Each year, many people plan outdoor wedding receptions and parties.
Some of the advantages include :
Convenience of not requiring guests to travel from a wedding ceremony to a wedding reception.
Savings of money can be realized by only requiring one party location, and at events held at a residence (yours or your relative’s, friend’s etc).
Unique outdoor party locations such as a mansion, park, or even in your own back yard can give your event that extra bit of luster.
The advantages can sometimes be overshadowed by poor planning and the location you choose. The next few pages will detail some of the things you need to plan for when choosing to “rough it” outdoors.
1. Have a Backup Plan – Rain, Fog and more
This is the most important element to have in case something goes wrong with the weather or the location. Not having a backup plan can lead to chaos for your vendors and make your guests uneasy.
Most of the time, Maine is fog free during July and August except along the immediate Atlantic coastline. Occasionally, Maine along with the rest of the northeast receives extended bouts of rain and fog causing havoc with hundreds of planned outdoor weddings.
Discuss ALL possibilities with your wedding professionals before deciding on an outdoor event.
2. Bugs, Birds, & Bees
The three “B’s” can cause discomfort for many of your guests. Also consider dogs, cats, and other uninvited guests! Seagulls can especially be problematic with coastal locations.
Having the reception near a dirt road? Brides need to be cautious when walking about because of the length of their train. Be especially careful when walking near pavement, stones, gravel or wood splinters.
4. Parking Distance
Please consider the distance that elderly people may have to walk to get to your reception/ Also make sure if you have handicapped guests that close parking is available to them.
5. Location, Location, Location
Many outdoor receptions are spread out so far that people at one end of the location are almost in the next county! At such a location, it is nearly impossible for all guests to be aware of what is going to happen. Try to have as many things as possible happen in one central location (head table, cake, dance area, bar, dance floor, disc jockey, etc.). Guests who stay away from a central area usually prefer to visit and talk in more private setting.
6. Noise Issues
Many outside locations have neighbors who call the police if they hear ANY noises from a party (music, people laughing loudly, glasses breaking on cement, car engines/doors, pin dropping, you know the type).
In the state of Maine, many municipalities allow the noise associated with an outdoor wedding to go until about 10:00pm. Some communities have even stricter ordinances which include an unreasonably low music decibel level restrictions on any type of entertainment function. Check with your local town or city hall to be sure what is allowed.
The neighbors could care less that it is your special day. We wouldn’t want to disturb anyone!
7. Adequate Shelter
You will need to make sure that you have adequate shelter for you and your guests. There have been at weddings where the tent is ripped in all of the wrong places. This can cause problems for those using electricity, or your guests if water seeps onto your dance floor.
A tent is NOT adequate shelter in the case of a lightning storm. Alert wedding professionals will urge you to suspend your event until the storm has passed. Lightning is a major concern from June through August here in Maine and is more likely in inland locations than the cool Atlantic coastal locations. Still, do not try to be a hero and tough it out in a lightning storm. On average, 90 people are killed by lightning each year in the United States.
No party is worth dying for. Be smart make sure your wedding day is not your last day on the planet.
8. Did someone forget to use deodorant???
Love the smell of cow manure??? Check to see if your location is near a pasture where horse/cow manure is common. At other outdoor locations, trash cans may be upwind from where the guests will be seated. MMM…spoiled milk smell in 90 degree weather! I can just taste it now…
9. Tent Rentals
Check tent rental prices before planning an outdoor ceremony/reception to prevent sticker shock at the last minute.
10. More Weather Problems, etc
Is it 98 degrees and sticky, only 50 and windy, a torrential downpour or maybe even SNOWING (May 22, 2003) during your ceremony? Believe it or not, this can happen in consecutive days in Maine!
Weather forecasters are right about 90% of the time in a 48 hour forecast. It’s the other 10% that seems unavoidable. As previously stated, have Plan B available just in case the weatherperson was someone that looks younger than the legal drinking age!
If there is an electrical storm, then your event SHOULD be suspended for the safety of your guests. Imagine everyone dancing to “Electric Avenue” only to get a shock from a powerful lightning bolt!
To ensure the wind will not wreak havoc, use heavy table items (large flower vases and no paper napkins), and pin or bolt down everything down that can be pinned or bolted down. Space heaters between each table near the dance floor and sweaters/coats are nice touches to increase the comfort level on a cold day.
For outdoor Brides, Bridal veils will blow in the direction of the wind. At an outdoor wedding ceremony, a Bride might prefer to be on the downwind side of the person accompanying her down the isle, and on the downwind side of her soon-to-be husband during the actual wedding ceremony.
Watch that wedding cake on a windy day. Have you ever seen the video of the bridge in Washington State that collapsed in just 40 mph winds the first day of its operation??? If a 40 mph wind could demolish that bridge, what would it do to your cake? Also, the tablecloth on the cake table could blow upwards and hit the cake
Rented tents, canopies, and/or tables with umbrellas are popular items to protect Guests from extreme heat, a bright sun, and those pesky ultraviolet rays. Large trees are popular options, but usually require a series of successful environmental impact studies before renting.
If you have your wedding in a park with a pond or other water backdrop, make certain that the water WILL NOT BE DRAINED the day of your event. I had this happen to a close friend of mine. The backdrop was ruined by seeing the muddy bottom of the park pond rather than the lovely water.
Other considerations at Outside Events include food (keep it simple?), a keg of beer (a refreshing idea!), and always keep the bar/dance area/music area together (a must!!!).
Outdoor wedding ceremonies/receptions can be very special and magical events. Bed and Breakfasts, mansions, parks, and personal residences can provide a wonderful ambiance quite different from the more familiar church/banquet room settings.