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The Great Outdoors: Planning Your Outdoor Summer Wedding

Clare Holway

“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Does this ring true for you and your partner? If nature, the countryside and natural landscapes are an essential part of your lives and who you are, then having your wedding and celebrations in the great outdoors may be the only way you imagine your special day.

River Cottage, Devon wedding venue
River Cottage, Devon

And why not? With more and more rustic venues opening their doors for wedding parties and recent news that the Government plans a review that will make getting married in outdoor spaces more accessible, there’s every reason to order some white wellies and get planning for summer 2019.

Cornish Tipi Weddings, Bodmin, Cornwall
Cornish Tipi Weddings

But, as with every wedding, and particularly those to be held in the open air, there is plenty of planning to be done and being prepared (for, you know, things like the wonderful British weather!) is a must.

Here are the top five tips to help you prepare and ensure you get the most out of your outdoor summer wedding:

#1   Be prepared for any weather

You can’t control what the weather will do on your big day, but you can prepare for every eventuality. Whether you decide on a festival, boho or vintage styled wedding, if your wedding is to be predominantly outside, being prepared for the weather is key.

Tipi Unique, wedding tipis in the North West
Tipi Unique, Cheshire

If the best case scenario arises and you find yourself getting wed on a beautiful, warm sunny day with perfect blue skies, then you are lucky, but there are still preparations to be made to ensure you and your guests are comfortable spending the day outdoors.

While sunshine is generally wonderful, don’t forget that you will also need to provide shade. If the venue doesn’t have covered areas such as lean-tos or pergolas, consider putting up gazebos, parasols over tables or open-sided marquees so that guests can escape direct sunshine and keep cool if they need to.

Blue Fizz Marquees and Tents, Devon
Blue Fizz Marquees and Tents, Devon
Wedding Yurts, a complete travelling wedding venue.
Wedding Yurts, a complete travelling wedding venue.

Fortunately, these kinds of structures will also double up as rain cover if need be, although if rain is likely, it’s worth having marquees with sides so that the rain doesn’t get blown in.

Buying a suitable number of large umbrellas and having them to hand around the site is also a good idea. You could even arrange them in in-theme umbrella stands and make a decorative feature of them.

Ballyvolane House Wedding Venue, Co. Cork, Ireland
Ballyvolane House, Co. Cork, Ireland

Even if the day is sunny, you may find that the temperature drops once the sun’s gone down, so consider how guests might keep warm while they enjoy the evening celebrations. Provide blankets (people who may be more inclined to sit and chat than dance the night away will be particularly grateful for these) or, if the safety regulations of your venue allow, have fire pits for people to gather around.

Tipi Unique, Cheshire - Tipi hire for weddings and events.
Tipi Unique, Cheshire – Tipi hire for weddings and events. Photo by Dan Bold Photography.

Finally, don’t forget the power of wind! From ruining the bride’s hair to blowing the table decorations away, a windy day can cause havoc at an outdoor wedding, so think carefully about how sheltered your venue is and factor in windy conditions when formulating your back-up plan.

#2   Communicate with your guests

Just as you need to be prepared for every eventuality, it’s helpful if your guests can be, too. To that end, let guests know that your wedding will be all or partially outside and advise accordingly on a suitable dress code. Ask guests to bring their own umbrella and a sunhat and suggest appropriate footwear, may that be flip flops for a beach, wellies for woodland, or both!

Beach Weddings Bournemouth
Beach Weddings Bournemouth

You won’t be alone in worrying about the weather, so let guests know in advance that you’ve got all bases covered!

#3   Cover all the practicalities

Even if the majority of your wedding and celebrations are to take place outside, it’s worth considering having somewhere indoors where people can eat, particularly if you are having a sit-down meal. If the weather really is awful, you can’t expect people to sit out in the rain!

Seating, for the wedding breakfast, the outdoor ceremony and general socialising, doesn’t have to be fancy. Thoughtfully arranged hay bales are a cheap, comfortable and rustic option, as are makeshift stools and benches made from logs and planks.

Colehayes Park, Devon wedding venue
Colehayes Park, Devon

Having your wedding in the joys of the natural, open air environment is incredibly special, but you will need to take steps to ensure you and your wedding guests leave it as you found it. Consider having bins and clearly labelled recycling containers around the venue so rubbish can be easily disposed of. Again, you can always make them part of the décor and use, for example, giant plant pots or old cattle feeders as recycling bins.

Arnos Vale, Bristol wedding venue
Arnos Vale, Bristol

If you plan to have your ceremony and speeches in the open air, remember that open space and noise from wind and other elements may make it difficult for everyone to hear – consider hiring a sound system or having these moments in a more secluded, smaller area.

#4   Choose your food and drink wisely

While you may want to consider having some indoor or covered seating, what can work well is if the food itself is served outside. Keeping catering options simple, informal and relaxed is a good way to go with an outdoor wedding and will most likely be in keeping with the general ambience.

A BBQ, hog roast or other mobile food outlet such as a pizza or fish and chip van can provide great food that everyone will enjoy. Alternatively, you could provide guests with picnic hampers and blankets and let people lounge in the sunshine and get to know each over a tasty artisan scotch egg and a plastic glass of pink fizz.

Camp Katur, North Yorkshire wedding venue
Camp Katur, North Yorkshire

An outdoor bar can be a fantastic feature for a summer garden wedding, but if possible make sure the bar itself is covered to protect that all-important produce (and the bar staff!) Particularly if it’s a hot day, make sure there is plenty of drinking water available that guests can help themselves to so that everyone can stay hydrated.

If you’re expecting the temperature to drop in the evening, offer hot chocolate or something mulled to keep everyone warm and cosy.

Colehayes Park, Devon wedding venue
Colehayes Park, Devon

#5   Have a back-up plan

Most people won’t be bothered by the odd rain shower or slightly chilly breeze, but if the weather really goes crazy and you’re faced with unrelenting rain and wild winds, you’re going to need a back-up plan.

Most outdoor wedding venues will offer some form of indoor space, such as a barn or marquee, so utilise these and book them, even if you hope not to have to use them. If not, it’s worth looking into hiring a marquee or tipi, just in case. You won’t lose the essence of the great outdoors, but your guests will be grateful to be able to escape the elements!

Lantallack Weddings, Cornwall
Lantallack Weddings, Cornwall

If it’s possible to allow for flexibility with timings for the day, then do so. That way you can work around the weather – for example, have the outdoor ceremony when it’s dry and move indoors to eat when there’s a rain shower – or vice versa, depending on the weather and how you want to do things.

Ultimately, whatever the weather, your outdoor summer wedding will be a wonderful, special day for all to remember.

Colehayes Park, Devon wedding venue
Colehayes Park, Devon
Sparkford Hall, Somerset wedding venue
Sparkford Hall, Somerset
Boconnoc Weddings, Cornwall
Boconnoc Weddings, Cornwall
Tags: Beach wedding, DIY wedding, Festival wedding, Garden wedding, Marquee wedding, Outdoor ceremony, Outdoor wedding, Tipi wedding, Venues, Weather,