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Your Guide to Planning a Successful Outdoor Wedding

Anyone planning a wedding knows that the process can stir up a lot of emotions; from excitement, nervousness and joy, to feeling overwhelmed, tired or stressed. While any wedding involves a lot of decision making and strategic planning, this can become even more complicated if you’ve got your heart set on a wedding outdoors.

Alfresco weddings can be stunning and they’re perfect for any outdoor-loving couple who want to get married surrounded by nature. However, there are certain logistics that need to be properly thought through when planning an outdoor wedding, from a bad weather contingency plan to bathroom facilities and power sources. With the right amount of forward-thinking and planning, there’s no reason why an outdoor wedding can’t be a resounding success, so if you’re looking for some tips to help plan your perfect day - read on for our handy guide.

Choosing the location

Outdoor weddings offer a picturesque setting like no other and there are many different types of location to choose depending on your personal style. If you’ve always dreamed of a rustic, country-style wedding, you’ll probably lean towards a grassy field, meadow or farm for your wedding. For a dreamy, romantic fairytale wedding there’s nothing better than forest clearing or botanical garden, or choose a sandy beach setting for an idyllic tropical-themed ceremony.

Know the law

The laws regarding where you can and cannot get legally married in the UK are quite complicated and they vary between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The law regarding outdoor weddings actually came under review very recently (in June 2019) and more lenient laws could come into effect from 2021 onwards. As it currently stands, most outdoor ceremonies in England and Wales are not legally binding, so you would need to sign official paperwork elsewhere afterwards to formalize the marriage. Laws are different in Scotland (most Humanist ceremonies outdoors are legally binding) but most civil ceremonies across the UK are able to take place outdoors.

In most cases, you just need a venue with some form of permanent building or structure for the signing of the papers, so many couples choose to have the symbolic part of the ceremony outside (vows, readings, music etc) and then they move indoors to sign papers. You’ll also need a venue with a valid wedding licence for the marriage to be legally binding (this rules out spaces such as back gardens, tents or woodland glades) but there’s nothing to stop you from using these as a reception venue.

Have a backup plan for rain

It’s not something we like to think about, but the UK weather is notoriously unpredictable, even in summer. Don’t take any chances by ensuring you have a backup plan for rainy weather, whether that’s a rental tent or choosing a venue with both indoor and outdoor areas.

Many wedding venues have gorgeous outdoor areas or gardens suitable for an alfresco ceremony, plus a barn or other indoor reception area for afterwards. It’s important to make sure you’re equally happy with any indoor backup plans, and with a bit of luck the weather will clear up later on so you can still enjoy a portion of your wedding outdoors. If it’s looking like it is going to rain but will be dry later on, set down some wooden boards to make pathways or marquee flooring for a dancefloor, so that you and your guests don’t slip or ruin their shoes on the wet, muddy ground.

It’s also wise to check the rain policy on any rental contracts for items such as chairs, tables or entertainment equipment as some items are not allowed to be set up on wet ground.

Dress for the outdoors

If the majority of your wedding is taking place on grass, sand or another soft surface, it’s best to avoid stilettos or kitten heels which can easily sink into the ground. Outfits for both the married couple and guests will depend on the time of year, but it’s always best to bring a jacket or smart cover-up for when the temperatures drop at night. Outdoor summer weddings call for light suit fabrics like linen, cotton or other natural fibres and brides might want to consider a shorter, lighter reception dress to dance the night away if temperatures are very hot.

Halternecks, sleeveless summer dresses, silks and loose silhouettes are all good choices for an outdoor wedding and for shoes, stick to wedges or flats.

Power up

Don’t forget to sort the electricity, especially if you’re in a country field or other remote location. Electricity is vital, not only for your lighting but also speakers, DJ equipment or band instruments. It’s not the complicated obstacle you might think either and you can easily hire a power generator for all your electronic and lighting needs.

Keep guests comfortable

Think about the time of year and plan accordingly to keep guests comfortable and protected from any extreme outdoor elements. If it’s the height of summer, make sure you have plenty of chilled water to hand out to guests and consider adding large electric fans to keep the heat down. You could even print the wedding programme onto a paper fan so guests can cool themselves. It’s also wise to provide enough backup sunscreen, especially if your ceremony is between 12 and 3 pm when the sun’s rays are the hottest.

For a winter wedding, you’ll probably need to rent portable heaters, especially if the reception is in a venue that’s covered but uninsulated (like a tent or gazebo). Also, make sure there are plenty of blankets to hand and, as mentioned above, ensure you have a backup plan in case of rain.

Don’t forget the bathrooms

We cannot stress this enough - an outdoor wedding without adequate bathroom facilities will be stressful and uncomfortable for you and your guests. Banish thoughts of grotty festival toilets too, not all portable toilet blocks are basic and you can rent fully-equipped blocks complete with large sinks, hand-dryers, mirrors and hot water. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to have one toilet for every 35 guests, but feel free to add more if you want to cut down on queues and save more time for drinking and dancing.

Pest control

Unwanted insects like mosquitos, wasps or flies can be an unfortunate part of the territory when it comes to an outdoor wedding, but there’s plenty you can do to make sure pests don’t ruin your big day. Strategically placed citronella candles will help to repel bugs (and look pretty on tables, too), or you could even arrange for the site to be sprayed by an exterminator a few days beforehand if you’re really concerned.

Natural decorations

One of the best aspects of an outdoor wedding is that the setting is already beautifully decorated for you by nature, but you can enhance this even further with some carefully thought out decorations. A stunning forest setting or blooming summer garden speaks for itself, but enhance the natural beauty of your venue with string lights, lanterns or colourful paper chains. Consider adding extra decorations that tie into the natural theme too, such as a floral arch, flower petals instead of confetti, hay bale seats or winding vines and flowers to decorate chairs.

Manchester Cabins - Your number one for portable building hire

If you want your wedding to go off without a hitch, then you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the best possible facilities available for you and your guests. So, if you’re looking for practical and affordable toilet blocks for your outdoor wedding, get in touch with the team at Manchester Cabins. We pride ourselves on our hygienic, easy to clean bathroom blocks, which come equipped with all the comforts you’d expect including hot water, large basins and mirrors.

All of our hire units are available nationwide and can be delivered and collected to and from your chosen venue for maximum convenience. With affordable rates, state of the art facilities and reliable delivery, give us a call today or visit our website to find out why our services are second to none.

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