Whether you're taking your nuptials outdoors because of the scenic background or because COVID-19 caused you to change plans, exchanging vows in nature is a lovely way to get married. Still, there are certain factors to take into account. To help, we rounded up everything you need to know about planning an outdoor wedding so that you and your guests can enjoy the celebration. We cover everything from music to transportation to fashion so you can plan your dream outdoor ceremony without all of the stress. We also included our favorite outdoor wedding ideas to help you get inspired. See our best outdoor wedding advice, below.
Here's everything you need to know about planning an outdoor wedding.
Find the perfect venue.
So you know you want an outdoor wedding, but you're unsure about what kind of venue to book. Good news: the WeddingWire Vendor Directory is broken down by category so you can explore all of the options near you. Browse through barn and farm venues, winery venues, rooftop venues or beach venues (plus so many more) to find the perfect fit. On WeddingWire, you'll be able to look through pictures, videos and reviews from real couples of all the outdoor wedding spots in your area. Plus, you can narrow the search based on your budget, guest size and amenities (like finding a venue that’s pet-friendly).
Use your wedding website to prepare guests.
Your wedding website is a great tool for communicating with guests no matter the venue, but it can be especially helpful for outdoor weddings. Include simple attire tips such as “The reception will be held on the grass—wedges and flats encouraged!” or “We suggest bringing a sweater or wrap, as it can get chilly at night this time of year.” You can also ask guests to refer to your website for last-minute changes due to weather.
Work with your photographer and videographer to maximize your venue's view.
Tap your photographer and videographer to ensure you have the most epic wedding album and video ever. Work with them to figure out all of the most picturesque spots at your venue so you can make the most of the beautiful scenery. Ask them about any ideas they have for lighting (like that ultra-romantic golden hour photoshoot) or creative first look spots. While drone footage isn't a necessity, it is a great way to capture the gorgeousness of your venue from a bird’s eye view. (Psst: you can filter for videographers who offer drone footage here).
Keep guests as comfortable as possible.
While providing guests with information is helpful, it's nice to go the extra mile to keep them comfortable. Since guests will be seated for an extended period of time during your ceremony, protect them from any uncomfortable outdoor elements. Consider providing parasols to keep them shaded in the sunshine, hand fans or chilled water to keep them cool in the heat, or blankets or shawls to keep warm in chilly weather.
Consider using a microphone for the ceremony.
Unless you’re hosting a small group, it can be tricky for guests in the back rows to hear what’s being said during an outdoor wedding. This is especially true when there are no walls to provide acoustics and when you add wind or other outside noise to the mix. A simple sound system is an easy fix. Ask your venue if they offer one on-site or whether they have any rental recommendations. If you’re worried about a hand-held microphone being intrusive, lavalier mics are a great option.
Be mindful of sound ordinances or liquor laws.
Because you're exchanging vows out in the open, you have to be mindful of neighbors. Some outdoor venues (vineyards in particular) have strict sound ordinances and liquor laws you should inquire about before you sign those papers. Sound ordinances are restrictions on loud noises past a certain time (read: you may not be able to blast your dance floor anthem past 11 p.m.) while liquor laws dictate what kinds of alcohol are allowed on the premises. For example, perhaps the venue only accepts beer and wine orders (meaning you may not be able to serve that signature cocktail you've been brainstorming).
Create a Plan B.
While an outdoor wedding means beautiful views, it also means you need to take weather into account. We know it may be difficult to think about rain on your wedding day, but it's best to prepare a Plan B with your planner or the venue just in case. Whether you opt for a clear tent outside or shift to the venue's indoor space, ensure you have a plan of action for inclement weather. Pro tip: pick three things you absolutely love about your Plan B so if you end up needing to enact it, you can remain positive.
Check your rental contracts.
Double-check those contracts to ensure all rental items are allowed to be set up on wet ground or under threat of rain. If it rains in the morning and the clouds clear by wedding time, for example, you may still opt to have your wedding outdoors. You want to be sure all of your furniture, equipment and decor can still be set up as planned.
Monitor the weather days before.
Speaking of weather, it's a good idea to stay up to date in the days leading up to your nuptials. Watch the rain and wind forecasts so that you can be prepared for whatever happens. If looks like it might rain on your wedding day, brainstorm a few portrait ideas with your photographer (or even pick up some wedding umbrellas). If you're prepared, rainy weather can actually create ultra-romantic photos.
Take care of pests.
We recommend having your ceremony and reception areas professionally bug-proofed a few days in advance of the wedding. Set up Citronella candles or torches for backup (this will also enhance the ambiance!) If there are any other kind of pests you need to be mindful of, consult the venue on how to handle that best.
Consider providing transportation.
If navigating between the parking area, ceremony site, and reception space involves a decent amount of walking (or driving), consider offering an easy transportation option for guests. Rent a few golf carts or pedicabs, or even enlist a group of ushers to shuttle guests as needed. If your outdoor wedding venue is remote, it's a nice gesture to provide shuttles or vans so that they don't have to wait 30 minutes to catch an Uber or Lyft.
Be intentional with your fashion and beauty choices.
Turns out, you need to consider the weather when thinking about your fashion and beauty choices too. If you're exchanging vows outside, consider factors like wind, humidity and heat when choosing your hairstyle and makeup products. If you're saying "I do" in full sun, you might want to opt for a beautiful updo and waterproof mascara (to protect from any sweating). Talk to your hair stylist about any weather-related concerns you may have. They will likely have some great tips and suggestions based on your hair type and personal preferences. Psst: this is also where a hair and makeup trial comes in handy. You can get your glam done and see how it holds up
Similarly, be mindful of the forecast when selecting your wedding day attire. If you're planning a fall or winter event, heavier fabrics, jackets and long sleeves can help keep you warm. If you're exchanging vows in the heat, you might prefer lighter, airy fabrics and short sleeves (or no sleeves at all). If a significant portion of your wedding day is taking place on the grass or another soft surface, we recommend accessorizing with shoes that are easy to walk in. Those heels might be gorgeous, but they're not worth sinking into the ground with every step! Need a little inspiration? Check out our favorite wedges and flats.
Collect outdoor wedding ideas.
Now that you've covered all of the logistics, it's time to gather inspiration. Outdoor venues allow a great amount of creative freedom, and you're not limited to the decor already in a ballroom, for example. Aside from the view and the plants already there, you're free to decorate however you want. Whether you want to incorporate furniture (cozy chairs and rugs) at your barn venue or set up a rustic campfire at your backyard wedding, the amount of outdoor wedding ideas is endless.
Check out our articles on different kinds of outdoor weddings for even more inspiration