Outdoor Wedding? Yes!
September 07, 2021Sep 07, 2021
7 MIN READ culture living outside
Marriage is an adventure. And for couples who love spending time in nature, an outdoor wedding can be a special way to celebrate. But just like a weekend of camping or a backpacking trip takes plenty of planning and preparation, so too does an outdoor wedding. If you’re considering an open-air celebration, have a look at our tips to create a fabulous time for all.
When people hear the words "outdoor wedding," some may imagine a summer ceremony in a vineyard venue, while others might think of a hike-in elopement at a remote mountaintop viewpoint. The first step in planning your outdoor wedding is to discuss with your partner what type of outdoor experience you envision for you and your guests.
Start by making a big list of everything you dream of for your big day (and have your partner do the same). Then begin prioritizing what’s important to you both. There might be some hard choices to make, but you might also discover that a camping wedding with a yummy barbecue dinner is just what you’ve both had in mind. Not sure where to start? To get your collaborative juices flowing, here are a few questions to ask each other to help determine what sort of outdoor wedding might work for you:
• Is there a meaningful outdoor place you have in mind for your wedding?
• What’s your budget?
• In what season would you like to get married?
• Would you like guests to stay overnight at the location? Will they be camping, staying in cabins, or renting other accommodations?
• Do you have guests you plan to invite who might need extra assistance in an outdoor setting?
• Do you plan to have all your family and friends there or just a select few?
• Are you hoping for an all-inclusive venue (catering, DJ, accommodations, etc.) or do you have something more DIY in mind?
Once you’ve got an idea of your vision, a list of priorities, and a working budget, it’s time to choose the venue. Whether you’re looking for a sandy beach or a quiet clearing in the woods, you’re likely to find plenty of options, especially if you think outside of the box. Many public parks, campgrounds, and even some vacation rentals allow weddings. Maybe you have friends with an incredible piece of property that might be the perfect setting for your nuptials. If you’re going the elopement route, Forest Service rentals, scenic viewpoints, or public docks make great ceremony sites. Or, if you’re brave enough, consider getting married 11,000 feet up like pro mountaineer and longtime KEEN friend Caroline Gleich. Just be sure to wear comfy shoes and research if there are any permits you need!
Traditional wedding magazines are full of beautiful images of three-tiered cakes and tables covered in delicate dishes and stemware. And although these designs could work for your venue, chances are they might not be best for your campground venue or off-the-grid location.
Instead of looking to traditional wedding resources for ideas, check out the websites of professional outdoor event planners or venues that are similar to your own. Online photo albums from outdoor wedding photographers or image-sharing services like Pinterest are other great ways to find creative ideas and solutions that could be just the thing for your unique venue.
No amount of planning can fully control what the weather will decide to do on your big day. Check the forecast a couple of days ahead of time and craft a plan B in case of a change in weather. Possible spring rain? Rent a large tent with sidewalls that will offer shelter from the sprinkle (or downpour!) and purchase umbrellas that guests can use to go to and from cars and restrooms. Potential for a summer heatwave? Hang sun shades to keep guests out of direct sunlight, and provide plenty of water so everyone stays hydrated.
One of the amazing things about an outdoor wedding (aside from the fresh air!) is that you’re surrounded by the incredible beauty of nature. But on the other hand, you also have factors like wind and sun to consider when deciding on which decorations to use. If your venue tends to get windy, go with wide, sturdy floral vases (that won’t blow over) and switch out flame candles for LED ones (that won’t blow out!). If bright sun is a concern, choose hearty flowers that resist wilting, and avoid metal decorations that can get hot to the touch.
Another thing to keep in mind when deciding on decorations? Try to avoid things like glitter confetti, mylar balloons, and plastic flowers and garlands. Even just a gentle breeze can send them sailing, which sadly means more plastic litter in our environment. Look for options that are biodegradable or natural, (like real flowers!) and replace balloons with paper pompoms for a similar effect.
Top photo by Atelier Pictures
Whether you go with an outdoor venue with paved walkways and valet service or an off-the-grid location with pit toilets and tent camping, communicating with your guests about what to expect is a must. On your save-the-dates and invitation, clearly state that your wedding is outdoors. Consider creating an FAQ page on your wedding website addressing possible questions and concerns, as well as a venue page that includes information and images so guests get a sense of the available amenities. Going with a remote location or weekend-long camping wedding? Send your guests a packing list ahead of time so they show up prepared to have the best time possible.
Set aside some of your wedding budget for things that will make the experience enjoyable for your not-so-outdoorsy guests (or for folks who end up forgetting a few important things). Put together an “Essentials Basket” with things like bottles of sunscreen, bug salve, and toothbrush kits, and put it next to the restrooms so guests can take an item if they need one. Instead of traditional wedding favors like candy or chocolates, give each guest a hand fan, metal water bottle, or umbrella to keep them comfortable throughout the day.
Any time people venture outdoors, especially if it’s a lot of people traveling to an event, it’s essential to remember outdoor ethics and the principles of Leave No Trace. Encourage guests to carpool to your venue to cut down on overall emissions and road use. If you plan to have campfires at your event, be sure that they are properly managed. Try to limit the amount of waste your event produces by avoiding single-use products and using recyclable or compostable ones instead. Epiphany Couch, one of our KEEN fans who had an outdoor wedding this summer, shared one of the ways they reminded guests to tread lightly. “We made sure to take a moment with our guests to acknowledge the land and share with them how special it is to us. It was a wonderful way to encourage our guests to connect with the particular place we got married and to honor the land the same way that we do.”
An outdoor wedding calls for special attire. Light, airy fabrics are perfect for sunny weather, and cooler temps mean making sure your outfit looks good with a sweater or coat. And then of course there is the footwear to consider! We recommend wearing comfortable shoes or sandals on your wedding day and letting your guests know what sort of terrain to expect (so they know whether to trade in their heels for hiking boots too). One KEEN fan couple donned all-white UNEEK sandals for their Oahu beach wedding. Talk about comfy and beachy!
From exchanging vows in a field of wildflowers to watching the sunset with your nearest and dearest, getting married outdoors is full of magical moments. Our last tip comes from KEEN friend Alan Colley (who happened to marry multiple couples outdoors this year!). His advice? “Savor each moment together. Be alive to each precious fleeting moment. Savor the wind laughing through the trees and the hummingbirds dancing in the air. Be grateful, for this is the root and fruit of your prosperity.”
White UNEEK sandals might be the most comfortable wedding shoes ever made!