How To Plan For An Outdoor Ceremony

Updated: Mar 2


Outdoor Ceremony. Rustic Wedding. Summer Wedding. Minnesota Wedding. Rustic Oaks Events Center. Moorhead, MN. Minnesota Photographer. Minnesota Wedding Photographer. Fargo Wedding Photographer. North Dakota Wedding Photographer. Wedding Photographer Jennifer Hughes.

Having an outdoor ceremony has many perks. Nature does most of the decorating. It provides a special ambiance to the day. The views can be absolutely incredible! Having it outdoors can also be tricky business.


There’s never a guarantee that the weather will cooperate. If you are considering having your ceremony outside, there are a few things you should account for.


1) Be Open Minded


If having to go with a backup plan would mean a breakdown, I would not recommend having one to begin with. Having an outdoor ceremony means you are assuming all risks. It is important that moving forward with a ceremony outside, you either carry on, weather conditions and all, or you move it inside and can still enjoy the day.


Rain isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have shot many beautiful ceremonies in the rain. The joy on the couple’s faces proved that in that moment, nothing else mattered.


Last September, I shot an elopement in Grand Teton National Park. There ceremony was held at the Wedding Tree, just outside the park. The back drop for their ceremony was the Teton Mountains (seriously so breathtaking). Just before their ceremony, you could see storm clouds rolling over the mountains. Although that meant rain was soon approaching, it was an incredible site to see and made for a memorable experience.


Elopement. Grand Teton Elopement. Elopement Photographer. Wyoming Elopement. Wyoming Wedding Photographer. Jackson photographer. Jackson Hole. Grand Teton National Park. Elopement Photographer Jennifer Hughes.

It started to lightly rain at the end of the ceremony. I'm not sure their eyes ever left each other or their smiles ever fell from their faces. As we started to make our way back to the car the storm hit. It started pouring. The wind picked up, throwing rain drops in every direction. It was a bit chilly at this point. I looked over to see if they were ok. The groom had an umbrella over the bride. They held hands. When I looked at their expressions, I saw nothing but absolute bliss. That was love, in it's more raw and truest form, and it was beautiful.


Grand Teton Elopement.


If your start time is flexible, maybe wait it out. Just remember the main goal of the day is to be married! The rest is just fun conversation.


2) Prepare, prepare, prepare


Having an open mind certainly does help in preparation for an outdoor ceremony. There was a chance for rain on my wedding day. I absolutely wanted an outdoor ceremony. It was what I had always dreamed of. There was a chance that it would still be raining come the time for the ceremony. It was 74 degrees out, so not a cold day. No severe weather, just some light rain. I remember as I was getting my hair done, my sister telling me I had to go with plan B, there was no other option. Plan B just did not feel right in my heart. So I decided, should it rain, we would still say our vows outside, rain and all. Guests and wedding party members would be more than welcome to watch from inside, where the reception would be. As luck would have it, the rain cleared out well before the ceremony and the sun shone ever so brightly for our ceremony!


If you are like me, and would have no problem getting married in rain, be sure to have umbrellas if that’s something you would want. Going back to the story I shared above, that couple came prepared. They embraced the rain with welcoming arms and it became a fun part of their elopement story.


Grand Teton Elopement.

Another thing to keep in mind when preparing for an outdoor ceremony, is the temperature. How cold will it be? Will you need to consider having something warm around you? If you are having guests, will they need blankets? Possibly outdoor heaters? If it's going to be hot, HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE. Make sure you both are drinking plenty of water and drinks with electrolytes leading up to the ceremony. The last thing you want is to pass out during your ceremony. Provide water or cold refreshments for your guests, I attended one outdoor wedding that was rustic themed. They passed out iced water and lemonade in mason jars. So cute!



3) Think Outside the Veil


Depending on where you live, wind can be a factor to account for. In some states it’s windy just because. If the winds are not so bad that it would be blowing all ceremony décor around everywhere then I would say go for it. Last summer, I had a wedding at Rustic Oaks in Moorhead, MN (https://www.rusticoaks.net/). The couple was having an outdoor ceremony under huge beautiful trees. It was a very warm summer day without a cloud in the sky. It was rather windy that day with no promise of letting up. The bride was concerned about pictures during the ceremony because she was wearing a cathedral length veil and with the direction of the wind, it would have caused the veil to be up in her face for the entire ceremony. Nobody wants that! What we ended up doing to solve the problem was switch sides. Traditionally the bride and bridesmaids stand on the left (when facing the altar) and the Groom + groomsmen stand on the right. We had everyone switch sides so the bride’s veil flowed behind her. There is no right way to get married! So if you need to problem solve, don’t be afraid that you’re breaking some rule at weddings.


Outdoor Ceremony. Summer Wedding. Rustic Oaks, Moorhead, MN. Minnesota Wedding. Fargo Wedding Photographer. Minnesota Photographer. Wedding Photographer Jennifer Hughes


4) Consider the Sun


How you set up your ceremony should depend on the placement of the sun. Many people may not consider this, but coming from a photographer, it means everything. The sun plays a huge role in the quality of pictures. Most photographers will recommend having a ceremony later in the day. Mid-afternoon sun is harsh. Later in the day allows for the sunlight to become softer and offers more opportunities to diffuse the light. Having the sun in the background of the altar or angled off to either side are your best options. You never want the sun to shine into your face. Feel free to reach out to your photographer with any uncertainties.


