Considering getting married outside? There are so many beautiful outdoor ceremony venues that it seems like a no-brainer to choose a location with beautiful views, great scenery, fresh air and more. We absolutely LOVE photographing outdoor weddings and love the freedom that beautiful natural light allows us when we're taking photos on a wedding day!
But before you say yes to an outdoor wedding ceremony, there are some pros and cons that should be carefully considered before saying "I Do" under the open sky. Here are our 10 ten factors you should consider before determining if an outdoor ceremony is right for you!
1. CONSIDER THE TIME OF YEAR / SEASON
Depending on the geographical location of your wedding ceremony location, you may have varying options for ideal wedding dates that can sustain a comfortable outdoor ceremony. Here in Minnesota, that date range usually will fall from early May through mid-October, however, the summer months (late July to late August) can get very hot and humid here! If you're in Florida or Arizona, however, your ideal months will likely be reversed, due to the extreme heat and/or humidity in the summer months.
2. WHAT WILL THE WEATHER GENERALLY BE LIKE?
Once you've considered the general season or time of year for your outdoor ceremony, research the average temperatures and weather conditions around that ideal wedding date. In Minnesota, the most "comfortable" weather for outdoor weddings typically will range from early-May to early June, and early-September to early-October. In Minnesota, we would typically say that a 75 and sunny day with low/no humidity is a PERFECT day for a wedding! However, in other areas of the country, where summer temperatures can reach 110 or 120+ degrees, the "comfort zone" for temperature may vary.
It is also important to consider that times of year with great TEMPERATURES may also be part of a rainier season, which means you are rolling the dice more often with a May date in Minnesota (our wedding day was a perfect 74 and sunny on May 15, but the day before, it was 50 and rainy and miserable!).
Some locations, particularly in the southern areas of the US, have to deal with hurricane season in the summer / fall months, while northern states have to deal with cold temperatures and snow in the winter from November/December through at least April, generally speaking.
3. TIMING OF THE CEREMONY + THE LIGHT!
This is the BIGGEST factor to consider when planning an outdoor ceremony! The time of day you hold your outdoor wedding ceremony can make or break the guest experience and also your photos. Will the sun be shining into your guests eyes? Will the 2pm sun be very hot as the sun has not yet dipped behind the treeline? Will it leave harsh shadows on you, your bridal party, your guests (and making photos not as pretty?)
The best light of the day is when the sun is lower in the sky. Photographers refer to the 60-90 minutes preceding that as the "golden hour", which is the optimal time for soft light and glowing, romantic portraits of the two of you.
Do you know what time sunset is on your wedding day? Check out the time of sunset by clicking HERE and entering your wedding location and picking the intended month / date of your wedding. You can also simply type in "sunset time xxxx location xxxx date" into Google and it will tell you your date's sunset time!
Before you set your ceremony time, consider if you want portraits of the two of you BEFORE (if you're having a First Look) or AFTER the ceremony (if you're more traditional). Then consider setting your ceremony time around that sunset time.
Having a 2pm outdoor ceremony in June will look VERY different than a 5pm ceremony!
Also consider the PLACEMENT of the ceremony set-up and how it will impact your ceremony photos. In an ideal situation, the sun would either be directly in front or directly behind the ceremony set-up (so, facing east or west). On a very sunny day, "split lighting" can be very challenging to photograph in and creates very harsh shadows (so, bride or groom looking into the direction of the sun). Just because that big beautiful oak tree looks lovely and would make a great backdrop doesn't mean the direction of the light would be helpful for a beautiful ceremony.
4. HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
So.... what happens if rain (or snow?!) is in the forecast? Or maybe even just really strong winds, hurricanes or whatever else Mother Nature can throw at you?
You need to have a reasonable backup plan. Carefully consider the BACKUP PLAN when you are choosing your wedding venue(s)! Some outdoor ceremony locations do NOT have a "rain backup" location, while other all-in-one venues may have indoor space that can be used in the event of inclement weather (ie - your reception space can also be used as a ceremony space... not ideal, but it gets you out of the weather!).
Renting a tent for an outdoor ceremony is also a popular option. HOWEVER -- please make sure you are actually permitted to put up a tent at your outdoor ceremony location. Some gardens, parks, state parks, etc are very strict and DO NOT allow tents to be staked for ceremony weather backup options.
