How to Plan an Outdoor Wedding Ceremony

wedding ceremony with white chairs and gazeboThere are almost as many outdoor wedding ceremony ideas as there are stars in the sky. After all, that’s one of the reasons couples enjoy planning an outdoor wedding ceremony; every wedding ceremony detail, from the altar to the chairs, can be coordinated into an outdoor wedding that feels personal.

Tour wedding ceremony site

Planning an outdoor wedding starts with the biggest detail, choosing the perfect wedding ceremony site that fits the couple’s tastes. The options for outdoor wedding ceremony sites are endless (especially in the Chicagoland area) and can be as easy as picturing the wedding in a backyard, beach, or favorite park. For an incredibly unique feel, couples can also choose a sports field, rooftop deck, or an outdoor theater.

Couples should discuss their preference for an outdoor venue and start compiling a list of ceremony sites. Choosing an outdoor wedding venue does come with a note of caution; while it can be fun to browse through online photos, never book an outside wedding site without an in-person tour.

Ask questions

Before scheduling a tour with an outdoor wedding venue, ask the venue questions to narrow down the list to the right one. Ask every wedding venue these questions:

  • Is the venue available on the date? (Or ask the venue for a list of dates it is available.)
  • What is the fee for using the ceremony site? What amount of time is covered by the fee? Are there any additional fees that are part of the venue cost?
  • How much space is available for the ceremony? Is there a maximum amount of guests that can be at the venue?
  • Is there an indoor venue that can be used for the reception? If not, can a tent be installed at the venue? Are there any restrictions on the tent? Is a permit needed for the tent?
  • Are there any volume limitations or curfews that need to be followed?
  • Will there be other events at the venue during the wedding?
  • Does the venue carry liability insurance? (This can be important in case a guest is injured.)
  • What is the cancellation policy?
  • Is there a list of required vendors that need couples need to use?
  • What is the venue alcohol policy?
  • Is there parking at or near the ceremony site?
  • Is the wedding venue handicap accessible?
  • Are there any inns, hotels, or cabins nearby where guests can stay?

In addition to asking questions, couples should always review the venue contract before signing on the dotted line. Once the outdoor venue is confirmed, it’s time to start coordinating the details that make every outdoor wedding unique.

Make a Plan B

white paper lanterns in wedding tent with neutral wedding decorEven if the weather forecast is beautiful, ALWAYS have a plan B in case of unpredictable weather. If the venue has a facility, make “just in case” plans to move the wedding ceremony (and reception, if applicable) to the alternate site. For outdoor wedding venues without an indoor option, consider booking a tent to protect guests from the rain and sun. If the wedding date is in late summer, it may make sense to rent a tent for protection from the sun. For venues with spectacular views, don’t feel that a tent has to interfere with the picturesque setting. Some tents are completely clear or have sidewalls that allow everyone to take in the breath-taking views.

Turn the outdoor wedding vision into reality

wedding ceremony site chicago ilThe wedding ceremony site is the foundation for all the other details. Now is the time to decide between having the guests stand or sit, what types of chairs/seating (i.e. natural-colored, dark, vintage couches, etc.), details for the altar, whether cover is wanted/needed, and whether to add décor and lighting. Couples can also add an entrance that sets the stage for what is to come. (Use this outdoor wedding rental checklist to ensure that not one detail is overlooked.)

The exact details differ for every couple. For a hot summer wedding, some couples add chill stations with cool beverages or fans to the ceremony tent. If the ceremony is more of an open-air setting, floral décor can add a sophisticated and elegant feel to the setting. An evening wedding isn’t complete without the right lighting that sets the stage for a one-of-a-kind wedding reception. (Don’t hesitate to ask the professionals for addition outside wedding ceremony ideas.)

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