Now is one of the best times to plan an outdoor wedding in the UK! Restrictions are lifting, people are going outside again, and love is in the air. Is an outdoor wedding right for you and your partner?
Keep reading for some tips and things to consider when planning a wedding outdoors.
Why Choose an Outdoor Wedding?
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor weddings are becoming much more popular. Research shows that being outdoors is much safer compared to being inside. There’s more room for social distancing, the air is moving, and ultraviolet light from the sun can help kill some viruses.
While most outdoor weddings happen over the summer, you can have one at any time of the year to fit your theme or give you a greater choice of timing. Each season can provide different wedding decoration ideas for your big day!
Earthy tones and oranges will add vibrancy to a fall wedding set under brightly coloured trees, and surrounding yourself with pastel spring flowers on the ground will brighten up your ceremony—and maybe save you some money on a florist!
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If you’re feeling brave, you could even bundle up to have a gorgeous wedding in the snow. Some of these plans require more effort than others, but you can have an outdoor wedding almost whenever you want.
Start thinking about these factors just as you’re getting started. An outdoor wedding isn’t for everyone. If you or your partner have strong allergies, getting “I do” out between sneezes might be difficult. The environmental challenges, like weather, might not be ones you want to tackle if you don’t have to. Or, if you have a specific photographer in mind, they might not feel confident about the lighting outdoors.
Think about these factors before you get started, so you don’t get to the end of the process and realize you wanted your wedding to be indoors!
Consider the Law
Here in the UK, a big question has been: Can we get legally married outdoors? Fortunately, the government has changed some restrictions in the wake of the pandemic.
To meet the demand for larger civil wedding ceremonies, approved venues such as hotels will be allowed to host outdoor civil weddings and partnerships for the first time beginning July 1. Before the change, weddings needed to take place in “an approved venue or permanent structure.”
Be sure to talk to your venue about these new changes, as they might allow you to expand your guest list! Or, if you’re starting your search, asking each potential venue about how the requirements affect them is an important first step. A venue might have a certain capacity they advertise, but it might be different with social distancing, so be aware!
The other legal requirements you’ll need to navigate around are COVID-19 restrictions. The good news is, there is no maximum capacity set by law for venues anymore. The maximum capacity will be determined by how many people the venue can accommodate with social distancing measures in place. A risk assessment will need to be done by the venue to make this determination.
Other factors need to be considered regarding masks, singing, dancing, and table service, but being outdoors makes those much easier for you. These new restrictions take effect on July 19, so be ready!
Take Cover from the Rain
While rain on your wedding day might seem like a downer, having a rainy wedding can be a lot of fun! In the rain, the naturally soft light will be perfect for pictures, and with a pair of cute wellies and some umbrellas, you’ll have some beautifully unique ones.
Plus, you might get a rainbow for the perfect shot of you and your partner. However, you’ll want to bring some towels and ensure you have at least some coverage for your guests to stay dry.
Marquee or Tents
A marquee or tent wedding could be perfect if you’re worried about potential rain but still, want that outdoor feel. Some venues have them already, but you can also rent them to have put up in other places.
An open field or beachfront can be adapted to a perfect wedding location with a marquee or tipi. These can give you an outdoor feel while protecting your guests from the elements. However, at least half of the walled area must be open to being considered “outdoors” for COVID restriction purposes.
If you have an outdoor ceremony and an indoor reception, talk to your venue about how long the turnaround could be for having both take place inside. Otherwise, if you haven’t already, ask if there’s a tent rental company that they’ve worked with before that could help you out last-minute.
If it’s projected to be chilly as well, think about renting some patio heaters for you and your guests. Nothing like being in a sleeveless dress, and it’s suddenly 12 degrees!
Protect from the Sun
While you’re probably hoping for a sunny day, some challenges come along with that. Sunburns are a real problem!
Obviously, they’ll sting and can lead to skin cancer, but the redness can also show up in your photos and probably isn’t how you’ll want to remember the day. Sunscreen is a must, and if you’re going to be standing in the sun for a couple of hours, be sure to reapply.
Protect Your Head
If you’re starting to lose some hair, don’t forget to get the top of your head! It’ll be right in the sun while taking your vows, and you probably won’t be wearing a hat.
However, you can also lay the groundwork for sun protection weeks or months in advance. Solutions like minoxidil can treat thinning hair and promote new hair growth, which can protect the top of your head from the sun.
Thickening your hair will not only provide more coverage against UV rays but also make you feel more confident as well. There’s nothing like showing off your flowing locks in your wedding photos!
While the sun might make you want to hold the whole event in the open air, having a marquee or tent could also help in the sun. If the day is projected to be sunny, you could consider having a smaller tent for part of the event as a reprieve for some of your guests. Giving an option could be the best of both worlds.
Hire a Wedding Planner
Talk to a wedding planner first! As you get into the planning process, all these additional considerations that an outdoor wedding brings might become overwhelming. Having an expert around who’s done it a couple of times can be beneficial.
