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The Great Outdoors

Posted by Sheryl Hunnie on September 24, 2013 at 11:05 PM

A few thoughts about outdoor weddings

I love the idea of an outdoor wedding. Who wouldn’t, really? Winnipeg weather in the wedding season is always perfect: bright blue sky (but just enough cloud for photos, because photos are better if the sun isn’t too bright), warm rays of the sun (but not too warm because no one likes sitting in the sun when it’s 36 degrees in the shade), a gentle breeze blowing (but not too hard, because you’ve just spent a good three hours having your hair done), and the sounds of bird song and maybe water running in a nearby stream (but not airplanes, or traffic noises, or, god forbid, sirens blaring). Does this mean that if you plan an outdoor wedding you will be doomed? No, but it does mean that you are leaving a lot up to the weather gods and they are not always in a conciliatory mood. What’s a bride to do then, if she has her heart set on an outdoor wedding? She should plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Have a PLAN B

 One of the first questions I will ask you after you tell me your plans for an outdoor ceremony is, “What is your Plan B?” I am not asking IF you have a Plan B, I am strongly suggesting there be such a plan. I know you want to get married outside, but Mother Nature does not always see things your way. Many of Winnipeg’s most popular outdoor venues have a backup plan already in place. It may be as simple as moving chairs in the reception space. This is often an excellent plan, for although it does require a bit of shuffling on behalf of the venue staff, the “up” side is that this space is already beautifully decorated! If you have chosen any of the outdoor spaces at Assiniboine Park, a brief chat with park staff will reveal that they have a well thought-out strategy in the case of inclement weather. When Hilary and Mike’s plans for a ceremony in the formal gardens were interrupted but a sudden summer storm, the park staff had us ensconced in the Conservatory within a matters of minutes!

 Decide ahead of time when the cut off time to change locales will be. If you are moving to an indoor location on the same site, your venue provider will let you know what the cut-off time will be. If you have to move to an entirely different location, more time will be necessary. Remember, I often perform more than one ceremony on a day and scheduling is determined by venue location. In considering a move indoors there is often more involved than moving your guests.

If you just want to tough it out in the rain, I ask that cover be provided. At the very least, I require a large umbrella and someone to hold it. Your photographers and musicians may not be as accommodating as their equipment is expensive and may get damaged. Do not be upset if they will not work in the rain.

Remember the Three Bears

 In the familiar story, the porridge was too hot, too cold, and just right. Looking at it statistically, the porridge was edible only a third of the time. We assume that these were prepared under the same variables. Weather is unpredictable and can vary greatly from year to year. In fact, extremes in weather have been the rule of late, rather than the exception. You can’t assume that the weather will be perfect on your day, but can you can put some controls in place so that too hot and too cold may feel “just right” most of the time.

In Winnipeg in the summer it is likely be sunny and hot. This season I saw a number of ways my couples helped their guests beat the heat. Lauren and Paul printed their programs on sturdy fans that were not only attractive, but also were a blessing on a hot day. Nicole and Jonny had water stations with bottled water set up for guests to enjoy before the ceremony began. And because she had dreamed of a Southern style wedding, Nicole and Rakiem served lemonade on the patio. You also may consider renting a large tent or sun shelter to shade the sun’s rays. A shelter may also prove handy should the weather turn… hot mornings on the prairies often give way to thunderstorms by afternoon. If you think the weather may be damp, have a number of umbrellas at the ready. Make sure you tell guests that it will be an outdoor wedding so they can wear extra layers. A few of the outdoor weddings at which I have officiated have had an “old-time country” vibe… having colourful quilts and blankets available for guests to cuddle under will add a little extra togetherness! Patio heaters can throw a fair bit of heat, too, though may not always be a practical solution.

 Dress for the occasion

Consider your wedding style when planning an outdoor wedding. There are many styles of dresses that are suited to outdoor weddings. Because you won’t be in a temperature-controlled setting, you may do well to avoid heavy satin ballgowns. Choose a light weight fabric and style for you and your bridesmaids that reflect the more casual tone an outdoor wedding adopts. Again, remember the wind! Lightweight dress with full, short skirts may give your guests more than they came to see! I once officiated a wedding in a dress I thought was heavy enough to stay put, but had to tuck the skirt between my knees in order to maintain an air of decorum. Summer weddings are a great time to show off bare arms and shoulders and are a natural fit for strapless gowns. Do remember sunscreen if you are taking a lot of photos outside. Consider lightweight suits in a light colour for the men in your party. My favourite groomsmen this summer sported vintage style vests and bowties with rolled up shirtsleeves.

