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Destination I Do
Thursday, September 5, 2013

Expert Outdoor Wedding Tips

Words by Brian Worley
Photos courtesy of Sean Twomey

Today we have a treat for all our destination wedding couples considering an outdoor ceremony and/or reception! Brian Worley, a celebrity event planner with over a decade of experience, is weighing-in on all the must-know tips and tricks for pulling off a realistic – and beautiful – outdoor wedding!

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I work as an event and wedding planner in beautiful Southern California where we are fortunate to have some of the greatest weather all year round. With that said, in my almost 14 years of planning indoor and outdoor events, I have seen the weather change a lot. For example, we used to have rain the first three months of the year and then it was smooth sailing. Unfortunately, this has changed drastically over the years, likely due to global warming, and the need for a back-up plan or "rain contingency" as we like to call it in the party planning world, has become more and more necessary. So, whether your wedding is in your own back yard or some exotic destination like the mountains or a remote beach resort, here are a few of my best tips to help make your outdoor wedding a little more stress free.

Rain, Rain Go Away – They say that if it rains on your wedding day, that is a sign of good luck, but Mother Nature is one beast that neither you nor your wedding planner have any control over, so plan accordingly with a rain contingency so that you have a confirmed back-up for your special day. A tent is always an option, especially if you are too in love with your location to move indoors. However, a tent and any additional decor elements that may be needed to accessorize the alternate space can really inflate your budget. Remember, rain is not the only element that Mother Nature may bestow upon your "I DO's" so keep in mind that it could be the hottest day of the year or the wind may kick up and blow everything away. If an outdoor wedding is the only way you want to celebrate, be prepared and have all your bases covered in case the weather decides to instantly change. Another stress-relieving tip is to put someone (a bridesmaid or groomsman works) in charge of keeping a close eye on the weather via a trusted website, the news, and asking the locals what they predict as the day approaches. This is particularly helpful when you are having a destination wedding where you may not be too familiar with the landscape of the environment.

Everyone Knows It's Windy – When I am designing a wedding, I love to mix things up with a combination of different centerpieces on each of the tables. I normally recommend doing some tall and some low, but to make your outdoor wedding less stressful, plan to do all low centerpieces that will not blow over. If you opt for tall ones, make sure to find a way to anchor them to the table so there are no casualties if a big gust of wind comes sweeping through the reception space. As I said, I love levels and different heights so that your eye always has something to look at if you are standing or seated, but a tall arrangement without a secured base is a recipe for disaster.

Color is Your Electricity – If you're planning a day-time outdoor wedding, be sure to use bright and bold colors to electrify your space. Lighting can make or break an event and everything changes when the event lighting is illuminated. For a day-time wedding, you do not have the luxury of event lighting so you need to amp up the wattage with a colorful palette of colors for all the design elements in your event space (e.g. Table linens, chair covers, flowers, favors, bridesmaids' dresses, groomsman ties, etc.).

Location, Location, Location – These days more and more couples are becoming adventurous with where they decide to tie the knot. If you are one of these people, make sure to find out all of the rules and regulations associated with the location and whether there are permits that need to be acquired, or if there is a sound ordinance, or a time limit on how long you can have the space. You also need to find out if you can serve alcohol, what kinds of decorations are allowed, and whether you can have an open flame or do you need to use battery operated LED candles? Ask lots and lots of questions so that on your big day there are no surprises.

Get and Give the 411 – Knowledge is power and if you have decided to throw your bash in an outdoor setting, make sure to provide your guests with a complete list of information that may help them enjoy your wedding day. If it is a location with lots of grass or rough terrain, let your guests know what types of shoes would be most comfortable as heels may not be the most appropriate choice. If you have created a wedding website or are savvy with social media, alert your guests in advance of anything that may hinder their time celebrating with you. Provide a picture of the venue, let them know if there will be a lot of walking involved in getting to the ceremony site and reception. If you have a lot of older guests or anyone that may have special needs, figure out a game plan in advance so that you are not stressed and no one has to miss out on all of the fun. On the day of the event, I love the idea of having "goodie-bags" prepared for your guests to grab upon arrival. These should include anything they might need during your outdoor wedding that they may not have brought. Think: fans, umbrellas, blankets, Band-Aids, sunscreen or even a map. Get creative and put your personal touch on everything right down to the container – a cloth tote bag will do the trick, plus, it's reusable.

You're Bugging Me – Outdoor  weddings not only have to contend with Mother Nature, but also the insects and pests that call your wedding venue home. Mosquitos tend to be more active at dusk so plan to have plenty of insect repellant on hand just in case. If you are permitted, accent your decor with citronella candles on the tables. You'll also want to make sure that trash and garbage cans can be sealed and are hidden away from the general guest area. This is pleasing to the eye, will keep bugs from gathering and the smell from invading the area.

Everybody Does It – Although it is not a topic that is widely discussed, make sure there are plenty of clean, well-stocked restrooms in good working condition for the number of guests you intend to invite. The general rule of thumb is one restroom for every 50 guests for a three hour event. Even if your wedding is small, I recommend having at least two restrooms. That way, you have a back-up if anything malfunctions. Also, check to see if the restrooms your venue is providing are septic or portable toilets and that they will be serviced before your wedding. A clogged commode will cause much undue stress and can potentially ruin your entire day.

Hire a Professional – As a wedding planner, I am biased when it comes to this, but one of the best ways to reduce stress before and on your wedding day, whether indoor or outdoor and especially a destination wedding, is to hire a professional to help you navigate through the entire planning process. Planning a wedding is already a stressful life event, so alleviate some of the stress with an expert that can help you. Outdoor weddings and destination weddings both provide a whole onslaught of potential complications that can be easily avoided if you have the experience to know what to plan for. I highly suggest hiring someone local if you're having a destination wedding. In addition to helping with all the planning, they will be well versed on the do's and don'ts of the location, leaving you to manage the more important aspects of the day, like making it down the aisle!

It's OK to Ask for Help – Your wedding planner can't be two places at once, so don't be afraid to ask your wedding party, family and friends to help you with anything you might need to make the day easier. It is your wedding after all, and all the guests are there to celebrate you and your spouse, so depend on everyone that loves you enough to spend the day with you to take a few things off your plate!

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – When I meet with a bride, one of the first things I tell them is not to put their wedding day on a pedestal and just enjoy the process. The day flies by so quickly and all the months of planning, tastings, seating charts and check writing will be over before you know it. As the bride and groom, the day is all about you, you are the centerpiece of the day, so let loose, have fun and don't sweat the small stuff! Things may not run exactly on the timeline you have created or how you have imagined your wedding day since you were a little kid, but it should be one of the greatest days of your life and you have the power to control how much fun you have. So let go, don't be a control freak, roll with the punches, and be thankful that so many people took time out of their busy schedules to celebrate you, that is the most important thing!

Looking for more insight from Brian? Follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his blog. Happy Planning!

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