Having your wedding reception outdoors is a great idea. The view is great, the air is clean, you can get some amazing photos, the décor is completely flexible and usually the cost to book the venue is minimal.
However there are some really big challenges that you will face. Here at Celebrations With TLC we have planned a quite a few outdoor weddings over the years everywhere from public parks to cattle farms and now I am going to share my tips with you.
1. Do you, or someone you know own the venue or is it a public space?
If you choose a public place, make sure you check with the local council regarding booking fees, insurance and rules. There may be restrictions on the consumption of alcohol and noise late at night. They will also give you guidelines on when and how you can bring in vehicles and equipment.
Most public venues will not allow you to put up any structure that may damage the grass. If you or someone you know own the venue, you can get away with a lot more, but who is going to mow the grass? Is the property insured for events or do you need extra cover? Is there any shade or protection from the weather?
2. Do you have access to power and water?
Caterers, sound systems, mobile cold rooms, and lighting all need power to run. If you do not have easy access to a source of electricity that can cover all your needs, you will need to hire generators. Most generators are quite loud and need to be regularly refilled with petrol so choose carefully and test them before the event.
3. Do you have enough space?
Whether you want banquet tables or picnic blankets you need to allocate space for seating, eating and dancing. The catering an beverage staff will need an area for preparation (out of sight of the guests) and an area for service. If you want pre dinner drinks to be in a separate area, consider how it will link with the dining area.
Where will you put the DJ, band and other entertainers? Do they need a ‘back room’, where will the speakers be placed for maximum effect (acoustics are quite different in the outdoors).
4. Hiring equipment
When you create your own event from the ground up, you must consider every little detail. Everyone thinks about table, chairs and a roof over your head, but what about the floor? Is the ground even enough for your tables? Do you want a dance floor?
Cutlery, crockery and glassware are very important, some catering companies will provide them but if they don’t you will need to buy or hire. Who will do the washing up at the end of the day? Did you remember salt and pepper shakers?
Décor can be a big challenge. DIY may seem cheap to begin with, but how will you transport everything to the venue? Who will set it up and then take it down in the dark? What happens if something breaks? Does your venue have a restriction on the amount of time you can use the area (including set up and pack down).
5. Just in case
Do you have a backup plan for wet weather? What about hail?
Who will be there early in the day to make sure everything is going to plan? No matter how prepared you think you are there will be so many people setting up that you really must have one person in control of the floor plan, timeline and emergency procedures.
6. Hire a wedding coordinator
There are so many moving parts to a wedding and so many people involved, that you really must have someone designated to be the point of contact and manage the day. The bride and groom should not be interrupted on the day if the generator runs out of fuel or the DJ gets lost.
It will be very tempting to designate this role to a family member or close friend, but remember, if they are solving problems and supervising staff all day, they will not get to enjoy the party with you. Your coordinator must be a responsible, organised person, who can be trusted to make quick decisions and not to drink any alcohol during the event. Making sure everyone gets away safely and the area is left clean and undamaged is just as important as setting it up.