Outdoor Wedding Ceremonies - Tips and things to ponder

I’ll admit I am completely biased when it comes to outdoor weddings, especially outdoor ceremonies! When my dream guy and I got married in 2014 we opted for an outdoor ceremony.  We were fortunate that my mother-in-law-to-be had an amazing backyard that was perfect for our 75 guest wedding.

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If you’re considering an outdoor wedding, or just an outdoor ceremony or reception in Edmonton, there are some really important factors to consider!  I believe it’s a common misconception that outdoor weddings can be more cost effective. And while they can come out a bit cheaper, I often meet brides who aren’t willing to sacrifice on style and the amenities that would otherwise come with an indoor ceremony and thus they end up spending the same on their outdoor ceremony, sometimes more!

Some key factors to consider if you’re thinking of an outdoor wedding:

1.       WHY do you want an outdoor wedding?

This is important! Costs for an outdoor wedding can get out of hand really quickly and you want to understand the WHY before you commit to the idea. By asking yourself and your partner the WHY, you’ll be able to really focus on what you want out of your outdoor ceremony and wedding. 

The most common reasons people are opt for outdoor weddings are:

- they have a special connection to the location they selected,

- they are huge “outdoor people,”

- they want something less formal than a typical wedding venue OR

- they feel it’s important to get married somewhere that is religion neutral.

Cost should NOT be a primary reason you want an outdoor wedding – please carefully review all the costs you incur before you settle on being outdoors, they just may surprise you  

2.       What is your plan for your ceremony music?

The options here are endless, BUT they do come at different costs.  You can expect a seasoned live musician or quartet in Edmonton to cost about $750 on average for a ceremony.  Having said that you can also opt for a friend or family member to step in as an iPod jockey.  This option means you’ll like only be looking at renting speakers, which is a fraction of the cost of hiring live musicians or vocalists.

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3.       How many guests are you having? Will they be able to hear the ceremony, the music, and your vows?

Outdoor ceremonies are best suited for weddings with a smaller number of guests.  100 guests is an easy maximum to work with.  Having said that, it’s not impossible to pull off a perfectly executed ceremony for more than 100 guests, it just means you may have invest a little more in things like speakers, microphones and of course, chairs!

It’s important to consider all the factors that could affect your guests hearing all the elements of your ceremony.  Are you close to a major roadway that will cause excess background noise? Is the positioning of your music element near guest seating or further away?  How are your seating your guests? Will guest chairs be wrapped all the way around where you will be exchanging your vows? Or will they be set up in rows where guests at the back may have a challenging time hearing what’s happening?

Remember that, unlike the outdoors, indoor venues are often set up with the proper acoustics for projecting sound, further most venues are already equipped with all the sound equipment you would need. Here comes those costs creeping up again!

At the minimum I always recommend that brides opt for a microphone to ensure their guests can hear their vows and at least two speakers to properly project sound. If you've got background noise to compete with or you have a large number of guests, rent additional speakers! 

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4.       What is the overall feel of your wedding?

Are you planning for more casual and cozy event or something more glamourous and luxurious?  Either way, the best thing about an outdoor wedding is that Mother Nature provides us the perfect canvas to build on.  Whether you’re looking to glam it up or play it down, you can achieve either with the right décor items. 

It will always be easier to plan a more cozy and intimate feeling in an outdoor setting, having said that it’s absolutely amazing how much MORE beautiful a glamourous wedding can be outdoors. Taking into consideration the overall feel of your wedding and reflecting it in your décor usually comes down to the dollars.  For my own outdoor wedding we opted for a more casual and intimate ceremony.  We rented plain white folding chairs, draped sheer fabric through the large tree we got married under and decorated the yard with planters of florals.  Simple. Elegant and Cozy.

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5.       Logistics and Getting Ready Spaces for the Bridal Party

This is a biggie and is often overlooked.  This is especially important if you are seeing one another for the first time as you walk down the aisle.  I cannot count how many times this part of the day has not been planned out properly, causing total confusion and sometimes even the bride and groom accidently seeing one another ahead of time.  Oops! 

