Thursday, July 19, 2018

Things to Think About When Planning a DIY Outdoor Wedding

Outdoor weddings can be gorgeous while providing a more personal environment reflecting a couples hobbies, theme or interest, and often can be hosted on your personal or family property without having to pay rental fees to a venue. However, there are several things to think about when you will be planning a DIY wedding.

Western wedding

We all pray for a beautiful day without rain for our outdoor weddings. Personally, we had an outdoor wedding 16 years ago and didn't have a backup plan if it rained. We were fortunate, but trust me, you need to have a Plan B! Over the years, we have experienced all kinds of scenarios in regards to outdoor weddings, so I want to give you a few things to think about when planning your big day, so maybe you can be prepared and make your wedding as least stressful as possible, so you enjoy every minute of it. Some of these points will also apply to all weddings, not just the outdoor ones. 
  • What if it rains all week and it's too wet and muddy? A few times, there was going to be an outdoor wedding and indoor or barn reception and it all got combined inside. Will you have room to combine the two, even if you have to divide the room in two to make an aisle and guest simply set at the tables (such as the setting below)? If it's really wet or muddy surrounding the venue, you may even want to "build" a sidewalk with wood shavings, scattered hay, rubber mats, stepping stones, etc. (I nearly ruined a pair of boots getting inside one building, because of the red clay surrounding the venue.) 

  • Summer weddings can be so hot outdoors. Do you have a place to get dressed that is cool? One particular venue we have decorated doesn't have any air conditioning in their building. (It's Texas and is HOT in the summer.) The place has roll up doors and big fans, which works for the actual reception, but getting dressed is hot. Some brides get dressed at home or a hotel room, and drive to the location (but do you want to wrinkle your wedding dress getting in a vehicle?) One family rented a portable a/c for the bridal room, but you need to check electrical capacity, before renting it and know that it will work.
  • Just the opposite for weddings in the cooler months. What about heating? I remember one wedding that was scheduled for their front yard, but the seven day forecast had unseasonable low 40 degree weather for the wedding day. The solution was to clean out a barn and move the ceremony and reception inside so guest wouldn't be shivering out in the elements. The week of the wedding, they worked night and day to get everything ready.
  • Make sure you stay hydrated and nourished while working outdoors on wedding prep! So many times, we get busy and put off eating or drinking and it can have bad repercussions later on in the day (or following week.)  No one needs to be sick or dehydrated, have low blood sugar, etc.
  • Will your caterer have a location to prepare / store food before the reception? Will there be a place to stage and clean up or have access to water and electricity?  One said she would never do another summer wedding at the above mentioned venue as it was so hot on the workers and the cake was melting. You want to take into account workers conditions as well!
  • If renting fans, portable air conditioning, or heaters; make sure you have extension cords and enough power to supply the equipment. Breakers kept tripping at one reception, because the home electrical system wasn't enough to provide for all the outdoor fans and lights. 
Fans were provided for guest

  • At one wedding, it was extremely cold for Day 1 of set up, Day 2 set up was an absolutely perfect spring day, so we thought we were set for the big day, only for Day 3 to be gorgeous, but windy.  The tablecloths were flying off the tables, and the arrangements would blow over. We did come up with a last minute fix for the tables and centerpieces, although the tent never did go up over the food serving area. 
Fortunately with that wedding, the tables were actually wooden spools and we used burlap table clothes, so we stapled the burlap to the wooden spools. Since it was a farm wedding, someone came up with an idea to get some big rusty nails out of the barn and drive the nails as a support around the mason jars to keep them upright. Happy to say "it worked!" We didn't get to drape as much lace on the tables as we originally planned, but it still turned out pretty.

country wedding centerpieces
If traditional tables and clothes were used, we would never have been able to implement that back up plan. At a recent wedding, the bride wanted tall arrangements in the Eiffel tower style vases. Just a slight breeze was blowing them over and we had to transfer the arrangements to lower profile vases that weren't top heavy. Even our extra large arrangements in heavy urns were blowing over and they had to be placed in alternative containers that set flatter to the table.  This would never be an issue indoors, but outdoors it was and you must realize some of these things when picking out decor and locations. 

