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How to Plan an Outdoor Wedding: 32 Tips to Avoid Hitches

Outdoor weddings are beautiful and super common. They also come with their challenges. Take on any issue with our rundown of common outdoor wedding problems and how to fix them all.

By Elizabeth Blasi

There’s something magical about hosting an outdoor wedding and employing mother nature as your wedding venue. However, no matter where you hold your wedding outside, there are certain obstacles that come with outdoor weddings. Even the most picturesque days can come with their share of challenges. From ever-changing elements and uninvited guests (bugs) to tricky logistics and rentals, outdoor weddings require some extra planning. Here is everything you need to know about how to avoid hitches when planning weddings outside:

Stay Ahead of Weather Trends

The weather has and always will be unpredictable. Every season brings its own set of beauty and its own set of difficulties. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to try to get ahead of any weather problems.

1. Know your location.

If you’re getting married close to home, you probably have a good idea of weather trends and how fast they may change. For example, if you live in Los Angeles, you know that it rarely rains. If your wedding is in a location you’re not super familiar with, get to know the area. Use the Farmer’s Almanac to learn about how weather changes in that region and what elements are usually involved. You can even cross-check your wedding date. If you’re getting married at a wedding venue in Cleveland, Ohio or Syracuse, NY, for example, you may want to have a backup plan for snow.

2. Come prepared.

Once you know what elements to expect (or what you could expect), you can formulate a plan and get ahead of the weather.

If you expect rain...

Every season is subject to a little rain every now and again. If your wedding date falls during a particularly rainy season or your wedding location is in a typically rainy area (like a fall field wedding in the PNW), here are some precautions to take.

3. Put a deposit down on a tent.

Keep it stowed away and designate members of the venue staff to put it up if the weather turns. (They should practice this ahead of time.) Alternatively, look for venues with partial coverings for outdoor ceremonies if you need to make a quick switch and bring things more inside.

4. Cover the food.

If you’re hosting an outdoor reception, it’s a good idea to keep that area covered with some kind of weatherproof structure. These can be completely open on all sides so they still achieve the outdoor feel. A tent, awning, or gazebo (if there’s one on the property) can keep catering dry.

5. Provide umbrellas.

This goes for those weddings in areas especially prone to rain. Bulk order cheap umbrellas or parasols in your wedding colors and place them in buckets by the entrance to your ceremony. Craft a cute sign that says something like “Your eyes might not stay dry but at least you will” and allow guests to take an umbrella to stay dry throughout the night.

If you expect high winds...

The wind has a way of shaking things up.

6. Secure any coverings.

If you ordered tents or awnings for your ceremony or reception, make sure they are wind resistant (the vendor should be able to tell you this). The last thing you want is a tent pole letting loose and hurting any of your guests.

7. Weigh everything down.

From decor elements like place cards and centerpieces to logistical elements like lights, make sure everything is either taped down or being otherwise weighed down to keep it in place.

If you expect humidity or excess heat...

Everyone wants sun on their outdoor wedding day. Too much of it, though, and your guests will be melting (and burning).

8. Plan around the sun’s peak hours.

Between noon and 3 p.m., the sun is typically at its brightest and hottest. If you can start your ceremony before or right after, things may cool down even slightly.

9. Provide SPF.

First of all, be sure to apply SPF ahead of your ceremony and, if you’re wearing makeup, make sure it contains SPF, too. Purchase small tubes of sunscreen and place them in bins close to the entrance of your ceremony for guests to grab and apply as needed throughout the day. Put any extra tubes in the bathrooms for guests to restock if necessary.

10. Keep guests cool.

If you’re dealing with sun and humidity, you’ll want to double down on protection for guests. Similarly, provide paper fans to all guests as they enter the venue. If you want to get creative, you could even print your ceremony programs on the fans and have your greeters or ushers hand them out to everyone.

11. Stay hydrated.

Make sure you provide small water bottles or large serving jugs of water close by the ceremony and reception. Add fruit to the mix for an upgrade to keep your guests hydrated and happy.

If you’re getting married in cold weather...

It’s hard to enjoy anything when you’re chilly. Don’t cool temps distract your wedding guests from your big day.

12. Cover your guests.

As with other weather conditions, think of your guests and give them what they need to be comfortable. In this case, a light shawl will do. (If you think guests will need something warmer than that, you might want to consider planning an indoor ceremony instead). Drape them on the back of chairs or place them in baskets at the end of each pew or row for guests to grab.

