stole. Many brides are opting to use vintage fur stoles held together with an heirloom rhinestone brooch as wraps.
Your Wedding Guests
Something that many couples don't consider in planning an outdoor wedding is their guests. Even though it's your day, that doesn't mean you shouldn't think about your guests' comfort and safety. When you think about your venue and the people you are inviting, you need to ask yourself if you have elderly guests who may have trouble navigating sandy or uneven terrain. Yes, you have that cute flip flop basket for your guests to change into flip flops before they walk across the sand, but can your 82 year old grandmother even walk in flip flops, much less navigate across sand? A solution could be to bring in inexpensive plywood and build a sturdy path for guests so they won't have to deal with unlevel ground. Extreme heat and cold is a factor as well. Many people, not just the elderly, can't tolerate extremes in heat or cold. Providing paper parasols for guests to shield them from the sun or shawls to wrap around chilly shoulders is a thoughtful and kind gesture.
When Nature Calls At The Outdoor Wedding
Another consideration is the lack of appropriate restroom facilities for your guests outdoors. If your ceremony and reception are to be held outdoors, are there nearby restrooms in close proximity to the festivities, so guests don't feel like they are going for a hike every time they need to use the restroom? If not, portable restrooms may be the answer. Port-a-johns have come a long way since they were parked in row after unpleasant smelling row at your college outdoor concert! There are entire trailers available with toilet facilities inside. Even basic port-a-johns can be clean and well-lit if you use a little forethought. Again. consider the age of your guests. Many very young children and older adults can't really navigate a portable toilet, so this is definitely something to consider. If toilets are available, but not as close as they could be, borrow or rent a golf cart to trolley guests to and from the facilities!
Potty In Style!
Choosing Flowers For An Outdoor Wedding
If you have your heart set on a certain type of flower for your decor and bouquets, before you make a final decision, consult with your florist about the hardiness of the blooms. If you choose a gorgeous flower like hydrangeas for your bouquet, be aware they do very poorly without water and will wilt in a short period of time. Be prepared to get them in a vase as soon as possible after the ceremony. Ditto with fragile orchids that are actually clipped from the stem and individually wired into the bouquet. A little exposure to heat and you'll be leaving a trail of orchid petals behind you! A hardy filler flower that's being used once again after a long hiatus in the wedding flower world is baby's breath. No longer used as a filler, it's being used as a stand alone flower in a huge gorgeous bunch. The best thing about it besides its heat tolerance is it also dries beautifully.
A Few Final Tips About Outdoor Weddings
You're just about squared away for the outdoor wedding of your dreams, but here are a few final considerations before you waltz down the aisle. Electricity...will you need it? If so, are there any outlets available and are they the appropriate voltage? Make sure battery powered generators are available for things that need power. You might want to go unplugged if your guest list is small and choose acoustic guitar for your music. There's nothing more beautiful than the sound of a lone trumpet or a flute outdoors and the sound is certainly powerfully enough to be heard without a sound system. However, be aware that the quiet spot you chose may seem very loud when there is wind, planes flying overhead, the crash of waves, people noises from nearby areas, sirens, etc.. Your vows will have to be either spoken "loud and clear" or amplified in some way to be heard.
Weddings can get complicated and certainly outdoor ones come with their own considerations, but there truly is nothing like the beauty of an outdoor wedding. Outdoor venues give weddings a personal feel that is hard to match in a hotel ballroom or rented hall. So be aware of the problems that may arise, prepare for the worst and hope for the best, but if it's what you have your heart set on...go for it. At the end of the day, you'll be married and that's the goal anyway, isn't it!?
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