As we continue to adjust to a new way of celebrating, more couples are heading outside to say “I Do.” Sunset backdrops, beautiful fall colors, a snowy scenery — whatever the season, outdoor weddings are nothing short of magical. Considering this route yourself? Here’s everything you need to know about planning outdoor nuptials that are safe, fun and, of course, memorable for everyone!

Consider logistics and legalities

Planning a lively soiree with an open bar and a long night of dancing? There are a few things to consider, like permits. You must look into bylaws that could affect your venue plans, like noise ordinances, alcohol restrictions, or curfews. 

All Seasons: This should be one of the first things you tackle in your outdoor wedding planning. Visit your city’s website to learn more about what permits you need and how to obtain them. 

Maximize your space 

You can have both your ceremony and reception outdoors without sacrificing safety or comfort. Whatever size celebration you’re hoping for, you just have to utilize your space with a strategic layout:

  • Always consider tents. At the very least, draft a layout that includes room for one or more tents in case they’re needed. In the event of inclement weather, you’ll need enough tenting for your ceremony, dinner reception, dancing area, any activities and entertainment, your cake and gift table, and of course, plenty of tent space for your caterer and food service.
  • Chose your altar location. If your ceremony and reception will be taking place in the same area, consider foldable altars that can be quickly taken down for the reception.
  • Create your ceremony seating layout. Explore creative arrangements for a more inclusive guest experience. Consider arranging the seating in a circle or semicircle around you and the altar — this creates a more intimate atmosphere. 
  • Designate your main reception area. Determine where you want your dance floor, any food stations, and seating areas.
  • Arrange reception tables and create the seating chart. We have some fun ideas for you in the next section!

Spring/Summer: For hot summer weddings, leave room in your layout for fans and portable air conditioning units. Spring can get muddy and can also have cool evenings, so consider renting sides and flooring.

Fall/Winter: Keep the space warm with propane heaters, but leave enough space for safe walkways. For snowy weather, make sure all walkways are properly cleared and salted.

Get creative with seating arrangements

Outdoor ceremonies and receptions leave room for fun seating alternatives: vintage home furniture, hay bales with blanket covers, large tree stumps or logs, or benches.  (If you do choose non-traditional seating, be sure to clue the guests in to the type of attire they should wear in the invitation; you won’t want to see guests in evening gowns sitting on tree stumps!)  In addition to the ceremony and reception areas, create hangout spaces with activities. 

Spring/Summer: Set up hammocks and rocking chairs, and create areas for some yard games.

Fall/Winter: Add a firepit or two with some lounge chairs and blankets for guests to cozy up in. 

Choose your wedding day look wisely 

For outdoor weddings, seasonably appropriate styles are a must — but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style or comfort. What season is it? Will the weather affect what kind of dress you wear? Keep these things in mind when you are choosing a wedding-day look for yourself, and your bridesmaids and groomsmen. Our stylists at The Dress Shop will help you find the right look. 

Fall/Winter: Look for styles with heavier, warmer fabric and pair them with a shawl or faux-fur cover-up. Don’t get cold feet — wear close-toed shoes! 

Spring/Summer: Go for light and breathable fabrics. If your venue is a grassy area, think twice about stilettos!

Keep your guests in mind

You want to give your guests an experience they’ll remember, so keep them in mind as you plan your big day. Let them know what to expect from the get-go by including a few things on your invites or wedding website:

  • Alternative plan for inclement weather
  • Appropriate attire, including shoes and outerwear 
  • How guests will stay cool if it’s hot out, and warm if it’s cold out

Depending on the season, there are a few different things you can do to keep guests comfortable:

Fall/Winter: Provide heaters and blankets, hot beverages, and hand warmers or mittens as  favors. Make sure there is a source of heat, like propane lamps or fireplaces. 

Spring/Summer: Provide fans and umbrellas, ice and cold water, shaded areas, and sunscreen. Keep pesky bugs at bay with citronella candles and bug spray.

Have fun with your menu

Match your outdoor vibe with fun food, even if that means ditching the traditional three-course meal. A nice buffet-style can be the perfect set up, but if your outdoor area has ample space, utilize it with a quirky meal experience, like food trucks or interactive food “stations” — who doesn’t love build-your-own ice cream sundaes?

Spring/Summer: Warmer seasons are perfect for self-serve bars. Guests get an interactive experience and this serving style eliminates the need (and cost!) for a bartender. 

Fall/Winter: Keep guests warm with a wood-fired pizza oven experience or a s’mores station by a cozy bonfire.

Outdoor wedding food

Get the lighting right

First, make sure you talk with your photographer about the shots you want — if you’re dreaming of sunset photos, you have a limited time frame for the right lighting. When the sun goes down, other lights go on — let them set the mood! Try lights that don’t require plugs for safety and a clean look:

  • Candles (real and electric)
  • Fairy or string lights
  • Solar-powered lamps
  • Lanterns
  • Fire pits

Try simple string lights loosely hung from tree branches, or light pathways with votive candles. Above all, light your tents and create a clear, safe walkway for guests.

All Seasons: Rain or snow are possible in every season, so you absolutely must make sure that your lighting solutions are covered and protected to prevent anyone from getting shocked.

Outdoor wedding - bride and groom

Winter, spring, summer, or fall — we want to help make your outdoor wedding picture-perfect. Ready to start planning your big day? Connect with our event coordinators now at Crystal Gardens!