04 Jul Make your outdoor ceremony a big success
Outdoor ceremonies, including weddings, namings and celebrations of life have a lot going for them. They’re usually intimate and relaxed, and if you love the sights and sounds of nature, you’re right in it. Of course, where there’s nature, there’s also weather, and even relaxed occasions need good planning. So, how can you make sure your outdoor ceremony is a big success?
My tips for a memorable, successful outdoor ceremony
In time-honoured blog fashion, I have 10 tips up my sleeve, and they apply to all kinds of ceremony. I’m interested in beautiful, practical and personal ceremonies, which skip neatly around most of the most common pitfalls.
1. The UK weather. Enough said. A Plan B is essential and we’re very good at this in the UK. Umbrellas work up to a point but don’t make your guests spend the rest of the day with wet shoulders and laps. It’s not a good look. Equally in hot weather, it only takes a few minutes sitting on a plastic chair to feel sticky. Seek out natural shade under a large tree, rig up an awning, hire a gazebo, or go the whole hog with a marquee. There are some beautiful tents with open sides, which will do the trick.
2. Are they sitting comfortably? This question is just as much about focus and concentration. We all relax better when we’re sitting down. Also, you need to consider the needs of the older generation and families with young children. People tend to overestimate how long they’ll be comfortable standing. I reckon 20 minutes – tops. Arrange your seating in a warm, friendly curve, so everyone can see each other.
3. Create a backdrop. Again, Nature often provides a stunning solution. If you’re having a photographer, she/he will make a bee-line for a good backdrop. You can also create a beautiful focal point with flowers, awnings, archways, or just the view into the distance. I wrote a blog all about that, if you need some inspiration.
4. Think about the light. Most photographers prefer the light earlier or later in the day. It’s not only more flattering, but the noon sun can be fierce. The general tendency is to have a ceremony, followed by the feast, so if you’re offering lunch, I would start the ceremony at 11.30am. Sunset ceremonies are also lovely.
5. Theme it. Even a simple colour theme brings a ceremony together visually. Looking deeper, how do you want your guests to feel and remember about the occasion. Will your day be playful, joyous, serious or reflective? If you want an relaxed, romantic atmosphere – what will you choose for the colours, sights, smells, tastes and sounds?
6. Manage background noise. When the stage is all set for a romantic renewal of vows, and your neighbour decides that THIS is the perfect time to mow the lawn, it does breaks the spell somewhat. You can easily avoid that pitfall with a friendly word.
7. Can everybody hear me? Nature can be surprisingly noisy and if you have seagulls (lots of seagulls in Dorset), or even just a windy day, you will lose sound very easily. A simple microphone and speaker is all you need.
8. Music makes a ceremony. The right choice of music before, during and after a ceremony brings it to life, and helps create the atmosphere you’re after. Beware of Bluetooth, which is great when it works, but sometimes it doesn’t. Check it in situ. If you’re paranoid like me, have a backup – preferably wired.
9. Have a clear beginning and end. All ceremonies, particularly outdoor ones, need a structure, with a memorable end, that signals to your guests that This Brilliant Bit is finished now, Wait For Champagne, or whatever comes next. You want to keep the energy up, and not have confused people drifting off into the middle distance …
10. Put the heart in it. Last but most importantly, words are the BIGGEST thing I haven’t mentioned yet. Beautiful, rich, inspiring, heartfelt words which perfectly capture your thoughts and feelings. The real magic comes when you personalise a ceremony and make it a true expression of you. This takes time and thought, and experience.
Words and I have been best friends for a very long time. If you have a special day in mind, consider how a bespoke ceremony could take it from a special day to a wonderful, incredible, amazing day! If I can help you, I’d love to x