Outdoor Wedding Ceremony Venue Planning Tips

What To Consider When Looking For An Outdoor Wedding Ceremony Site

Wedding ceremony in an outdoor garden setting.

You may have seen and been inspired by all those picture perfect outdoor wedding ceremony venues on the internet and are thinking of having one yourself. Stop and think for one second, is this something that you really want? Just because you see the ideal setting in a picture doesn’t mean that it would be ideal for you.

There are many things that you need to consider when planning an outdoor event. In most cases you just can’t say I want my wedding ceremony at location X and expect it to run smoothly – you need to do your homework and research to be fully aware of all the things that will need to be done for it to be a success.

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You should start with a preliminary site visit then consider the following; permits, amenities, parking, other events, access, seating, weather, a sound system, power, logistics, bugs, backup plan and costs. Let me explain each of these in more detail.

Preliminary Site Visit

First, you should do a preliminary site visit - this is especially important if you are considering a public venue such as a beach, park or bushland. You should visit the site preferably around the same time and on a similar day that you will be holding your ceremony and consider the following:

  • See how busy it is (I know it’s hard to judge because it could be different on your wedding day) but it will give you an idea.

  • Walk around to see if there are any quite areas that you could use.

  • Take a note of how many people there are and ask yourself the question: Would you be comfortable with this many strangers looking in as you say your vows?

  • What about the noise? Noise from nearby traffic, aircraft, trains and the people using the area, you don’t want these to drown you out as you say your vows.

  • Are there any public toilets nearby and how clean are these? If there are no toilets you may need to hire.


  • What about parking? Is there enough parking for the number of guests you have invited?

  • Is there somewhere to connect to power for lighting and equipment? Your ceremony musicians and Celebrant may need the use of power for their music and sound equipment and if you are having an evening ceremony you may need to consider power for lighting.

  • What about easy access? Is the location of the ceremony site easily accessible to all your guests or do they have a long walk from the carpark to get to the site?

  • Is the ground firm enough to walk on comfortably and safely? Be considerate of guests who may have difficulty walking or in wheel chairs you don't want them walking on a surface such as loose sand where they may stumble and fall.

Other Events

Will there be other events being held at the same day and time as your intended ceremony?  The type and nature of other events booked on the same day as yours could determine whether you will need to think of an alternative location.

Obtain a Permit

Ok, you have looked at the location and considered all of the above and it meets your needs, now you need to find out if a permit is required and what you are permitted to do at that location.

This might not apply if your chosen venue specialises in outdoor ceremonies or if it is on a private property where you get the owner's permission but it is something you must ensure if you are having your ceremony in a public place.

The rules and regulations will vary, some places may have restrictions on noise (this could affect your choice on musicians or DJ), the length of time that you can use the location, whether you can put up temporary structures such as a marquee and so on.

Therefore, it is vital to find these out first before you make any hard and fast plans. You don't want to turn up on the day only to be turned away because you haven't got a permit.

Weather

You can't always rely on mother nature doing the right thing, she could give you the cold shoulder with icy winds, show you her temper with extreme heat or she could be obliging and give you the perfect day, you just don't know. So, be prepared, you could have a tent on standby for light showers or shade for heat, provide umbrellas or have an alternative venue just in case it pours down. Don't forget to include your backup plan on your wedding invitations.

If you are considering saying your vows on the beach it can be quite calm which is ideal but you can get days that are blustery. A light breeze might not be a problem for you, but what about the fierce winds these can be annoying, they can ruin your carefully planned hair-do, blow sand in your face, have your dress flapping wildly in the wind and not to mention the problem of securing the decorations.

If you are planning a summer wedding when the weather can be extremely hot take into consideration your guests comfort, not everyone can tolerate the heat and if you are saying your vows at midday you should offer them a shady area to sit, this could be done by having your guests sit under shady trees or a hire a tent for shade. You should also provide plenty of water for your guests to help keep them hydrated and comfortable, you could also go as far as hiring fans to help keep them cool.

If you are planning on saying your vows in winter you will also need to provide shelter from the cold. You could offer warm wraps and drinks, provide umbrellas or disposable rain coats to keep your guests comfortable and perhaps consider having a short ceremony so that your guests can move to somewhere warmer.

Seating

To seat or not to seat that is the question? I personally think that seating should be provided no matter how long or short the ceremony is. The reasons why I say this is that:

  • You will have guests arriving well before time and stay for some time after the ceremony, therefore they end up standing for longer than expected.

  • Then you may have a cocktail hour before the reception they will end up standing again, it can end up being a tiring day for some.
  • You may have elderly guests, pregnant guests or guests who may not be feeling all that well, they will need some where to sit.

  • It could be a sweltering day which is exhausting and your guests could be looking for somewhere to sit.
  • You will have guests in heels and standing in them for prolonged periods of time can be uncomfortable and more so if they are standing on sandy or grassy areas.

However, there are circumstances where it might not be possible or practical to bring seating to your outdoor wedding ceremony venue, in this case be a considerate host and keep your wedding ceremony short no longer than say fifteen to twenty minutes.

Sound System

Unless your wedding ceremony is going to be small and intimate with only handful of guests you could probably get away without the use of a sound system. You are most certainly going to need one:

  • If you have more than fifty wedding guests,

  • If your seating is more than eight rows long and

  • If the conditions at the location can drown your voices out – like the beach or nearby traffic.

You may need to consider using a portable sound system if a power connection is not available at the site. Talk to your DJ or celebrant they may have the necessary equipment, if not you are going to have to hire or buy.

Power Source

When looking at the ceremony location think about whether you will need the use of power. You might be able to get away with using a portable sound system as mentioned above if you are using pre-recorded music and for the microphones. On the other hand, if you need power for lighting your evening ceremony or for your musician equipment does the site have a power source or are you going to have to hire a generator.

Logistics

Once you have considered all the things that you want for your wedding ceremony from the wedding arch, decorations, seating, sound equipment, tents for shelter and so on how are you going to get everything to the site?

If you are hiring and having the vendors setting up and taking down this should not be a problem. But, if you plan the DIY route you will need to enlist the help of some reliable friends to get the job done – you may also need to hire trailers to get everything to the site and back to the vendors.

Bugs

Take into consideration mosquitoes and flies these can be real nuisance in certain areas and in warmer climates. You will need to provide insect repellent, the last thing that you want in your wedding video is to see yourself constantly swatting away at the flies or mosquitoes.

Backup Plan

Your backup plan could be as simple has having a fully enclosed tent set up just in case it rains or, if weather gets too hot your guests can shelter underneath the tent canopy with the sides pulled back for ventilation. If the weather becomes unpleasant you could move your ceremony to the reception venue.

With any of these options it means that additional costs are involved. In addition to the costs you do need to ensure that you are permitted to set up a tent at the ceremony site and in the case of moving on to the reception venue you will need to discuss this option with the venue manager long before your wedding day.

Your Budget

Finally, there is your budget to consider. Make a list of all the possible things that you need for your chosen outdoor wedding ceremony venue and work out a final rough cost – and don’t forget to factor in the backup plan.

If you find that the costs goes way outside your budget you may have to consider another venue, possibly one that can offer you some or all the things that you may have needed to bring to your first ceremony venue, you may even find that it will work out cheaper and much more convenient.

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Be Comfortable In What You Wear

I don’t mean well-fitting wedding attire (which of course is a must for comfort), what I mean is choose attire that suits your own personal style and not something that you think you should wear just to please someone else.

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Turn Your Cell Phone Off

Don’t get distracted with calls and texts of “wishing you well” on your wedding day, you need to be in the moment to enjoy your day.

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