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The Great Outdoors

Every wedding ceremony is beautiful by its very nature, and many couples choose to enhance the experience by selecting a venue as close to nature as possible: outdoors. Some of the advantages of an outdoor setting are that there are no restrictions on the music or the guests (i.e., your dog can be your ring bearer), you can be surrounded by flowers and trees without cost, you can have a murmuring brook or even a waterfall nearby. Perhaps a venue holds special memories for you. Maybe it is also inexpensive or even free.

However, outdoor sites have some inherent risks. If there is no structure with a solid roof nearby, what are you and your guests going to do during the ceremony if it suddenly begins to rain? Or snow? Or hail? Believe me, it happens. The best outdoor sites have an alternate location immediately nearby (preferably within short walking distance) so everyone can make the move quickly; some guests can get lost if they need to drive to another location. The more time it takes to relocate, the more the schedule for the reception will be affected.

If you choose a location by a river or lake, are there ducks or geese? Sometimes they’re not especially friendly; at the very least, think of what they leave behind. I played in a beautiful chapel by a pond on the private grounds of an estate. Vendors had to park their cars some distance away, and I was chased by geese as I walked (ran) back to the chapel!

What is the access like for those with canes or walkers or in wheelchairs or even spike heels? Gravel path, dirt path, paved golf cart path, stone stairs, steps made of railroad ties? Is parking nearby or will guests need a shuttle to get them there?

Is your site in an urban area or on a busy road or near railroad tracks? Many a lovely outdoor ceremony is interrupted by honking horns, loud radios, roaring motorcycle mufflers, and blaring freight trains required to sound their horns at the crossing. They don’t put that in the brochures!

If your wedding date is in summer or winter, is there an indoor alternate if the temperature is extreme? Ceremonies usually last only about 30 minutes, but consider your guests (especially any elderly) who are sitting there before it starts. Will they have shade in the summer or a windbreak in the winter? Some venues offer outdoor heaters for winter weddings, but in fact the heat goes straight up. If you are next to one, that side is hot; your other side is freezing and so is anyone not next to the heater. Many venues offer a semi-permanent tent which is heated in winter and air-conditioned in summer.

Many commercial garden venues spray for mosquitoes an hour or two before events. That is something to think about if your ceremony or outdoor reception is in the evening.

There are many photos in my gallery of outdoor settings which were pretty and practical for everyone. Some of the most pleasant have pavilions or gazebos large enough to seat everyone so you have the best of both worlds: an outdoor setting with modern conveniences (like shade, electricity, and lighting after the sun sets). Many also have restrooms nearby, which is a major plus for guests of all ages.

Please call or send an email if you have any questions. I’d love to hear from you!

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