8 Outdoor Wedding Mistakes Couples Make—Plus, How to Avoid Them on Your Big Day

The experts reveal how to prevent these common blunders from ruining your big day.

Bride and groom kissing one another while their wedding party throws flower petals

FG Trade / Getty Images

Nothing compares to a wedding in the great outdoors, and that's true whether you’re surrounded by the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside, overlooking the vast Mediterranean Sea, or soaking up the sun in your own backyard. There’s something awe-inspiring and utterly romantic about choosing nature as the backdrop of such a momentous occasion that just can’t be replicated indoors. Exchanging vows amid native flora and fauna, dining with the breeze blowing through your hair, and dancing beneath a starry night sky will all provide a more meaningful experience for you and your loved ones. “The way senses are ignited outdoors is sure to create lasting memories for your guests, and natural light has a way of painting the most magnificent glow on the photographs that will forever embody those moments,” proprietor Matilda Reuter Engle says.

Meet the Expert

  • Matilda Reuter Engle is a proprietor of Glenstone Gardens and The Red Fox Inn & Tavern in Middleburg, Virginia. She has been working in the hospitality industry for 24 years.
  • Rachael Ellen is the owner and head designer of Rachael Ellen Events, a destination event planning and floral design company. She has a decade of experience in the industry.
  • Frances Liu is the creative director of Charmed Events Group, which is located in Northern California, but she plans destination weddings around the world. She has 14 years of experience.

Although saying “I do” outside provides ample benefits, there are a few pitfalls that could minimize the effect. We talked to a handful of experts about the most common mistakes couples usually make when planning an outdoor wedding. Read on for the biggest culprits, plus how to avoid them.

Neglecting the Logistics of an Outdoor Venue

According to Engle, couples often forget that amenities that come standard at many typical wedding spaces, like restrooms, aren't necessarily a given at an outdoor venue. Some outdoor locations, such as local parks or beaches, may be in close proximity to public restrooms, but if you’re looking for more sanitary facilities to be used by your group alone or if you’re hosting the party in your own backyard, you’ll need to rent restroom trailers and hire bathroom attendants. Consider decorating the rentals with flowers and candles and provide baskets of toiletries to make the experience more appealing.

The other logistical concern that duos don’t always take into account is parking. If your ceremony and reception are within driving distance for local guests or if these sites are in a remote area where Ubers and Lyfts aren’t accessible, some of your loved ones might want to take their own car. Make sure to ask your venue about the possibility of on-site parking, how much space is available, and whether your guests will need to pay a fee. For at-home nuptials, parking on the street might pose an inconvenience to your neighbors and create traffic. Instead, provide a valet service, book a shuttle, or check if you can use local parking garages or parking lots.

Outdoor Wedding Ceremony Setup with Wooden Chairs, Flower-Lined Aisle, and Floral Arch

Photo by Collins Nai

Forgetting to Arrange a Weather Contingency Plan

Couples tying the knot in mild seasons or climates might be tempted to ignore the possibility of weather interferences. Even if you’re optimistic about the forecast, Mother Nature could have a completely different idea for your big day. Since the weather is beyond our control, having a backup plan in case of inclement conditions, such as rain, snow, or sleet, is imperative, no matter where or when you’re getting hitched. To prepare for every possible scenario, work closely with your wedding planner to devise a plan B. This could fall along the lines of renting a tent or moving the location to your venue’s indoor restaurant. Once your plan is fleshed out, Rachael Ellen of Rachael Ellen Events advises sharing every detail with your vendor team. “That way, you can make a game day decision, and your vendors can pivot according to plan rather than scrambling to make adjustments, get your approval, and make it work,” she says.  

Underestimating the Wind

Another element you’ll want to watch out for—that most couples forget to consider—is the wind. Extreme conditions might call for a location change, but even the slightest breeze could create an interference. “It could lead to an uncontrollable veil, glasses and flowers being knocked down on the tables, candles that can never be lit or stay lit, or linens flying overhead,” Frances Liu, creative director of Charmed Events Group, explains. Breezy or windy conditions could ruin the look and feel of your day, but more importantly, it can cause a safety hazard for guests. 

To prepare for these conditions, Liu recommends researching the normal weather behaviors in the region and then making a plan of action with your planner. If wind is common, you might want to skip displaying breakable items, including open flames, or hanging large overhead installations.

Failing to Communicate Expectations With Guests

During the planning stages, it’s easy to retreat into your own bubble of choosing linens and attending wedding cake tastings, but for a successful and safe event, you’ll need to loop your guests in. “Clients often forget that their guests haven’t been part of the entire planning process and don’t know every detail,” Ellen mentions. Since extreme weather is possible at outdoor weddings, Liu encourages you to set the expectation about the conditions and relay your weather contingency plan, so everyone can pack accordingly. Ellen also suggests providing information about the event grounds, so your loved ones can pack the right shoes. “That way, for example, if your whole wedding is taking place in the middle of a field, women will opt for block heels rather than stilettos,” she explains.

Skimping on Essentials That Will Help Shield Guests from the Elements

If your wedding turns out to be a beautiful day, couples usually forget that the sunshine can still create an inconvenience. For outdoor ceremonies and receptions during the daytime, make sure you stock a nearby table with sunscreen, so no one leaves with a painful burn. Mosquitoes and other insects are another annoyance that you’ll need to prepare for. In addition to SPF, provide bottles of bug spray to ward off pesky bugs.

Lacking Proper Hydration

Hydrating your guests is another considerate and necessary gesture that couples tend to overlook, according to Liu. Giving attendees enough water is essential for any type of wedding, especially events taking place in hot temperatures, humid climates, or areas with high elevation. To quench your friends and family’s thirst, set up a station with large dispensers of water or distribute single-serve cups of water infused with fresh produce. Make sure to place these hydrating drinks in an easily accessible area, such as the beginning of your ceremony aisle or the entrance of your reception venue.

an outdoor wedding reception with wooden chairs and tables, bistro lighting and white and green florals

Photo by Tracy Burch

Not Choosing Sufficient Lighting

Soft, warm lighting is one of the biggest draws of an outdoor wedding, but once the sun goes down, you’ll need to fall back on man-made light fixtures. String lights and candles provide a romantic ambiance that is ideal for weddings, but you’ll also need to think about equipping your venue with enough lighting for visibility and safety. Ellen advises illuminating frequented spots, like the pathway to the restroom or the transportation area. “Don’t end up having guests wander in the dark with their cell phones as a lighting source!” Liu warns. You’ll also need to consider power supply for the lighting, plus sound systems and catering equipment, according to Engle. 

Overlooking Noise Ordinances

If your outdoor wedding takes place in a residential area, whether it’s a city or suburban neighborhood, you’ll need to pay attention to noise ordinances. “If the surrounding area imposes a noise restriction, you may have to move the reception inside to continue a lively atmosphere,” Engle mentions. Ask your venue coordinator when you’ll need to wrap up your party. It’s often 11 p.m. or midnight, but the times vary depending on the location. For private residences, talk to your wedding planner or other local vendors about the bylaws, so you can properly adhere to them.

Related Stories