One time, we used large elaborate urns on concrete pedestals at the venue. Once again, the wind was playing havoc on the arrangements and the grounds keeper told us other florist had used wire to anchor the containers on the pedestals. So, we had to make a run to the hardware store for a big roll of wire, then go back and tie the containers down. 

Extra bales of hay were required to help anchor down the entry way at one, because it did crash a few times while everything was being set up. Extra hands are always needed to be able to make this happen on a short notice, when time is critical for getting everything ready in time.

  • For one wedding, it rained all afternoon, although the rain stopped and we were able to get outside and design the wedding arch. Our jeans were soaked and I went home to discover my socks and feet were orange (my leather shoes were soaked through) and we finished in time for the sunset ceremony, although the couple didn't get any photos outdoors before the wedding. The location didn't have any outdoor lighting and it was dark by the time the ceremony concluded. (The minister used his cell phone flashlight!)  I may be the only one with pictures of the arch, so consider time and lighting when planning your wedding. It's not just about starting before dark, rather finishing the ceremony in time and getting any pictures with the bride, groom, and family afterwards. Of course, in that particular case, if the wedding was earlier, we wouldn't have been able to make the flowers in time. 

A platform was created for this arbor, so it would sit level. 

wedding arch

  • On another wedding, set up was perfect and everything was ready when we left to go get dressed (a team of us decorated the wedding and were attending it as well), only to have a huge thunderstorm dump buckets of rain on the venue. In that case, the wedding was delayed about 45 minutes, as we set out the rain inside the reception hall. Thank goodness our husbands were with us and they helped dry off chairs and set all the candles out in a hurry. Funny story there - my watch quit and I thought we were actually starting the wedding on time, instead of late. I've always heard the saying that "if it rains on your wedding day, you'll be rich" and I've tried to use it to encourage multiple brides over the years.
  • Do you need to rent or borrow tents, tables, chairs, arch, candelabras, fans, props, doors, lighting, serving pieces? Tents must be anchored down, no matter what the conditions are. Often we help decorate, but have no idea what table clothes you ordered and how you want them (especially if using different colors for certain tables) or where you want certain props set up when a rental service delivers them. You need to make sure someone knows how and what you want (and will be on location to answer questions all day), because even though you've spent months or years planning your wedding, you'll be getting your hair and makeup fixed or having a bridal luncheon when deliveries are made. Sometimes rental companies will set up tables and chairs, but only if someone is there to tell them where they are suppose to go.
  • You will need garbage cans and trash bags. Most venues will provide them, but you will need to get them yourself, if you are creating your own wedding location.
  • Who will help set up and clean up? Trust me - you will always need more help that you think! It never hurts to have too many hands to set up tables, chairs, put on the table clothes, set out the trash cans, carry or tote anything, clean and prepare food, tote flower arrangements, pick up trash, open the cases of drinks and put in coolers, haul hay to the wedding site. (Almost anyone is capable of helping wash fruit, others can cut it up and put on trays, even if they aren't the one who finally arranges it. Picking up trash or helping set up chairs is a job some children can help with, depending on their age.) 
  • What kind of drinks will you serve? If serving alcohol, do you have enough drinks for kids and ones who won't drink alcohol? At one reception, the caterer provided tea and water, but as soon as the meal was served they left and there was only alcohol available and the reception went on for a long time. Also, label the alcoholic drinks! A few kids wanted to drink the "juice" at one reception and it was actually sangria! 
  • What about ice? Who is designated to go pick it up and fill the coolers? You'll need more ice than you think! Again, this can be anybody that wants to help and doesn't require a certain skill set (other than being able to drive safely and be responsible enough to deliver on time.) 
  • Will you provide security if serving alcohol? Most venues require you to provide security if alcohol is served. Check your contract, if you are renting a venue! It's better to be safe than sorry.
  • Will you have enough time to get everything set up and still get yourself ready?  Many times I simply work behind the scenes and leave when the decorating is done, but if you are doing it all yourself, will you have time to take a bath, fix your hair, and relax a little before the wedding? For a few of my friends weddings that I've helped with, I just stay on location and change my clothes there, opposed to going home. When all the family is getting ready, I've often been the only one to be on location when the cake is delivered or the caterer arrives and ask where they should set up. Someone needs to be on location early to accept deliveries and help with any last minute responsibilities. It's also a good time to take pictures of the decorations, without guest in the pictures. 

