Thursday, June 10, 2010

Real Life Lessons: Outdoor Weddings

One of our readers asked me if I had any tips and tricks or advice for an outdoor wedding, as that is exactly what we had for our June 1st, 2008 wedding. While this is outside the usual DIY-project-amateur-adventure-craziness that we like to write about on our blog, considering that our wedding eventually lead to our house, and henceforth our current status as a DIY Crazy Couple (not to mention the fact that much of our wedding was a DIY effort as well), I figured that a Real Life Lessons series would, actually, be up-to-scratch for the incredibly high expectations of a This Fresh Fossil blog post series.

Yes, I'm joking.

But, nevertheless, read on for some of our tips and tricks for planning an outdoor wedding, DIY to save money, but most importantly having fun and making memories on your wedding day.

Outdoor Weddings

While outdoor weddings are incredibly beautiful and chock-full of ambiance (a large thanks to mother nature for that perk) they also have a few big downsides that you don't have to worry about with an indoor wedding.

The location. Where to have your big day is a huge decision, possibly the biggest one you'll make during all your planning. If you're looking for an outdoor venue, the beautiful choices that mother nature provides are endless. You could seal-the-deal on a mountaintop, beachside, on the ocean, underwater (not a joke!), in the forest, in the desert, or even in a garden. The options are limitless.

What's not limitless? Your budget.

If you're on a shoestring budget, like we were for our own wedding, one of the best options is to find a free venue. And no, you can't get married in a public park or on the beach for free. I know because we tried. It's sad, I know. So what's really F-R-E-E in terms of venue? A beautiful backyard.

If you already own a house, consider upping your landscaping and hiring some people to treat your grass to create and personalize your own personal wedding venue. You can even rent things for the big day like gazebos and such. If you don't own a nice sized backyard, consider asking family or friends if you could use theirs for the big day. I know if I was asked I wouldn't turn someone down. Think of the memories that would be made there! The best part? You could have the perfect wedding venue for your I-Do's for a couple hundred dollars versus a couple thousand dollars, personalized exactly the way you want it.

However, if you can't find anyone with a scenic backyard large enough for all your guests, consider finding a backyard that you can rent. For us, that meant finding a garden that was meant for weddings. After a bit of research and searching, we found the perfect garden that was picturesque and romantic and quiet - right in the middle of the busy city. The best part? We didn't have to worry about hardly any decorations, thanks to the beautiful display from mother nature.

The weather. Summer weddings are popular, especially in a spot like Orlando, Florida, where ours was. Thankfully, we knew already (due to me growing up there the first 18 years of my life) that June was the beginning of what I have officially dubbed "Monsoon Season", where it rains and thunders and the sky gets pitch black for 30 minutes at 3ish every single day like clockwork, and then it's over. Like sunny-blue-skies-and-birds-chirping-did-that-really-just-happen-holy-cow-over. Seriously.

Always have a backup building indoors that you can quickly move to if it rains, or watch the weather channel like a hawk (which I'm sure you'd be doing anyways if your wedding is outdoors). For us, since we already knew that there was a 99.99% chance of a crazy thunderstorm in the middle of our daytime wedding, we planned for a storm and had a backup building in place for the monsoon when it inevitably came rolling through. Of course, this is a always good idea anyway because you usually have to book your venue months in advance and so you'll have no idea what the weather report is.

But sometimes things work out in your favor. For us? It didn't rain one drop, a sure sign that someone was watching out for us, because that NEVER happens in Orlando during the summer. Never. The only downside? It was really hot and humid.

Prepare for every type of weather. Luckily, we knew that things would be sweaty-sticky-humid-I-can-barely-breathe ahead of time, so we warned guests on our invitations and wedding website that it would be hot so they should dress appropriately. I also bought sweat-proof makeup and selected bridesmaids dresses to accommodate the stuffy weather (I, and the groom and groomsmen, however, weren't so lucky!). We also took care of our guests and made things as comfortable as possible for them.

