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Continuing with our series of guest posts from event specialists across the globe, here’s some valuable advice for wedding planners from, the concierge service that matches event planners with entertainers, caterers, photographers and more….

The Dos and Don’ts of Outdoor Weddings

Outdoor weddings are an increasingly popular option for couples that prefer an alternative wedding theme, or maybe even just want to make the most of the summer weather. Many different concepts and ideas can be incorporated into outdoor ceremonies, and they can make some of the most beautiful wedding days. 

However, when organising an outdoor wedding there are numerous things to consider, and possibly even more elements to organise than a wedding based in an indoor venue. To help in planning an outdoor wedding ceremony, we have put together the best advice, hints and tips on what to think about, plan and look into…


Dates and Times

One of the most important things to think about when planning an outdoor wedding is the time to have it.  Of course the obvious answer would be in the summertime, when there is a better chance of warmer weather. But spring and autumn weddings are also an option, depending on the season. 

Whichever time of year, it’s important to look into what may be needed to prepare for weather wise. It’s always best to be prepared for any possibility, but shelter from rain and shade from heat is highly recommended. In the height of summer it’s also recommended that you consider what time of day you are holding the ceremony, so that it’s not at either the hottest or coldest points of the day. This will help to stop guests getting heat stroke, or getting too cold. 


Finding a Venue

Looking for an outdoor wedding venue is a very specific task with various things to keep in mind. 

Firstly, find out who owns or manages the land chosen to host the wedding on. For most outdoor spaces, permission is needed from the landowner to save any disruption or embarrassment on the big day. The terrain of the land is also a very important factor, as it will need to be able to hold equipment and any tents or marquees that you plan on using. For example, if the ground is too hard or too soft, it is unlikely to safely support a marquee. You’ll also need to make sure that the space you have is big enough for any structures and the amount of guests.

As the law for getting married and holding a ceremony outside is currently being reviewed in the UK, it is also very important that this is looked into before confirming an outdoor wedding venue. 


Other considerations for an outdoor wedding

Ensuring that the venue is suitable for disabled access should be high on the priority list for any guests who have mobility issues. You wouldn’t want anyone  to feel left out if the venue isn’t suitable for wheelchairs, or is too difficult for any elderly relatives to walk across. 

You also don’t want to get caught short by accidentally hosting a wedding without any available toilets. If the outdoor venue is on the grounds of a stately home or near another indoor venue, it may be that they are happy to provide access to their toilets. If not, you may need to look into hiring portaloos, which are sometimes also available from tent and marquee suppliers.

Even if a wedding is outdoors, you will need to look into seating and table options for guests. Again, it may be that a venue or marquee supplier can provide these, but depending on how bespoke the wedding is going to be, you may have to source them elsewhere. Many couples who choose outdoor weddings go for more rustic options for seating, such as hay bales or decorated crates. 

Making an outdoor wedding as weather proof as possible will also save any discomfort for guests. To prepare for any possibility, there should be adequate shelter from heat or rain, but also added extras such as air conditioning inside marquees, blankets provided for any outdoor seating areas, heat lamps, umbrellas, water and even sunscreen if it’s expected to be a scorching hot day. It’s also a good idea to consider how any decor may withstand any windy weather, to make sure nothing gets blown away! 

Depending on the location and what the venue is close to, you should find out from the local council whether there are any noise restrictions on the site. This is particularly important if a venue is close to a residential area, as this may restrict music volume levels and choice of entertainment. Another important thing to check with the local council is that there are no other events planned in the area on the same date as a wedding that may cause a disruption, such as local festivals or even building work. 

No one wants to get bitten to death on their wedding day, so if an outdoor wedding is being planned in the middle of summer, it’s worth considering what kind of creepy crawlies might be around. Bringing bug repellant on the day may save a lot of mosquito bites. Similarly, it’s worth looking into any farmers fields that may be around the area, as you definitely don’t want the big day to be remembered by the smell of manure. 

Depending on where the wedding is, it’s also important to find out whether or not it’s accessible for guests to get to. If it’s an outdoor area of a larger venue, such as a hotel, then accessibility is usually fine. However if the location is more remote, for example a field or a forest, it might be more difficult. Make sure that there are parking areas, or if not local transport, or perhaps even consider organising a coach or shuttle bus for guests to make sure they can reach your venue easily. It may also be a nice idea to provide them with information on local accommodation if many of them have to travel. 


Booking a Tent or Marquee

If a booking is for a tent, tipi or marquee for an outdoor wedding, we recommend that this is one of the first things booked before any other services. Many couples will give themselves around a year to plan a wedding, so it’s not uncommon for these suppliers to be booked a year in advance of your client’s wedding date. 

