For some people there is something indescribable about an outdoor wedding, but there are a few things you need to think about in order to pull off a successful alfresco celebration.
Rather than opting for traditional indoor weddings, we are seeing a growing trend for couples wanting to have their ceremony outside. There are, however, rules and regulations associated with an outdoor wedding. In fact, for a ceremony to be legal in the UK it must be held under a fixed roof.
Fortunately, most of our hotels now offer some kind of outdoor ceremony location, having chosen to license specific structures in some of the grounds of our venues, and we do have a few favourites. These include the front steps of our grand Palladian mansion in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex (Buxted Park Hotel), and at the other end of the country but in equally stunning surroundings, our tranquil country retreat (Wood Hall Hotel & Spa) in Wetherby, West Yorkshire.
For something truly unique Ettington Park Hotel near Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire has its own orangery and Norman bell tower, both of which are licenced for open air civil ceremonies and can host up to 96 guests. Likewise, our beautifully designed Doric Temple is another stunning outdoor wedding venue at Rhinefield House Hotel in The New Forest, Hampshire. Also situated in a private area within our stunning grounds and gardens, our beautiful gazebo at Audleys Wood Hotel, near Basingstoke, again makes for the perfect outdoor setting.
A primary concern for the bride and groom when it comes to panning an outdoor wedding is the weather, especially in the UK where it can suddenly change, so you may need to put a few provisions in place. First off, pop a note into your invitations to let guests know you are having an outdoor wedding ceremony so that they can plan accordingly. A prepared guest is a happy one, but there are things you can do to help on the day itself as well.
For a summer wedding, consider hiring electric fans and portable air conditioning units, at the very least provide plenty of ice cold water and non-alcoholic drinks and if you are inviting children, little bottles of sunscreen and parasols would be a welcome touch. Consider printing your wedding programme on a fan so that guests can cool themselves that way, too. If the grounds are a little wet following recent rainfall, offer a basket of cute flip-flops for your girlfriends or some plastic heel protectors.
To keep guests more comfortable in chillier months consider placing a basket of pashminas or blankets, providing a hot drink (such as hot chocolate or warm apple cider) on arrival, and umbrellas in case of a little bit of drizzle. Tall patio or propane heaters may well be necessary, too. It gets dark much earlier in the winter so adjust your photo schedule for more light. Taking portraits before your ceremony is often a good idea.
In general, if you are inviting a large number of guests to your outdoor wedding, they may not be able to hear you above the natural noise, so consider speaking to your venue about hiring a microphone. You may also want to keep you ceremony less than 30 minutes so guests do not get too uncomfortable.
Since there is nothing you can do to control the weather, it is very important to come up with a back-up plan in case of inclement conditions. Fortunately all of our outdoor venues keep a ceremony room clear so if the day becomes rainy, very windy, extremely hot, or uncomfortably cold, your service can be moved inside.
One of the benefits of an outdoor wedding is that you can use the scenery and your natural surroundings to your decorating advantage, and embrace a less-is-more approach. You may want to consider dressing your chairs, or if you are going for a less formal or rustic wedding opt for benches or even hay bales. If there is not a focal point for the ceremony add an arch or trellis, and when it comes to decorating the aisle options are endless from lanterns to petals and traditional runners. You could also add floral arrangements on the end chairs and wedding aisle signage.
If you plan to take your outdoor celebrations into the evening consider putting out citronella candles to keep the bugs at bay, especially if you are holding a spring or summer wedding, and your venue is near water. You can also light up your surroundings by hanging strings of lights or lanterns in the trees.