Outdoor weddings can be magical -- with careful planning ahead of time! Much as you may have your heart set on holding the ceremony outside, having a backup plan is essential, regardless of the time of year. If you think a few rain drops won't deter your guests, consider your vendors. Musicians, for example, may refuse to play in inclement weather because their instruments are likely to be damaged. Photographers carry anywhere from $5,000-20,000 worth of equipment that can also be destroyed in a sudden downpour. As for DJ's, there is no quick way to pack up their set-up and they, too, stand to lose thousands of dollars in a storm!
July 8th, 2017: Outdoor Weddings
A Matter of Consideration
When planning an outdoor wedding, keep in mind that not all your guests may be physically able to hike through a forest to reach the “fairy circle” or labyrinth where the celebration is going to take place. Not all guests may be able to stand for very long and some guests may be sensitive to varying climactic conditions. Don’t expect half your guests to stand if there are too few chairs – some of those standing may seem to be in good health but may be pregnant, feeling “under the weather” or dealing with chronic illness. If you are planning a wedding on the beach at noon in August, please provide bottled water, large umbrellas and advise your guests to bring sun hats; conversely, if your wedding is scheduled in the winter, be flexible if temperatures drop or if there is a snow storm. And if the ceremony is to be near a river or in a forest preserve, make sure you provide non-chemical mosquito repelling bracelets (a standard part of my "outdoor wedding ensemble").
One December, I officiated in a Forest Preserve at dusk, in the snow, in temperatures below 25 oF. Guests were given steaming mugs of cocoa and shots of Bourbon, but the bride’s elderly mother was blue with cold as her daughter had instructed her not to wear a coat. Not wanting to cause a fuss, both the mother of the bride and the groom’s mother (also beyond middle age!) processed through the forest clad only in evening wear and dress shoes. By the time the ceremony began, the women were clearly in physical distress. There were indoor options but the bride insisted on having her wedding, her way.
On another occasion, what should have been a beautiful spring day brought back winter with a vengeance. The wedding was to be held on the deck of The Odyssey, but it was so bitterly cold that the crew advised the couple to move the ceremony indoors. Again, the bride insisted that she had dreamed of getting married on deck and not below deck. As a result, all the guests froze – even the photographer had a hard time handling his equipment because his fingers were icy. I wore a black beret and, fortunately, had planned on wearing my academic robes which offered more warmth than a dress or suit.
Meanwhile, little girls in frilly sleeveless dresses clung to their parents in tears, teeth chattering from the cold.
If you are planning an outdoor ceremony, it is always advisable to have a back-up plan. Inflicting discomfort on your guests and possibly endangering their health is not something that “Miss Manners” would recommend – quite, frankly, it is downright selfish. Even if your guests are good sports and say they don’t mind getting drenched or having to scale a mountain to get to your ceremony, put yourself in the shoes of your oldest and youngest guests: would you be willing to endure physical hardship to attend a wedding if you were their age, or experienced their physical limitations? Better to be remembered as a considerate couple than as the couple who gave their guests pneumonia!
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, Chicago Wedding Officiant