Outdoor weddings are full of romance and natural splendor. From flower-filled gardens and tall, beautiful trees blooming with spring flowers to pillars decorated with streams of gardenias and crystals to open-air tables set in white linens and white flowers inspired by "The Great Gatsby" to tropical beach weddings, today's dream weddings take it outside in style.
To have not only a beautiful outdoor wedding but also a successful and enjoyable one free of weather mishaps, keep in mind the following advice:
1) Have a plan B. As much as you may have fallen in love with the vision of a ceremony, cocktail hour and reception set outdoors, be sure you have a protected location at the ready in case of inclement weather. Larissa Banting, president of Weddings Costa Rica, says, "Knowing you have a backup plan, in case the heavens open and shower you with tears of joy, will keep your (and everyone else's) stress level to a minimum." Choose a location that offers both an indoor ballroom as well as outdoor gardens or beach areas. If a monsoon strikes, you can have your wedding planning team arrange to move everything inside to keep your wedding details dry and your guests comfortable. Banting recommends that to allow sufficient time for them to set up, you should "appoint someone to make the weather call on your behalf by a mutually agreed time with the florist, rentals and location."
2) Hire a wedding coordinator. "Working with a professional to coordinate and oversee all of the vendors that will be involved in putting the big day together will truly help ease your mind. Wedding planners coordinate every detail from beginning to end to ensure that everything runs smoothly and on time," says Stephanie Rossi, senior consultant and marketing manager for The Finishing Touch Wedding and Event Planning. "Outdoor weddings require a lot of attention to detail, and, let's face it, you want to enjoy your special day! Having a planner with experience of planning and facilitating outdoor weddings and events will certainly help you do just that."
Your planner can suggest a catering team that is experienced in outdoor wedding menus so that your outside-served foods are chosen for health and safety as well as taste. Creamy foods can spoil in outdoor heat, and cheeses can spoil in summer sun, making guests ill. Your planner will also advise on how best to display your wedding cake; set it in a shady, cool spot so that it doesn't melt and collapse in outdoor heat, or keep it refrigerated inside until the cake-cutting moment so that it doesn't suffer or become attract gnats or mosquitos with the sweet frosting. A planning pro can prevent countless menu disasters and is a smart investment, especially considering the dangers of guests getting sick from your wedding fare.
3) Offer plenty of shade. "Include some shady spots where people can get out of the sun, as nothing puts a damper on the fun like blaring sun or heat stroke," says Banting, who suggests offering a basket full of pretty parasols to give guests personal sun protection. And ask your site to provide large patio umbrellas or a pretty open-sided tent, if possible.
4) Plan for great lighting. If your outdoor wedding will take place in the afternoon into evening hours, be sure to provide good lighting in and around your party area and the paths to restrooms to give guests safer walking space. Hang lanterns with battery-operated lights, string light bulbs, set out luminaries and if your theme fits, fire up some tiki torches, suggests Banting. Rossi says, "Work with your planner and expert lighting company to confirm there is enough power available throughout the property in order to handle the additional lighting.
5) Offer refreshing drinks. Banting suggests having servers offer guests ice water or cold lemonade to keep them cool and hydrated on a hot day, and consider providing cool facecloths served with tongs from a platter that guests can use to refresh themselves. Since alcohol is dehydrating, and the effects possibly magnified by outdoor heat and humidity, offer a wide range of nonalcoholic drinks like pitchers of fruit slice-filled water and mocktails.
Make sure that your shoes are perfect for outdoor wedding settings. Flats or fold-up FootzyFolds can look pretty in white, silver, pastels or bright colors and keep you sure-footed, preventing embarrassing falls or injuries that could occur if your stilettos sink into soft ground. Share this tip with your guests via your personal wedding website, so that they know to leave their heels at home and wear safer, comfier flats, as well.
Sharon Naylor is the author of "The Bride's Guide to Freebies" and three dozen additional wedding books.