Wedding Receptions
Emma Margeaux Bride Online Columnist

Top Tips for a Successful Outdoor Wedding

One of the great things about an outdoor wedding is that the setting you choose offers its own energy and sense of mood, so you actually have a lot to work with from the get-go. Another fantastic thing about outdoor weddings is that people tend to loosen up a smidge more than they would, say, in a glamorous ballroom. But that's not to say that planning an outdoor wedding doesnt  present its own issues (and opportunities). But have no fear- we've thought of them all and outlined them in this useful little list. Take heed and you're just about guaranteed a stress free outdoor wedding ceremony to remember (for all the right reasons).

Permits

Most councils require permits for the use of public places. Make sure you plan ahead to avoid disappointment! See your specific state's policy for details Note: the following list includes the most popular areas, but may not include your specific location!:

Australian Capital Territory: www.tams.act.gov.au/city-services/public_land_use

NewSouthWales:http://www.manly.nsw.gov.au/community-services/weddings/, http://www.mosman.nsw.gov.au, http://www.pittwater.nsw.gov.au/recreation/parks_and_reserves/weddings

Northern Territory: http://parksandwildlife.nt.gov.au/botanic/info/function/function

Queensland: http://www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au/sitePage.cfm?code=events

South Australia: http://www.burnside.sa.gov.au/files/b31b3d7f-6296-420c-a823-a07f01097ffe/Wedding_Booklet_28_06_2012.pdf

Tasmania:http://workplacestandards.tas.gov.au/resources/building_guides/building_regulatory_documents_and_forms/temporary_occupancy_permits
Victoria:https://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/PARKSANDACTIVITIES/ORGANISINGEVENTS/Pages/Weddings.aspx

Western Australia: http://www.formywedding.com.au/council.htm

Hello Sunshine

Colourful sunset over lake(Courtesy wallpaperswala.com)

Consider the orientation of your outdoor wedding and have the sun on guests' backs rather than in their eyes. If you are having a sunset wedding make sure that you check the time and plan accordingly!

Make Your Guests Comfortable

Whilst you can't predict the weather, you can do your best to make your guests comfortable. Here are some great ideas for keeping everyone comfy:

  • Preempt bad weather and save your guests from melting/freezing by having heating/cooling on hand. Giant fans/outdoor heaters will provide some comfort in extreme weather.
  • Seat guest where possible. There is nothing worse than a 30 minute ceremony standing uncomfortably (usually with your heels sunk to their base in grass. Ugh.)
  • Provide guests with bottled water in extreme heat.
  • Print your program on a fan so guests can cool themselves.
  • Provide blankets for guests in freezing weather.
  • Provide shelter (a marquee, umbrellas, etc) from sun or rain
  • Provide female guests with flat shoes that they can wear to walk to and from the ceremony/reception, if it's within walking distance.

Creating a Focal Point

Purple Wisteria Arch(Courtesy gauteng.net)

It's easy for a couple to get visually lost in a natural location, and also easy for your guests to miss your exact location! Make sure you have some kind of large marker to highlight where you are. Note: This doesnt necessarily have to contrast against your location- you can easily use an archway covered in flowers if you're in a park or garden, or things like seaweed and seashells if youre on the beach. Don't be afraid to get creative and make your wedding stand out!

Think Strategically

Wedding Couple in White Through lit-up Tree Branches(Courtesy weddingcupcakeideas.net)

The whole wedding is'nt quite as long as you'd think- it lasts, on average between 4-6 hours. So to save time, try to avoid time consuming tasks like walking to a second location for the reception or "flipping" objects (replacing furniture and decor with another) to make the reception visually different from the ceremony location. A great idea is to simply move to a different part of your location- this could be a few hundred meters away, or separated by natural barriers, such as hills or bush, or even on the other side of your focal point. If this isnt feasible, a great way to smoothe out the transition from ceremony to reception is to have a cocktail hour! This way, most of the work can be done while the guests are preoccupied, and you'll simulatenously maintain a sense of natural continuity and flow. Note: You can have a cocktail hours to break up your wedding, no matter what your set up! Who needs an excuse?

 

Decorations


(Courtesy www.sacramentogolfweddings.com)

The great thing about outdoor weddings is the natural beauty so there is almost no need to decorate. You still need to make sure that the area is neat and tidy, especially if it's a public place. Nominate a member from the bridal party to go down and check the location the day before the wedding. Make sure the area is clear of litter and check for any graffiti. Flowers, chiffon, lanterns, torches, flags, fairy lights and archways can all be added in a trice to enhance your outdoor wedding- just make sure they're secured well!

Create a Backup Plan

(Courtesy forum.weddingcentral.com.au)

It's a fact that Australian weather is liable to turn rogue at any minute. So whether you know if the weather's about to change for the worse, or are just caught off guard, it pays to have a good Plan B. These can either be erected or you can simply make use of what's already available on-site.
Some great options include:
Marquee
Gazebos
Tarpaulin
Alternatively, you could book an indoor area facing outdoors or that simply feels outdoorsy (an atrium or greenhouse, for example), so you can circumvent this issue altogether, without compromising on your desired wedding feel.

Making Sure You're Heard

Copper Megaphone Antique Style
(Courtesy designtoscano.com)

Of all the occassions in your life where it is absoultely imperative that you be heard, this ranks pretty highly. While an outdoor wedding may be picturesque, you've got to make sure the audio matches up. Combat wind or any extraneous outdoor noises by using a microphone and portable PA system (most celebrants have one).

Menu Choices

Copperplate writing menu card

(Courtesy bridalcookie.com)

Choose your menu according to the weather. Seafood, dairy and mayo are best left off the menu if you plan on having them left on tables in the heat. A warm bowl of delicious scrumptiousness will be similarly appropriate for an outdoor winter wedding. Your caterer will be able to provide suggestions based on what will and won't work for your outdoor reception.

Pest Control

Provide fly spray, mosquito spay and citronella/bug candles to make sure swatting is kept to a minimum.

Once you've got these bases covered, all you need to worry about is throwing back some champers and enjoying the night as much as humanly possible!

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