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Turning the Great Outdoors into a Great Wedding

Leila Kalmbach


Maybe you dream of walking down the aisle barefoot, the sea lapping at your feet, the sun setting behind you. Maybe you want to marry on a sunny rock overlooking a waterfall. Maybe you want to say “I do” in a field of wildflowers. The great outdoors can add an element of enormity and beauty to your event, and provide the perfect backdrop for a romantic wedding, so it’s no surprise that so many people want to be in nature to say their vows. However, nature doesn’t always behave the way we’d like it to. It’s part of the power of the great outdoors that one day it can be 75 and sunny, and the next it can be 45 and hailing, but this shift becomes much less appealing when you’re counting on nice weather for your wedding. So do you want to risk it? If you do have an outdoor wedding, you must be prepared for the possibilities. You must be able to be flexible and not stress out too much if some part of the plan has to be changed at the last minute. If you’re not OK with last-minute changes, you may want to stay inside from the get-go. On the other hand, if you prepare adequately and know you’ll stay cool no matter what, an outdoor wedding can be a beautiful way to celebrate your marriage.

If you do choose to have your wedding outdoors, here are some tips for making everything go smoothly.

Expect the best, plan for the worst. Choose a venue that has both indoor and outdoor areas so that you won’t be stuck outside if the weather is awful. If it’s sprinkling or the temperature is not ideal, you can always have the ceremony outside and the reception inside – or if the weather is really bad, you can move everything inside. Make a plan for how things will be set up both outside and inside so that you and the people you hire to help you will be prepared either way. You might also consider renting a sturdy tent in case of brutal sun or light rain. In heavy rain, though, no tent will save you from the mud that will be created when the ground gets soaked. If you’re unable to hold your wedding at a location where you can easily move inside in case of rain, you might want to include a note in the wedding invitations informing guests of the alternate location in case of rain.

Find out about permits ahead of time. If your wedding will be held in a public place, you may need a permit. Make sure you ask about all the rules for weddings. Some places limit the amount of time your wedding can take place. There may be rules about photography, setting up tents, table and chair setup, sound volume, littering, serving alcohol and more. Be sure you know ahead of time so that you don’t run into last-minute snags.

Plan drinks to combat bad weather. If you suspect it may be hot out on the day of your wedding, plan to offer cool water or other beverages to guests as they get seated. If it might be cold or rainy, plan to serve hot coffee and tea. Make sure appropriate beverages are available to your guests after the ceremony and throughout the reception as well – more than just alcohol, which is dehydrating. Beverages can go a long way toward making your guests feel more comfortable in unpleasant weather.

Blowing in the wind. Even on the most beautiful of days, wind can be a problem in outdoor weddings. Don’t let wind catch you by surprise. If you’re hoping to have your wedding outdoors, choose fabrics for your wedding dress and bridesmaids’ dresses that aren’t so light they’ll blow all over the place. When you choose your dresses, make sure to tell the person helping you that you’ll have an outdoor wedding. The consultant should be able to help you choose fabrics that will stay put or just blow lightly, according to your preference. Make sure your hairstylist knows that you’re having an outdoor wedding so that he or she can plan accordingly for a style that won’t get messed up within a matter of minutes. Also, make sure to alert the bridesmaids and groomsmen that there may be wind and they’ll probably want to wear pomade, hairspray or other styling products.

Talk to your vendors about holding the wedding outdoors. Your florist will be able to advise you of which flowers will stay freshest even if the weather is unpleasant. Your caterer will be able to help you choose foods that won’t spoil. Your rental and decor shop will be able to advise you of what sorts of tables, table coverings and decorations will fare the best in the outdoor conditions you’re likely to encounter. You may be surprised at all the little things you must take into consideration when planning a wedding outdoors, but your vendors will be aware of what they can do to help.

Consider the noise. Imagine having a conversation with a friend inside a silent church. Now imagine one at the beach, the waves crashing behind you, kids running around playing and shrieking, and gulls cawing. You’ll have to talk a lot louder on the beach in order to be heard by your friend, and the same is true of your wedding guests. If you plan on holding your wedding outdoors, plan ahead to make sure you can hear what’s going on from everywhere guests will be seated. You might want to rent sound equipment, including clip mikes for those with speaking parts, if you have any doubts that you’ll be heard. If you’re hiring a DJ or a live band, you may be able to use some of their equipment for an extra cost.

Preparing the venue. For an indoor wedding, most of your preparations will be done the morning of the event. An outdoor wedding, on the other hand, requires a little more prep ahead of time. Head to your site a few days before the wedding to make sure everything is as you’ve agreed: grass mowed, hedges trimmed If you’re expecting flowers that haven’t yet bloomed, you may need to bring in extras, whether cut or potted. Dealing with the sun. If your wedding day is likely to be sunny – and in Central Texas, the chances are good – then plan ahead to avoid discomfort on your part and that of your guests. Plan the event to be held in shady areas as much as possible, or consider putting up a tent or tarp to block out some sun. If your ceremony will be held during the day, arrange things so that the sun will be behind guests, not in their eyes. If the ceremony will be at sunset, you’ll probably want the bridal party to stand in front of the setting sun.

If there’s one aspect of the great outdoors that will really bug you, it’s the bugs. Unfortunately, mosquitoes tend to be most prevalent at dusk, when a lot of weddings are just shifting into the reception. If you’ll have fans set up to combat the heat, you may be able to keep most bugs at bay at the same time. You might also consider setting up citronella candles or bug zappers, or leave out a bottle of bug spray for guests to use. It can be nerve-wracking not knowing whether you’ll need to change your day-of plan on the day of, but with proper planning you can be prepared for whatever nature throws your way.

Done right, an outdoor wedding is an experience that can’t be beat, but only you can decide whether you’re comfortable with the unknowns. For an experience as big and life-changing as getting married, being surrounded by big and powerful nature may be the perfect way to go.

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