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How Can I make My Outdoor Wedding Unique? You ask, we answer…

Hello There!

I’ve put together this blog to help you to plan what will be one of the most important and memorable days of your life – your wedding day. It lays out seven tips. If you decide to implement them they will make your outdoor wedding unique, personal, and extra special for you, your family and your friends.

I have been involved in planning almost 800 outdoor weddings. I have seen the pitfalls and the details that can sometimes be overlooked. But most importantly I have also seen those ideas that work brilliantly and ensure that the big day is so amazing that everyone who attends will talk about it for years to come.

I hope you find it it helpful and then together we can plan a wedding which is stress free, fun and full of romance – and ‘Let’s make it memorable!’

1. Get the venue right…

Ok, here goes. The first and most important thing you need to get right – your venue.

Finding a venue shouldn’t just be about the price, or even how lovely the views are. It has to tick a number of boxes but most of all it has to suit you. The right venue can truly make your outdoor wedding unique all on it’s own.

If you’re looking to have an outdoor wedding there are three main types of sites you can consider. The first and usually most cost effective option is if you know someone with a huge back garden, a farm, or an area of land they’re prepared to let you use. An area of land like this will need you to source power, toilets and possibly water too (we at Elite Tents can help you to organise these).

The second option is to find somewhere you can hire – there are literally hundreds of places to choose from these days including holiday cottages with land, campsites, farmland, and even some sports clubs or village halls. Many of these will include in their price: a power supply, toilet facilities, and possibly catering space.

The third and most expensive option is to host your outdoor wedding in the grounds of a hotel or manor house. The main benefit of this is that the views are likely to be exquisite and there is often accommodation available for you and your guests to get ready or stay over. Some venues will have their own coordinator and you can even hold a civil ceremony at some locations.

Useful places to look for a venue are hitched.co.uk, landforevents.co.uk and of course Elite’s own Dream Venues are a fab place to start.

Outdoor Wedding couple in front of tipis

Whilst choosing your venue has to largely be dependent on your own personal style and your budget, a few things to look out for when making your choice are:

What’s included – If there’s power available, loos, a water supply, parking facilities and ability to camp if that’s what you want having these within the price can be a real bonus.

The Land – You want it to be fairly flat, no divots, well drained, good access for vehicles and a pleasant outlook (such as a lake or nice view).

When you’ve found your venue you need to count up your guests; the maximum that you’ll invite for the wedding breakfast and the evening ‘do’. (And make sure you ask both sets of parents – they’ll probably give you some you hadn’t even thought of!)

Once you have agreed your numbers you can start to think about the tipi or marquee itself – how much space you will need, whether you want a bar inside, a chill out area and how you might furnish it.

2. How to deal with the British weather

First and foremost we need to dispel a myth. Contrary to popular belief it does not rain all of the time in the UK. In fact there are more dry days than wet and even those when it does rain; it is often not all day.

However, if you are planning an outdoor wedding a wish and a prayer is not sufficient to ensure that the day is dry. You do need to plan for wet weather. That’s why choosing a structure to create the best environment for you and your theme is really important.

If you are a festival goer I imagine rain will not really worry you – maybe it’s just a chance to put on your diamanté wellies. However if you are not a great fan of the rain then there are lots of things you can do to ensure that you are prepared for it. Then when the sun does actually shine it’s just an added bonus!

If you are fully prepared for wet weather with the correct structure, rain can make for a really unique outdoor wedding that will be remembered for decades by all who attend!

When we have had tipi weddings where it has rained over the years I have specifically asked whether it put a dampener on the day. Not one person asked has said that it did. And we once had a lady who was very nervous about her daughter’s outdoor wedding as the worst rain of the year was forecast and these were her words afterwards:

“I can honestly say that the rain didn’t spoil it, everyone was comfortable and they were all walking around saying how brilliant it was. The whole place was just perfect, it really has got the WOW factor and when you are inside it was lovely, it really was.”

Lyn Richards

And just in case, think about the finer details…

So, thinking back to your guest numbers – you need to ensure you have enough room for everyone inside, just in case the rain does come. This means allowing some extra space for people to get up and move about in the form of either a bar area or some soft furnishings as a chill out area.

It also means not adding and adding guests on so that the tents are full to capacity! Stick with the number you first decided upon, or allow extra space in case you think of extras when you are planning.

It’s a good idea to have a brolly bucket close to the entrance/exit which heads to the toilets. Another sensible idea, especially for a spring or autumn outdoor wedding is to put out a basket of blankets. This is so any older family that maybe won’t be up and dancing can pop one over their knees as the evening draws in.

Another idea is to include an open firepit – possible if you choose the tipis because they have a central smoke hole. These are also very popular as a focal point for people to sit around as dusk falls.

