An Essential Guide to Outdoor Weddings
The effects of the coronavirus pandemic on weddings plus the inspiration of the recent summer sun, has meant that many couples are considering a more outdoor-focused wedding for 2021 and 2022. It’s worth bearing in mind that in England and Wales you will need to have your civil ceremony beneath a licensed structure in order for your wedding to be legally binding. However, if you would prefer an outdoor ceremony, there is always the option of a celebrant-led ceremony and completing the legal formalities at another time.
So, here is our essential guide for hosting an outdoor wedding to help with your planning.
Looking for something in particular? Use the headings below to find the information you’re searching for.
- Top choices for outdoor wedding venues
- Choosing an outdoor wedding venue
- Planning an outdoor wedding ceremony
- Decorating an outdoor wedding ceremony
- Catering an outdoor wedding ceremony
- Outfit ideas for an outdoor wedding ceremony
- Tackling weather at an outdoor wedding ceremony
- Timing for an outdoor wedding ceremony
- The practicalities of an outdoor wedding ceremony
When deciding on the venue for your outdoor wedding, consider how you want your day to look and feel. This could help in deciding on the type of site you choose to host your outdoor celebration. Options include a farmer’s field, woodland setting, a beach, or the park of a stately home so the possibilities are endless! If you are using a marquee, these also come in all shapes, sizes, and materials so you can choose an option that suits your outdoor wedding dream!
Your budget may influence your outdoor wedding venue but make sure you understand what you are getting for your money. If you choose a fully managed site, you may have to pay a little more. However, you are paying not only for the land hire but electricity, water, toilets, and especially staff assistance. This ensures that you have someone on hand who is an expert on outdoor weddings and can tackle any issues that may arise.
Unfortunately, there are a few legal limitations to an outdoor wedding ceremony. In England and Wales, a marriage ceremony is only legal when it takes place within a permanently immovable structure, featuring a fixed roof and a solid floor. So, you won’t be able to legally tie the knot in the open air or a marquee unless you get married in Scotland or Northern Ireland. However, for English and Welsh couples, there are still two options available to you.
You could have the outdoor wedding you have been dreaming of without it being legally binding. By having a celebrant ceremony, you have the freedom to have a beautiful outdoor wedding ceremony wherever you wish. Simply attend a registry office a few days before or after the outdoor ceremony to make the marriage legal.
On the other hand, some wedding venues are able to license specific structures on their grounds. For example, a wooden pergola, a stone structure, or a historic feature is a permanent structure that allows for an outdoor element to your legal ceremony. It is up to you which option you prefer.
One of the bonuses of an outdoor wedding is the natural beauty around you, lessening your need to decorate. You may not choose to do much decorating at all, instead let the location do the work for you! Of course, if you are having a marquee, you’ll want to decorate inside and some decoration can be used to enhance the natural setting. String lights, colourful fabrics, and natural centrepieces are all great possibilities.
Your decoration can also be practical as well as beautiful! You could add cute, wooden signs directing guests to the ceremony, reception, and toilets. As well as setting the mood, romantic lighting can help guests see each other and their way as the night closes in. Paper lanterns, mason jars, or tea lights are perfect for lining walkways and creating a gorgeous atmosphere. Just ensure that open flames are allowed at your venue if you are wanting to have any sort of candlelight
An outdoor wedding often involves bringing in external caterers. So, this allows you to get creative with your menu. Outdoor weddings are often more relaxed when it comes to catering. For example, buffets, BBQs, and food vans are incredibly popular. The weather might also influence your choices. For example, you’ll need to have plenty of refreshing drinks to hand if it’s hot; probably best if they are non-alcoholic as well!
When choosing your caterer, do check whether they have experience with outdoor weddings. Even better if they have catered for a wedding in a similar environment, such as woods, beaches, or fields. Choosing an experienced caterer that understands the logistics takes away some of the stress for you. Don’t forget that your caterer will need space for a tent or van as well as electricity and running water.
Outdoor weddings are often characterised by a rustic, boho feel. In general, these dresses tend to be less structured, feature soft fabrics, and reflect an effortless beauty and a touch of whimsy. Whether the skirt is fuller at the hips or flows straight down close to the body, the key to a boho-chic wedding dress is comfort and an effortlessly glamorous feel.
Dresses in this style also tend to be lightweight which is great for a warm spring/summer wedding. However, light fabrics can be problematic in windy conditions so it is important to find a dress that strikes the right balance. It is important to be comfortable on your wedding day, so if a significant portion of your wedding day is taking place on the grass or another soft surface, you might want to choose wedges or flats over heels.