When booking a tent or marquee for an outdoor wedding, it’s important that the structure is large enough to fit the amount of guests expected. Many companies that hire marquees will be happy to visit the site to measure the size and check the land and surroundings. This is the best way forward, as requirements can be discussed directly with the provider, allowing them to get a full picture of what is needed and wanted. 

There are many different styles of tents and marquees to choose from, so look around at different suppliers to find the tent that best suits the style of the wedding. For example, a tipi might be a favourite design, but it will  need to fit everyone and everything needed inside it, such as a dancefloor, a bar, tables and chairs and any decorations. 

Before confirming a booking with a marquee supplier, always check the fine print in the contract to make sure that it includes everything needed. Discuss and confirm put up and take down times of the tent with both the supplier and the landowner. 


Booking Catering for an outdoor wedding

If the wedding is on the grounds of a hotel or stately home, confirmation will be needed with the venue whether or not they allow external catering, as some venues will only allow their own kitchen to provide the food for a wedding. External catering is usually booked about nine to twelve months in advance of the big day.

If using an external caterer, then it goes without saying that they will need to be aware that it will be for an outdoor wedding, and find out exactly what they require. If hiring a food van, which are increasingly popular at the moment, then they may require a strong power outlet and, of course, enough suitable parking space. 

If the preference is for something pre-prepared in a professional kitchen, then it would be worth booking with a company as local as possible to the venue, so that there is as little delay in delivering warm food as there can be. Most good catering companies will also be happy to arrange a tasting before committing to them for a wedding. It’s not uncommon for this to cost extra, but it is much better than realising on the day the caterer wasn’t right.   

It’s also always a good idea to check what kind of dietary requirements they can caterer for before paying a deposit. This means that none of the guests will go hungry if they need vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, or any other type of catering. 

As with all catering companies, we highly recommend asking to see any hygiene and health and safety certificates before confirming a booking.

As weather is a big factor with any outdoor wedding, it’s crucial to make sure that all catering can withstand the elements, or has a place to be served and eaten where it will be protected. For example, a wedding cake probably won’t last very long in hot temperatures without any shade. 

Don’t forget that as well as food, drinks will also be needed!  Mobile bars are very popular wedding additions at the moment, and there are lots of them to choose from on Poptop. Take a look at Northamptonshire based company The Rum Bah Bar to get an idea of what’s possible.


Booking a Photographer

Good photographers are often booked up months in advance, so when planning it’s normal to book them  roughly nine to twelve months before the wedding day.

Whenever booking a photographer for a wedding, we highly recommend asking to see their work from a full wedding day, rather than just their portfolio – as this might only contain their highlights. 

Ask the photographer about their experience in shooting outdoor weddings and ask to see examples. Even better, if the supplier already has experience of shooting at a chosen venue. 


Booking entertainment

Some of the most popular choices for wedding day entertainment are wedding bands, live singers and DJs for the evening. As these suppliers can be super popular, it’s best to get them booked in at least nine months before a wedding. There are a few things you will need to check with them first. 

Firstly, ensure that there is an area for them to safely perform and use any electrical equipment. This should keep in mind any possible weather conditions, especially rain. Before committing to a booking, know what kind of equipment the suppliers will need to use and what they are able to supply themselves, incase anything extra is needed, such as speakers etc. 

Whenever booking a live band or performer, always ensure video clips of their performances have been seen, or ideally go and see them play live so you know exactly who is being booked and what their style is like. Don’t be afraid to ask the band if they have any reviews, or search their social media pages for feedback from other bookers. 


Final tips

When booking with any supplier or vendor, make sure that they are aware that an outdoor wedding is being planned. This will allow them to prepare as best possible, and advise on anything they might need. 

When making a booking with any supplier, always make sure that all of their costs have been included in their quote. This saves any nasty surprises like extra fees or travel costs getting added onto their bill. 

Most importantly; a good quality supplier will always be happy to draw up a contract, and go over any queries or terms and conditions before paying a deposit and confirming. Once a deposit has been paid, always make sure that a confirmation and receipt of your payment are received. 

If a booking is made with any of the suppliers on Poptop, it will be automatically covered by Poptop’s Client Protection Program. This means that deposit payments will be protected incase a supplier cancels, and that Poptop will offer our full support in helping to find a new supplier.  

And with OnePlan providing you approved suppliers in everything else from tents, signage, barriers, human support and more, you’ll have everything covered!

Do you have advice for event planners that you’d like to share with us? Contact us here to find out how you can get involved.

13th February 2020