  • Okay, this is a big one for me: your back ground! We didn't think about where vehicles would be parked and we have trucks in almost every picture. Yes, that's us circa 2002, way before Jeff started growing a beard! Our wedding was outside in my in-laws yard and the black top road was right behind us. We didn't think about vehicles being in the pictures and looking back, I would have much preferred the pretty landscape behind us instead. No matter if you are getting married indoors, outdoors, or just trying to decide where the cake table will be located - think about the background that will be in the pictures. Do you want cars, electric poles, or a big sign that says restroom, or the breaker box in the barn being seen?  We've built backdrops for cake tables or created areas for photos to be taken, where you wouldn't see an unsightly wall or object. Snap a few photos when you are planning the wedding, so you can get an idea what the background might look like. If you need to rope off a place to block vehicles, do it! 
  • Speaking of vehicles - where will you park them? If using a non-traditional location, will they be able to park in the pasture and still get out if it is raining, wet, muddy? Will you need to park guest and shuttle them to the ceremony? What about older guest or someone with handicap or disability? Would your grandparents be able to easily walk across the parking area, then go from the ceremony to the reception? A golf cart can be used to quietly shuttle some people, but you might need additional help or shuttle service, depending on your situation and guest list. 
  • Here in the south, we have fire ants. You may need to check to make sure there isn't a fire ant mound where you are any guest will be standing or sitting. Don't forget to check on the day of the ceremony - those bad boys love to pop up over night, especially if it came a rain the day before. This could apply to any kind of insect that could be annoying such as bees or wasp. 
  • Okay, another aspect of creating a "farm wedding" out in the pasture - if the horses or cows have been in the field recently, you will probably want to remove the unsightly piles of poo! Yes, we've really had to use a pooper scooper to clean the grounds at a wedding! 
  • Candles - depending on the time of the wedding, they may or may not be seen. For an outdoor wedding, wind can extinguish the flame (inside air conditioners can do the same thing.) Also make sure its not too dry and your county is under a burn ban which prohibits an open flame. You wouldn't want your wedding known for starting a wildfire!  Battery operated candles are becoming very popular, but make sure you have batteries and test all the candles beforehand. Also, you'll need to designate someone to light the candles. Repeatedly, I've heard "the caterers are going to light the candles." That's not their job and they are too busy with their own business to run around lighting candle centerpieces and every time I heard that, it never happened. I've missed more than one ceremony, because I was lighting candles, when no one else was there to do it. Also, make sure you have lighters on hand and they work. 
Wedding centerpieces in mercury glass containers

