Tuesday, May 3, 2011

10 things to consider when planning an outdoor wedding celebration

10 things to consider when planning an outdoor wedding celebration

It's truly wonderful to hold a momentous day in the great outdoors. Such an event can be beautifully memorable but can also offer unique challenges all its own. Savvy brides will be aware of these additional areas of attention and keep them in mind to maximize the chances of a flawless affair:

1. Have a backup plan

prepare for the unexpected and rent a tent or have an indoor venue that is immediately capable of handling your guests at the drop of a hat (or a raindrop)! We all wish to think Mother Nature will smile on us, but despite the weatherman's best forecast, sometimes circumstances are not what we wish for...or expect.

2. A breeze is nice, but...

Your picture perfect day may not be when your aisle arrangements, programs or place cards start playing "Gone with the Wind." Make sure to weight the bases of elements that you'd like to remain stationary. At times it can be prudent to even stake aisle pieces down to be extra secure – just make sure your fixes don't become tripping hazards in themselves by extending into footpaths.

For the tablecards, it might be better to use items in place of cards that are naturally heavier... perhaps small picture frames. It would be best to have a designated person minding this table area to ensure things run smoothly, or even handing these items directly to each guest if weather conditions dictate.

3. Save our soles

Try to ward off fashion faux pas by including the word "outdoor" on a save-the-date card and deliver word of mouth advice on footwear suggestions when opportunities arise. But you can't stop some gal pals who are determined to wear stillettos no matter what. It's wise and thoughtful to have a pretty basket of sole-savers on hand at the party, just in case. Heels Above and SoulMates are two brands that offer shoe-saving solutions.

Another way to avoid accidental lawn aeration is to install full subflooring in all areas where the party will be taking place, in advance... but be advised this is a very pricey alternative.

4. Prepare for the uninvited

Flowers and sweet smells often attract insects and bees, which can easily ruin an atmosphere and even can be dangerous if any guests have allergy issues. A prepared bride will have the area fogged for mosquitoes and biting insects on the day of the event (early, before any food arrives). Bees generally don't comply to this type of abatement, so it is better to minimize their threat by not positioning the event near garden beds which contain flowers that bees like (asters, sunflowers, dahlias, roses, & many more...), and not choosing bee-friendly bridal party flowers. Also, do not serve overly sweet drinks that can attract these nuisances, or leave full punchbowls out, especially in the summertime.

5. Mind the valuables

It is often troublesome to babysit a purse or bag while enjoying a wedding, especially while you're at the altar or on the dance floor! A manned, secure area is a good safeguard for bride & maids to leave personal belongings for more hands-free fun. For those who want to keep certain things more accessible, PortaPocket strap-onto-the-body carrying cases can be worn comfortably & discreetly under a gown to make sure ID, cash, cards, keys, lipstick, tampons, cell phone or other essential items are always immediately available without having to interrupt one's activity.

6. Call the cops (& the city...)

Make sure to call the city or village in which the event is taking place to find out if any special permits may be needed or if there are any noise ordinances. It is also useful to let police know that an event is planned so they will be prepared to deal with any issues that may arise. Parking permits or restrictions should be discussed and arrangements made for guests' convenience. Sometimes a nearby forest preserve, school or church parking lot can be rented after hours. If fabric is being used inside a tent for decor, you may need to have flame certification documents for this.

Call well in advance. These are not things you want to learn on the event day -- you don't want your party shut down unexpectedly!

7. Comfort is key

Noone can control the weather, but be mindful of ways to maximize your guests' comfort and enjoyment. In hot conditions, have water and fans available, whether manually-operated paper ones or the electric variety (or both)! Conversely, heaters can be rented on cool days, either those for an enclosed tent or radiant ones for outdoor use. If you plan to have guests seated for anything beyond the shortest of ceremonies, choose chairs with a smooth seat back design as many rental chair styles may look pretty but can be uncomfortable to lean against. Provide ample seating in general – either full seating if a sit-down affair, or seating for ½ to 2/3 of the guest count if a cocktail style party. Also, make sure your location has adequate, well-stocked restroom facilities nearby. There are nicer style single rental restrooms (or even trailers) available if needed, but can be an expensive add.

8. Traffic Flow...of the human kind

Keep your event space pleasing and well-designed by not placing too many elements in one area. Allow for an obstacle-free entry and make sure any food and beverage stations are amply spaced to eliminate overcrowding. Avoid placing popular stations (eg: bar or buffet) in small-sized "dead-end" areas with only one way in and out. Keep chair clearances in mind when setting up dining spaces so people can get up and down from adjacent tables without banging into each other. Leave open space around any catering and bar stations, as well as around the edges of the dancefloor for guest entry and exit.

9. Power, please

Invisible yes, but oh so important. It is imperative to know where your power sources are and how much is available well in advance. Power distribution must be done properly during setup to avoid overloading circuits. You don't want your lighting or music accidentally cutting out! Heat-producing items like coffee makers should be on separate circuits as they demand high levels. Rental generators are available in all sizes if necessary. Although decidely "unsexy"...this is an area in which you can't afford to skimp. Book an operator with your power supply in order to have a knowledgeable person on hand during the festivities.

10. Call JULIE

It's not a "she" but an acronym (in Chicagoland) for Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators. Check with the corresponding service in your area to verify placement of underground utility lines and the like. It is important to know in advance where things are lying underneath so when tent installers come to set up there won't be any rude (or worse, dangerous...) awakenings!

Privately installed septic fields and sprinkler systems can also pose challenges and should be carefully researched as to where their components are located. You don't want any unpleasant surprises.


If you are mindful of the details and give thoughtful attention to these and other elements during thorough planning, your outdoor wedding can be spectacular and go off without a hitch...of course with the exception of the hitching of the bride & groom! In whichever location you choose, best wishes for one of the most memorable events of a lifetime...

May it be everything you had hoped for, and more.