Are you thinking about an outdoor ceremony? Wonderful! Outdoor ceremonies are truly special. They connect us to Mother Earth and the natural world. They also have their own special set of planning considerations. So, once youve found what looks like a Pinterest-perfect ceremony space, its time to ask a lot of questions.
One of the most important questions is will your guests be seated or standing? While youll only be present for the duration of your ceremony, guests arrive ten, 15, 20, or if its your uncle whos always early, even 30 minutes before your ceremony starts. That can be a long time for many people to stand. Be a hospitable host and provide chairs for your guests. You want them to be focused on your ceremony, not on their physical discomfort.
How far will your guests have to walk to get to your ceremony location? Whats the terrain like under foot, and is there much of an elevation change?
Light is a thing. How is the light in the outdoor space in the month that you plan to be wed? Is it shaded, or is it exposed to the sun? Where will the sun be at the time of day of your ceremony? Is there artificial light, electric or otherwise, in case the day isnt bright or the hour is late?
What about sound? What can you hear, standing in the space on the day of the week and the time of day that you plan to be married? While its a sad fact that there is now nowhere in the US where human-generated sounds do not penetrate, some places are noisier than others.
If its woodsy, are insects a consideration? If so, plan on having some repellent on hand.
Is the venue privately owned or on public property? In either case, are there permits or permission that you need to obtain?
How private is it? Is the space open to public view? Might there be undesired spectators?
And then theres rain.
Several years ago, I was standing in the checkout line at Whole Foods when I overheard the person in front of me talking about her wedding. My ears immediately perked up. When the opportunity presented itself, I asked her where she was going to get married. She said, Federal Hill. Now Federal Hill is a beautiful park on the harbor in Baltimore. It is, as its name suggests, a rather large hill, exposed in every possible way to the elements. So, I asked her, Whats your rain plan? She said, I dont like to think about rain. Okay, then! I wished her well and turned my attention back to my groceries.
I dont know if her June wedding was wet or dry, but I implore you to not take the chance that she did. If youre looking at a wedding venue that has provisions for an outdoor ceremony, here are some questions to ask: Where would your ceremony be held in case of rain? Will guests be seated auditorium-style, at tables, or will they be standing? Will the indoor ceremony be in the same room as your reception? If so, is there provision to hide reception things, like guest tables, from view during the ceremony? If guests are seated both indoors and out, are there two sets of chairs, or will chairs have to be brought in from outside?
Then theres the timing: How far ahead in hours or days do you have to make the decision to invoke the rain plan? Who will make that decision? And are there any extra costs involved? If you use the rain plan, where will your guests go immediately after the ceremony?
Is there a lot to consider for an outdoor ceremony? You bet. Is it worth it? Absolutely! Ive had the pleasure of being present for hundreds of outdoor ceremonies. The feeling of connection with your guests, with nature, and with the wider world beyond is beyond compare.
- David L. Egan is the proprietor and steward of Chase Court, a wedding and event venue in downtown Baltimore. Visit Chasecourt.com, and follow ChaseCourtWeddingVenue on Instagram and Facebook.