Articles

15 tips to help you plan your perfect outdoor wedding ceremony

Recent brides and grooms share their suggestions

6 minutes

With the government announcing their plan to remove some of the red tape on outdoor weddings, we talk to wedding planners and people who celebrated their marriage outdoors about how to create the perfect day.

  • A brief explanation on the laws on outside weddings 
  • How to prepare for the ideal outdoor ceremony 
  • Wedding budgeting to make sure you have a day to remember 

Plan your perfect outdoor wedding

In this article for LV= life insurance, we cover 15 recommendations for couples considering an outdoor wedding ceremony. The first thing you need to know? Well, it’s not the most romantic, but it’s kind of important: the law.

‘Currently, if you want to legally get married outdoors in the UK then it still has to take place under a roof and the venue needs to have a licence specific to that structure (such as a bandstand or small outbuilding). You can’t just get married under a tree or in the great outdoors anywhere,’ explains Andy, who got married in a licensed structure at Elmley National Nature Reserve in Kent last year. Although there are exceptions for some religions.

Many people who choose to have their wedding outdoors actually go through the legal process in a private ceremony beforehand at a registry office, or church.

However, before the Autumn Budget 2018, the government announced that they will consider ‘reducing unnecessary red tape and lowering the cost of wedding venues’.

So whether you’ve got the venue licence, or already gone through the legal process, how can you make sure your outdoor wedding is picture perfect? We asked some people who’ve done it to find out.

Andy and Sinéad at their wedding

Think about your guests – both welcome and unwelcome

Having already been married at the local town hall, Jordan celebrated his wedding to wife Natacha in the grounds of a French château last summer. The location was idyllic, but fortunately they were aware in advance of a potential pest problem.

‘We put rags soaked in insect repellent under some of the chairs to get rid of any mosquitos in the grass,’ he says. ‘None of our guests complained about getting bitten, and it also helped keep wasps away from the refreshments.’

You’ll probably want to make sure guests know that the wedding will be outdoors in advance, so it’s a good idea to make this clear on the invitation. Just in case, you could also provide heel caps for the shoes of any ladies who would otherwise sink into the ground.


Prepare for the elements

Jordan also recommends knowing where the sun and shade will be during the day, and to plan accordingly. For example, setting up the bandstand so that your musicians are illuminated by the evening sun (but crucially, still able to read the music!) will make the whole experience more magical.

Of course, you can’t always guarantee sun.

‘Get white (or ‘wedding-y’) umbrellas, so they won’t look too out of place in photos, or, if it’s sunny, make sure you wear sun cream,’ recommends Becky, who designs wedding invitations and had an outdoor wedding last year. ‘Also put out some blankets for guests who could feel the cold later on.’

‘It’s surprising to say, but a lot of people do plan a function in the middle of winter and don’t think about heating,’ says event planner Lisa Kirsch, who cofounded Luvli Events. ‘Also, in the middle of summer, you need to consider the heat and the ages of your guests – whether there will be young children, or elderly relatives.’

The wind can also have an effect, as Anna, who got married in France four years ago, can attest to.

‘Before the ceremony we were all sweeping leaves, twigs and general dirt from the area, because the wind kept blowing it in,’ she remembers. Have some brooms and rakes handy if you’re worried about the wind.


Get the acoustics right

It’s not just the look of a venue that wind can affect; in an open space, it can carry the sound away very easily.

‘Get microphones for the ceremony,’ recommends Becky. ‘It’s often really hard to hear what’s going on outside, particularly if it’s windy.’

However, microphones can bring up their own issues.

‘We had to test the speaker location,’ says Anna, ‘A tree in the wrong place can really affect the acoustics.’

And what about a power supply?

‘Make sure you have enough fuel for generators, if you’re using them,’ insists Katie, who got married at Goss Hall in Broadstairs, Kent in 2014. ‘There’s nothing worse than the band running out of steam when the party’s just getting going because the generator hasn’t got enough fuel!’

But if you don’t want to pay for a generator, there are other options.

‘Can you have live music playing for the bridal entrance and the signing of the register?’ asks Andy. ‘If there’s no electricity then you probably know a friend with a ukulele or a guitar.’
 

 

Consider how to personalise your wedding

Getting the most out of an outdoor wedding

‘Our clients generally want something different, unique and that reflects their personality, but also will fit within their budget,’ says Lisa. ‘When it comes to the venue, people are more restricted on where they can hold their function, which seems like a shame when there are so many great locations that would be suitable, but which they currently can’t use.’

Of course, although you can’t go through the legal process of getting married at these locations, you may still be able to hold a ceremony there. And great outdoor locations can be made even better with the right personal touches.

‘Consider how you’re going to personalise and decorate,’ Andy suggests. ‘Plants, tree stumps, arch ways, bales of hay and flowers can all transform the space. 

‘Especially think about the bridal party entrance,’ he continues. ‘If the bride has to walk half a mile down a dirt track where everyone can see them, this might ruin the magic and suspense – plus, it’s awkward.’

When the price is right

If you have your heart set on an outdoor wedding, you could find a venue that costs less than anywhere indoors – but the extras can start to add up, so it helps to find ways to save.

‘We’ll always look, where we can, to make the décor items transportable; we’ll take them from one area to another, so the clients don’t have to pay for additional items,’ says Lisa.

‘We try to get the things that can add drama,’ she adds. ‘What you get from £300-400 of uplighting for an evening function versus £300-400 of flowers for a day function is very different. We just try to be very smart with their budget, so we can get the greatest effect.’

And don’t be concerned about getting help – sometimes the benefits outweigh the costs.

‘It’s a common misconception that having an event planner will cost more. It never costs our clients more, not just in terms of stress, but also because we can negotiate special rates from suppliers thanks to the relationships we have, and because we know all the special tips and tricks,’ insists Lisa.

For more tips on wedding budgeting, read our article on wedding admin tips to help you plan ahead.

The right wedding for you

 If you’re budgeting for a wedding, Lisa recommends thinking about what’s most important to you, and then proportioning budget to those elements. That way, whether outdoors or indoors, it will truly be your wedding.