5. WHAT ABOUT THE RESTROOMS?!
Other than weather backup options, I would contend that THE most important factor in choosing an outdoor ceremony location would be the availability of restrooms. Now, I'm not saying you need to have fancy bathrooms available, but if you're getting married at a state park and there are NO restrooms anywhere nearby, this is a rather large problem to have, for both you AND your guests! When you've got to go, you've got to go. So please, don't forget to consider the availability of restrooms when it comes to choosing a ceremony venue! Depending on your venue, you may need to rent portable toilets or even a toilet trailer to ensure proper facilities are available for you and your guests. (This is also a big factor for many DIY reception venues, too, including many "barn" venues.)
6. DO YOU HAVE TO RENT ANY CHAIRS OR DECOR?
When it comes to outdoor ceremony venues, having proper seating is an important element of the guest experience. In a best-case scenario, chairs and seating set-up for the ceremony are already available and included in your venue rental.
However, more often than not, you will have to rent chairs and/or decor, either from the venue itself OR from an outside vendor. The price per chair can range anywhere from $1 to over $15+ for EACH CHAIR. Multiply that by the number of expected guests (and make sure you don't get too few!) and also don't forget about set-up and delivery fees!
When considering your outdoor ceremony location, do you need an arbor of some kind? A floral arch? A huppah? This is also an added cost and must either be built or rented. Some venues will have arbors available, which is very helpful!
Decide how you'd like to decorate your ceremony site. Popular options include flowers, candles, greenery, green garlands, cafe lights and more. Depending on the included natural scenery or value-added options included by your venue, creating a beautiful decor
7. IS THERE ELECTRICITY AVAILABLE? HOW WILL YOU AMPLIFY SOUND AND MUSIC?
While the idea of an outdoor ceremony may be appealing, sometimes, logistics can be a hassle. Don't forget about electricity or a generator if you need to amplify sound for any speakers, microphones or keyboards needed for your outdoor ceremony.
Good news, though! Most ceremony venues will have electricity or a generator available, either included in your rental OR available for an extra fee. Also, you can always ask your DJ if they have the means to amplify your sound and hook you up with a sound system for the ceremony. However, if you choose a more remote or DIY location, electricity may be a dealbreaker if it is unavailable.
(This is also a big factor for many DIY reception venues, too, including many "barn" venues.)
8. CONSIDER EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY FOR OLDER FAMILY AND FRIENDS OR GUESTS WITH MOBILITY ISSUES
One of the most overlooked factors of an outdoor ceremony location is the ease of accessibility for older guests or those who are handicapped or with mobility issues. A healthy, younger person might find that 200 foot gravel path to the ceremony site to be charming, but grandma might have a hard time walking there.
Depending on the terrain, it may be critical to offer some type of wheeled assistance, whether it be someone to push a wheelchair or even a golf cart that can be used to transport older / less-agile guests. Locations with a lot of steps or a steep grade may also be difficult for some people to walk on. Paved pathways are best, and locations that are easily accessible and don't require a lot of walking are ideal for most situations.
9. IS THERE A STAGING OR HIDING AREA FOR THE WEDDING COUPLE + BRIDAL PARTY?
This is a very simple and non-essential aspect of your wedding ceremony plans, but still one to consider -- is there a location (whether another area of the venue grounds, a bridal cottage, a tent, etc) available for the wedding party to congregate and "hide out" before the ceremony? Many brides especially do not want to be seen by their guests prior to the start of the ceremony.
10. DON'T FORGET TO OFFER WATER / FANS ON A HOT DAY!
Offer cold water bottles or a cold beverage station at your ceremony for hot days to keep your guests comfortable and hydrated.
This is coming from personal experience on very HOT wedding days -- having 200+ wedding guests baking in the 3pm July sun when it is 90 degrees out can actually be dangerous! I've seen bridal party members (especially the guys in their hot suits!) and older family members faint from the heat, especially when there is no water available (or if it runs out).
Having paper fans or dual-use program fans can also be very helpful in combating heat. But do realize that mid-afternoon sun on a hot summer day can just be miserable all around.... so consider a later ceremony start or an indoor location if you're worried about extreme temps.
Now that you've weighed your options, is an outdoor ceremony the right fit for you? Outdoor weddings are our FAVORITE, hands-down. While they do come with some risk factors, they are utterly delightful, memorable and gorgeous!