Nothing makes our hearts pitter-patter more than a gorgeous celebration in the great outdoors, and we’re so thrilled have Ellen Westcott of Westcott Weddings sharing some of her incredible expertise with three things to keep in mind when planning an outdoor wedding. In her years as an Austin wedding planner, Ellen has designed and executed countless outdoor affairs, including the stunning organic outdoor wedding she planned for Erin and Jonathan! She’s keenly aware of how much goes into planning an outdoor celebration, as well as the details that can be overlooked in executing a vision from dream to reality. Read on below and learn from Ellen’s valuable insight!
Photo // Ashley Bosnick Photography
What are some details that can be easily overlooked when planning an outdoor wedding?
- Guest experience! Make sure to consider the season and the temperatures when planning your celebration. In the spring, temperatures can easily creep up, making a 5pm ceremony quite sunny and warm, and the opposite is true in the fall/winter. Providing a beverage (alcoholic or not!) as guests arrive and are seated is such a nice way to both acknowledge the weather and keep everyone smiling. Spa water, agua fresca and champagne cocktails are all great for spring, and something warm like a hot toddy, warm apple cider or hot chocolate are perfect for cooler days. You may also consider adding blankets/wraps or heaters in the cooler months and fans or umbrellas in the warmer months. (Keep in mind that there’s nothing worse than sweating in a suit or cocktail dress!) Make sure you include a note on your wedding website (or somewhere in your invitation suite) letting guests know that they will be celebrating outside. This helps them prepare in advance, too!
- Lighting. Make sure you have enough in all the spaces. I’m a big fan of festoons, which add instant ambience (and are on dimmers, so the lighting level can be adjusted throughout the evening!), can be strung over a large space, and are actually fairly cost effective. I would also recommend chatting with your photographer/videographer about what would be best, particularly for the post-sunset portion of the evening.
- Speaking of lighting, the sunset. Know both when it is and where the sun will set. When will help with timing. Where will help with layout to ensure that neither you (nor your guests!) have the sun in their eyes AND to ensure that the lighting is right for your photographer to capture you in the best light.
- The wind. It plays a role in all outdoor weddings. Talk to your team about things like…
- Making sure your centerpieces are heavy enough to withstand a good gust.
- Using taller containers for candles, so that your candles will stay lit.
- A plan for securing/weighting loose paper goods like escort cards, place cards and menus.
What are some tips for really transforming and personalizing an outdoor ceremony space?
- Upgrade your chairs! I think chairs are one of the most overlooked details, and they go such a long way in transforming the space. Because there are so many of them (literally one per guest!) they become a huge part of the overall look and feel of the space and are usually one of the very first things your guests see when they enter. At their Laguna Gloria wedding in the photo above, Jonathan and Erin rented a mix of lounge pieces, vintage chairs and bench seating to use in the amphitheater. Those pieces added both comfort and elegance to the space… and looked right at home in the outdoor setting! (Insider tip: Check with your planner and/or your rental consultant on potential sales. Many of the rental companies in town run a special chair sale once per year, which will give you the opportunity to upgrade without breaking your budget.)
- Keep it cohesive! Make sure your ceremony space is an extension of the look and feel of the rest of your day. Because this is likely the first space your guests will enter (unless you are having pre-ceremony drinks!), think about the overall experience here, which starts with guest arrival – the minute they set foot on the property for your big day. Will you have passed drinks or maybe a water station? Are you asking guests to sign-in? Will they be ushered to their seats? Is there music playing? All of those little details go a long way in setting the tone and making the day feel like YOU.
- Define the altar space in some way. Jonathan and Erin had an altar table where we placed their communion elements, which was flanked on either side by gorgeous garden-style arrangements. If that’s not your thing, though, there are literally limitless options – all kind of ceremony structures, floral installs, lighting/candles, etc.!
What do you recommend when it comes to a weather/backup plan for an outdoor wedding?
- First and most importantly, if you are getting married outside, mentally prepare yourself for the chance of weather! Then, design a weather plan that is a close runner-up to your Plan A. (Don’t skip this step!) Usually, this switch can be accomplished easily with tents or with a move indoors. In the pictures from Jonathan and Erin’s Laguna Gloria wedding, you’ll notice that the tents are up over the dining tables. It looked all week like it was going to rain (and be freezing cold!), so we were prepared to move the ceremony under a tent, to put the tent walls down, and to have heat going. At the last minute – as so often happens in Texas! – the forecast completely changed. We ended up with temperatures in the 70s and not a raindrop in sight.
- If it looks like rain, grab some cute umbrellas on Amazon. (That’s what those Prime memberships are for!) Guests will so appreciate the cover, especially if they need to move between uncovered spaces and forgot their own at home.
- On the day-of, trust your team to make the right call. We’re all rooting for 75 and sunny (truly!), but in the off chance that it doesn’t happen, know that we still want to maintain the integrity of the original plan and will do whatever we can to make it lovely for you and your guests.
Many thanks to Ellen for sharing such amazing advice with us! Get in contact with Ellen and inquire about planning services on Westcott Weddings’ vendor profile.