5) Try to Have a Backup Plan Near By


Whether you are having an elopement or traditional wedding, you should always have a backup plan in place. For elopements, keep a very close eye on the weather. If nothing is going to be severe, then winging it is an option if you want. You may need to have a small venue or Air B&B lined up if things are not looking so hot.


For traditional weddings, most are held at a venue. If you are wanting an outdoor ceremony, choosing a venue with both options is ideal. Be sure to find a venue that can accommodate a ceremony and reception. Having a venue that will even help in this process relieves so much stress. One of my favorite venues for this is The Barn at 52 Pines in Burlington, ND. They have the capabilities of having an indoor or outdoor ceremony. With the reception hall within short walking distance. There is a paved walkway from the outdoor ceremony location to the reception building, which makes it perfect for those guests that cannot walk far or have trouble walking. Should the ceremony need to be inside, they have an amazing team that will take the ceremony set up down and transition over to the reception. Leaving more time for all of your friends and family to relax and enjoy the day! (https://www.52pines.com/)


I discuss more about this venue and others with indoor/outdoor options, in my blog "Favorite Wedding Venues of North Dakota | 2021". Click here to learn more about these venues.


6) To Electricity or Not To Electricity???


Getting married outside does pose a big question, what about electricity? Thankfully there’s many options to work around this. Some venues have it all figured out and can provide you or even your DJ the means necessary. Some weddings have to get creative and use Bluetooth speakers. If you are eloping you will really need to consider if you 1) actually need electricity for anything and 2) will you be in an area where it will even work. A lot of National Parks are dead zones. This isn’t always a bad thing but be prepared for whatever it is you will be facing.


7) Expert Advice


I reached out to another vendor for another perspective on this topic. Behind the Scenes Events, is an event planning company based out of North Dakota. What’s even better? They can provide glamping services for your event. Um hello! So cool! They included some key points to keep in mind when planning an outdoor ceremony.


-"Be sure to consider/plan for permits and/or event insurance."


Depending on where you elope, you may need a permit or two. Check with your photographer if you are not sure which permits you will need and if there are any permits they are responsible for.


Behind the Scenes Events mentions checking with your homeowners insurance to see what is covered. This would be if you are getting married in your home or a friend’s/family members home. They also mention checking with your city officials to make sure how many guests you are allowed, fire codes, health department regulations, zoning issues, etc. If you are having your outdoor ceremony at a venue, the venue should have all of those things covered. But do make sure that all of your plans fall under the venues policies (guest size, pets allowed or not, etc).


Another great point Behind the Scenes makes is having a clean up crew. If you are getting married at your own home, you will definitely want to make sure you have plenty of help! Some venues will clean up, others leave that up to you. Make sure you know what your venue’s policy is. If it’s up to you, you again will want plenty of help and start early enough to be done by your contracted time.


Cleanup crew is a lot more simple when eloping. One very important thing to keep in mind is that many couples elope out in nature, either in a national park or just a scenic area. It is very important that everyone follow the “leave no trace” philosophy. We are not changing how the area looks, leaving trash or personal items behind. We leave the area as we found it. To find out more about this concept, follow this link: https://lnt.org/about/



One final point Behind the Scenes touches on is rentals. If you are eloping or getting married someplace that doesn’t provide these items, consider what you will need and make a plan to find vendors that offer rentals.


-Ceremony Chairs

-Ceremony Decor/Arch



Behind the Scenes Events wrote a fantastic blog on backyard weddings. To read their full blog, follow this link here


I hope there were some helpful insights for you. Always feel free to ask if you need more clarification or advice on something. Happy Planning!


Here's a look at some outdoor ceremonies from last year:


Outdoor Wedding. Summer Wedding. Rustic Oaks. Moorhead, MN. Minnesota Wedding. Minnesota Wedding Photographer. Fargo Wedding Photographer. Wedding Photographer Jennifer Hughes

Outdoor Wedding. Summer Wedding. The Barn at 52 Pines. Minot Wedding Photographer. North Dakota Wedding Photographer. Wedding Photographer Jennifer Hughes.

Outdoor Wedding. The Barn at 52 Pines. Minot Wedding Photographer. Wedding Photographer Jennifer Hughes.

Elopement. Wyoming Elopement. Dubois, Wyoming. Summer Wedding. Mountain Wedding. Elopement Photographer.

Outdoor wedding. Elopement. Elopement Photographer. Wyoming Elopement. Wyoming Wedding Photographer. Dubois, Wyoming. Mountain Wedding. Wedding Photographer Jennifer Hughes.

Outdoor Wedding. Minnesota Wedding Photographer. Minnesota Wedding.

Elopement. Grand Forks Wedding Photographer. North Dakota Wedding Photographer. Wedding Photographer Jennifer Hughes.

Outdoor Wedding. Western Wedding. North Dakota Wedding Photographer.

Western Wedding. North Dakota Wedding Photographer.

Elopement. Grand Teton Elopement. Wyoming Elopement. Elopement Photographer. Grand Teton National Park. Mountain Wedding. Elopement Photographer Jennifer Hughes

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