Weddings

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How to throw a successful outdoor wedding

Outdoor weddings are romantic when done right, and a growing number of couples are exchanging vows amid an expansive garden or with the splendor of the pounding surf providing a picturesque backdrop. If Mother Nature cooperates, outdoor weddings can go smoothly. But even if the weather does not cooperate, there still are ways couples can enjoy a memorable ceremony.

Preparation and planning help keep outdoor weddings moving along. Weather can be unpredictable and unforgiving, so it is always best to account for various scenarios. The following are some tips to consider.

* Be mindful of hot weather. Many outdoor weddings occur when temperatures are at their warmest. As anyone who has had to sit outdoors in the blazing sun for an extended period of time can attest, it can grow quite uncomfortable, especially when everyone is dressed to the nines. Advise guests in advance that the wedding will be taking place outdoors and to dress accordingly. Arrange to have shaded areas for guests who may struggle with the heat. Keep chilled bottled water nearby so guests can stay cool and refreshed. Ask the officiant to keep the ceremony brief so that guests are not melting away in their seats.

* Keep wind in mind. A stiff breeze can upset tents and wreak havoc on hairstyles. Be sure everything outdoors is properly secured and weighted down. Avoid light fabrics on a wedding gown that will get swept away by wind. A short, blusher veil may be more appropriate than a sweeping train. Couples should advise their hairstylists that they will be getting married outdoors, and looks should be well secured by bobby pins and gel to keep hair in place. Stick to real dishes for food service, as plastic or lightweight materials may get blown away.

* Check for power sources. Choose a wedding location with easily accessible power outlets. Guests will certainly want to hear the vows, and that may require the use of microphones and a sound system. Having power available also makes it easier for bands and musicians to set up their equipment for an outdoor reception. If the wedding will be stretching into the evening hours, electricity will be needed to power supplemental lighting that illuminates the festivities.

* Ensure accessibility. Outdoor terrain can prove tricky, especially for older guests or those with mobility issues. When scouting locations, select a wheelchair-accessible spot that can be easily traversed. Understand that turf can become water-logged and challenging to walk over should it rain the day of the wedding or prior. Plastic or fabric runners may make things easier. Also, choose a location that isn't too far off the beaten path. It should be close enough to a parking lot and not require guests to have to take an extended hike through nature.

* Face away from the sun. Glares can make it difficult for guests to see the ceremony. Be sure to arrange seats so that guests do not have to look into the sun. This is best achieved by having the sun behind everyone for the ceremony. It also ensures that you won't end up with washed-out photos or pictures of everyone squinting.

* Ensure food is properly chilled or heated. Dining outdoors means keeping food safety in mind. Food that is supposed to be kept cool should remain on ice or be refrigerated until served. Hot foods should remain hot. Food in chafing dishes or served buffet-style also should be protected from insects. Improper handling of food can result in foodborne illnesses. No one wants to remember a wedding for intestinal discomfort.

* Use fresh flowers in potted plants. Cut flowers tend to wilt prematurely in hot weather. Rather than waste money and beautiful flowers, choose potted plants that will thrive if well-tended. Guests can then take the plants home and continue to cherish the wedding long after it is over.

* Budget for a tent. It is always better to have a contingency plan. Even if you have your heart set on an outdoor wedding, have a backup plan in place if the weather is uncooperative. A tent with surrounding sidewalls may be sufficient. Otherwise, determine if there is an indoor location that can be kept on standby.

* Mix up the candles. Intersperse citronella candles with the decorative ones to help keep bugs at bay. You can also consider placing small bottles of insect repellent on the tables. Guests will appreciate the gesture when biting flies or mosquitoes want to join in the fun.

Make sure Mother Nature doesn't rain on your outdoor wedding. Plan for all the possibilities so that an outdoor ceremony or reception goes as smoothly as possible.