Practicalities of an outdoor wedding reception

An outdoor wedding reception is always a fabulous idea – blue skies and sunshine, the scent of fresh flowers, and beautiful countryside views. What more could you ask for? Even though probably all of us Brits would love to marry outdoors, there are a few practicalities to bear in mind when planning an outdoor wedding reception.

Being exposed to the elements means that anything could happen, so you need to plan ahead so things don’t go wrong. Because of this, when you’re planning for your outdoor wedding reception, keep these five practicalities in mind.

The changing weather

outdoor wedding reception

British weather is famously unpredictable. This of course makes outdoor weddings for us a slight challenge. If the day starts as sunny, it doesn’t mean it won’t be ending in rain and vice versa. So, you can of course hope for the best and plan to have your wedding reception completely outdoors, however we think that you might want to think ahead a bit more.

This means that you should always create a backup plan for an outdoor wedding reception as the unpredictability of British weather means there’s a good chance that high winds or rain could spoil your plans. In terms of back-up plans, you’ve got a few options. You can hire a marquee or glamping tent to retreat under if the weather turns. Many couples can get away this option if the rain isn’t torrential and there isn’t excessive hail or wind. It’s a great alternative to a solely outdoor wedding as you can often make the tent look a part of the surroundings by adding decorations that bring the outdoors in.

If you don’t think a marquee or a boho chic glamping tent is your style and you have no back up plan as of yet, then you ought to think about having one. It’s easy and cheap enough to hire out the local village hall as a backup just to be safe. That way, you won’t be caught out if the weather does turn and you won’t need to all pile into the local pub.

In the event of light passing showers that won’t ruin everything, you may just need to make sure there is a bit of shelter around. Marrying in a botanic garden or park is always good for this because there are often some gazebos and other covered areas where your guests can take shelter. Another option you can think about is providing a good supply of umbrellas. These two work best in as a pair.

Whatever your plans, it’s definitely worth coming up with a back-up plan so you don’t need to be stressed on your wedding day.

Basic facilities

outdoor wedding reception

Your outdoor reception location may look stunning, but does it have the required facilities you will need? Facilities are often forgotten about by couples because they’re not really at the forefront of your mind when you plan a wedding. But they are extremely important.

So, you obviously need for there to be main basic facility: toilets. Toilets are clearly an essential that can’t be missed. If your ideal wedding venue doesn’t have bathrooms nearby, you can consider hiring portable toilets to get around this particular situation.

Next is car parking. A lot of people don’t consider car parking as particularly high priority but it is very frustrating when you have mobility issues or are wearing your nicest clothes, which is obviously very common at weddings, only to have to be told that there’s a long walk from the car park to the wedding. Or if there’s no parking at the venue at all and you have to resort to nearby street parking. Neither of these situations is ideal and if you have got some people on your guest list that you think might struggle, then keep these things in mind. See if you can hire a shuttle bus from the nearest car park, for example.

If you’re hiring caterers, which unless you want a collection of hangry guests, then you will be, then you’re going to need to think about electricity. While lots of catered food is cooked prior to arriving, it’ll still need to be reheated for your guests. Consider that there may not be a power source nearby and come up with a solution. You could pick an alternate venue or you could see if a generator and portable set-up could be fashioned in some way.

There are always options for getting around these situations, all you need to do is get creative. Because you’ll be at a distance to certain facilities, like potentially car parking, having a well prepared plan for mishaps is a necessity.

Wedding photos and video

outdoor wedding reception

The next most important thing on the list that needs to considered is the wedding photographer and videographer. As part of your search for a photographer or wedding videographer, look for suppliers that have experience in outdoor wedding receptions. This is imperative. While all wedding photographers may have a collection of images in their portfolio of outdoor weddings, they may not be an expert. They may just have a few random shots here and there of a couple near some trees or by a beach, but their speciality might be indoor photography, for example. It’s definitely worth doing your research and finding out.

After you’ve found your perfect photographer, ask them to check your venue before the special day to get some ideas for locations. They may need to have specialist equipment such as light meters, shades, or amplifiers with them, and they may need extra time to set these up prior to the wedding. It’s important to keep them in the loop on where you’re having the wedding and what you expect of them. Being prepared prior to the wedding will save you a lot of grief on the day or afterwards when you get your photos or video back and they’re not right.

The outdoor elements

outdoor wedding reception

It’s clear that outdoor venues look the most beautiful when in full bloom, but this doesn’t just apply to your guests. Wasps and other insects will be attracted to blooming flowers, as well as food and drink, and may be a quite a nuisance. If you are planning to be outdoors for the whole reception, ensure your guests are aware of that so they can have insect repellent, a good hat, sun cream, and appropriate clothing with them. Just naming the venue and assuming your guests will understand is not enough, some guests will still expect the reception to provide an indoor option and they’ll be disappointed to find that there isn’t one when they’re being eaten alive by mosquitos.

You can prepare here by buying insect repellent for people to use if they don’t bring their own as well as having citronella candles as a part of your lighting set-up for when the sun starts going down. Preparing yourselves for the worst, like a wasp invasion, will prevent you from getting anxious and stressed on the day. Planning is the best way to keep calm here. And your guests will definitely appreciate the heads up too so make sure to mention these things in the invitations.

Soft or uneven ground

outdoor wedding reception

The ground may not be something that you would necessarily think when you’re planning your outdoor wedding, but it is important to consider. Take a good look at the ground where you plan to hold your reception and ask yourselves some questions. Is it level enough for a marquee? If it isn’t and you’re set on having one, then you’ll have to either rethink the venue choice or the giant marquee decision. Being adaptable here is always good as you could have the best of both worlds by having smaller tent ‘stations’ that all link together with fairy lights. This way the uneven ground won’t be an issue as you can spread the tents out and you’ll still have the same kind of look.

A huge consideration with the ground is if it’s easy enough to walk on, i.e. will disabled guests be able to easily get across it? If they can’t or it’s difficult for an able-bodied person to walk along the ground, then you’ll need to think of another option. For example, you could hire golf carts for the guests if your venue is up a hill.

Other important considerations are things like, is there space for tables as well as an area to dance? What is the drainage like? Will the ground be sludgy if it’s rained the day before? Even if the day itself is dry and warm, the water may not have evaporated from the ground yet. Trust us, your guests definitely won’t have a lovely time if they are dancing in standing water from the previous day’s rain.

Consider all of this as well as picking your spots well. Look for a practical area of ground – remember you can add decorative elements with a hired archway or gazebo to change the way the surroundings look.

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