Tips for planning an outdoor wedding

For those who love being outdoors, getting married in front of nature’s backdrop is the ultimate dream. 

From a lapping shoreline, to a kaleidoscope of wildflowers; whatever your ideal scene, an outdoor wedding means you can make it a big part of your special day.

Deciding you want to tie the knot outdoors is the first step, and then you’ll need a weathertight plan. Needless to say, there’s a lot more to take into consideration when mother nature is involved! But don’t let that stop you. It’s totally worth it – especially when it comes to achieving magical and atmospheric photos!

Here are some handy tips for planning an outdoor wedding, to make sure nothing puts a damper on your day.  

Pick the perfect location

First and foremost, you’ll want to find an outdoor wedding venue that paints the perfect picture for you. For some, this is a beachside wedding: think sandy toes and the calming sound of the ocean. While, for others, rolling hills evoke a wonderful sense of freedom, or a country estate provides effortless grandeur. The options for outdoor weddings are endless. 

Luckily, we’re spoilt for choice in the UK, with beautiful spots around every corner. (Especially in Cornwall!) It’s worth remembering, though, that there are some restrictions in place on getting married outdoors here. In England, the law states that the official part of the ceremony must take place under a fixed and licensed structure, which includes gazebos and pavilions, as well as designated places like beach bars and country manor houses. 

 

 

Planning is key

 

Give yourself plenty of time to organise everything, and make sure you’re prepared for the challenge! When choosing a more traditional ‘indoor’ wedding, you can cross a lot of things off your to do list simply by choosing a wedding venue that takes care of it all. Many offer the full package; so things like food, tables, chairs, and so on, are all covered. However, with an outdoor wedding, especially one that’s off-grid, you’ll likely find yourself having to sort all of these details (and more) yourself. 

 

This is where a checklist will be absolutely essential. Write down everything you need for your wedding, and then start thinking about how you can get hold of each item or service. This can be a really enjoyable stepping stone as it gives you an opportunity to get creative with sourcing. For example, searching second-hand listings and in reclamation yards are brilliant ways to find furniture and accessories for your wedding, and often at a fraction of the price. There’s also a greater chance of stumbling across something quirky or that you might not have thought about already!

 

Having a central list will also allow you to start researching suppliers and professional services that you may want to enlist. And don’t forget about the help of your friends and family too! (As well as yourself…) Delegate tasks based on all the hands you have available to you, and their unique skills. Do you know someone that can build you a reclaimed beach bar out of palettes? Or maybe someone artistic who would be happy to design the invitations? And which areas can you tackle yourself?  

 

Research outdoor wedding venues

Fortunately, some wedding venues are geared up for outdoor weddings, meaning you won’t have to painstakingly plan every single detail yourself. Plus, it depends just how ‘outdoors’ you want your special day to be. If you want an outdoor wedding ceremony that’s immersed in nature and under blue skies, but with the option of somewhere indoors if the weather doesn’t play ball, then it’s worth considering venues that can offer you both. 

For example, The Green in Cornwall is a popular outdoor wedding venue as it offers 20 acres of glorious grounds, meadows and orchards, with the option to tie the knot overlooking the beautifully serene Lake Arbour; or hillside at Oak Arbour, under two dazzling oak trees and overlooking the valley below. Alternatively, here you can opt for the ceremony to be held in one of the charming barns, bellowing with character and all the benefits of being undercover while still being close to nature. 

If you’re torn between being completely outdoors, and the undeniable benefits and comfort of an indoor space, then you can’t beat the light, airy and natural atmosphere of a barn. These traditional buildings often have a raw and rugged feel to their structure, coupled with equally wild surroundings, that leaves you feeling totally wrapped up in the environment; both indoors and out. You can read more about barn wedding venues in Cornwall here

Time it right 

Relying on the seasons isn’t always a safe bet in the UK. In fact, it’s usually not a safe bet in the UK! However, choosing the time of year which best suits your preferences is a good place to start. If you love spring’s blossoming flora and the buzz of wildlife in the air, then naturally you’ll be drawn to getting married during this season. The same goes for the long balmy evenings of summer or the vibrant colours of autumn – there’s something truly unique about each season that will become a memorable feature of your wedding day. 

One perk of having to get married under a fixed structure is that the weather will be a little less of a concern. Having shelter means you can enjoy each moment, without keeping an eye on the clouds. And if the skies do decide to bucket down, you shouldn’t let it spoil your day, or the photos! Props, such as decorative umbrellas and wellies, result in elegant, and often really playful images. 

Prepare for all weathers 

It’s worth thinking about the different scenarios that could occur on your wedding day because of the weather, and then ensure you have measures in place to prepare for them. Naturally, the first thing that springs to mind for many is the need for a more accommodating space in the event of wet conditions, but it’s important to think about what might be needed for you and your guests if the weather is particularly hot and dry too! And then there’s the wind to think about… 

As a starter for ten, some things to be mindful of when preparing for sun and heat include providing shelter, such as parasols, plenty of water jugs to keep everyone hydrated, and electric or handheld fans if it’s likely to be a particularly high temperature. On the flip side, when the sun goes down, it’s a good idea to provide blankets or heat lamps to keep your guests warm. 

If the wind could be a challenge, then you may choose not to have candles or scatter petals for the ceremony. Instead, try opting for more resilient options, such as a carpet or runner down the aisle, with fixed fairy lights. Technical planning and health and safety are imperative, such as ensuring your structure is secure if the wind picks up. Background noise can become an issue outdoors too, especially if it’s windy, therefore having microphones for the ceremony is an important consideration, as you wouldn’t want any of your guests to miss out on hearing your exchange of words!

This might sound daunting, but simply giving it some thought and having a back up plan is all you need to rest easy on the day. The uncertainty of weather is unavoidable, and therefore shouldn’t become a cause of stress on your special day. 

Be creative with nature

Here’s the really fun part. Once you’ve chosen a wedding venue and date, you can focus on the details; and this means tying everything together. Naturally, you’ll have chosen a venue for its unique environment, and a season for its signature delights – so use them both to your advantage when it comes to styling your wedding day. Using what you have already in your wedding location, courtesy of nature, will take the pressure off planning every detail of your outdoor wedding ceremony. Instead, you can focus on introducing different materials and textures that complement the surroundings. For example, if you’ve opted for a rustic woodland wedding, then hanging trails of fairy lights in the trees will enhance this mystical wonderland, and using wildflowers and ferns on the table arrangements will create a natural flow throughout the environment. 

Think about whether you want to add contrasting and bold colours to your backdrop, such as a decorative wedding arch with lots of vibrant flowers, and patterned material adorning the tables and chairs; or, alternatively, if you’d like to maintain the natural and organic feel of your outdoor wedding. This can be achieved with more neutral colours and materials, such as linen, choosing flowers that tie in with the environment you’ve chosen, and also by continuing the theme with your accessories, such as wooden table names, signs, and kegs. Read our guide to planning a rustic wedding for more tips.  

Alternatively, if you’ve gone for a coastal venue then consider using natural materials like pebbles from the beach to write guests’ names on, or a chunk of driftwood to display the table plan. These details will remind everyone about the unique and striking location of your wedding, as well as adding lots of little pieces to the story of the day.

 

For a photographer, outdoor weddings are a playground for capturing vibrant, natural, and individual images.  Get in touch to discuss your outdoor wedding plans and how we can create a charming visual story around your beautiful day.

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