Thinking of bringing your wedding into the beautiful outdoors, of dancing your first dance as husband and wife on a white sandy beach with the sun setting gently over the ocean behind you? Here, to get you started on your wedding under the sun (or the stars), are the 10 Top Tips for planning your outdoor wedding:
1. Have a Plan B. You can’t predict or control the weather, and a torrential downpour or freak snowstorm can put a serious crimp in your outdoor wedding plans. So remove the stress and pry yourself away from the Weather Channel by arranging for a Plan B location, another site to which you can move the entirety of your wedding in case of unwelcome party crashers like rain, lightning, ice, or swarms of gnats in biblical proportions. An ideal situation is booking a site that offers both outdoor and indoor banquet areas reserved in your name on the wedding day, but if that’s not possible, then walk through the steps needed to bring your party indoors at your home or other gathering place.
2. Know the weather. Plan your outdoor wedding day for a time when more moderate weather is expected. Stay away from the rainy season, hurricane time, and months when you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. For any location you’re considering, check the area’s average temperature and rainfall amounts on weather Web sites or through a destination site’s board of tourism and travel.
3. Use your location’s natural décor. So many wonderful outdoor wedding sites feature lovely floral gardens, ponds, trellises, wishing wells, waterfalls, and perhaps a gorgeous view of the setting sun. When searching for your ideal location, look for natural or built-in points of beauty for great backdrops and photo opportunities. (As an added bonus, you’ll spend far less at the florist or event designer’s when you don’t need to decorate the landscape yourself!)
4. Use the most beautiful light show possible. Plan your outdoor wedding to make the most of a spectacular sunset, whether over a mountain range or over the ocean. Those majestic pinks and purples that fill the sky when the sun retires for the day make for incredible backdrops for your ceremony, and unforgettable wedding photos as well. Visit http://www.usno.navy.mil ahead of time to find out the precise sunset time for any day of the year.
5. Dress for the elements. Choose wedding gown and tuxedo fabrics and styles to ensure your comfort on the big day. Your wedding-day fashion experts can help you choose the perfect silk dress and the most dashing men’s jackets for those outdoor weddings out in the sun. And don’t forget about nighttime! Plan now for the later hours of your affair, and select a stylish wrap or jacket for your beachside, boat, or backyard event as the sun sets down and the breezes whirl through your party.
6. Alert your vendors! All of your vendors need to know that you’re planning an outdoor wedding. Every detail from your menu to your beverages, to the décor and the entertainment, is affected by outdoor weather and temperature conditions, power usage, and other in-the-wild factors, so use full disclosure for your vendors’ best preparation.
7. Keep your guests’ comfort in mind. Let them know that the wedding will be outdoors as well, and prepare them for the expected weather so that they may dress appropriately and bring along their sunblock. Provide fans or air conditioners for those steamy days, and plan to heat your tent for the cooler night hours.
8. Research your rental agents. Outdoor weddings can require a significant amount of rentals. You may need to rent tables, chairs, lights, and everything from the silverware to the cake table to create a beautiful ballroom in what was recently a bare outdoor expanse. Finding a quality rental agency is of the utmost importance for the seamless flow and appearance of your day, so check with the American Rental Association at http://www.ararental.org for a list of accredited rental centers near you.
9. Invest in a good tent. Take no shortcuts here. So learn all you can about the best models, colors and styles of tents and rent the best choice possible. (Also, ask your caterer if she needs a separate tent for her food preparation area, and think about setting portable toilets inside more attractive, draped smaller tents as well).
10. Get it in writing. An outdoor wedding may be one of the most beautiful styles out there, but it does add a few dozen extra steps to your Things to Do list. Since you’ll be out in the open, you’ll need to acquire the appropriate permits and permissions needed for an outdoor celebration with all the trimmings. Call the town hall or police department to inquire about permits for the following: parking, overnight parking in a residential area, public gathering during certain times of the day, exemptions from sound ordinances and curfews, on-site alcohol consumption, on-site food preparation and serving, open flames such as torches, candles and even fireworks, and any other ordinances that need to be covered. Handle these legalities right away, to avoid being fined (or even jailed) by the authorities, and to avoid any other unwelcome surprises on your wedding day.