9 Tips for Outdoor Weddings: How to Prepare for Your Big Day

Wedding Planning

Everyone looks incredible.  The weather is perfect.  The colors are spectacular and everyone in the wedding party and on the guestlist looks happy.  Your outdoor wedding is about to start.

Although everything might seem perfect in this moment, outdoor weddings can take a turn for the worst in only a few minutes.  If you don’t have a roof over your head and climate control to keep your guests comfortable, your entire wedding is at the mercy of Mother Nature. 

But with some advanced planning, you can eliminate or minimize the effects of these outdoor factors. 

A bride and groom getting married at Bella Sera

Preparing for Your Outdoor Wedding

Outdoor weddings are growing in popularity not only because of the season but also because of the coronavirus. With COVID-19 a threat during weddings, many brides and grooms are following CDC guidelines to socially distance outside for extra protection against the virus. Whatever your reason for holding an outdoor wedding, here’s how you can prepare:

1. Heat: Think about keeping cool.  Because most outdoor weddings occur in Spring, Summer and Fall, high temperatures can come into play.  You don’t want your guests baking in the sun for 30 minutes before the procession starts or have them leave with sunburn as a party favor.  A few suggestions: Start on time so no one has to be out there longer than necessary. Make sure people are aware, in advance, that this will be outside and, possibly, unshaded so they can prepare with sunblock, hats or an umbrella.  Provide a small tent so people can retreat into some shade before or during the service. Offer cooled water bottles and even chilled washrags to provide some relief.  Many couples order customized fans so the guests can create their own little breeze.  Some fans can even double as programs for the ceremony. Allow at-risk and elderly guests to stay in a building with AC until the last minute before the big event begins.

2. Cold: How will you stay warm ?  We recently performed at an outdoor wedding on May 9.  It was 36°F when the bride came down the aisle. No one would have expected that, but it happened.  The bride was determined to keep it outside and smiled through the whole thing.  We also booked one for February 14 in Virginia where they plan to have it outside.  Suggestions:  Alert the guests beforehand that the wedding will be outside so they can dress appropriately. Offer packs of hand warmers so guests can put them in their pockets. Rent portable heaters to offer some comfort. Any protection from the wind is a good thing on cold days.

3. Wind: Could it become a problem ?  Wind is hard to predict and plan for, but anything can happen!  We have seen brides’ veils get blown off, an officiant have their notes blown into a lake, a customized mirror welcoming guests get blown off a stand, a unity candle that won’t light, musicians sheet music sail off a stand and across a field, the aisle-runner whipping into a twisted mess and ceremony programs floating into the air and littering the lawn.  Suggestions: consider a wind-friendly unity ceremony, hand out programs instead of placing them on seats, and have a backup copy of the ceremony notes handy, to name a few.

4. Rain: Can you get wet ?  Here’s hoping you get a beautiful, clear sky on your wedding day, but that little black cloud could appear and disrupt your plans.  Suggestions: Have a Plan B.  A different location or inside option is most important.  Set a time to make the call and determine, once and for all, where your wedding will take place.  Remember, people have to be moved, chairs may need to be wiped down, and sound and video equipment need to be reset and tested.  Check the weather radar.  Things may look grim two hours before the start time, but with the help of technology, you might see some clearing coming which would make it worth holding out for a bit.

5. Noise: How loud are your surroundings ?  Whether it’s in the city or in the country, you might be surprised how loud your surroundings are.  Traffic, AC units, helicopters, and even babbling brooks can create distracting background noise.

6. Sound: Can people hear ?  In an outdoor setting, the human voice does not carry as well as in a church or other acoustically complimentary spaces.  The Officiant does 90+% of the talking, so they would be most important to be heard.  A handheld wireless mic on a stand offers the most flexibility because the Officiant can talk and then spin it around toward you so we can hear your vows.  Then spin it back.  The Officiant can also step away for a reader to use the mic.  The clip-on lapel mic is popular because there is no stand in the photos, but they are not as flexible because they cannot be shared and are prone to feedback and other tech issues.  Suggestion: Ask your Officiant if they provide their own sound—many do now.  Check with your venue to see if they offer that service—some do.  Your musician(s) or DJ may be able to provide this, but there could be an extra charge for the time and/or equipment rental 

7. Seating/chair spacing: Make people comfortable.  Most outdoor wedding venues have plenty of space, so why are the chairs set up touching each other on each side ?  Most people are wider than the chair, so they have to uncomfortably rub up against each other in a completely preventable way.  Suggestions: Request that chairs be spaced “two-fists” or at least 6-8 inches apart. Also include an EXTRA two feet between rows front to back so tall people’s knees don’t bump up against the chair in front of them.  This also allows latecomers and people who have to excuse themselves during the service to do so with minimal disruption.  Avoid seating with any metal components because they get hot.

8. Music: Make sure people can hear !  Because there is no built-in music, you have the choice of live music or DJ recorded music.  There is no wrong answer depending on the style of music you want.  Suggestions: Consider amplification for the instruments.  Most acoustic instruments are not designed to be amplified, so you cannot expect a solo Violin or Cello player to have that service to offer.  Some do and we recommend it for many outdoor settings.  Keyboards, amplified guitars, electric violins and DJs usually provide their own sound, but ask to make sure.

9. Distancing: Is everyone healthy ?  We’ve seen more and more couples choose outdoor weddings partially as a way to combat the coronavirus.  If you plan to hold your wedding during the COVID-19 outbreak, consider ways to keep everyone healthy and safe.  Social distancing with chairs and tables is a good first step in keeping your wedding coronavirus-free, and slashing your guest list to only the most essential people is another.  You could also consider our Micro Luxury Weddings as an option for a high-class wedding without the risk of a large crowd.

Bonus Tip: Expect the unexpected.  Picture this: A resident goose blocks the aisle as the Bride enters for her Procession and then sits on her train during the service, elderly Aunt Phyllis turns an ankle on the uneven grass or gravel and needs medical attention, the Bride’s veil gets snagged in a sharp edge of a concrete step or a pack of motorcycles roars by as you are doing your vows.  These are all things that happen.

You may experience one or two – or none – of these issues during your outdoor wedding, but you can smile, wait and proceed because the most important thing is that in a few minutes you will be married and the celebration can begin.


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