TIPS FOR PLANNING AN OUTDOOR WEDDING
So you want to have an outdoor wedding? Outdoor weddings are beautiful – nothing is lovelier than a sunny day with a gorgeous white tent set up in an outdoor landscape. Then there are the mosquitoes, oh and the rain. Let’s not forget about the wind. And the heat. Oh and the cold. And the fact that you have to build a venue from the ground up – which requires kitchen space, tables, chairs, bars, a dance floor, washrooms, power, parking… the list goes on. Suddenly that little casual inexpensive backyard wedding you wanted to have is way over budget and has you more stressed out than any bride should be.
I’ve planned many outdoor weddings in my wedding planning career – I’ve seen the way to do it right, and the way to do it very very wrong. An outdoor event, more than any other type of wedding, needs precise planning. My best recommendation is to hire a wedding planner if you plan on hosting your wedding outdoors. It’s money well spent to have it planned properly and to have someone on site to deal with problems that can arise. And remember, the comfort and enjoyment of your guests should be your number one priority, so make sure to keep your guests in mind when planning the details.
My motto with planning tent weddings is ‘Plan for the worse, but hope for the best’. You want to make sure you are prepared for anything! Here are my tips for planning a flawless outdoor wedding.
Some people think that planning an outdoor wedding will save them money. Nothing is further from the truth! Often times they cost more. It all depends on your vision – if you are happy with a simple tent, basic tables and chairs set up on the grass, and a simple meal for fifty guests – then cost wise you are right on track. But if you want the full kit and caboodle, then you will have to give the budget a lot of thought and do your research. There are so many factors to consider that you wouldn’t otherwise have to if you were having your wedding at a venue. It’s a good idea to do some research on costs before deciding to go ahead with it. Tents and everything that goes with them can be quite pricey.
You will have to rent a tent or several tents – for the dining area, cocktail and/or dancing area, kitchen, and washroom. You will need a tent large enough to fit all the tables and chairs, a dance floor, bars, and enough room for guests to get around. Make sure to create a proper floor plan so that you know you have enough room for everything and everybody. Couples often forget to make room for people. Two hundred people under one tent waiting in line at the bar can take up a lot of space!
You will also need tented space for the caterers that is located adjacent to the main dining tent. If it rains you don’t want food to get wet. You will also have to consider where the guests will be parking and how they will get to the tent area if it is raining. Many tent companies can provide walk-way canopies to keep guests dry as they walk to the wedding site.
I can’t say this enough – have enough power! All it takes to blow the breaker is plugging in the caterer’s coffee maker, and there goes your lighting and your sound. This could happen all night and it’s a real pain. Hire a company to come in to set up a generator that can provide power for everything. Some folks think they can just plug everything into the outside outlets of their house with extension cords – this will never be enough power to run the needs for an entire wedding. The company that provides the generator will ask you what your requirements are and will set you up with enough power to keep you going all night long.
Of course, every bride envisions a perfect sunny day for her wedding, but it’s inevitable – Mother Nature can be a real pain! The chances of having the perfect sunny day, with the ideal temperature and a slight breeze are slim. The weather can be unpredictable, so you want to be prepared. If an outdoor wedding is planned correctly you can lessen the impact of Mother Nature. Have several back-up plans, especially if you plan on having your wedding ceremony outside. It’s not a bad idea to book a small tent for the ceremony. If the weather cooperates then you won’t have to use it, but it’s good insurance to have in case the weather isn’t ideal. Otherwise, you will end up having to get married in your dining tent – not what most brides envision for their wedding ceremony!
There are several options when it comes to renting washrooms. The good old porta potty does the trick but we all know how nasty those can be! If you want something that doesn’t smell like raw sewage, you can opt for the washroom trailers that come with air conditioning, lighting, running water and flushing toilets. Make sure to have enough washrooms – this is not the place to scrimp on the budget! One toilet for every 25 guests ensures that line-ups are kept to a minimum. If you have some disabled guests, make sure to accommodate them as well with wheelchair accessible units. You also want to ensure the area is covered from the elements so that guests don’t get drenched when they go to the washroom.
Your caterers need a dry space out of the sun where they can set up. Some caterers come with portable kitchen trailers, but they will still need an area away from the elements to spread out so that they can plate and set up the food. Have some tables set up for them as well as large garbage cans with bags for scraping uneaten food into.
When choosing the location for your wedding, make sure there will be ample space for parking 100+ vehicles. If the planned parking area is in a field or grassy area, have a plan B in case of rain. The ground can get soft with a lot of rain and cars can get stuck!
I know what you are thinking – we are fine on the grass. It’s a backyard wedding – let’s just save some money. I can tell you from experience that flooring is your number one guarantee against rain. Just because you have a tent does not mean that you will be high and dry. If there is even the slightest angle in the ground, which there always is as no ground is perfectly flat, the water will find its way in and create puddles everywhere. I have seen it happen! Flooring allows the water to run underneath it and keeps everything dry. Even better, set the entire tent and it’s flooring up on risers to ensure no water gets in! The best part, your floor will be perfectly level so that tables and chairs will be set up straight and won’t slant because of the soft ground and pesky gofer holes.
Tables and Chairs
Most tent companies have tables and chairs for rent. Make sure that it is in their contract that they set up the tables and chairs. This isn’t something you want to be doing the day before your wedding. Give the floorplan to the tent company and let them do all the heavy lifting. It’s money well spent to save the headache of having to set up all those tables and chairs. And don’t forget chairs for the ceremony! You may be able to use the same chairs for the reception, so ask your rental company about the cost of transferring the chairs from the ceremony to the reception site.
Yes, it will get dark – people need to see! Hire a lighting company to come in to set up decorative lighting as well as lighting for the bar area, the kitchen area, washrooms and the path leading to the tent so guests can see where they are going once the sun sets.
Having a band? You must provide staging for a band so that they are up and off the ground and away from any possible water that could get in the tent from rain. Any DJ equipment must be protected as well and power outlets should be put inside power boxes to keep them away from moisture.
Wedding set-ups come with a lot of stuff. Have a small tent set up to the side to store the caterer’s equipment, boxes from rental companies, ice machines, etc.
There are many companies that rent portable bars. Talk to your caterer to see if bartending is a service they provide. If not, there are several bartending companies that can do that for you. They will tell you what you need to set up the bar, but here is the list:
– portable bars
– back tables
– ice (there are many companies that can deliver a freezer full with bags of ice for the entire event)
– alcohol and mix
– bar tools (shakers, shot glasses, bottle openers, wine corkscrews)
– garbage and recycling cans with bags
You should also ensure you have a cooler source for beer and wine – either portable coolers or bins of ice.
Air Conditioning / Heat
There are rental companies who can set you up with portable air conditioners and heaters. No one wants to sit in a tent in the sweltering heat. On the other end of the spectrum, even in summer, temperatures can get cool at night, so heating can be a life saver. It’s important to keep your guests comfortable. Check the weather forecast and make last minute preparations if needed.
Nothing chases guests away faster than the infamous mosquito. There are many companies out there that can come in and spray for bugs to keep them away on your wedding day. Choose a company with environmentally friendly choices only. You don’t want to be spraying foggy chemicals that can be irritating and get in guest’s food and drinks.
Check with your local community if you require permits for tents, parking, sound, and alcohol. You want to make sure you have this covered so that you don’t end up with fines and the proper measures are taken to ensure everyone’s safety.