Written in collaboration with the Money Matters Team.
If you're thinking about an outdoor wedding, it's good to be aware of the challenges that brings; the Money Matters Team and I have put together some top tips to help your day go without a hitch!
First of all, I’d highly recommend hiring a wedding planner to help with all of the logistics, and at least get a planning checklist to help keep you on track with key items and milestones - it really helps keep you motivated when the big day feels so far away. Secondly, have a read through this in-depth outdoor wedding planning guide from the Money Matters Team.
Where to get married?
Those in Scotland and Northern Ireland are lucky enough to be able to hold their ;egal ceremony anywhere - a beach, their back garden – the sky is the limit! Here in England, legal outdoor ceremonies must take place under a licensed fixed structure. Although it sounds limiting, this actually often takes the stress out of wet weather planning for the “I do” part of the day, giving you one less thing to worry about. And, of course, you can have a celebrant-led wedding at any location of your choosing, and do the legalities at a separate time.
Deciding if you want your ceremony and reception to happen in the same place will help you plan the flow of your day. Perhaps there’s a special outdoor landmark that holds memories in your relationship that would be perfect for a ceremony but doesn’t have any facilities for the after-party? Make sure you consider how you’ll get your guests between venues, and that both are easily accessible from accommodation – no one wants to be an hour away from their hotel at the end of the night!
You’ll also want to be clear on what your venue includes, especially if it's 'dry-hire'. Adding on the cost of seating, tables, décor, dinnerware - and sometimes even portable toilets, can really add a lot to what initially seems like a great price. Some couples like the freedom this approach brings as it gives you a completely blank canvas to make the day your own, but this can be quite overwhelming to plan and having a checklist will greatly help keep stress levels lower. Some venues allow outside catering both for food and drinks which provides further freedom of choice, whereas some provide catering in-house (and it may be so good that that’s what makes you choose the venue!). Always check what you're allowed to bring in and if there are any suppliers that the venue requires you to use.
How do you decorate an outdoor wedding?
The great outdoors provides enough beauty that your wedding will be stunning even without
decoration, but it also provides the perfect canvas for your creativity. If you’ve opted for a gazebo or teepee, you can hang colourful bunting or wild foliage and decorate tables local wildflowers. If you’re in a romantic woodland setting, hang fairy lights from trees and dotting some glowing lanterns around the grounds adds to an already whimsical feel. Wooden signage hanging from trees can be a nice addition too.
Pinterest is a great tool for providing never ending inspiration for décor and colour schemes. I suggest you give yourself time limits on Pinterest as it is very addictive, and remember that many images on Pinterest are not from real weddings - those ideas may not be feasible for your special day. If you’re looking for venue-specific ideas, look into the photography archives of your venue and see previous weddings at your chosen space. You can pick and choose all your favourite parts and combine them to make them unique to you!
Formal food or food-to-go?
Outdoor weddings are well suited to informal, family-style dining but there are no limits! If you want a formal sit-down meal, go for it. Your venue may be providing the food and they’ll likely have something perfectly suited to your day. If you’re bringing in your own catering, why not consider a BBQ or hog roast? The combination of the unmistakable BBQ smell along with lots of delicious fresh sides for sharing will have your guests in that nostalgic summer spirit. You could combine this with food vans for dessert or evening catering to add a festival feel – toasties, crepes, ice cream, there’s a van for all tastes!
How to keep guests happy outdoors?
It’s been proven that oxytocin (the love hormone) is extra high at weddings, so your guests will already be in a haze of happiness. As long as your guests are warm, dry and comfy (likely also with a beverage in hand) you’re free to focus on enjoying your special moment. Your wedding day is about YOU, so don't worry too much about your guests; they're there to celebrate and show love to you.
It's a good idea to check your venue has a backup shelter option just in case the day is a rainy one (which happens, regardless of the time of year!). They may have an open structure or even be able to provide a marquee. Don’t panic too much about the weather though, moody atmospheric wedding photos are often art gallery worthy! And, sadly, you can't do much about it except make the most of the situation! Keep your guests cosy with baskets of blankets around the venue and firepits in the evening. If you’re lucky enough to be getting married on a warm sunny day, provide some umbrellas for shade and bottles of sunscreen, along with plenty of free flowing non-alcoholic hydration. If there’s going to be lots of grass or cobbles, let guests know so they can plan their footwear accordingly – stilettos and mud aren’t a good combination!
Happy Wedding Planning!