The Great Outdoors

Night wedding ceremony with candles, lanterns and lamps on tree. Bride and groom holding hands on background of baulb lights, back view. Beautiful young couple standing under a tree at night

A guide to outdoor weddings

The recent spell of wonderfully warm and spring-like weather has sparked interest in having an outdoor ceremony. So just how do you go about it?

Many licensed venues will have an outdoor structure which will be licensed for civil marriage. The couple, the two registration officers and, in some areas, the two witnesses all have to be within this structure in order for the marriage to be legally contracted. The numbers of guests at these ceremonies will be limited to the numbers that the licensed venue can accommodate within one of their licensed rooms – this is your wet weather option! You need to discuss numbers with your chosen venue early on in your planning.

For more adventurous couples wanting a more bespoke ceremony with  their ceremony in a stunning location which is not licensed, a celebrant led ceremony would enable them to have their wedding celebration exactly where and when they want it. A Celebrant led ceremony offers freedom of location – gardens, beaches, woodlands and moorlands – which also offers the freedom to choose the content of your ceremony. Most celebrants will work with you to put together your perfect ceremony which completely reflects your vision. Independent Celebrants are also able to include rituals such as handfasting, “tying the knot”, unity ceremonies, as well as working with multi faith couples to include religious, spiritual or cultural elements to respect familial beliefs and history.  

Top tips when planning your perfect outdoor ceremony:

  • Be prepared! This is England, and in Cornwall we are blessed by wonderfully verdant countryside, but that comes at a price – it rains!
  • The weather is the one thing no one is able to control, so hope for the best and prepare for the worst! We have seen couples provide flip flops, rugs, pashminas, wellies, plastic festival macs and umbrellas. Lots of these have a dual purpose – keeping the sun off the shoulders of guests, providing shade or keeping the rain off and keeping guests warm. Have water available to ensure everyone keeps hydrated, and some sunscreen is always useful! Heat can be exhausting so think about providing some shade with a pop up gazebo. Walk through the plans for the day with your venue thinking about a dry and wet day.
  • Hay or straw bales look great for seating – cover them with blankets or old curtains for a festival feel. Remember your older guests as bales are low so they may be more comfortable with chairs. Think about arranging seating in a semi-circle rather than formal rows; we have even seen seating arranged in a spiral! Think about who will put seating out and take it back, will the chairs, if used, also be used for the wedding breakfast?
  • Let your guests know about the access to the site and the conditions they can expect underfoot, how far they will need to walk – this will allow them to choose the best and most suitable footwear. If the ceremony area is some way from the car park use signage to show them the way. Even the most sat nav savvy guest can be led astray, so a map with directions to the venue on the invite can be useful – especially good for Cornwall’s notoriously windy lanes!
  • Appoint ushers with clear instructions about their duties on the day. They are invaluable for an outdoor setting for getting guests to the ceremony area on time. They can also provide assistance as guests arrive pointing them in the direction of the facilities, where to get a drink, etc.
  • One of the fun elements having chosen an outdoor ceremony is to think about the decoration of the area. The sky’s the limit, from floral arches, to twisted willow arrangements to give a focal point for the ceremony. Think about how they will react in a breeze, or in direct sun. Make the most of the natural setting you have chosen and what will enhance it. Fire pits, fairy lights and lanterns can all look magical once the sun has gone down and the party is getting started.
  • On a practical front, check the availability of power for a PA system for music and lighting. Some celebrants come prepared with battery operated PA systems which may be used for playing music too, but you will need to check this with them beforehand.

Finally, when the day dawns, whatever the weather, relax and enjoy the day!

Contributors – Nicola & Denise from Cornish Celebrants – cornishcelebrants.co.uk