Reception Sites

Avoiding Outdoor Wedding Pitfalls

You’ve decided to have an outdoor wedding? Congratulations. Outdoor weddings are romantic and beautiful. However, they aren’t as easy as they may look. Outdoor weddings come with additional caveats and pitfalls, but if you follow these tips, you’ll be sure to shine on your wedding day.

  1. Make your guests comfortable Think about what the weather will likely be at the time of day and month of the year of your outdoor wedding. Sunny and hot? Don’t leave your guests uncomfortably melting – have your ushers give guests ice-cold bottles of water as they are seated. Consider printing your wedding program on a fan so that guests may cool themselves. Don’t forget to have plenty of sunscreen on hand as well. For a very warm location, look into renting large electric fans (don’t forget a generator) and/or a tent to shade the suns rays. If it will be cold and damp, make sure you tell guests that so they can wear extra layers. A simple xeroxed insert will do. You might want to have lap blankets on hand, or rent portable heaters.
  2. Have a backup plan What will you do if it rains? The ideal outdoor wedding location has an indoor location waiting just in case. Many brides and grooms opt to have their ceremony outside and reception inside. In a pinch, the tables can be scooted to the back of the room during the ceremony. A tent is another option, but only for light to moderate rain storms. A heavy rain will soak the ground underneath, leaving guests with soggy and muddy shoes. Make sure any tent you rent is sturdy so it won’t flip over, and that it has thick and weighted sides.
  3. Plan for Wind Many outdoor weddings suffer from windy conditions. Avoid light fabrics like chiffons and china silks in your dress and the bridesmaid dresses. Tell your hairstylist that you’ll be having an outdoor wedding so she/he can plan a style that won’t leave you looking like Cousin It! Men in the wedding party should use pomade or other styling product. Again, tell your guests in a printed insert so that they can plan accordingly. And of course, make sure your tent will stand up to gusting winds or find an indoor backup plan.
  4. Can everybody hear? When you picture your dream wedding at the beach, you’re probably not hearing the roaring of the waves, the rushing wind, or the local kids running and screaming around you. Look into renting a sound system with clip mikes for the bride, groom and officiant. Your DJ or band may be able to easily arrange this for you.
  5. Decorations One of the bonuses of an outdoor wedding is the natural beauty around you, lessening your need to decorate. But you still need to do some work. Visit the site a week before your wedding to make sure the grass is mown, the ground raked, and the flowers have bloomed. If your wedding is at a public park, you may want to ask the groomsmen or friends to do this the morning of your ceremony. If it’s been an especially cold season, you may need to supplement the flowers with some potted bulbs from a florist. Other decorations you may want to consider include an arch or trellis to focus the ceremony and frame the bride and groom as they say their vows; strings of lights or lanterns in the trees; luminarias; torches; or farolitas.
  6. Make things tasty outside Does your caterer have experience planning an outdoor wedding menu? Make sure they’re planning things that will keep well outdoors in the heat. Avoid things like mayonnaise salads or dishes which must be served cold.
  7. Don’t leave your guests parched Since alcohol is dehydrating, consider serving a variety of lemonades, teas and punches. Be sure to have plenty of ice and water around as well. For a fancy cocktail, why not serve a classic mint julep or a mojito? The mint will refresh and cool your guests.
  8. Those pesky flying things Be sure to put out citronella candles or a bug zapper so that your guests won’t spend the whole ceremony swatting at the air.
  9. Here comes the sun Consider timing your outdoor wedding for sunset where your guests will see you take your vows surrounded by the warm glow of the sun. Those having a daytime outdoor wedding should orient the ceremony so that the sun will be on guests’ backs rather than in their eyes.
  10. Permits Don’t forget to contact your city parks department or other local government to get a permit for an outdoor wedding. Be sure to ask about rules concerning trash removal, candle or torch lighting, and pre-wedding photography.

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One of the most important decisions a couple makes when planning their wedding is where to hold the reception. Although there are a variety of reception locations, deciding on one does not have to be difficult.
When shopping around for various reception locations, it is best that the bride and groom agree on exactly what they want for their wedding reception. “What is the most important thing to the couple? It’s important to prioritize,” says Judith Ann Graham, author of “My Bride Guide: A Wedding Planner for Your Personal Style.” She adds, “The reception sets the tone and it also gives your guests an idea of how you’re going to live together as a couple.” The couple has to decide and agree what will make the day more special for them, whether it is having a big wedding at a large banquet hall or a small wedding at an exclusive restaurant, Graham says.

Typically, couples take three factors into consideration when deciding on a reception location, according to Patty Sachs, celebration expert and author of “Pick A Party: The Big Book of Themes and Occasions”
“One is a favorite place. A place they’ve seen and know that maybe someone they know has been married in,” Sachs says. “The second is ambience and the third is price. Depending on the couple, it can be all three or one more than the other.”
Keeping that in mind, wedding receptions can take place almost anywhere: a hotel, a banquet hall, a restaurant or a friend’s home. Unique spaces such as mansions, galleries, boats and trains can also be the sight of the perfect reception if the couple wants it to be.
Another unique idea for a wedding reception location, the destination wedding, entails a wedding that takes place over a weekend at exotic locations such as Martha’s Vineyard, Hawaii or Spain. “The bride and groom plan a wedding in an area that neither of them are from and it becomes a weekend event,” says Cheryl Cox, a certified wedding consultant in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “There could be golf for the men and shopping for the ladies.” “It’s like a weekend wedding retreat. They can take place at very exotic locations,” Graham says, adding that most of the planning can be done online.
Some couples are taking advantage of another popular reception idea that is both simple and economical: an afternoon tea.
“They are serving a very simple cake and champagne after the ceremony and that’s it,” Graham says. “They’re doing tea, they’re doing little finger sandwiches, they’re serving a wonderful wedding cake and champagne or a sparkling punch.”
“They could do that almost anywhere that they’d have their evening reception. Often in the afternoon, even hotels and country clubs will be able to accommodate an afternoon wedding and still be able to have an evening event,” Sachs adds. Although prices for any type of reception depend upon the individual couple’s needs and wants and geographic location, prices also depend on the size and quality of the space and the menu options.
“The first variable is the size of the space. The larger the space, the more expensive it’ll be,” Sachs says. “Food prices depend on the type of food you want and the type of the food they specialize in.”
Price also depends on the size of the guest list, Cox says.

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