In any given year, HJ plans an equal amount of indoor and outdoor ceremonies. I’d like to think that it goes without saying that our indoor ceremonies tend to be more common during the winter months and August (when D.C. truly proves that it is STILL a swamp), but it might not be so obvious that our outdoor ceremonies tend to occur more in the spring.
When is it proper to hold an outdoor ceremony? What should you consider when determining the location of your ceremony?
Although we try to stay away from absolutes in our industry, we feel comfortable delivering this one:
You cannot hold an outdoor ceremony in the dead of winter.
You cannot – under any circumstances – ask ceremony guests to stand outside in the freezing cold. This means that the months when snow is most likely to fall are unsuitable for an outdoor ceremony. We feel comfortable giving this ultimatum due to the fact that your dress probably won’t provide the necessary warmth to prevent you from turning blue while saying your vows.
With that out of the way, let’s turn to other considerations:
Whether your ceremony is religious.
Some religions require that its marriage ceremonies occur in sanctified spaces. Catholic churches, for example, may not recognize ceremonies not happening inside a church. Contact your minister or priest to determine your religion’s stance on outdoor ceremonies.
The guests that will attend your ceremony.
Do you have a number of elderly guests who find it difficult to walk on uneven ground? Does your guest list include 35 young children who might find it impossible to resist ripping out the grass? Will your style-savvy female guests have their heels stuck in the mud while you say your vows? Considering your guest type and personalities allows you to avoid gripes about the outdoor ceremony from being the main topic of conversation during your reception.
The typical weather for that time of the year.
Yes, last year’s D.C. fall was mild and barely contained a drop of rain, but that’s not normal. Previous year weather records, such as hot days, rain amounts and abnormally chilly days for the month of your wedding are important to note when determining whether an outdoor ceremony is right for your wedding. However, remember that the term “typical” is not a guarantee of the weather the atmosphere will produce on your wedding day.
The cost of renting chairs and a stage.
Unless your venue offers a prepared outdoor ceremony site, it’s likely that you’ll have to outfit one to suit your needs. This means renting chairs, an aisle runner and a stage to serve as an altar. You also need to decorate the stage with skirting and floral arrangements. Ensure that your budget can handle these costs.
The size and other elements of the outdoor space.
After you’ve considered all these elements and have an outdoor ceremony space in mind, seriously analyze whether that space can comfortably accommodate all of your guests. After adding an aisle runner and a stage or altar, you might find that the space left over to seat your guests is quite small.
Our First and Foremost Suggestion for Outdoor Ceremonies: Have a Backup Plan You Like
Don’t plan an outdoor ceremony when you absolutely hate the indoor alternative. If it rains, is cold or even if it is extremely hot outside, you just might need to pull the ceremony indoors at the last minute. Therefore, make sure that you like the indoor option your location provides, and that it will be available on your wedding day.