13. Bring the heat.

Again, this comes down to knowing the area. If the temperatures typically drop at night, come prepared with space heaters and ask early on if the venue can provide heat lamps for outdoor areas. You may also consider working with your venue to set up some kind of fire pit situation for guests to enjoy and keep warm by.

14. Serve warm drinks.

If you’re hosting a fall or winter fête, work with your bartenders to create warm signature cocktails and mocktails for your reception (or even during your ceremony). Nothing tastes better than a Hot Toddy once the cold weather hits.

If your wedding location has a lot of dirt or sand...

For those memorable beach and backyard weddings, you and your guests may run into issues around unwanted dirt and sand.

15. Protect the dress.

For brides wearing dresses with even slight trains, it’s wise to invest in a bridal petticoat. This will get that hem off the ground and keep it as clean as possible. Although, most wedding dresses end up with dirty hems, so don’t fret too much about this.

16. Keep sand out of shoes.

If you’re having a beach wedding, encourage guests to remove their shoes. Fortunately, they’ll know the location ahead of time and likely plan their shoe choice accordingly. You can opt to provide cheap sandals for guests to slip into for the ceremony and reception, too.

17. Consider a floor.

Another option for outdoor weddings with questionable ground situations is simply applying a floor. You can rent temporary flooring in the form of wood planks or foam tiles that will keep you and your guests off the, well, ground. (This is one of the most important ideas for backyard weddings so you don’t ruin your lawn!)

Plan for Pests

No, we’re not talking about any distant relatives with bad blood. We’re talking bugs, birds, and anything else that might count as an unwanted guest.

Whether you’re getting married in the AM or PM, plan for bugs to act as plus-ones at any outdoor wedding.

18. Provide bug spray.

Add small bottles of bug spray to your guests’ welcome bags.

19. Talk to the venue.

Check with your wedding venue to see if they’ve recently exterminated the grounds.

20. Burn citronella candles or citronella oil.

Incorporate these into your centerpieces for a decorative and functional element.

21. Pick the right flowers.

Avoid picking out florals that attract bugs. Talk to your florist about finding flowers that work with your style and colors but keep bugs at bay. Marigolds, lavender, and petunias are all gorgeous options.

22. Prevent Bird Encounters.

Birds can add unpleasant sounds, smells, and leave behind surprises if left unattended at your outdoor wedding. Plus, there’s nothing worse than a bird getting trapped in a tent or awning during a reception full of food. When booking your venue, talk with the grounds or property manager to see how they recommend preventing bird encounters. Some places may suggest fake hawk statues or reflectors to posts in strategic locations.

Make Sure to Have the Proper Infrastructure

As mentioned, outdoor weddings can require extra equipment, which can cause extra issues.

23. Hire a Professional Tent Installation.

Tents can be a costly addition to any wedding celebration. In addition to paying for the hefty fees, tents tend to come with their own set of complications if not handled correctly. If you’ve ever been to the beach on a windy day, you know what we’re talking about.

While some vendors will add a fee for installation, if yours doesn’t, we highly recommend going with a trusted service that provides one all-inclusive fee for tent installation. Now is not the time for you, your partner, your family, or your friends to figure out how to install a tent for dozens of people.

Also, be sure to measure the location you want to put the tent at your venue. Don’t eyeball it. You may end up with a tent that’s way too big for the space or too small for your guests.

24. Check the Electrical Offerings Before the Event.

What’s a party without proper lighting and a quality sound system? And what do both of these wedding essentials need? Outlets—a lot of them.

Long before you set anything up, do a walkthrough of the venue grounds with the owners and the lighting and sound vendors. Figure out early on exactly what electrical offerings they have anywhere you’ll need to add some extra support.

Lighting and sound vendors should be familiar with the extra lengths outdoor weddings can require, though. When you’re searching for your vendors, be sure to make it clear that you’re planning an outdoor wedding so they can add any extra preparation measures or equipment to your original contract and plan.

25. Avoid Wedding Crashers.

If having your wedding in an outdoor location near a lot of foot traffic, don’t be surprised if you, your partner, and wedding guests are greeted by strangers. If you don’t have an issue with those watching, that’s great! Just make sure to block off entrances so that you’re not having wedding crashers barge in on your big night.

If you’re looking for more privacy, try investing or renting larger (and taller) plants to place around the venue.

Whether you're looking for wedding venues in Salt Lake City, UT or San Diego, CA outdoor weddings are beautiful and common. Don’t be discouraged by the occasional challenge—simply be prepared. Your day will go off without a hitch!

