Everything you need to know about planning a magical outdoor wedding
Outdoor weddings are rapidly growing in popularity and for good reason! From sunset vows exchanged along the beach to a moonlit reception under the stars, there’s something so magical about being married among natural splendor. From lush gardens and babbling streams to snow-covered peaks and rolling meadows, there are countless beautiful backdrops for an outdoor wedding. If you’re ready to say ‘I do’ to an outdoor wedding, our helpful guide will cover everything you need to know about outdoor venues and considerations for your big day.
Say 'I do!' to a creek-side outdoor wedding at Boulder Creek in Boulder, CO
Picture this: you’re surrounded by friends and family under the twinkling night sky. The soft glow of bistro lights overhead casts a warm glow on your guests as your favorite ballad plays softly in the background. You and your significant other shares a slow dance surrounded by freshly bloomed flowers as you inhale the crisp, clean evening air. At this moment, everything feels like a dream.
Doesn’t an outdoor wedding simply sound enchanting?
Outdoor weddings have a number of benefits that are increasingly attracting brides and grooms to this format. First and foremost, outdoor weddings offer more space for guests to mingle than indoor weddings do. Rather than rotate between their table, the dance floor, and the bar, guests have the luxury of roaming the grounds of your venue and enjoying the great outdoors. Many venues have beautifully landscaped grounds that are worth exploring, with features that may include fountains, waterfalls, hidden gardens, babbling brooks, and fairytale bridges.
A lovely couple share an intimate moment in the storybook gardens at University Club
An outdoor wedding is also a photographer’s dream - with natural light helping to create the most spectacular photos. If your photographer has shot at your outdoor wedding previously, chances are they already know some phenomenal spots to capture your newlywed and bridal party photos. Let your photographer know in advance if there are any particular venue features that stand out—such as a knotty, oversized tree trunk, or a whimsical weeping willow—that you would love to incorporate in your shot list.
The lush gardens at RIO HONDO are a breathtaking backdrop for an outdoor wedding
Outdoor weddings are absolutely possible and glamorous no matter what city, state or national park you choose! Whether you're in sunny California or mountainous Colorado, an outdoor wedding is beautiful during all four seasons. If you choose an off-season wedding, such as Fall in Colorado, let your season drive your wedding theme. Decorate with pumpkins and other seasonal decor, and encourage guests to come decked out in their favorite flannel attire! Do you love chilly weather, snow, and hot cocoa? Some of our absolute favorite winter weddings in Colorado and New England are hosted outdoors surrounded by beautiful glistening snowflakes.
Planning an outdoor wedding? this garden venue in SoCal is wedding #goals
Considerations for an Outdoor Wedding
As you start planning your outdoor wedding, here are a few things to consider that help make your day as enjoyable as possible:
- Season: An outdoor wedding in the winter or autumn is wonderful, it just requires a few more details to keep your guests comfortable—such as event tents and space heaters. Ask your wedding venue if they have ability to accommodate your outdoor wedding during the season of your choosing.
- Weather: Depending on the location and season of your outdoor wedding, rain or snow may be possible. Create a backup plan with your wedding venue in case the weather doesn’t hold up for an outdoor reception and ceremony.
- Consider a Tent: Many venues have outdoor tents that come with climate control features, such as air conditioning, heaters, or ceiling fans. If you feel more comfortable having a tent at your outdoor wedding, the sides can be left open if the weather allows or close up should the temperatures get too warm or cool.
- Heaters: Check with your wedding venue to see if they have outdoor heaters or lanterns to keep your guests comfortable. Outdoor heaters can often be found on patios during cocktail hour or surrounding dining tables during the reception.
- Ceremony and/or Reception: When planning your wedding, you can choose to have a fully-outdoor ceremony and reception, or only an outdoor ceremony. Hosting an outdoor ceremony will allow you to incorporate the natural surroundings into your wedding, while still having the peace of mind from a climate-controlled indoor reception.
