A Guide to Outdoor Weddings
By Tara Eglington
More brides are embracing the natural environment and opting for an outdoor ceremony on their wedding day, and the Sunshine Coast is simply teeming with breathtaking locations.
Besides miles of gorgeous beaches, national parks and reserves along the coastline, Sunshine Coast hinterland regions such as Montville and Maleny offer spectacular views of the mountain ranges and surrounding coastline.
There’s no denying that a wedding outdoors, be it by the beach, in a field or within a beautiful garden, is an extremely romantic concept. However, outdoor ceremonies do come with their own set of considerations, and the right planning is absolutely essential to ensure your day is both beautiful and memorable. Here are Sunshine Coast Brides’ best tips for marrying al fresco style!
Never assume that an area like a local beach or park is free and can be used as you wish. The Sunshine Coast’s many beautiful beaches, parks and hinterland spaces require local council permission, meaning you are required to attain a permit in advance for the use of the area on your wedding day (for more information visit www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au).
Many councils also require a fee to be paid along with your application. Always research the required paperwork needed to hold a ceremony in a public area, along with any rules and regulations concerning noise, lighting, photography, music, or elements such as rose petals, rice or confetti – some councils view these celebratory materials as litter and therefore an offence. You will also be responsible for ensuring the area is clean pre and post ceremony. You might want to assign the best man or groomsman this task!
Always plan a backup indoor site
Don’t count on the weather gods being on your side. This cannot be stressed enough. As soon as you’ve selected an outdoor site, you should be selecting your plan B, bad-weather option. Hoping for the best and continuously checking the weather forecast in the week prior is beyond foolish, and creates undue stress. Weather conditions can change at a moment’s notice – and that doesn’t just mean rain. Sudden violent thunderstorms, hail, or winds caused by sub-tropical cyclones up north can render your location unusable and dangerous for you and your guests. You might feel strained by what seems to be planning for two separate weddings, but being location-less 24 hours before your dream day is far more stressful.
Never rely on the option of suddenly erecting a tent or marquee – these types of set ups cannot be sourced, thrown together and assembled at short notice. If this is your back up option, then the marquee or canvas needs to be arranged in advance, and you must remember that despite being undercover, heavy rain will still soak the ground underneath the site, meaning muddy shoes. Marquees and tents are best for light rain or thunderstorms – in more severe conditions, you’ll need a better option. Another plan is to identify a nearby pavilion or covered area, either in or next to the location you have chosen, so that everyone can get under cover and on dry ground if required.
The safest option is to choose a location that has an indoor alternative (such as an estate, a winery, or an outdoor/indoor wedding venue) that allows you to replicate your outdoor layout. Remember, romantically lit indoor spaces teamed with beautiful floral styling can be just as gorgeous as you originally envisioned your outdoor space to be. Try to create an indoor and outdoor option that you love equally. By being prepared in this way, you can assess the forecast even an hour or so prior to the ceremony, and quickly make a decision about whether to go indoors or outdoors. And always remember – by having two options that can be seamlessly transitioned, your guests will be none the wiser – they are simply attending a wonderful celebration!
Assess the site as it will be on the day
One of the best things you can do is view your chosen location at the same time your ceremony will eventually take place – for example, if you are due to exchange vows at 4pm, try to visit and assess the site at this time, rather than earlier in the day. This will give you an accurate picture of a number of crucial factors – the position of the sun respective to the site, the amount of light or shade you will have available, whether any nasties like sandflies or mosquitoes are likely to be buzzing around, how cool or warm the air might be, where the tide will be (if you are marrying on the beach) and so forth. This will assist tremendously with planning the layout of your wedding – as well as allowing you to create realistic contingency plans for the big day.
As mentioned above, the position of the sun in respect to your wedding layout is vital to consider – not only in terms of comfort for you and your guests, but also in relation to your photographs. Talking to your photographer about where the sun will be at the time of your ceremony will allow you to plan your seating arrangements accordingly. Unless the site is shaded by trees or a cover, the sun will always be either behind you and the groom, to one side of your guests, or behind your guests. All three positions impact in different ways:
If the sun is behind you and the groom, then your guests will be forced to squint into the sun as they watch you exchange vows. If the sun is to either side of your guests, this means that either the bride or groom will be very likely to be facing the sun.
The ideal situation is to have the sun behind the guests – as no one will have to face the sun and the light is perfect for taking photographs of both guests and the bride and groom, from all different angles. Sunset is perfect for this, and has the added bonus of being the most flattering time of day for photos.
All important audio
What’s the point of choosing a picture perfect, utterly romantic spot to exchange vows if you are only going to be let down by the fact that none of your guests were able to hear most of your ceremony? There’s nothing more frustrating for a guest than missing out on the special moment you say ‘I do.’ Large, open, outdoor sites are often fraught with noise pollution – whether it’s from wind, crashing waves, boats or other watercraft zipping by, planes overhead, loud birds, or picnicking families with excited children (if you are marrying in a public park). Speak to your planner, venue or band about hiring a sound system with a microphone for the ceremony – it may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it’s one of the most essential elements of your wedding.
I recently attended a wedding on an outcrop of a bay – a stunning site right on the water with miles of blue ocean behind it. On the morning of the wedding, a fresh autumn breeze was blowing. The breeze wasn’t enough to distort the vows, but mid ceremony, a particularly strong gust suddenly knocked over a huge vase of flowers on the signing table, drenching the signing papers! Thankfully the bride only got the giggles, but it could have turned to tears had it been someone else. When planning your ceremony, make sure that all of your decor can withstand a considerable breeze – particularly if you are marrying on a beach! Beach ceremonies are often plagued by wind – so remember that anything that can blow away, will very likely blow away.
Make sure you securely anchor all decor and props. Choosing heavier furniture, such as wooden benches, chairs or waterproof ottomans, is wiser than more lightweight options. Consider weighing your programs down with shells or stones, tying them to chairs, or printing them on something heavier, such as fans so they don’t escape from your guests! Winds can also extinguish romantic dreams of tea lights or candles – a safer and more reliable option is hurricane-like lanterns or LED candles, which are long lasting and flameless. Another point to remember is the aisle – if you are hoping for perfectly strewn petals, your best option is to have someone toss them at the very last moment before guests are due to arrive.