You can. We marry many couples in an outdoors setting. And there is something very beautiful about an outdoor wedding if everything goes well.
Some things to remember.
You can’t control the weather. Always have a backup plan for bad weather. You may not have to use it but what if you do and don’t have a backup?
A few years back I was booked to do an April wedding at a well known St. Louis County park, frequently used for ceremonies. The location selected for the wedding was not covered in any way.
I awoke to rain. It had been raining the entire day. Not just a drop here and there, we’re talking sheets of water being driven by 40 mph winds. I tried calling the bride starting about four hours before the ceremony, once I saw that the day appeared to be a washout. I didn’t get an answer so I left a message . I called several more times before leaving home to no avail.
As is my routine, I arrived at the park about an hour before the ceremony. The rain had not let up, in fact it was probably raining harder, and the temperature had risen to the high of 50 degrees. I could look out over the site of the ceremony and it was under a small pond of the fallen rain.
Once again I tried calling the bride, only to have the phone answered by the Bride’s mother. I told her I had been trying to call, was at the ceremony site, and I asked if there was a another location due to the cold and rain? The Bride’s Mother angrily asked “Are you telling me that you refuse to do the wedding where we contracted?” I must admit that this made my blood boil but I considered that she was probably pretty stressed, so I quietly stated, “No mam, I am not refusing, just telling you that I don’t think your guests are going to like standing 30 minutes in 50 degree weather in the driving rain. Also, I must say that if we do have it in the rain you would have to be responsible for anything I brought that was damaged by the rain. ” She wasn’t a happy camper. In order to help calm thing down I asked, ” Are you having a reception?” She said they were to gather at a local banquet center several hours later. I asked her “Why not move the wedding to the reception hall?”
“I’m busy right now, you call them.” she noted. “It’s not my place to call them really. I’m sure since you’ve already dealt with them they’d be happy to help you,” I told her. Voice moving up several steps she yelled, ” Didn’t I tell you I was busy? Why won’t you help me?”
Being the peacemaker, I called the banquet hall manager and explained the situation. He asked why I was the one calling, and I told him the mother was pretty stressed and was mad at me because I suggested that she make the call. He was perfectly willing to host the wedding an hour earlier than the reception. “Tell her it will cost $150.00 more, “he said. “Wait,” I said,” you tell her, here is her phone number.” “No” he said,” you already told me she’s mad at you….you tell her.” After calls back and forth I got everything arranged. Originally scheduled for 2:00 pm the wedding was rescheduled for 4:00. We started at 4:40 as the bride spent 40 minutes throwing up in bathroom before we started.
From then on I always ask my clients if they have a backup plan for an outdoor location ceremony.
It’s not just rain you have to worry about with an outdoor wedding. Temperature, both heat and cold must be considered. I’ve done weddings where the guests were mostly elderly and they melted in 100+ degree heat. I’ve had guests, family and members of the bridal party faint from the heat.
Sun position in the sky at the time of the service is another thing to keep in mind. Try to pick a spot where the sun isn’t going to blindingly in our eyes, or the eyes of your guests.
Wind is also a consideration. Weight everything down in an outdoor wedding. The aisle runner, flower arrangements, tables, photos, and programs may all be “Gone with the Wind,” with a good gust. Beanbags or Sandbags work well for arrangements, tables, photos etc. The aisle runner can be tacked down with long nails on both sides about four feet apart.
In choosing your outdoor location always consider who else might be attending. I’ve done weddings where there were homeless folks bathing in fountains behind us during the ceremony, in spots sure to be in the wedding photos; I’ve also seen homeless folks going through the receiving line after the ceremony. I’ve got nothing against the homeless….it is a nationwide problem with no easy solution. But I also know most folks don’t necessarily want them at their wedding.
Also consider whether the ceremony site is close to the road and/or the a high traffic area at the time the ceremony is scheduled. I’ve been at outdoor services where rude drive-by comments, spoiled the mood.
Still, all considered, outdoor weddings can be wonderful. Just plan it through, take these extra few steps and say a little prayer.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.