Tell your hairstylist and makeup artist that you’ll be having an outdoor wedding so they can plan a style that can survive the elements. Don’t forget to consider other members of your wedding party in this too! Make sure dresses and suits worn by others in the wedding party are also appropriate for your outdoor setting.
Of course, in the UK, the possibility of an outdoor wedding depends largely on what the weather is doing. No matter what season your outdoor wedding is planned for, even summer, it’s important to prepare for different weather conditions, and keep an eye on the forecast in the build-up to your big day.
If it looks like it’s going to be hot, do you have shady areas for people to get out of the sun? Do you have sun cream to avoid burning? You might need to bring in fans and portable air conditioning units if you are having a marquee. On the other hand, if your outdoor wedding is planned for autumn or winter, you might need to keep your guests warm, with blankets and heaters. Or, if it looks like it might rain, do you have umbrellas to protect your hair, make-up, and outfits? The ideal outdoor wedding location has an indoor location waiting in case of absolutely awful weather, so check with your venue.
Preparing for all eventualities will give you peace of mind, knowing that your wedding won’t be ruined by the weather. With a few planning ideas you can sit back, relax, and just enjoy whatever the weather throws at you. Weather is completely out of your control, but you can still prepare for it!
Even more so than with indoor weddings, time is a significant factor for outdoor weddings. If your reception goes into the evening, do you have ways of carrying on the party in the dark? Is your venue licensed for outdoor music past a certain time? Once again, if you take these factors into consideration, you can make sure that you don’t run into any unexpected problems.
Also, certain times of the day can make unforgettable moments at an outdoor wedding. For example, a romantic sunset or fireworks at midnight would be a fantastic element to work into your day. With Soilhull Fireworks, you can set off the display yourself, with options including your initials and hearts lighting up the night sky to a soundtrack personal to you. On the other hand, certain times of day should be avoided. For example, the hottest part of the day is usually from 1-3 pm, so you’ll want to keep your guests out of the sun during that time.
Some of the practicalities of an outdoor wedding, such as lighting, signage, and catering, we have already touched on. There are, of course, other practicalities, such as transport, budget or guest lists which apply to all weddings. However, due to the nature of your venue, there are certain elements you’ll have to remember that are unique to an outdoor wedding.
If your outdoor venue has power and water supply this is one tick off of the list. However, if there are none on-site you will need to hire in a generator to provide your power and toilets. If you need to rent toilets, this doesn’t have to mean portable toilets you see at festivals. Luxury portable toilets are also available, which come equipped with wonderful amenities. It is a good idea to have one bathroom for every 35 guests, so use this number to work out how many toilets you will be needing. Also, these toilets need to placed somewhere accessible for all your guests, yet not right in the middle of the reception!
Make sure your entire site is going to be accessible for all your guests, such as avoiding uneven ground and ensuring there are clear paths. You should also check with your venue that there is car parking available. If your venue is remote and rural, it might be worth seeing if there is accommodation on-site, or nearby, for your guests so they don’t have far to travel at the end of your wedding.
Your guests might not be able to hear you over the natural noise created by being outside. So, you might want to hire a microphone but don’t forget to check if the amplified sound is permitted outside. Also, you need to make sure there is easy access for elderly or handicapped guests to your outdoor venue. Finally, in summer insects can ruin the outdoor experience. To control insects on your wedding day, think about placing citronella candles throughout the space and make sure your caterers have proper protection covers for your food.
Inspired to have an outdoor wedding? Here are some of our favourite outdoor wedding venues:
Ceremony Spaces: Converted Barn and Large Marquee
Situated in the beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside, Monkton Barn offers couples a truly exclusive outdoor wedding location. Set in 10-acres, there is an abundance of choice for your outdoor event. Get married on the meadow, with its sweeping landscape views or choose an intimate ceremony in our magical woodland dell. Treat your guests to garden games – almost anything goes from croquet to cricket – and enjoy drinks from our Meadow Bar, overlooking the pretty wildflower meadow. Top-off your evening festivities with a roaring bonfire and fireworks, before camping under the stars in luxury bell tents.
One couple said about Monkton Barn: “We were blown away by Monkton Barn and Peter on our first viewing! It was such an incredible space that enabled us to really make our day our own. In the run-up to the day itself, Peter was available for planning “parties” which were a true highlight of our wedding preparation and always sparked such brilliant ideas. Monkton Barn really was the perfect space for our wedding day and a place that will always hold very fond memories.”
Location: South Wales
Ceremony Spaces: Contemporary glass function space, the K Room, and Gower Garden.
