Wedding planning can be stressful enough, but planning an outdoor wedding has the potential to add an extra dash of crazy! This past September I married the love of my life in the mountains of North Carolina. It was the best night of my life. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen without a few bumps in the road! Things will happen that are out of your control and the day may not be without flaws, but as long as you’re prepared for the big stuff your wedding day will be perfect no matter what. I learned so much from the experience that I couldn’t wait to share it with other brides who may be setting out on the same adventure.
Love Your Venue and Your Back-Up Plan
Every outdoor venue should come with a rain plan. Considering how far in advance you will be planning your wedding, it is impossible to know with absolute certainty that the weather will cooperate. To play it safe you need to not only have a back-up plan, but a back-up plan that you’re happy with! Don’t settle for something that may put you in a bind or leave you with a bad taste in your mouth should you have to implement it. Nothing should take away from this special day!
Do Your Climate Research
Weather is the big bad scary wolf of outdoor weddings. Precipitation, humidity, and temperature will help you decide the weight of your bridal party’s attire, your guests’ attire, cake ingredients, and more. Thankfully, there are a lot of free resources out there that provide history on average temperatures by month, by day for a particular area. The website for U.S. Climate Data is my personal favorite because it provides the most thorough amount of information and it’s easy to navigate. Another site that I found to be helpful is AccuWeather.com as a secondary resource.
Know That Your Dress Will Get Dirty
It’s an inevitable reality of being outdoors. Make sure that your dress works with your venue, especially in terms of what surfaces you’ll be walking and dancing on. Lace, chiffon and tulle are very delicate, so they’re more prone to tearing at the bottom if caught on rough surfaces like concrete, pavement, or gravel. If you choose any of these materials, be mindful of holding your dress up as you walk to keep it from getting damaged. The sturdiest materials are going to be dupioni silk, shantung, satin and horsehair tulle. However, no matter what material you choose your gown will get dirty the day of, so go ahead and have a cleaner lined up to take care of it when festivities are over. I advise contacting the bridal salon where you purchased your gown for recommendations.
Choose Appropriate Footwear
News Flash: heels and natural surfaces don’t play well together. Stilettos may not be the best choice if your ceremony is on grass or sand. If you’re feeling daring, go for wedges. But keep this in mind: wedges can wobble on uneven surfaces and you can easily lose traction on slick surfaces. I recommend finding a nice flat or sandal to wear and encouraging the same for your bridesmaids. If you really must wear heels, practice walking at the venue in your shoes prior to the wedding day and make sure to slip on some Solemates High Heeler shoe protectors that help prevent your heels from sinking into the ground.
Set Aside a Portion of the Budget for a Tent
While there may not be an immediate need for a tent, you may find you need one as you get closer to the day of the wedding. It is safe to say that $1,000-$2,000 of your budget should be set aside just in case you need it. Keep in mind, however, that depending on size, style and the location of your wedding a tent can cost upwards of $3,000. This is because not only are you renting the tent, but you’re paying for labor, side walls (I recommend ones that can be rolled up then unfurled when needed) and lighting. If you don’t want to 100% commit to having a tent, you may be able to negotiate with a vendor to reserve one for a portion of the cost.
For more information on tents, I recommend visiting apracticalwedding.com to find more detail on styles, calculating the size you need, and examples of pricing.
Caterers May Need to Get Creative
There are a lot of outdoor venues that don’t have a fully functional catering kitchen. Make sure you talk to caterers that you’re considering about their experience with outdoor weddings and if they have been to your venue before. If they haven’t been to your venue, schedule a time to take them there before you commit to their services. The space has to able to meet their prep needs and accommodate the serving staff. Once you have chosen a caterer, set up a meeting at least 45 days out from the wedding with them, the venue, and your coordinator/planner (if you have one) to make sure everything is in line.
Cakes: Fondant or Buttercream
Both of these cake options are gorgeous, but buttercream tends to be more fragile because of the ingredients and fat content. If temperatures get too warm, buttercream can melt which may lead to a leaning cake, droopy frosting, or bleeding colors. If there is any chance that the venue can’t keep it at room temperature or cooler, I recommend choosing fondant. Fondant has less fat and often includes gelatin, which is a stabilizing ingredient. It can get gooey, but you can’t tell until you cut it. Other than that it holds shape extremely well and is very versatile. Talk to your baker about which choice they recommend based on the style you like, the time of your wedding and where the cake will be displayed.
Dance Floor Decisions
There are two things to consider when thinking about renting a dance floor: aesthetic and practicality. Some venues may try to pitch a concrete surface as a dance floor or even grass. If you’re on a tight budget, you can definitely do this. But if you have room, I recommend renting a dance floor. Concrete can pick at your dress and it’s a tough surface to “glide” on. Grass can be slippery and it may not register as a dance floor to your guests. No one wants an empty dance floor! I highly recommend renting one because it provides a designated space and an even, safe surface for you and guests to party all night long!
Make Sure You’re Covered. Legally.
Talk to your venue about noise ordinances in the area to make sure you’re respecting the residences and/or businesses around you. This may mean that your band or DJ has to stop playing at a certain time or that your music has to stay within an indoor space. In addition to being respectful surrounding properties, you also need to be compliant with all electrical and equipment safety regulations. You never know when an inspector can show up! This is especially important if you plan on putting a tent near any power lines or trees. Lastly, be prepared to get a permit. Some locations require these for special events, especially if you are serving alcohol, and depending on your venue you may need one for a tent or other large rentals. The cost of these permits may vary by location and event size.
Keep Guests Comfortable
The key to having a good time is being comfortable, which means making sure your guests are accommodated appropriately. Choose a dress code that makes sense for the setting and temperature. Communicate in your invitation suite or on your website details of the ceremony and reception location so guests can wear appropriate shoes and sleeve lengths. Once guests are at the site, you may want to consider providing a few extra touches for comfort: paper fans or parasols for warm sunny days, a basket of blankets or throws for winter weddings, and plenty of libations to wet their whistle! For a summer wedding I recommend an iced cocktail like a Moscow Mule or margarita and for winter consider a hot toddy with whiskey or spiked apple cider.
Written by: Logan Russell, Editor of thestylelodown.com
Photographer: Kellie Kano
Floral Design: Floressence Flowers