Top 11 Tips for Planning an Outdoor Wedding That Your Guests will Rave About!
Planning an outdoor wedding that your guests will rave about…it’s easier said than done! It’s tempting to get seduced by the rolling hills, ocean views and floral splendor of an outdoor venue. We get it. About 95% of our events here in Southern California have an outdoor component. We love ‘em! Can’t get enough of ‘em! But even here in Cali, with its mild climate year-round, it takes a lot more than blue skies and pretty scenery to pull off a comfortable, delightful, memorable outdoor event, so before you go running for the hills with the sound of music playing in the background, we’re going to break down some realities of the outdoor wedding scenario. Read on for our top tips for ensuring your outdoor wedding goes off without a hitch!
1. Be 1 Step Ahead of Mother Nature
Regardless of the time of year you are getting married, if you are planning an outdoor wedding, you need to account for the elements. Mother Nature can be unpredictable at times, so don’t get stuck out in the rain/snow/wind/heat wishing you had planned better. It is always important to have a contingency plan in place. Check with your venue about an alternative indoor space in the event of rain or colder than usual temperatures. If you’re at an all-outdoor venue, reserve a tent through your rental company. I promise you, guests will complain about your wedding experience FOREVER if you have not accounted for the elements and made sure they are comfortable. Plan ahead!
Paper goods and candles absolutely do not mix with wind. Add chimneys to your taper candles to ensure they stay lit. Make double sided tape your best friend and secure place cards to the tables. Create napkin pockets to keep your menus from blowing away. Use sturdy, heavy floral vessels to ensure your centerpieces don’t tip over. Oh, the stories we could tell about the our early days of planning and gusts of wind literally blowing away our wedding receptions.
2. Create a Comfortable Guest Experience
When planning for an outdoor wedding, we want guests to feel as comfortable celebrating outside as they would at an indoor event. There are simple ways to provide a little extra comfort for your guests when they are spending an afternoon and evening outside. Stock their welcome bags with goodies like sunscreen, sunglasses and snacks for the bus ride to your location. Welcome them to the event with a refreshing beverage. At the ceremony, provide parasols to protect them from the blazing sun overhead. We love printing the ceremony program onto paper fans that pull double duty to provide information and a bit of a breeze for your guests. At cocktail hour, large umbrellas provide shade for mingling. Offering pashminas to guests who feel chilly and rolling in heaters after sunset is a great way to ensure your guests stay toasty during dinner and dancing. These are the elements and special touches that keep your guests focused on the important moments of the evening rather than distracted and upset because they are uncomfortable. Keep them happy and they will rave about your wedding for years to come!
3. Bring everything, including the Kitchen Sink
The beauty of an outdoor space is its simplicity. The downside is that, oftentimes, there is no infrastructure in place. Let’s talk about the basics: electricity. Yes, it’s the truly unglamorous side to planning a wedding, but these components are invaluable. Your outdoor venue may or may not be equipped with power, so look into renting generators (be sure to get the quiet ones!) for the musical entertainment, kitchen, lighting and restrooms.
Wait, what about restrooms? Oh yes, friends. I’m sure you never dreamed of using the words “wedding” and port-a-potty” in the same sentence, but nonetheless, it’s a problem we need to solve at a more minimal blank slate outdoor event location when planning an outdoor wedding. But don’t worry, they make really fancy “luxury” trailers that are infinitely nicer than the plastic festival potties.
If you’ve dreamt of a canopy of twinkle lights over your dance floor or floral installations dripping down over your dinner tables, you’ll need to have structures built to accommodate these design elements. Metal truss is often used as a foundation for these decorative additions and can be softened by covering it in fabric or custom wooden facades. These structures help to define your event spaces and create height and dimension to an otherwise flat area.
And then there’s all the additional “stuff” needed to comfortably hold an event. Seating, dining tables and tabletop items, a functioning kitchen for preparing and serving your meal, garbage cans, heaters, etc. Plan to reserve a healthy portion of your wedding budget for rental items (approximately 25-35%), because you’re going to be renting EVERYTHING.
Honestly, blank outdoor spaces are what we live for because they offer the freedom to design the space however we want to achieve our clients’ vision, but getting there is a complex logistical web. It sounds like a complicated process…and, no doubt, it is…but with the right team, anything is possible!