These elements of an outdoor wedding should guide you through all that needs to be accomplished.
Everything you need to plan an outdoor wedding including the things you probably haven’t thought of (power generators and potties…yes, you will need them) to pull off a gorgeous, glamorous outdoor affair in your own backyard or some other nature-loving location.
I have planned several outdoor weddings that were not related to a venue. The hardest of these locations was raw family farm land and family estates that required painstaking attention to detail because a tented wedding is like building a venue from scratch.
The unparalleled beauty of open land or the nostalgia of hosting your wedding at your childhood home sounds amazing, but there’s a significant amount of legwork and orchestration that goes into planning an alfresco celebration.
Set Up Camp
When it comes to your outdoor wedding setup, chances are, you will want some sort of overhead cover. The good thing about tents is that they can be pitched just about anywhere. Whether you’re going for formal or casual, tents come in all shapes, sizes and materials. Work with your local rental company and make sure you choose a tent that works on your surface. You will need to schedule a site visit with them since they have not set up a tent on your property before.
For this wedding we designed the event around a sail cloth tent; which has a different set up than a standard pole tent.
Don’t forget to weatherproof it. For a summer wedding, bring in fans and portable air conditioning units, and keep guests warm in chillier months with tall patio or propane heathers. You may also want to add floor surfaces (to correct uneven ground) and wall panels (to protect against wind or rain). All these factors must be considered. Note: You can reserve tent wall panels in case of rain and if the weather is going to be clear then cancel these items before the event. Most rental companies have no problem doing this.
Creating a layout of your floor plan will help you understand how to place your tables and finalize the overall design. If you are working with a planner they can do this for you; if not, the tent company should be able to guide you with how much interior tent space you will have to work with for a floor plan.
Transform the outdoors Into a Charming Space
Once you have decided on tent and location, have fun with the decorating. Drape fabric from the tent’s ceiling or in this case gorgeous greenery wrapped around the wooden tent poles. Add personal and unique details to welcome guests and enhance your wedding’s design. This couple wanted an upscale woodsy feel so we brought nature inside the tent with draping greenery, moss and seasonal flowers to give this space a very organic feel.
Create an entire experience inside the tent so when people step inside they feel they are at a different place; not just your backyard. Linens, florals, lights, candles, florals and event what type of chairs you use will help create a magical place.
Take Advantage of the Natural Scenery
Probably one of the major reasons why you’re choosing an outdoor wedding set up is because you’re inspired by the natural elements of the space. Incorporate the natural scenery into your decor. Dress up a planter, add candles to the steps, place floating candles in the pool. There is so much you can use to decorate just by embracing the surroundings.
By placing the chairs amongst the trees we created the perfect setting for the ceremony. During cocktail hour these chairs were moved to the dining tables. Take the time to scope out the property; this allows you to use the already natural scenery and easily enhance your event design. This pulls the design together and could save you some money on additional rentals.
Incorporate your florals and other decor that enhance the already lovely surroundings; use floral designs that contribute not distract.
Work together with the great outdoors; not against and your entire event will be cohesive.
Think About the Extras—and Rent Them
When you have a wedding apart from an actual venue, you have to think through all the elements you will need; decor as well as necessary items you might not have thought of.
If you are hosting your celebration on farm land for instance or even your home; you will need to rent porta-potties…I know, the sound if it makes you cringe but we’re not talking about those ugly blue, smelly porta-jons you see at the fair. There are companies who have lovely bathroom trailers with amenities like in-room music, granite countertops and air conditioning/heaters.
Place these in an inconspicuous place, place plants around the trailer and you are in business. (oops!)
Please do not attempt to host a well attended event without renting a bathroom trailer. Having 120 guests invade your home’s bathrooms is not the way to approach this. Trust me on this one. I have worked several outdoor weddings and have rented a bathroom trailer(s) every time. They work perfectly. The general rule of thumb is to have one bathroom or stall for every 35 guests.
As a general rule, for a private residence, it’s smart to have an electrician install a special panel for the wedding’s power use (it can be removed afterwards). Or, if the tents are placed in a field or lawn away from a power source, a generator will be required.
The generator will run the bathroom trailer, lights, catering equipment (if necessary) DJ equipment, etc. Let the generator rental company know exactly what will need power so they can guide you.
U.S. fire codes are such that tents need to have marked exits and a certain number of mounted fire extinguishers, so don’t be surprised to see fire equipment added to your rental estimate. Also, keep in mind that most towns require a permit for a tent setup of a certain size.
If you are on raw farm land you will need bathrooms, generator and water brought in.
Hire the Right caterer
Selecting the right caterer is crucial. Ensure they have worked outdoor, non-venue spaces and understand what they need to set up a mobile kitchen to keep things right on track.
It’s important to schedule a site visit prior to your wedding day with your caterer to make sure they’re well-equipped to handle the space. Also, keep in mind that in most cases, your caterer will need a separate prepping tent. You’ll have to work with your caterer to draw up a detailed floorplan, or if you have a planner they will do this for you and coordinate with the caterer.
Provide All the Necessities
If you think it may get chilly, set up heat fans and have cozy blankets on hand for your guests. But if it’s the heat you’re worried about, give out paper hand fans as party favors to keep your guests cool. For this late September wedding we provided guests with blankets, flip flops, and luxe bug spray and guests were appreciative.
Consider traffic and parking. The average home isn’t quite prepared for 150 wedding guests, and 75 cars. Make sure your neighbors are aware of the event. If you are out in the country utilize a portion of the land strictly for parking and rope it off. Hire a parking attendant for a couple of hours to ensure mass parking chaos does not ensue.
Book a block of rooms at a nearby hotel and run a shuttle service from the hotel to your home/land and back again. This alleviates cars all over your neighborhood and upset neighbors.
While it may be more work (and possibly more expensive) than you probably anticipated, I can tell you this much: You won’t regret saying your vows in a place that means a lot to you. It’s all about being prepared for what it takes to throw a backyard wedding.
Enjoy the Day
After all the attention, down the the finest detail, has been thought of and planned; sit back and enjoy the day. Even if you planned and designed the entire event yourself; I HIGHLY recommend hiring a planner the month out from your wedding to help you organize, pull al the pieces together and manage the wedding day. Don’t go it alone; invest in someone who can ensure you have a wonderful time at your wedding. Ensuring these elements of an outdoor wedding are covered you will be all set!