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Your Ultimate Garden Wedding Checklist

11 things you need to do before you get married outdoors.

Photography by: Josh Gruetzmacher

Spring is characterized by beautiful scenery and moderate temperatures, making it the perfect time for an outdoor wedding. Many couples take advantage of the blooming flowers and bright colors of the season by hosting their ceremonies in parks, botanical gardens, and backyards.


But while outdoor weddings are beautifully romantic, they typically involve more in-depth planning because of unpredictable weather and natural elements like bugs and mud. Consider these tips to help your garden wedding go down without a hitch.

1. Know what your venue does (and doesn't) have.

Many parks and gardens allow wedding ceremonies on the premises, but they might not be all-inclusive with amenities. Check whether your venue has parking for guests, adequate restrooms, and electricity (for lighting, food preparation equipment, and music). You may need to factor the cost of a generator, valet service, or portable restrooms into your budget.

2. Familiarize yourself with the venue's permits and rules.

According to Loulie Walker, an event planner with Loulie Walker Events, permits are often required when throwing an event in a public space, and couples have to work within the parameters set by the venue. Reach out to the property manager beforehand to ensure that you're allowed to have rentals, tents, and other necessary items on site.


Questions to Ask Your Wedding Venue

3. Have a backup plan.

"With any outdoor wedding, one essentially has to plan two events—one for good weather and one for inclement weather," says Walker. Does your venue have an indoor area to use in case of rain? If not, consider reserving a tent months in advance, even if a down payment is required. The expense might save guests from sitting in blustering winds and heavy rains while you say "I do."


Since tents take time to set up, you will need to make a rain call days before the wedding. Look at the weather forecast and accept defeat when necessary. You might not have dreamed of getting married under a tent, but guests will hardly tell the difference once the décor is in place.


Everything You Need to Know About Renting a Wedding Tent

4. Prepare for the temperature.

Along with the weather, you also need to prepare for the expected temperature. If your wedding day will be hot, provide guests with enough water to keep hydrated. Consider handing out fans and sunglasses, and make sure the venue has sufficient shade. Walker recommends offering paper parasols to protect guests from the sun. If the forecast calls for cooler temperatures, fend away chill with blankets and space heaters. You can also hand out pashminas to female guests as a cute and functional wedding favor, says Walker.

5. Wear the proper your attire.

Time to face the truth: your wedding dress will get dirty at a garden wedding. Minimize the damage by choosing a gown with no train and a shorter hemline, so fabric won't drag on the ground. Avoid high heels, since the tip can easily get wedged in mud, and opt for sensible flats or wedges instead. Tell your hairdresser and makeup artist about your venue so they can prepare for rain or humidity.

6. Have your guests wear the proper attire.

Don't leave guests guessing about the proper attire for your big day. Include a note with the invitation encouraging them to wear clothing appropriate for a lawn celebration, especially if your venue doesn't have hardwood flooring, says Walker. Also, make sure the sprinklers are turned off a day or two before the event so the grass isn't damp and spongy to walk on.

7. Check the venue's event schedule.

Make certain that no other events will be thrown in the near vicinity during your ceremony and reception. You certainly don't want your wedding toasts drowned out by loud music from the birthday party located 500 feet away.

8. Protect your food and drinks.

Nobody wants to eat food that's been spoiled by natural elements. Temperature and rain don't affect passed h'ordeuvres, which are usually eaten quickly. The problem comes with stationed buffet-style options that sit out for long periods of time. To keep the food safe, have caterers replace it as often as necessary. Use plenty of ice to keep shellfish and other perishable items cold.

9. Make the most of the venue.

With fresh flowers and blooming trees, garden venues are full of natural beauty in the springtime. Use the scenery to your advantage by making it the focal point of your décor. You'll save money on design and have a beautiful ceremony backdrop. Choose other décor elements, like centerpieces, that match the color scheme and feel of the venue.


A word of advice: Walker recommends doing a walkthrough of your venue at exact time of day as your ceremony. It's important to experience the location firsthand, since you don't want guests to sit facing the sun while you recite vows.

10. Do a sound check.

At an outdoor wedding, you risk having your ceremony readings, reception toasts, and live music drowned out by loud wind and chirping bugs. Invest in a sound system with microphones and speakers to amplify speaking and music.

11. Fend off pesky bugs.

Walker says to make sure the grass is cut at least one day prior to your wedding and sprayed for bugs. Pesky mosquitos can still sneak into your celebration, though, so offer bug spray on the tables or in the bathrooms. Since the aroma of food can attract bugs, Walker suggests placing mesh screens over the buffet and cake until guests are ready to eat.

About the Author

Nicole Harris

Nicole fell in love with the bridal industry after a summer internship with Martha Stewart Weddings. Although she's still a couple of years away from tying the knot, she can't help planning her own Big Day. She's crazy about creative DIY décor, classic lace gowns, colorful invitations, and huge (preferably endless) dessert spreads. Until it's time to pick her first dance song, though,...


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