Make sure the groom has a place to hang with his groomsmen before the start of the ceremony.  Better yet have the groom and groomsmen mingle and chat with guests before the ceremony begins.  This is a really nice touch and your guests will love sharing the excitement of the day with the groom through simple handshakes, well wishes and happy hugs.  When the bride arrives at the ceremony location, where will she go? Depending on the layout of your ceremony site, it may actually be easiest for her to stay in the vehicle that she arrived in until she’s ready to walk.  Make sure you have someone who will properly cue the groom, his groomsmen and the bridesmaids when it's time to go! Don't forget to make sure someone prompts whomever is walking the bride down the aisle to go and get the bride when it's time. Keep things flowing, pauses are AWKWARD.

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6.       Contending with the Elements.

This is a biggie.  Alberta weather is SO unpredictable! And that’s not the only thing you’ll be up against.  Bugs and uneven ground can also be huge annoyances.

Let’s talk about the weather.  While you think rain might be your biggest problem, wind and heat can also be a big issues! ALWAYS have a back-up plan for rain.  Your options here are pretty simple – tents, a last minute venue swap or my least favorite, umbrellas. A tent is by far the easiest option.  But depending on your ceremony location, the amenities nearby and the number of guests you will be hosting, a venue swap isn’t out of the question – even on the morning of your wedding! To execute that you’ll either need a carefully crafted plan OR an awesome planner / coordinator to pull it off. 

Too much sun or excessive heat can also be an issue, though a much easier one to manage! My number one piece of advice here is to make sure that you offer your guests cold beverages.  You don’t need to do anything fancy – bottled water is totally fine.  Consider adding a custom label to make the bottles more personal. You can also consider providing your guests with umbrellas, fans or sunglasses.  Placing large outdoor umbrellas in amongst your seating is another a great idea.  This allows guests who know they need a little extra shade, like older guests and kids, to opt for seats when they will be protected by an umbrella.

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Wind.  Don’t underestimate the huge impact unplanned winds can have on your perfectly planned day!  The best thing you can do to protect yourself here, is to be under a tent with side walls.  This, however, does take away from the open and airy feel of your ceremony.  What’s a better option, in my opinion, is to carefully scan your location to see if there are any obvious or natural places where there are existing wind barriers.  If there are barriers, try planning your ceremony around these areas.  Other options can include other types of screening and portable walls, but keep in mind strong winds have an uncanny ability to knock anything and everything down, potentially causing an even worse situation if things aren't appropriately secured  

Bugs.  I hate bugs.  Mosquitos are the worst! Best thing you can do? Spray the lawn with a repellant meant to coverage large surface areas.  This is especially important if you’re creating areas of shade OR if you have longer grass anywhere near the ceremony site.  SPRAY, SPRAY, SPRAY! The last thing you want is for your guests to remember all the mosquitos on your wedding day. Wedding guests are the best at remembering what went wrong on your big day.  Just the best.

Uneven Ground could be a potential problem depending on your site location.  This will likely impact older guests and ladies in heels the most.  Make sure your ushers help older guests to their seats. For ladies in heels considering offering heel caps specifically made for walking on lawns.  Most guests will opt for outdoor friendly footwear when they know your wedding is outdoors, but there is always those who opt for fashion over common sense.

7.       Money

As I’ve mentioned a couple times above, don’t opt for an outdoor wedding solely because you think it’ll save you money.  In my experience outdoors ceremonies consistently cost the same or more than ceremonies held at indoor venues. Be prepared to spend the same amount you would as if you selected a church or alternate indoor ceremony site.  If you’re planning an outdoor ceremony, plan it because it’s really important you – back to point number one!

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I hope you’ve found this blog helpful! If you’re planning an outdoor ceremony or reception in the Edmonton area I would love to help you through that process! I offer free consultations for all couples planning their big day, feel free to send me an email to connect!

XOXO

Kacey

Thanks to Roughley Originals for all the fabulous photos in this post!