Planning an Outdoor Wedding

A Guide to Getting Married
At Home (and/or Outdoors)

Your wedding is a special event for members of your family and your circle of intimates. A lovely way to share the closeness and warmth of your future life together is to choose a location for your ceremony/reception which has a special meaning for you and your closest relatives and friends. Choosing one of your parents’ homes or a special park or natural location is one of the best ways to personalize your wedding.


Photo Courtesy B-Rap Studio

Before we get into the specifics of planning a wedding for an “other than traditional” location, here are a few words of warning and caution:

1. If you’re planning on holding the ceremony in a private home, make sure that you’ll be able to LIMIT YOUR GUEST LIST to the number of people you’ll be able to accommodate comfortably. Even if you’re planning to use a combination of the interior of the home and the garden/yard, you’ve still got to consider the weather and what will happen if everyone needs to get indoors.

2. If you’re planning for a park or other natural location (the beach, an island, etc.), make sure you’ve arranged for EXCLUSIVE USE OF THE AREA so that your privacy will not be compromised.

3. DON’T ATTEMPT TO DO EVERYTHING YOURSELVES. Even if you’re going for a “casual” or “at home” approach to your wedding day, it is still one of the most important days of your life and you won’t want to be bogged down with details like tents for inclement weather, or the buffet, or the bar, or where you’re going to be able to borrow 50 chairs! Most rental companies and caterers, often working in tandem, will be able to accommodate your style and will happily work closely with you to set up your ideal wedding and stay within your budget.
If you’re still reading this and you’re still thinking about a “do-it-yourself” wedding day, then you’re serious about it. So let’s move on to the fun part: Planning your “at-home” or “outdoor” wedding!

Photo Courtesy Dual Edge Photography

Once you’ve chosen a location for your wedding you need to scale your guest list to however many your area will hold comfortably. Be sure that you’ve got a tent or canopy lined up from a rental company which will hold all of your guests in the event of inclement weather.

You will find that planning for a wedding at your home or an outdoor location closely resembles that of “normal” wedding planning:

Arrange for a member of the clergy or a Judge or Justice of the Peace who will travel to your chosen location. Arrange for music for the ceremony and the reception. In the case of an at-home wedding, some common options are a guitar/flute or harp/flute duo, or a keyboardist. For the reception, maybe a disc jockey or a small band for the background music and the dancing. Make sure you have a surface for dancing and plenty of safe electrical connections for the entertainers.

A rental company or party planner can set you up with everything you’ll need in the way of tents, canopies, tables, chairs, even a portable dance floor, and depending on how much you rely on your caterer, they could also provide your place settings and serving paraphernalia. From paper plates and plastic cups to sterling silver and fine crystal, every style and budget can be well-served by your professional liaison and you can leave the worries behind. If you take care of everything yourself, make sure you’ve covered every detail including how the rental items will be returned because there’ll be no one to take care of these things on your wedding day. You’ll be on your own.

Restrooms/bathroom facilities are an important consideration. The general rule of thumb is one facility per 50 people. Do you have more than one bathroom at your house? Or are you heading off into the woods? In either case, renting a porta-john is a must!

Unless you are really ready to commit to a truly do-it-yourself reception (Dad at the backyard barbecue, a keg of beer, a barrel of soda, and a potluck of appetizers and side dishes provided by your family and friends), you’ll need to hire a caterer. Even if you plan to keep things on a simple “picnic” level, you’ll want your guests to feel like they’re being served – not being asked to fend for themselves. Have you ever tried to cut a steak with a plastic knife on a paper plate while standing? Think about these things. If nothing else, you’ll want someone to man the grill, tend bar, and clean up so that you won’t have to worry nor will you be imposing on your guests by asking them to clean up after themselves. And if you’re looking for elegance, we’ve seen some amazing dinners presented, even out in the wilderness. (Imagine a Raw Bar, Beef Wellington, freezing cold Champagne, China and crystal on linen at the beach. We’ve seen all of these things!) A professional caterer has all the equipment and utensils to cover any menu, any place, any time.

In closing, it is important to consult with professionals even if you’re “doing it yourself”. They’ll be able to pinpoint the style you wish to convey that will help set the mood for your day. But if you really want to do it yourself, plan long and hard and carefully – it’s a big job. Good luck!