Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wedding Words of Wisdom: Outdoor Wedding Tips

After seeing (aka photographing) a lot of weddings, I've gathered up some first-hand research on making sure your outdoor ceremony runs smoothly. Now, these are just my opinions, so take them with a grain of salt. Also, if you've already planned and it's too late for some of these recommendations, don't fret... you're day will still be perfect. It's meant to advise, not to stress :)

Grab a cup of tea... it's a long (but juicy) one...


Backup Plans: You spend SO MUCH time, thought and energy selecting your  ceremony venue. Whether you fall in love with it because it overlooks the lake, because of the colorful fall leaves, because of the gorgeous gardens, or because of the cityscape, it's important to think of the alternative. What if it rains? Does your venue's back-up plan also meet your vision?

For example, my sister and her hubby got married in the botanical gardens of Maui under a small gazebo. It rained on her wedding day. Fortunately, because it was a small, intimate ceremony, we were all able to fit in the gazebo comfortably and still have the lush and vibrant backdrop of Hawaii's flora and fauna (and their ceremony was absolutely perfect). If we were a larger party, the ceremony would have been in a banquet room. Doesn't exactly say "tropical," does it?

Try to find a venue that has a great backup plan. A couple places off the top of my head are Hawk's View Golf Club and Schlitz Audobon Nature Center. Both places have options that are STILL OUTSIDE, protected by gorgeous wooden pavilions! How awesome is that?! But even if your venue doesn't have an outdoor rain-backup-plan, inside can still look fab... a stone fireplace, victorian windows, modern architecture, whatever the look may be.

Another option is to book two venues. This may sound excessive, but with enough research or with the help of a wedding planner, you can find a rain-backup-plan that fits the budget. We recently worked with one couple who was planning a garden ceremony. They also booked a beautiful church for only a few hundred dollars in case it rained. Since it didn't rain, you could look at it as a waste of a few hundred dollars, or you could look at it as well worth the peace of mind, knowing that their ceremony memories and photos would still fit their vision if it rained.

The Tent Option: You might have noticed that "throw up a tent" wasn't included in my backup plan advice above. It's not because I dislike tents;  it's just because you really have to pull this off well for it to look (and feel) good. Tents should be lit, clean and decorated (i.e. flowers, lanterns, etc.) so that your ceremony feels like a wonderful outdoor wedding that just so happens to be protected by a tent... not so that it feels like you're, well... in just some tent.

I also recommend not putting up the tent unless it's forecasted to rain the morning of the wedding. Why have a tent up if you don't need it? Wouldn't you prefer your photos capture the whole scene?

Comfort of Guests: If there's a possibility of it being a swelteringly hot and humid day, or an uncomfortably crisp day, please think about your guests who are sitting and waiting for your wedding to start. People usually start arriving 45 minutes before your ceremony... add that to the ceremony time (we'll say 30 minutes) and your receiving line (30 minutes), and your guests are outside for over an hour and a half! Maybe you have a bottle of water or cute little fans holding down the ceremony program on each chair. Or a pair of cloves tied to the back of each chair. Or maybe you invest in heaters... you get the idea.

Comfort of Bridesmaids: If you're having a spring or fall wedding, please invest in shawls for your bridesmaids... and nice cozy ones like pashminas. The love may not be enough to keep them warm. Stylish tights are also a great addition.

Location of Sun: This is a big one, both for photos and for comfort levels. I'll try to keep it short and sweet:
• Noon (or close to noon) sun = nasty shadows on your faces. Best to have your ceremony in the later afternoon.
• Sunset can be tricky. If the sunset is your backdrop, your guests are staring into the sun. Just something to think about. If you're in love with the sunset and you'd like it to be a big part of your wedding, maybe plan on your photos being taken during this time, instead of your actual ceremony.
• This one isn't as big as the other two, but if you have control over it, I'd recommend positioning the ceremony so that the sun is either behind the officiant or in front of the officiant (as opposed to an angle) for even lighting on you and your wedding party.

Acoustics: If you're using a microphone or are having your DJ play music, it's important that your DJ is well trained to deal with outdoor setup. If your ceremony is on a lake, you want minimal echoing. If it's windy, you want minimal disruption / feedback. Make sure they test volume levels out before the ceremony. One more thing... cords are generally not so pretty, so please try to hide them :)

Wind: If it's unbelievably windy, you may want to skip the veil for your ceremony... unless it's like a birdcage veil, or cathedral length ( because it's heavy enough to stay down, or long enough for your MOH to hold). It can get very annoying for a bride to be constantly moving her veil out of her face during vows. And you can always wear your veil for formals and such.

OR, what if you switched sides so that the wind was blowing towards the girls (meaning veil and hair out of the face)?! As long as your ushers do their job, it shouldn't confuse people.

Arbors should be significantly weighted down. Arbor and tent weights should be disguised... and not by something that can blow :)

(I just love it when the wind works for you, like the photo below...)

Shoes: If you're getting married on a beach or grass, flats and wedges all the way.


Phew! Long post! Better stop now. Hopefully some useful info was packed in there for you! :)

Happy planning!


  1. Hey! That's Jason and Melissa!!! You guys have done so many weddings of people I have known :)

  2. Photographer and planner. I always enjoy reading your tips and seeing your photos. If I ever become a wedding planner.. we should team up. ;) You are such a big help.. I wish that you could be a part of my special day. Keep up the amazing work. You've only just begun.