  • Consider your guest comfort. One Facebook follower  said that they were given a different arrival time as some guest. They thought they were late, only to find out they had been only invited to the reception and were upset. They were also seated in an "overflow" area, up two flights of steps. As an older couple, they felt the stairs were hazardous when carrying food and drink up stairs, then were seated near rowdy children, and couldn't even see or hear the festivities of the wedding party. She felt no invitation would have been better than what they endured, although it was from a well meaning family. 
Things to think about when planning an outdoor wedding
  • Another Facebook follower comment said do as much as possible ahead of time, because something WILL come up on the day of the wedding! You want to keep plates, napkins, and utensils clean, but you can also take them or anything else out of the packaging ahead of time and have it all gathered together. That will save time and keep you from having to deal with the trash on the wedding day. You can go ahead and get all the bubbles taken out of their boxes and placed in a basket, make sure you have all your serving utensils gathered up, your serving trays ready, the ice chest, or where ever you will be icing down drinks clean and ready. Find or buy your extension cords and have them untangled and ready. Go ahead and put the batteries in all the candles...You get the idea. 
  • Another Facebook comment said do not do the flowers for your own children's wedding, because she had very little time to spend with her daughter on the day of the wedding and she looked less than perfect when it came time for the wedding. As a florist, I see this often. I have helped friends with weddings and usually they get dressed at last minute, because we make any outdoor flowers as late as possible, so they will still be fresh and there's always something extra that needs to be done. I made my own bouquet and was panicking because everything else wasn't getting done on the schedule I had planned. 
Things to think about when planning an outdoor wedding

  • We all want to do as much as we can and save money. Honestly, I get it, but we also have to be realistic about our skill set and how much stress we want to take on. I have had multiple orders from brides-to-be, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and friends who were attempting to make bouquets and give up, because they couldn't make the arrangements or they didn't realize how long or what all it takes. Some have been last minute rush orders and I try to be accommodating, if at all possible. I do this for a living, so I know how to create bouquets, the time it takes, and what needs to be done. You can not expect to copy someone else's work and years of trial, error, education, and experience on your first few attempts. 
    hand made fabric wedding flowers
  • I love creating wedding arches, but they can be tricky! Make sure you get a sturdy one or have a good plan for anchoring it. This one was "planted" in the ground, although with the flowers, it started leaning. The arbor had to be tied off to metal anchors placed behind the wooden poles, to make it stand up straight. For several seasons (and they might still do), a popular craft supply store sold a very cheap arch, but let me tell you, it was extremely wobbly, needed major help to stand up straight and had multiple joints that had to be assembled. I wouldn't recommend it to anybody. Arches take time to make and almost always need to be made on location, so you will be exposed to the elements. I've sunburned the part of my hair before, while making an arch. I've worked on anything from step stools, 6 foot ladders all the way to 14 foot ladders, in the back of a motorized mule to the bucket of a backhoe. It takes time going up and down a ladder and an assistant is always a good thing to have, so they can hand you flowers, when needed. I usually go home with bruises on my shins from where I leaned over the ladder and if I go up and down getting my own flowers for an arch, my legs will be tired, like I did a major workout at the gym. 
Things to think about when planning an outdoor wedding

  • If the wedding is held at your home, you will most likely have extra guest in your home while you are getting ready, so the line for the restroom and shower will be longer and it can take more than your usual time to get ready. Even if they aren't getting ready at your house, they will still be mingling around, talking, and you can easily get distracted, loosing focus and track of time. 
  • Speaking of restrooms - where will your guest go? Will your home septic system handle the extra use? Will you be okay with everyone coming in and our of your home or should you rent port a potties? They make some nicer ones now - I've heard of some that even have a sink in them (although I haven't used one, yet.) We "hid" the johnny on the spots at one wedding, by making a wall with old doors around them. That's another thing you don't want in the background of your pictures! 
Hiding port a potties at a wedding

I'm sure there are some things that I have missed from my list, but I wanted to give you ideas to think about and consider when planning an outdoor wedding. With proper planning and delegation, you can pull off a beautiful wedding! Just make sure you plan and do as much as possible ahead of time and don't be afraid to ask for help or accept it when offered! After all, you want to enjoy the wedding and not be stressed out.

What would you add to the list of things to think about when planning an outdoor wedding?

I had lots of comments on Facebook about things they would do differently when planning a wedding, so I'll be following up with another post that will discuss wedding planning in general and not just outdoors.  

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