If you are having a proper winter wedding the brollies and blankets are a must. So are the reindeer hides (which add a cosy feel to the tipis) and heating too. Heating is available all year around, but we find that it is rarely needed between mid-May and mid-September. Even if the weather is not fine, the tipis retain any heat from the sunshine very well. Also with every guest giving out a kilowatt of heat energy they are actually quite warm!

3. Choose the right structure for your outdoor wedding

When deciding which structure will be the best for you there are a number of things to consider:

What do you need to fit in? – You need to remember that not only will your structure need to house your guests but also enough tables and seating for those eating to sit down. Also probably a dancefloor, maybe a bar, a fire pit, a buffet and your cake table. So write down everything you would like to include.

What style do you like best? – If you are looking for something formal a white marquee is probably the most traditional type of structure. If you like swags and drapes, a clearspan marquee is perfect. However if you like the idea of a white tent but are looking for something more unique for your outdoor wedding, then the wooden poled sailcloth tent is a perfect choice for you. With its luminescent canvas and dramatic high peaks, this tent is stunning. Plus with all clear sides you can see the view even if you need to keep out the elements.

Outdoor Wedding in The Aurora Sailcloth

Alternatively for a rustic or a festival theme, the tipis are the obvious choice and will certainly help to make your outdoor wedding unique. Their wooden poles and beige coloured canvas give you the freedom to dress them however you would like. The other advantage of the tipis over more traditional tents is that the sides can be raised to wow your guests with a spectacular view. With the sides down, these authentic Scandinavian tents are perfect for winter weddings as well.

Outdoor Wedding in 3 Kata Tipis

How much do you want to spend? – Like most things, there are different costs associated with different types of the same item. Outdoor structures are no exception. If your budget is on the lean side, a clearspan white marquee will probably be your best bet. Especially if you have a lot of guests. A sailcloth tent will set you back a bit more, but then, it is more attractive with its wooden poles and high peaks and will probably cost you less to decorate as there are no aluminium poles to hide. The tipis are definitely the most expensive of the options, but again they need little decoration. A two tipi set up can seat 100 guests; the basic package for this starts from just over £5,000.

4. Plan your outdoor wedding day so it’s comfortable and relaxed

Why is it everyone thinks a wedding should start in the afternoon? I know that us girls do enjoy the time spent getting ready. And we like to have plenty of time to do so!

But my advice is to set your ceremony time for no later than 1 o’clock. That way you will have lots more time to have fun with your guests. Anyway, if you’re looking for a unique outdoor wedding, don’t feel you have to follow the norm!

Did you know that if you are having a sit down meal this usually takes around 2 1/2 hours? And if you’re intending to have a receiving line that can take another thirty minutes. So that means three hours of your day before you fit in your speeches. So allow plenty of time so you don’t feel rushed.

Couples seem to spend forever trying to work out the best way to seat their friends and family – sometimes because there’s people they know will want to sit together, and sometimes because there are people they need to keep apart! But the truth is most people enjoy mixing with people they wouldn’t normally. So your guests might feel more relaxed and comfortable if you ditch your table plan.

Soft seating is another good way to ensure people are comfortable. Some sofas in a different area of the tent, away from the dancing can be great, especially for older guests. This allows people to sit and chat without having to talk over the music. It’s also more comfortable if you have been sitting at the main tables for long speeches. It’s also really atmospheric to add a firepit to this area.

Most of course will spend the evening dancing and might find they want to kick off their shoes. So you could provide a basket with flip flops for the tired feet. And while we are thinking about dancing – it does not matter what your taste in music – you need to include a few ‘cheesy’ tunes to get everyone up onto their feet.

And when they really are running out of energy to dance. Reward them with a late night bacon roll or soup!

5. Feed and water them well

‘Wedfest’ is a popular term for lots of the outdoor weddings we have been involved in. Having the festival feel really opens up the opportunities for a variety of different menus.

We have seen pie ‘n’ mash vans, fish ‘n’ chips, BBQs, hog roasts pizzas and burgers. To be honest anything goes…

But having a unique outdoor wedding doesn’t mean you definitely have to have an informal meal either. Plenty of couples choose a high tea, haut cuisines with canapés or a glorious buffet. We have even seen picnic baskets of tasty sandwiches and nibbles served to each table.

In terms of drinks – bucks fizz is not necessarily your only choice these days. You might have a favourite tipple you would like everyone to share. Schnapps is great fun, miniature bottles of Prosecco with a straw, cocktails such as Pimms or Mojitos. And of course the UK’s favourite at the moment GIN!