Based in the heart of Gower, Britain’s 1st designated area of outstanding natural beauty, Fairyhill is a breathtaking outdoor wedding venue. The K Room offers a sleek, contemporary glass space, licensed for civil ceremonies. There are breath-taking panoramic views of the venue’s listed heritage grounds, complete with rolling lawns, walled garden, enchanting woodland, and glistening lakes.
One couple said about Fairyhill: “Fairyhill gave us the wedding of our dreams. Jo, Shakira, and the team attended to our every wish and made us feel like royalty on the day. You won’t find a better venue in South Wales, probably in the UK. We highly recommend Fairyhill to any couple, especially those who want to get married in the Gower.”
Ceremony Spaces: Banqueting Suite and Lakeside Weddings
Set in a picturesque golf course, the Bushey Country Club really is a unique and special venue. The Club offers outdoor weddings with a fantastic lake backdrop. Bushey Country Club is known for its fantastic food and friendly staff. Dedicated to a flexible approach, Bushey Country Club ensures that your perfect wedding day will truly be tailored to your needs.
Location: North Yorkshire
Ceremony Spaces: Woodland Ceremony, Outer Barn and Orangery Barn.
Set within the natural beauty of a 250-acre estate, Camp Katur is an alternative outdoor wedding venue. You can tie the knot at the idyllic Woodland Ceremony Area amongst the beautiful pine trees, a truly magical setting. There is also land available to hire for your own pop-up structure and a glamping village with unique accommodation options including Safari Tents, Tipi’s, Bell Tents, and many more!
Location: Scottish Borders, Scotland
Ceremony Spaces: Under the Rose Arch or Beneath the Ancient Tree
Nestled in private grounds and woodland, this historic mansion boasts two magical outdoor wedding spaces. First, the south-facing terrace overlooks the flower garden, in front of the picturesque ivy-covered veranda. Here you can say ‘I do’ under rose-covered arches. Or, Kippilaw’s giant copper beech tree is a secret setting hidden within enchanting woods, with a cathedral-like natural canopy. Both create breathtaking backdrops for an outdoor wedding.
Ceremony Spaces: Linden Belvedere
Surrounded by gorgeous countryside, the Linden Belvedere at Rowton Castle is the ideal outdoor summer wedding venue. You can exchange your wedding vows during an intimate civil ceremony, conducted on the grounds of Rowton Castle. The romantic Linden Belvedere is nestled in the picturesque gardens, surrounded by wildflowers and a towering avenue of lime trees; an idyllic outdoor setting.
Ceremony Spaces: The Italian Garden
Milton Hill House is a charming Georgian man, set in 22 acres of stunning parkland. Once you step onto the terrace overlooking the magnificent grounds, you’ll know you’ve found the perfect outdoor wedding venue for your special day. A beautiful pergola is set in the Italian Garden, with a pond and fountain creating an idyllic backdrop to your vows.
Ceremony Spaces: Outdoor Ceremonies in the Garden Pavillion
Set over 500 acres of listed parklands, the Deene Park Estate has everything you want in a wedding venue. From the beautiful, secluded walled garden amidst the grandeur of the country house, to a romantic lakeside marquee; this venue in Northamptonshire truly is a gorgeous place to tie the knot. Plus, there’s plenty of perfect spots to get amazing wedding photos that you will cherish forever.
Ceremony Spaces: The Garden Room or The Woodland
Set in lovely Suffolk countryside, All Manor of Events has two stunning outdoor ceremony spaces. With gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside, The Garden Room is an elegant and chic outdoor location. The Woodland is an intimate outdoor setting perfect for those who wish to hold their ceremony in beautiful natural surroundings.
Ceremony Spaces: Outdoor Terrace
A pair of elegant white pillars mark the entrance to Rockbeare – a captivating and very special wedding venue in Devon. Set in over 100 acres of glorious parkland, this exquisite Grade I listed Regency house has a timeless elegance about it. Whether you have 50 or 150 guests attending, the pretty outdoor Terrace is perfect for your civil ceremony.
Ceremony Spaces: Outdoor Pavilion
The beautiful garden pavilion at Lainston House is set in 63 acres of rolling Hampshire countryside and overlooks the stunning 17th-century country house. So, if you’re looking for that little ‘something special’ that will make your day truly stand out, this is perfect! The pavilion is fully licensed for outdoor wedding ceremonies of up to 120 guests.
Ceremony Spaces: Magnolia Garden and the Walled Garden
Colshaw Hall an exclusive country estate with two fantastic gardens licensed for wedding ceremonies: the Magnolia Garden and the Walled Garden. Both gardens are available over summer months for an elegant outdoor wedding in a luxurious and private setting. These impressive and picturesque spots act as an idyllic backdrop to an unforgettable outdoor wedding.
Ceremony Spaces: The Silo Barn and Oak Pergoda
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