Outdoor weddings in fabulous locations with amazing natural scenery and backdrops lend an air of romance and warmth to a celebration that is hard to match. Don’t get me wrong, there are some gorgeous indoor venues that will also add romance and warmth to a wedding, but there is just something about an outdoor wedding.
Here in Arizona there is a season for outdoor weddings. It isn’t written in stone, but usually October through March/April is the perfect time to have an outdoor wedding; not too hot and not too cold.
However, nature is what it is and “things” can come up that can rain on your parade, quite literally in some cases.
Gathering tips and tricks from fellow wedding professionals that have seen and done it all, in all types of conditions, I have put together your guide to avoiding some of the pitfalls of having an outdoor wedding.
The Back Up Plan
Always have a back-up plan, even if you are getting married in “peak” outdoor wedding season. Here in Arizona the “winter” can get cold and windy and yes, gasp!, even rainy. The “summer” will be hot, possibly humid and did I mention hot! Look into a tent rental company that also supplies heaters for the winter and portable A/C units for the summer.
Devon Haupt from The Classic Harpist advises to “Make the call if you will be moving inside at least one hour before your ceremony is to begin – and then stick with your decision. Ceremonies are a lot of set up for your vendors, and it’s unreasonable to ask them to move everything inside, then back outside if there’s a 10-minute break in the rain.”
“Although we are in paradise, keep weather in mind when deciding between elegantly formal or happily casual. For a large portion of the year, it is awfully hot to be wearing a tux or suit. On the flip side, it does sometimes get too chilly for that strapless bridal dress. In the event of rain, a possible backup location could be your reception site. Alert your guests, especially out-of-towners, as to what the weather may be like. They’ll want sunglasses or hats and it will get cooler after the sun sets. Make sure hairstyles will hold up to humidity and breezes. And remember - no sunglasses on the wedding party.” Nancy Taussig – Barefoot Weddings
**Remember that just because you are used to the weather, your out of town guests aren’t.**
Necessity vs Comfort
For your guests and yourself there really is no difference between necessity and comfort when it comes to an outdoor wedding. The little things can and will make all the difference. Creative favors can be a great way to show your guests that you are thinking about their comfort.
Celia Milton from Celia Milton Celebrant suggest giving bug repellant, fans and flip flops for favors in the spring and summer and shawls and umbrellas for favors in the winter.
It’s ALL in the timing
Time and again, pun intended, my fellow vendors mentioned to stick as close as possible to the timeline. Outdoor weddings can take a toll on all guests, but especially those older and younger guests that don’t handle the heat or cold well.
Tips from the Photographers
I have been very lucky to work with amazing photographers that work around everything that may come up to take away from your pictures. I picked the brain of a pro and asked if she could tell you something that would make your pictures even more gorgeous with regards to outdoor weddings what would it be?
Kat from Kingdom Wedding Photography by Kat was a fount of knowledge and gave me these great tips.
Do portraits BEFORE the ceremony, not after we’ve all been baking outside for roughly an hour or so and are either sweaty or soaking wet.
Bring an extra pair of shoes so you’re mobile. Heels on grass, lawn or in the woods are generally NOT a good idea.
Note where the wind is coming from. If it’s coming from behind, switch sides (at the altar) or realize that you will be wrestling with your veil for the duration of the ceremony.
**Note that I’m not telling you to not wear a veil and as Christine from Christine, Your Seamstress suggests “Have a veil with heavier beading or lace edge that will not blow around as much. Or have a short, birdcage veil.”
Live flowers are an amazing addition to any wedding. When you spend hours of time and possibly thousands of dollars on your flowers you don’t want to walk down the aisle with wilting flowers in your bouquet or drooping altar flowers. Ask your florist what flowers will best hold up to the heat and cold.
And don’t forget that it is an OUTDOOR WEDDING. And as such, there will be bugs. Rev. Judith Guash, Rev. Judith L. Guash, M.Div, Wedding Officiant advises to “Check with your florist (to see) if your type of flowers will draw insects that anyone in the bridal party may be allergic to, such as bees or wasps. Nothing is worse than stopping the ceremony to rush someone to the hospital.”
Set-up and Delivery
You have spent hours of time picking out just the right linens, looking for the perfect dress and analyzing every other detail of your wedding. But did you consider that dehydration is the number one reason people faint at weddings? That your guests will not stay to enjoy all your details and hard work if they are too hot or too cold? Drawing again from my wonderful colleagues, they offered these great tips and things to think about.
“Make sure your guests are comfortable. Outdoor summer weddings – set up a lemonade and water station (sweet tea for southern weddings). Outdoor winter weddings when there is a nip in the air – set up a hot cocoa or hot apple cider station.”– Catherine Kut – Catherine Kut Events.
“Let your guests know, via invite or on your wedding website how to dress and the environmental conditions; one of my favorite couples described their attire as ‘layers and cowboy boots’ stilettos and cocktail dresses probably won’t cut it.” – Celia Milton.
For the Planners
As a planner, one of the first questions I ask is inside or outside. Logistically an outside wedding can be more work and come with an all-together different set of potential complications. Jamie with Jamie’s Handmade Treasures sums it up beautifully.
“Make sure you have bathroom facilities or rent them for your guests.” (I’d like to add that if you wouldn’t use it in your white wedding dress, chances are your guests won’t either.)
“Find out if you’ll need to provide electricity for your wedding and make the necessary arrangements ahead of time. You’ll (also) need to make sure that you get all the appropriate permits/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 (sparklers), 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.”
Tisha from Kemp Video Productions adds that “If you have mobility challenged guests (elderly, etc.) consider having a golf cart handy to give them rides from parking, seating, etc.”
Odds and Ends
I am very thankful to have such a talented and giving group of vendors to turn to to ask advice about all the little things that make up a wedding. I was overwhelmed by the amount of advice that I received, and while unable to fit it all into this blog, there are a couple of additional items that I have to mention.
Rev. Judith Guasch reminded me of something that I need to be more diligent with as a planner – “Check the area where the bridal party and officiant will be standing. Holes, ruts and uneven ground will cause everyone to be uncomfortable as they try to balance, not to mention the possibility of a twisted ankle. If your ceremony area is in the direct sunlight don’t forget the sunscreen, especially if you are fair skinned. Ask your makeup artist to use makeups that include a sunscreen. Nothing worse than having a sunburn when you leave to go on your honeymoon.”
Keep in mind that the weather and ambient noise sources (waterfalls, brooks, forest sounds and traffic) will have an affect on the sound. Jim Unger with Ninety Nine Entertainment asks you to “Judge from the size of the attendance list on whether you will need for the officiant to have some sort of wireless microphone and some amplified sound. Outdoor weddings, although beautiful, can be riddled with surrounding noises completely out of your control.”
I do love outdoor weddings, there is something magical about the light and the atmosphere that just makes them special. Keeping them special requires just a little forethought, planning and consideration of a few details.
Leaving you with a last word of wisdom from my favorite, as yet unmet, celebrant Celia Milton - “If you wouldn’t want to sit outside in the cold/drizzle/sun/heat/sandstorm/wind don’t make your guests do so.”
Do you have any additional tips or tricks that you have to make an outdoor wedding a success?
Sweet I Do's is a wedding planning company located in Surprise, AZ (a suburb of Phoenix). We specialize in wedding day management (also known as day of coordination). We help you create an amazing, unique and totally "you" wedding that allows you to be in the moments making the memories, not worrying about the details. From contract review and timeline creation to day of management, set up and tear down, we're focused on ensuring our couples, their families and friends experience a stress and worry free night to remember.