Tips for Planning an Outdoor Wedding Ceremony

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Outdoor weddings are beautiful, especially if you have a scenic natural background, but they can also be challenging to plan, especially if the weather in your venue location is unpredictable. Whether it’s sweltering heat in the summer months or an unexpected thunderstorm, it’s important to be well prepared for every possibility if you plan to say “I do” in the great outdoors.

Keep everybody (yourself included) comfortable.

For your guests:

When you’re planning an outdoor wedding ceremony, it’s important to be thoughtful of your guests. After all, they’re here for you! For example, if the weather is going to be hot and sunny, think about providing sunglasses, pretty umbrellas and/or sunscreen for everyone. Sometimes your venue may have some gorgeous lace parasols for rent, so be sure to ask. On the opposite end, if you’re planning a winter wedding, consider having blankets on every seat or even coffee or hot cocoa on hand after the ceremony.

For you, your boo, the parents, the pundit, pastor, imam, etc.:

If you’re having an outdoor midday Indian wedding that’s held either under a mandap or an open gazebo, be sure to cover the top of the mandap in order to shield everyone from the sun during the ceremony. Chances are, everyone involved in the ceremony will be wearing heavy, ornate lenghas, saris and sherwanis, and it can get pretty hot and uncomfortable under that midday sun. Also, remember to use a neutral, light-colored fabric such as off-white, white or blush as it will act as a filtered diffuser between you and the sun…so, if your fabric/diffuser is red, everything it’s covering will also be red! True story: This past summer, I shot an outdoor, midday Hindu wedding where the top of the gazebo wasn’t covered. The bride was about to make her entrance, but the groom was sitting in direct sunlight which was so intense that his skin started burning! The ceremony had to be paused so that my assistant and I could climb to the top of the gazebo and carefully attach super long tablecloths to the top! It didn’t look too fabulous, but it worked!

Create a Plan B you love.

Having a backup indoor plan for your outdoor wedding is a smart choice, but make sure it’s a plan that makes you happy. Of course, your dream ceremony will take place outdoors, but if you don’t have things you love about your backup plan, you’re headed for huge disappointment if the weather turns bad. Make sure to thoughtfully incorporate fun details into your Plan B so that your wedding day will be a blast no matter whether it’s inside or outside.

Put extra thought into makeup, hair, and wardrobe.

If you’re planning on having your ceremony outside, you’ll need to choose a hairstyle that’s wind-proof and won’t be easily destroyed by the weather. Talk to your stylist about what would work best with your hair and the expected weather. The same goes for your makeup—if your wedding day may be humid, you’ll want to make sure your makeup won’t run and ruin your photos. A professional makeup artist can help you plan the perfect look that will hold up no matter the weather.

When you’re shopping for the perfect gown, think about the terrain at your venue and the temperature. If your wedding will be in a warmer month, consider also purchasing a reception dress that you can change into after the ceremony. You don’t want to be overheating when everyone else is on the dance floor. You’ll also want to put some thought into your shoes, as sharp heels can sink into grass or soft ground. Make sure your shoes are comfortable and easy to walk in.

Make sure your guests stay updated.

Use your wedding website to keep everyone up to speed on any changes due to weather. Your website is also a great place to let guests know what to expect from your ceremony. For instance, you can offer tips on what to wear, such as “The reception will be held outside on the grass, so avoid heels.” Your guests will be grateful for any information ahead of time that will make them feel more prepared—and there will be less grumbling about the weather or the outdoor venue.

Talk to your vendors.

Not only should you let all your vendors know about both your outdoor ceremony and your backup plan, but you should also ask them for advice. Chances are, they’ve all worked at outdoor weddings before and can offer some tips for decorating, keeping bugs away, and any other concerns you may have. The more advice you can get, the better prepared you’ll be!

Be flexible.

Your wedding may not go exactly as you planned, and that’s okay! Just roll with it and make the most of the unexpected. For example, have some umbrellas on hand for some romantic rainy portraits in case of inclement weather. Instead of fretting about what could go wrong, enjoy what goes right and remember that the most important thing is you’re finally married to your best friend!

Natasha Singh