It is one of the most important moments of your life and you’re dreaming of celebrating your nuptials outside, uniquely crafted by you in a breath-taking setting that simply cannot be re-created indoors. You want to avoid the stresses of stuffy reception rooms or cramped seating arrangements and you want to add fresh air and spectacular outdoor views to your list. Perhaps an outdoor wedding venue in the grounds of a spectacular historical castle or pitching a marquee in a quintessential English garden, or a sunny celebration with a breath-taking panoramic coastal view.

Regardless, you are craving for that perfect wedding backdrop under bright blue skies and romantic breezes… or at least, that’s how you envision it! As exciting as this style of wedding is, unfortunately, the reality can be far from the truth and you need to embrace the idea that there will be a significant amount of legwork, orchestration and hurdles to contend with planning an alfresco celebration. But this shouldn’t put you off. Here are our 5 tips to consider to help you plan your perfect outdoor wedding in London.

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1. Know your Budget

Renting an indoor venue in London for your ceremony and reception can be extremely expensive with less flexibility of what can be done with the space. The overall perception of outdoor wedding venues is they are often considered a budget option without diminishing your guests’ experience, which means you may not have to blow up the budget. The biggest advantage of outdoor wedding venues is you can use the natural landscape to your decorating advantage and you don’t need to spend much to spruce up the space if you are looking for customarily naturally beautiful surroundings without embellishment. There are endless ways to achieve this, but you can easily find yourself spending more money and going over your budget if you’re not careful.

There are many added components to be mindful of, so make sure you understand what you are getting for your money, from the pretty details to the practical elements such as land hire, marquee, electricity, heating, cooling generator, furniture, catering, water, toilets, staff, etc. Work with your rental company to figure out what style fits your vision and the venue’s constraints. You’ll need to check if VAT needs to be added and if the dreaded corkage will be charged. If it’s an out-of-the-way location you may need to spend more on travel. Follow a breakdown of costs and find ways where to save and where to spree and think about the extras and contingency plan, for example having your site sprayed by an exterminator to keep bugs at bay during your wedding day. Prepare for restrictions that might be in place as the very nature of outdoor wedding venues means there are likely to be some that could potentially add to your budget. In some cases, having a wedding planner can even save you money and advise you on what you should and shouldn’t be spending money on based on your initial brief, they will often coordinate with all your suppliers, run the day as it should and if there are any queries or problems they are the go to person to deal with and not you!

2. Know the Legalities

Before viewing or choosing outdoor wedding venues in London as your preferred style of wedding, make sure you understand the legalities first and if it fits within your plans. If you’re envisaging a legally binding Civil Ceremonies and Partnerships, you’ll need a wedding venue with the right license so you won’t need to go to a registry office. In England, you can get married outdoors as long as all the legal requirements are held within a licensed structure, which has to be a permanent, immovable structure with a fixed roof and solid floor, large enough to accommodate the couple, two Registrars, both witnesses and a table for the paperwork.

This would normally mean taking your vows under pavilions, garden gazebos, arbours, as prime examples, while your wedding guests are able to witness your wedding from an outdoor set up. A good start to familiarise yourself with the legalities are your local Citizens Advice Bureau or online advice from Citizens Advice. And don’t forget to research whether you will need permits to use certain areas, policies around timings of rentals, alcohol, music, rubbish removal, using candle lights, fees, etc… Nonetheless, if you have your heart set on an unlicensed venue, a solution to achieve your dream of an outdoor ceremony, is to do the legal ceremony at a registry office and then hold a Celebrant, Humanist ceremony or simply a blessing at your chosen outdoor wedding venue.

3. Accessibility

You may have your heart set on an outdoor wedding venue location, but you want to make sure that it is also practical for you and your guests, so you need to think about the logistics of getting to and from your London wedding venue and accessibility at the venue. It is easy to assume everyone will drive themselves or stay overnight somewhere nearby, but in many situations, that will not always be the case. Think about whether it is an easy location to get to, taking into account young children, elderly or disability on your guest list.

Make sure you let your guests know in plenty of time that the ceremony is outside so they can plan their travel accordingly. By detailing your outside theme on your invitations and giving guests an idea of how to get there, where to park, can make a world of difference. In addition, think about providing easy access at the actual venue, perhaps using signage that are visible to your guests to know the location or key facilities such as ceremony, reception, or toilets. A smart and thoughtful idea is to add transportation in your wedding budget for yourself and for your guests.

mirror table

4. Lighting and Décor

You’ll be amazed how the right décor and lighting can transform an outdoor wedding venue in London and create a magical ambience. Whether you’ve chosen a rustic spot in the woods, or a grand lawn, the magic is always in the detail. This is your opportunity to style your day to reflect your own personalities through the décor. The great outdoors practically guarantees a glorious backdrop, which means you may not have to add to the grandeur of the original décor. You can simply use the natural landscape to your decorating advantage and let the outdoor setting inspire you. Choose the right decor to make it charming, drape fabric to soften the ceiling and the space and other details to welcome guests and enhance your wedding’s unique design. Having adequate lighting at your outdoor wedding venue can really set the mood and add a romantic ambiance to your outdoor setting, especially if it’s a dull or cloudy day or for weddings that carry into the evening.

Think about where the sun will be during your ceremony as the last thing you need is to be squinting for the cameras. Check with the location of your outdoor wedding venue to know what you are permitted to have in terms of lighting and if there are any restrictions, for example having open flames. Think about whether you will need string lights, where to hang and attach them, or perhaps even spot lights to illuminate your evening or guide the way. In addition to your reception area, think about lighting to guide staff, caterers, bands, DJ, music, with adequate power source so you don’t have any blackouts during the evening! View your outdoor wedding venue well ahead of time during the same time frame as your wedding day, physically walk through the space to understand and get a better idea of where you’ll need décor and lighting so you don’t end up spending less or more on what’s necessary.

Photo Credit: Verola Studio/Atlas Event Rental

5. Prepare for any types of Weather

‘It’s just a spot of rain really, nothing to worry about!’ Perhaps somewhere else in the world, but we all know the good old British weather and you simply cannot rely on luck or the rain gods. Worst-case scenarios do happen, and you’ll want to be organised for that, so be prepared for a rainy day in case the weather takes a turn for the worst. If you have selected an outdoor wedding venue in London for your special day, it would be wise to consider having a backup plan in case the weather doesn’t cooperate; you don’t want to get married in a downpour that leaves all your guests soaked.

That might mean renting a sturdy tent or a marquee if rain is forecasted, or check with the venue for an alternative covered area to wait out the rain. A stash of umbrellas to offer shelter or a stack of towels on standby may come in handy. An outdoor wedding venue in the middle of summer, means you’ll have to consider the extreme conditions of British summer heatwaves. If it’s a scorcher, parasols, sunglasses, hand fans, sun-cream, or summery cocktails to hydrate your guests could make a world of difference. You’ll have to think of the food you wouldn’t want to leave out in the sun and the type of cake that could turn gooey and runny in the heat. Even in the middle of summer, temperatures in London can dip low after sunset and you may have to think about having heaters to keep your guests warm and comfortable especially during the latter part of the evening.

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