If you are unsure what to offer, present your guests with a voucher to choose a drink at the bar. And for the guys buying a keg of local ale or cider always goes down well.

It’s sensible to have water on the tables. Why not collect some old style lemonade bottles to create a vintage style?

You can dry hire a bar and provide the drinks yourselves. Often your caterers will be happy to serve them for you, or you can get a pay-bar so that guests can choose their own drinks after the wedding breakfast. Pay-bars are licensed to sell the alcohol and often have a bar they can bring with them. Some even specialise in certain types of drinks or cocktails if that is what you would like.

Outdoor Wedding Bar

6. Let the good times roll

Secret number six is one of the most exciting things about having a tipi or marquee wedding.

It’s the fact that you can be completely yourself, and can include as many ideas of your own as you wish. This gives a real opportunity to add something unique and novel that will make your outdoor wedding truly memorable. So here are some of the ideas that have worked really well in our (more than!) 10 years experience:

Unusual suppliers – A bus bar means more space in the tipis and looks fantastic. A vintage ice cream van or bicycle can make a fun alternative to traditional desert. If you can’t agree on the type of music you like why not think about a silent disco? This gives guests a choice of different music genres and doesn’t upset the neighbours either!

Transport to the wedding – We have seen brides arriving in a VW camper, horse and carriage and even a tractor. Why not consider an ‘unusual’ entrance to make your outdoor wedding more unique?

Fun for your guests with kids – Some couples like to provide a crèche so their friends can enjoy the wedding breakfast in peace while the children have a great time too. Adding a camping village can also mean that when it’s bedtime for the little ones they can be popped safely into bed while everyone else carries on partying. (Some of your friends might even want to bring their pets along. I am thinking dogs, is that something you would accommodate?)

We have seen jukeboxes in the tipis, a real Welsh male voice choir, plant pot table planners, wedding cheese cakes positioned on a log and even donkeys under the Nimbus. All novel, all fun and all because the brides and grooms wanted their guests to have a fabulous day.

Maybe one of these ideas suits you, but if not perhaps you might like to come up with your own novel idea – just try to think outside the box. You are truly unique; so making your outdoor wedding unique should be no problem at all.

The most talked about weddings are ones where guests can tell you why they had a great time.

Having music during the day creates a relaxed atmosphere and a focus for the guests while you are having photographs done.

Outdoor games such as boules or giant Jenga can keep your guests amused while you’re busy with your photoshoot. We have seen coconut shies and hook a duck go down really well, one couple even hired bumper cars!

If you want guests to be seated before the meal you could plan something for them to do together. This works particularly well if you have decided, as previously suggested, not to have a seating plan. Having a quiz or puzzles on the tables can get people who don’t know each other chatting away. This is a fun alternative to the usual favours.

Photo booths are massively popular and again allow your guests to have lots of fun. I think the most novel example of this was a magic mirror where guests can choose to personalise their picture.

A final idea is to hire a magician to visit the tables and chat to guests performing tricks or impressions. Your outdoor wedding really would go down in history if there was a special guest like that!

These ideas might not be your taste and of course you can use the tents more traditionally. We have also seen tents styled with an English country garden theme, or having beautiful rustic centrepieces. This 100% leads me to secret number 7…

7. Let your personality shine throughout your outdoor wedding

I suppose the key to all of my suggestions is to follow the principle that whatever you choose for your special day is in line with your character.

Some of the ideas I have mentioned might really appeal to you, but I am also sure that some won’t. Remember these are ideas from almost 800 outdoor weddings that I have simply pulled together. You know your guests so you will know what would be most fun for your day.

My last tip is to think about the whole theme of the wedding and use that as your starting point. Using a board on Pinterest is a great way of collecting ideas. There are lots of example images other brides and companies like ours have already put together that will help you.

So the last in my list of tips is a few ideas you might like to consider when deciding on what is right for you:

  • Favourite colours for your flowers and table runners
  • Favourite flowers – maybe even wild ones
  • Bunting, pompoms and lace for decorating
  • Photos of family, friends and places that are special to you, hung up or in a vintage style suitcase
  • Jams, plants, biscuits, Welsh cakes or other homemade gifts for favours
  • Origami windmills and flowers
  • Charity donations instead of favours – buying everyone a pin badge linked to a charity special to you
  • Table names linked to you – favourite bands, films or character; places you have visited, anything important to you
  • A wishing tree instead of the usual guestbook

So there you have it.

My fifteen minute summary of what it takes to make your outdoor wedding truly unique and memorable.

You will need to think about it, and probably need to ask your friends and family for some help. But think of all those fabulous evenings spent together making bunting or similar things over a glass of fizz (or a cup of tea if you prefer).

Happy Planning!

Jacquie x

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