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An Outdoor Affair

Outdoor rustic wedding in New Rochelle, NY. Photo by Kristina Staal.

It is difficult to deny the allure of an outdoor wedding. The location options alone seem endless. Beach? Park? Golf Course? Campground? The list goes on. But location notwithstanding, outdoor receptions carry with them some unique obstacles and opportunities that you should bear in mind before deciding the outdoors is the way to go.

Consider availability. Reservations for outdoor venues can be hard to get. Oftentimes they are book very far in advance, as demand can be great. This is especially true with public venues like town beaches or parks. Because they are generally responsibly priced (you might have to buy a “use permit”) and are often well-maintained, popular public venues can be very hard secure. Consider an off-peak time or season if a certain spot is a must-have. But to play it safe, if you are looking for a public venue cast a wide net.

You might have to get creative. Oftentimes properties on sites like Airbnb are available for weddings and other parties, provided you adhere to the owner’s rental guidelines. These can be particularly attractive in late summer, after summer rentals have left, but the properties are not yet closed for the winter. A late summer or early fall outdoor wedding can be magnificent.

Speaking of weather, keep it in mind, particularly if you will have older party-goers. What might seem like a comfortable temperature in shorts and a t-shirt could unbearable in a suit or gown or tux. Further, even in Spring, the Sun is very hot, and people will get uncomfortable without some occasional relief. And then there is rain. The threat of inclement weather discourages people from holding outdoor affairs more than any other factor. So, what do you do?

Tents are a mainstay of outdoor receptions because they provide a Plan B in the event of rain. While everyone hopes for great weather, the truth is that rain happens. You can minimize the possibility through very careful planning, but no date is 100% guaranteed to be dry. It is best to have a backup plan, some nice tents, and a reasonable sense of humor. If you prepare for and accept the possibility of bad weather, it will not ruin your day should it happen. Perhaps consider purchasing disposable clear ponchos for guests or renting umbrellas. Plastic shoe covers might be nice, too. These seemingly silly, but affordable, touches will be a welcome surprise for your guests should the weather not go your way.

You might want to think about relaxing the dress code for an outdoor event. If the ceremony in on the grass, for example, guests wearing heels might find that very uncomfortable, awkward, and even dangerous. Further, some guests might prefer longer garments that could get soiled or wet resting on the ground. A sensible dress code is another great way to combat unpredictable weather. If, on the morning of your event the weather is not what was expected, guests can make easy wardrobe decisions the day of. Of course, the wedding party should be dressed as you prefer, but your guests might appreciate the comfort and convenience of a “business casual” dress code.

Finally, you need to have a good idea about the size of your affair before considering an outdoor reception. The more space you need the harder I will be to find an available venue that can accommodate your guests. More often outdoor venues better lend themselves to intimate gatherings.

Outdoor parties of any kind can be more difficult to plan, but you shouldn’t let that discourage you. If you are willing to dedicate the extra time and preparation and outdoor event can be a truly memorable, unique, and beautiful experience. Good luck!

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