They’ll have connections with vendors you might not know about to get you better value for money and help you bring your vision to life. Plus, it’s their job to know all the little details that are prone to slip through cracks. They can act almost like your lawyer for the wedding—there to help protect you and your interests.
Wedding planners can be invaluable through the planning stages, but it’s also invaluable to have someone with you on the day of. If the unthinkable happens, having your person with a headset and a clipboard will keep problems out of sight and out of mind. Having someone else be the point of contact for your vendors if they have an issue, maintain COVID protocols, and keep the DJ from playing Mr. Brightside again makes the day more relaxing and keeps you more focused on your partner.
Think of the Logistics
There’s a lot of logistical concerns in choosing an outdoor wedding venue. You might have some wedding ideas that you can’t quite pull off or have to be done differently outside.
The flow of your day might change a little if you need to set up a tent after the ceremony or rearrange your layout during the cocktail hour. Think about a couple of these things before you get started.
For an outdoor wedding, remember your budget. Your cost breakdown might be different from a traditional indoor wedding. Keep in mind that while you might get a public park for much cheaper than a castle, there are other costs and surcharges associated.
You might need to rent your tables, chairs, and glassware, whereas these costs might be rolled into a different venue. These costs can add up! Ask your venues if they have vendors they work with frequently for these; you might score a discount!
In general, you shouldn’t have to worry about changing your guestlist for your outdoor wedding, but you might want to consider the needs of your guests when selecting the venue.
- Does the location have stable enough ground for the older guests to get around safely?
- Does anyone need wheelchair access?
- Are you planning a destination wedding?
You don’t need to make all your wedding venue decisions based on your guests, but make sure they’re in mind as you tour sites.
There might already be a kitchen ready for your catering team in an indoor venue, but outdoors you might need to be creative. Talk to your vendors to make sure that they are aware of being outdoors and can plan accordingly. They’ll need a way to keep the wedding cake cool, and you might need to sacrifice your buttercream frosting dreams if you’re on a hot day!
If your venue doesn’t have a place for any kitchen equipment (provided or from your caterer), one fun idea could be hiring street food vans to come.
It’s not quite as formal as a chicken/fish/beef option, but they’ll have everything they need already in their van and can add a unique touch to make the day more memorable. Just make sure to keep the curry away from any rented clothes!
Don’t forget; you’ll need to consider transportation. Not every field has a parking lot, and not every guest has a Range Rover. Some outdoor wedding venues, like a botanical garden or beach, might have better options if getting there is a concern for your guests.
When you’re outside, you’ll have to think about your partner wear differently! Standing in a heavy cotton suit might be a little much on a hot summer day, so you may want to consider something lighter.
Incorporate some linen, chiffon, or charmeuse to stay cool. Think about if you want a veil or not, also. If it’s a windy day, you might be fighting with it while you try to exchange vows.
We already wrote a whole guide about which bridal shoes to wear outside, but you can never think too much about your shoes!
Wedding days can be long and tiring, so you’ll want something fashionable as well as comfortable. Flats, chunky heels, or sneakers can be better on rougher terrain than stilettos.
These factors are much more personal, however. Be sure to get what you want for the big day! Picking the wrong shoes won’t make or break anything.
Prepare the Facilities
If you’re fully outside, you probably don’t have easy access to an electrical outlet, a toilet, or other facilities. Your venue could have a generator included in the package, but you might have to find a rental yourself.
Talk to your other vendors about their electrical needs to make sure that you get the right one.
While your DJ is probably prepared to supply speakers for the reception, think about having microphones set up for the ceremony. If there’s any outside noise, like wind, rain, or waves, your guests might have trouble hearing.
When you tour a venue, have one person speak from the “altar” and sit someone in the back row. If they can’t quite hear you, they definitely won’t be able to with a full house.
One other thing that your DJ may supply for you that might be built into an indoor venue is a dance floor. A grass field can certainly make for a stunning venue but might give you a twisted ankle when you cha-cha real smooth. If your DJ doesn’t supply one, you’ll have to rent the floor separately.
You’ll also have to consider lighting. While the sun is the obvious choice, it won’t always cooperate. Moreover, you might want the ceremony and reception to take place in the evening. String lights are always a great choice inside a marquee or tipi or hang from posts in an outdoor space.
Be sure to include your wedding photographer in these decisions to make sure they have enough lighting to capture you and your guests.
And last but certainly not least, make sure you have some sort of toilet available for your guests! An indoor/outdoor venue might have them already, but simply pointing to the nearest tree isn’t sufficient if you’re fully outdoors. Talk to your venue about what they’ve done for weddings in the past.
While you’d love for the gorgeous UK climate to behave, that can’t always be relied upon. Be it rain, heat, or other factors; you have to be prepared for things not to work out quite how you want them to.
The most important takeaway from all of this is to talk to your vendors—especially a wedding planner! They’ve done this before and can help you navigate all the little challenges that arise to make your special day perfect.