Zach Caddy Photographer InlineImage 1080x720 Photo Credit // Zach Caddy

Other Outdoor Wedding Planning Tips

Looking for some more outdoor wedding tips to ensure your day goes off without a hitch? Here are a few additional things to keep in mind when planning your outdoor wedding reception and/or outdoor wedding ceremony:

26. Be Clear on Your Invitation.

You want to let your guest list know that you’re hosting an outdoor wedding—and you want to let them know in a way that doesn’t leave any room for misunderstandings. (The last thing you want is for people to show up for a more rugged outdoor ceremony dressed in indoor clothes!)

That’s why it’s important to be crystal clear on your invitation. In addition to the normal details you’d include on your wedding invite (like the location, date, and time of day of your event), you’ll also want to clarify that your ceremony and/or reception will be outdoors—as well as details about the terrain and what people need to know to be comfortable. (For example, if you’re getting married in a snowy area, you’ll want to let people know so they can dress appropriately.)

To really make sure guests know your “I do’s” will be held outdoors, add the details to your wedding website as well.

27. Make Sure There Are Restrooms Available.

If you’re hosting your outdoor wedding at an established outdoor wedding venue, chances are, they’ll take care of the restroom situation.

But if you’re getting married in a more remote location (for example, in the woods), you’ll need to provide portable restrooms for your guests.

28. Stick to a Budget.

Just like any other type of wedding, if you want your outdoor wedding to be an event that brings you joy—and not stress—you need to set (and stick to!) a budget,

Before you get too far into the wedding planning process, sit down with your partner to iron out how much you can spend on a wedding. Then, make a commitment to stick to that budget.

The better you stick to your budget, the less debt or financial challenges you’ll have to deal with after your outdoor wedding—and the happier and less stressed you’ll be as a result!

29. Take Advantage of the Natural Scenery for the Wedding Decor.

When you’re getting married in a beautiful outdoor location, you don’t need to go over the top with wedding decor. Instead, take advantage of the natural scenery and environment to set the look, feel, and decor for your wedding.

For example, if you’re getting married in a beautiful meadow, incorporate the wildflowers into your wedding decor (for example, by creating bouquets for your bridesmaids or centerpieces for cocktail hour tables). If your venue has beautiful mountain views, arrange your ceremony space so that you and your guests can enjoy the landscape while you exchange your vows.

The point is, when you’re getting married in a beautiful outdoor location, the best wedding decor at your disposal? Nature itself—so take advantage.

30. Master the Seasonal Menu.

As mentioned, when you’re getting married in nature, you want to take advantage of the natural landscape—and that includes your menu.

Plan a menu around the foods that are in season in the area and at the time of year that you’re hosting your nuptials. For example, if you’re getting married in the summer, you may want to incorporate fresh berries into your wedding cake. If you’re having an outdoor wedding in the fall, consider dishes around more autumnal foods like squash or root vegetables.

31. Consider Hiring a Wedding Planner.

There are a lot of things to manage when planning your dream wedding. And depending on how much time and energy you have to devote to the planning process, all of those things can feel overwhelming—and that includes when planning outdoor wedding.

If the thought of planning a wedding overwhelms you, consider hiring a wedding planner. They can take care of managing the logistics and make sure your wedding day goes off without a hitch—not to mention make the process a lot less stressful for you and your partner!

32. Have a Plan B.

It doesn’t matter how well you plan for an outdoor event. There could be last-minute issues (like inclement weather) that make it impossible to host your wedding outdoors.

Which is why, when planning weddings at outdoor venues, it’s an absolute must to have a Plan B.

Bonus: Move Your Wedding Indoors.

Talk to your venue to come up with an alternative plan in case you can’t have your ceremony and reception outdoors. For example, if you’re planning a garden wedding, you’ll want to confirm there’s an indoor space you can move to if there’s a thunderstorm on your wedding day (and that the indoor location is included in your wedding pricing). Or, if you’re planning on hosting your wedding photos on the beach, you’ll want to choose a backup location in case high winds make it impossible for your wedding photographer to capture shots of you, your partner, and your wedding party.

If you have last minute changes...

No matter how much you can plan ahead to avoid these common outdoor wedding risks, issues may arise last minute that just can't predict. Whether it's the weather or any other external factors impacting your venue, having to make last minute changes like postponing your wedding ceremony may be something you have to consider.

No matter the reason, Zola's got your back on all you need to update your vendors and your guests, and ensure that you can pull off your wedding. Whenever, wherever.

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