- Cake Style: Your cake style and reception setting can impact how well your cake holds up on your big day. For example, buttercream and a hot summer day do not mix well. However, fondant holds up well in warm temperatures. Check out our cake essentials guide for more tips on choosing your cake.
- Food Options: Your wedding venue or caterer will work with you to select a menu that is pleasing to the palate and your outdoor wedding reception. This includes avoiding mayonnaise-based canapés and opting for fresh fruits and vegetable options that will hold up better.
Lindsay Grove in Mesa, AZ, offers a variety of dramatic reception and ceremony spaces
Tips for an Outdoor Wedding:
The most important part of having an outdoor wedding is enjoying the day itself! Here are a few tips to consider to ensure your outdoor wedding is as fun as possible:
- Dress Comfortably: consider the temperature and outdoor terrain before choosing attire for yourself and your bridal party. Wool tuxedos aren’t great for hot summer days, and stilettos don’t mix well with grass. Your bridesmaids and groomsmen will be grateful you thought ahead!
- Have a Backup Plan: having a backup plan for inclement weather is integral to ensuring your outdoor wedding goes off without a hitch. Ask your venue what is required in order to accommodate rain, snow, or strong winds. There’s a good chance your venue has seen every potential weather situation and already has a contingency in their back pocket.
- Bug Spray/Sunscreen: sometimes the sun is a bit stronger than usual and the mosquitoes are more active than you would expect. Have some sunscreen and bug repellent available for guests to ensure that everyone is safe and comfortable during your outdoor wedding.
- Keep Hydrated: prolonged time in the sun, especially when paired with dancing, can be a bit dehydrating. Work with your venue to have hydration stations with water bottles or infused water throughout the ceremony and reception area. This will remind guests to stay hydrated throughout the entirety of the outdoor wedding.
The Orchard is an outdoor-only wedding venue that boasts a breathtaking backdrop for both day and evening weddings
Outdoor Wedding Venues Worth Touring:
- The Orchard in Menifee, CA - This outdoor-only wedding venue is set among magical gardens in the heart of the Temecula Valley Wine Region. With its lakefront gazebo and glowing bistro lights, The Orchard is the perfect venue to host both daytime and evening weddings.
- Boulder Creek in Boulder, CO - This venue is an outdoor lover’s dream! Situated in the Rocky Mountains along a babbling stream, Boulder Creek offers a variety of ceremony and reception sites to choose from—included a tented pavilion for year-round outdoor receptions.
- Lindsey Grove in Mesa, AZ - This exquisite Phoenix-area venue makes for a breathtaking backdrop for an outdoor wedding. Lindsey Grove two dramatic ceremony spaces that are fully customizable as well as a stately outdoor reception space set among manicured gardens.
- Hofmann Ranch in Castroville, TX - This charming ranch venue is the perfect setting for a rustic wedding. Hofmann Ranch’s open-air pavilion is the perfect setting for an outdoor wedding reception, while the tranquil patio overlooking the Medina River Valley is ideal for a sunset cocktail hour.
- Jefferson Street Mansion in Benicia, CA - This sophisticated wedding venue set on a sprawling estate is filled with vintage flair and architectural splendor. Jefferson Street Mansion features exquisitely manicured grounds, a dreamy vine-covered ceremony spa, and a tented pavilion to host your outdoor wedding reception.
- University Club in Irvine, CA - Set on the UC Irvine campus, University Club is a modern and sophisticated wedding venue surrounded by picturesque foliage. The university grounds feature countless photo opportunities among hidden gardens, vine walls, and under the glowing bistro lights that adorn the venue.
Enjoy a picture-perfect outdoor wedding ceremony underneath the wisteria-draped veranda at Jefferson Street Mansion
Whether you are planning on exchanging vows on the beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean or against the rolling meadows of the Texas countryside, an outdoor wedding is a perfect opportunity to showcase everything that nature has to offer. Work with your wedding coordinator and venue to turn your vision into a reality. The possibilities are endless with an outdoor wedding - all you need is a beautiful backdrop and a little bit of imagination!