If the weather is cooler, the guys are happier, but the ladies can be chilly. Have shawls at the ready to wrap up in. When we had a cold snap at the end of September last year, a quick trip to Wal-Mart for plush lap blankets saved the day when used as shawls in weather that had dipped near freezing.

Does your outdoor venue require a long walk across a lawn? After a rain, a soggy lawn can be difficult to navigate in heels. Consider your footwear for the ceremony. Flats, sandals, wedges or barefeet can be appropriate choices. At Teresa and Jason’s wedding on the beach, the ladies wore beautiful beaded “barefoot sandals” made by one of the bridesmaids.

  Don’t let wind blow your ceremony

Wind can have an impact on your ceremony in many ways.

If you are wearing a veil, the wind can play havoc with the lightweight fabric. One solution is to buy a veil that is edged with crystal, or, one of my favourite tricks from this summer, buy or borrow some crystal earrings that can be clipped or attached to the veil.

If you are considering using a runner, be sure it is a heavier fabric for outdoor use and secure it with stones or garden hooks. Personally, I would not bother with a runner for an outdoor wedding…it takes away from the natural look of the setting.

If the breeze is light, candles may stay lit in a hurricane lamp, but open flame is never a good idea as a blowing veil will ignite easily. Consider using battery operated tea lights for effect, instead.

Finally, wind can be distracting when heard through a microphone. Ask your d.j. or venue provider for a foam covering for the mic. I have found that that helps to cut down the wind noise significantly.

 Do you hear what I hear?

Outdoor venues are likely to require sound amplification. There are a number of options available, but my preference is to have a cordless microphone on a straight stand (rather than a boom stand). A boom stand can be intrusive as it has a long arm that extends out and often comes between the bride and groom. I usually set the stand off to the side so that it is not in the way. Many officiants like to wear a lapel mic, but there are sections of the ceremony when I don’t like to be heard, and a lapel mic is hard to switch on and off. As mentioned above, the wind can be distracting when heard through a microphone. Ask your d.j. or venue provider for a foam covering for the mic.

 Don't be bugged

Outdoor weddings can be a feast for hungry insects. Try to select locations away from standing water and dense woods. This is especially important for weddings around dusk. When possible have the area sprayed for insects before your ceremony. Avoid wearing colognes and perfumes as they can attract insects. Most venues spray for nuisance mosquitoes. September weddings seem to be the worst for insects…especially wasps. They tend to be attracted to wedding bouquets. If you are afraid of or allergic to these creatures, plan accordingly.

 A note about gardens

When you are scoping out spaces for your wedding, be sure to look at the gardens (or photos of the gardens) as they were a year before your wedding date. A bride who had chosen a beautiful city park for her wedding had chosen it in August. When her May wedding date arrived, she was dismayed to discover season’s flowers had not even been planted yet. It had not occurred to her that the garden would not be ready in time for her wedding.

 Where are we going?

 If your wedding is off the beaten path you may need to provide detailed maps and instructions for guests. Not all venues are easy to find if you are out in the country. Place signage at the corners of major routes to guide your guests to the right location. If you are being married at a private residence or cottage, parking may be an issue. Often country weddings can use a section of field as a make-shift parking lot. Be sure that you have permission to use it, mark parking areas clearly, and, if the parking is a distance from the ceremony space, consider renting a few golf carts to shuttle guests to the ceremony site. Uneven ground can be especially difficult to navigate for older guests.

 Where do I go?

A wedding in an outdoor location like a park or private residence may also present another challenge: washroom facilities. Be prepared to rent port-a-potties. Public restrooms in parks may not be as clean as you might want. Have someone check on their condition and ask park staff about the cleaning schedule.



Outdoor weddings can be absolutely beautiful. Nothing beats the décor that nature can provide, and we are blessed with so many beautiful parks and golf courses in and around Winnipeg. After our long winters it is a joy to be out in the fresh air and celebrate with friends and family. If you always keep in mind that (almost) everything can be planned for, you can have the outside wedding of your dreams. If not, your Plan B wedding will be the next best thing. At the end of the day, where you marry is not nearly as important as who you marry.

 

 

 

Categories: Thoughts on Ceremony Planning

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