The Return of Outdoor Weddings

Warm weather is upon us, flowers are in full bloom, and nature is once again serving up a splendid backdrop for any celebration. The season of outdoor weddings has returned!

The thought of an outdoor wedding typically calls to mind a lush, green, manicured lawn sprawling out beneath carefully arranged white chairs set amid gardens of landscaped flowers and stately trees. Or perhaps a beach setting, where ocean waves gently sway and roll, tumbling and splashing toward shore and retreating, leaving pristine white sand underfoot as the newlywed couple exchanges vows to the tunes called by seagulls overhead.

Ryan and I have been to a fair amount of outdoor weddings, and have been very fortunate to have been part of some very creative venues. We’ve partaken in a woodland wedding in a forest clearing where the violinist and cellist sat perched on chairs next to moss-covered tree bark and palm fronds as the bride made her way, barefoot, to a woodsy arbor crafted from twisted cedar branches, clutching a bouquet of wildflowers. Sitting atop large logs that doubled as rustic benches, we watched the couple tie the knot underneath a canopy of greenery that hung with white paper lanterns. Beautiful!

We’ve also stood on a riverbank and witnessed friends exchange vows, sat on white folding chairs at an outdoor zoo after hours and watched a former coworker of mine stroll down the aisle to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and gathered in front of a lovely fountain at a park in springtime to celebrate a second wedding. We’ve clutched champagne glasses onboard a paddle boat for a 4th of July wedding on the Mississippi (tip: free fireworks for your wedding!), and hopped on a hayride to be transported to a meadow for a fall wedding on the bride’s parents’ farm. The lightning bugs were gracious enough to show up later that night, and as we danced on a wooden dance floor under an outdoor canopy strung with white lights, young wedding guests delighted in trying to capture the little glow-in-the-dark wedding crashers.

Whether it’s a magical forest setting that elves and fairies would be thrilled to show up for, or a simple affair at the beach, park, backyard or farm, outdoor weddings are special affairs. They can be as formal as you desire (black tie evening at an outdoor Japanese garden), or as laid back as you wish (overalls and camouflage, anyone?). Venue ideas are endless. Vineyards, outdoor museums or courtyards, historic sites, parks, lighthouses, sprawling lawns or gardens of area mansions, waterfronts, resorts, country clubs… Goodness! The list goes on and on!

With the continued environmental push and attention to nature, outdoor celebrations have seen a rise in popularity. They certainly cater well to the popular rustic trend and open up endless possibilities for charming vintage decorations. They can be budget-friendly events, too. An outdoor ceremony at an area park can be significantly cheaper than at a church or chapel. Additionally, combining the ceremony and reception sites into one location cuts down on not only rental fees, but transportation issues. On the other hand, some of the most expensive venues are outdoor locales (feeling wealthy? Rent your own island for a private beach ceremony!). No matter your budget, there’s an outdoor space to suit it.

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