Planning an Outdoor Wedding

by Michelle O'Connor

Q: When a bride is selecting an outdoor location for her wedding, what do you suggest to her regarding a bad weather back up plan?

A: There are many lovely outdoor wedding locations - beach weddings, lake front weddings, forest weddings, mountain weddings, garden weddings...the options are endless! With any outdoor wedding, it is vital that the bride and groom work with their coordinator or wedding company to establish a backup plan in the event of bad weather. If the wedding location is on the grounds of a hotel or inn, coordinate ahead of time to have a banquet room ready for you in the event of inclement weather. This option may cost a little more, but it will save you worry and potential heartache later!

Another option is to plan to have only the ceremony outdoors and the reception inside (or inside with an outside portion). In the event of inclement weather, you can simply hold the entire event in the room you planned to have the reception in - without incurring extra costs! This is by far the most "secure" and least expensive way of having an outdoor wedding, and one of the easier backup plans. If your outdoor wedding will be held in an area with no building nearby (or a building too small to hold your guests), such as in a forest clearing or in the garden of a private estate, consider using a tent for the reception. In the event of bad weather, you can move the ceremony and reception into the tent. Be sure the tent is water tight and sturdy!

Whatever backup plan you select, be sure you tell ALL of your wedding vendors (especially those that require lighting and electricity) of your plan ahead of time. They may bring up alternate concerns you have not thought of and can help you solidify a great backup plan. After all, your wedding vendors are professionals, and have likely had experience with this sort of thing before.

Q: Can you give us an example of a wedding you've planned which had to be relocated due to weather and how you worked with the indoor option to create a memorable event?

A: Last January we had an intimate outdoor wedding planned for approximately 55 guests. The bride had her heart set on an outdoor wedding in the mountains in the winter! She loved the lakeview and wanted to bring heaters outside so all could enjoy the atmosphere. That morning it began snowing - and did not stop until late that night! This was a destination wedding so most of the guests were already in accommodations nearby. The bride and groom did not let this spoil their day! They had many gorgeous photos taken outside in the snow, the guests loved it, and everyone enjoyed a lovely ceremony and reception inside with a snowy lake as a backdrop. Both fireplaces were roaring and the beverages flowed. The Lake Arrowhead Weddings staff had a job to do! We had to figure out what to do with all the guests while we moved all the ceremony seats (that were supposed to be outside) after the ceremony to make room for the reception dinner seating and tables! We asked everyone to adjourn to the great room for appetizers (not part of the original plan) while we speedily set up for the reception - the guests didn't even know this wasn't the original plan! Given that the bride had purchased one of our outdoor wedding packages, she didn't even have to worry about plan B. We simply asked her if she liked our plan (which we discussed with her well before the wedding day) and that, in the event of inclement weather, we would just implement it without further distracting her on her wedding day. She was able to sit back and enjoy her day without worrying about what to do about the weather and where to put her guests.

Q: What special advice do you have for outdoor brides in regard to dress, veils, makeup?

A: If you are planning an outdoor wedding in the summer, and you think it will be hot - wear a light gown so that you do not overheat and sweat unnecessarily (not becoming in photographs). If your dress does have a train, be sure to consider what the ground you will be walking over is like. Is it dirt that will turn your train brown? Is it grass? Is the train heavy enough to where the grass might stain it? Using an aisle runner can help with this, but, in a windy outdoor setting, if not secured, the runner will come loose. Be sure to solidly secure your aisle runner before the ceremony if your location is windy. Also, consider consulting a professional makeup artist and your photographer about your makeup plans. The shimmer powder that is so popular today can, if applied too liberally, and photographed in sunlight, produce a slight glare in your photographs. You will also want to use makeup that holds up nicely, even if you do sweat (or "glow") a little. You want your makeup to hold up well during the outdoor sunlit ceremony, and through the reception, without looking caked on or streaking. If your outdoor location may be slightly windy, opt for a veil that can be secured behind your head before you walk down the aisle (or don't wear one at all). You do not want your veil floating in front of your face and moving about during the ceremony. A bride (or officiant, bridesmaid, or groom) swatting at and moving your veil around during the ceremony does not make for elegant photographs.

Q: Do you have any special advice for brides which take a boat wedding package in regard to dress, shoes, decorations?

A: For those brides having a boat wedding, be sure to plan accordingly. It is a good idea to bring along some motion-sickness medication (available over-the-counter), or take some ahead of time if you have a tendency to be affected by repeated motion. If the wedding will be proceeding into the night, be sure to bring a shawl or other decorative piece to help keep you warm. The air is typically colder over water, and as night falls, you may get chilly. You can have an informal or formal wedding on a boat, depending on the time of day and the decor and style of the boat. For more informal weddings during the daytime you may opt for a gown with a shorter train and veil. For more formal evening weddings, you may choose to wear a more embellished gown with a longer train (be sure the train bustles well for ease of dancing later on) and a longer veil. Whatever style your dress, wear shoes that have the look you want, but that are also comfortable! You will be walking and dancing most of the reception. Another option is to have only the ceremony or only the reception on the boat, while having the remainder of the wedding at your favorite hotel, inn or country club.

Q: What's your most popular outdoor venue? What makes that location especially magical for couples?

A: Our most popular outdoor wedding package is our All Inclusive Resort Wedding Package. This package features an exquisite lake front venue at a well-appointed full service resort hotel. Couples can exchange vows on an elegant stage overlooking Lake Arrowhead, surrounded by towering trees and blue sky. Couples may also have an intimate wedding poolside with views of the lake in the background. There are numerous reception banquet rooms to choose from, and a variety of wedding package options. The grand Arrowhead Ballroom, with its stunning crystal chandeliers and oak and brass detailing, makes for an elegant reception. The warm wood tones, mirrored walls, and glass doors that open to an outdoor terrace with a fabulous view of Lake Arrowhead, make the Lakeview Terrace Room a very popular reception choice. This all inclusive wedding package features a stunning atmosphere of blue skies, towering trees, mild temperatures and a pristine alpine lake. Add to that the fact that the wedding packages are truly all inclusive (just bring the dress and rings!) and you have an equation for the "perfect," stress-free wedding day!

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