Don't forget your guests. They have feelings, too. And if you make things as comfortable for them as possible, they'll be very grateful. If it's going to be hot and outdoors, offer things such as hats, fans, bottled water and lemonade to help cool them off. Keep some umbrellas handy if there's a chance of rain. Having a beach wedding? Stash some spunky sunglasses and cheap sandals to keep the sun out of their eyes and their feet from blistering. We had fresh lemonade in pitchers (which doubled as decor, since the theme was lemons and sunflowers) and even an-easily-DIY-hand-fan, with our wedding program on it, to keep guests cool and comfortable (or as comfy as they could be, anyways!). What else did we do for them? We sprayed for bugs.

Bugs live outdoors, too. They're not called pests for nothing. Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of bugs. And I'm sure most of your guests won't be, either. I was horrified to realize that bugs were jumping on me - literally crawling on me! - during our dress rehearsal. Thankfully, my amazing Aunt-Acting-As-Wedding-Planner was all over this, and asked the garden owner if they could spray the night before the big day while my amazing Aunt played Brave Bug Banisher only a couple of hours before the big event during the decor setup. And you know what? There wasn't a single bug the whole time.

I hope this has helped you with questions or concerns about having an outdoor wedding and dealing with the elements from mother nature, along with a few suggestions as to save some money (because weddings are expensive!) while keeping you and your guests comfortable. Stay tuned for more tips and tricks related to weddings, like how to save money with DIY!

If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!

{Photography by Nancy Jacobsen Photography, Post-processing by yours truly.}
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  1. Being that I was lucky enough to be the best man in the above mentioned wedding, I have a few tips as well.

    Spend a few dollars on handkerchiefs! The night before the wedding I went to Wal-Mart and bought a pack of 10 for about $2-$3! I gave one to Tom and the other groomsman (keeping 1 for myself of course) and they proved GREAT for wiping for the gallons of sweat from our foreheads! They are very discrete and effective for us!! For the guys, they easily fit in the pockets of our tuxedos!

    The piece of advice I have involves footwear....specifically for the groom and groomsmen. The sweating and heat of being in my tuxedo was actually pretty tolerable, but what was pretty miserable was the effect of the sun on our shoes. Bright, shinny sun + black, shinny tuxedo shoes = VERY HOT FEET!!! I would recommend a more dull black or brown shoes, or maybe even flip flops if it's a more casual outdoor wedding.

  2. Great post!! Thanks for the tips! I never even thought about the bugs and things like that.

    One thing I have found very unfortunate is that the weather in MN is so random that you can't predict anything. Someone could plan a wedding in June expecting rain or sunshine and end up with snow! It's crazy! But I guess that ends to the whole "fun" in-the-moment kind of thing, right?...

  3. Wonderful advice... my sister is considering an outdoor wedding, and now her big sis has some actual advice to give. Thanks!

  4. Great advice Chelsea!! Your wedding was beautiful. Oh my...Orlando in June, I know of what you speak! :) You were lucky!!
    We also had an outdoor ceremony, and a back up plan (inside the venue if it rained). I have pictures of my dad in his tux spraying for bugs before the wedding. We renewed our vows last year (just us and the kiddos) in La Jolla (I posted about it) and that was also outdoors w/ no back up plan...but it turned out to be a gorgeous night.

  5. Great tips, Chelsea! We had our reception in my parent's backyard, and it turned out really well. We loved saving the money, although we did get a tent just in case it rained.

  6. since we live here in florida we share your pain! If i ever get married however i do want it glad it worked out for you!

  7. Thanks for dropping in, everyone! I'm so glad that you guys found the article (my first!) informative (and hopefully a bit fun, too!).

    @Clyde - Thanks for the tips! The handkerchiefs were a fantastic idea (I completely forgot about them!), thanks for mentioning them. And that's also a good tip on the shoes, too (Whoops, guess I should have gone with gray or something, huh? haha). :)

    Thanks again for the wonderful comments and popping in, guys!



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