I know that for many engaged couples, the allure of a garden or beach wedding holds much romantic appeal. However, if you are contemplating having an outdoor wedding, there are many important considerations to take into account before doing so.
The vital ‘Plan B’
Firstly, it is vital to have a Plan B in case of bad weather. It never ceases to amaze me how many couples planning an outside wedding ceremony look at me blankly when asked about their back-up plans in case the weather doesn’t play along.
Even during the summer months, the weather in Cape Town can be very unpredictable. I once attended a wedding that was held in the middle of December. The day started out beautifully, then became hot and humid and, half an hour before the service was about to start, the sky turned grey and cloudy. Fortunately, the venue had a Plan B (a cellar to use) and the chairs and carpet etc. were quickly rearranged inside, before the arrival of both the bride and the thunderstorm!
Beat the heat!
If you are marrying in the Boland during the height of summer and plan on holding your wedding ceremony outside, bear in mind that it is not unknown for temperatures in these areas to reach the 40 deg C mark. Your guests (especially if they are coming from abroad and unused to such high temperatures), will definitely appreciate shelter from the harsh African sun. A welcoming cold drink would also not go amiss in these conditions.
If you are having an open-sided marquee, find out about the option of putting up side walls as protection, should there be a cold wind blowing – or how to remove walls should the weather turn hot.
Should you be planning to have a solid wall marquee in the summer heat, it might be wise to include the hire of an air-conditioner as an optional extra in your budget.
Beach wedding watchpoints
While no one can deny the enormous appeal of a beach wedding, couples sometimes overlook a few very important points:
Most beaches are public areas, which means your wedding service is open to any passersby who happen to be there. Bear in mind, too, that no drinking of alcohol is permitted on public beaches. As the last thing you want is to have to speed up your wedding ceremony due to the arrival of high tide, to avoid any last-minute surprises on your big day, it is recommended that you obtain a tide table. It is also a good idea to find out about the waxing and waning of the moon, which affect the tides as well. (Tides are higher during a full moon and higher than normal during a spring tide.)
In order to marry on a beach, you will also need to obtain permission from the City Council.
A garden wedding
With the downturn in the economy, couples looking to economise may consider a wedding at home an attractive option, and one that will save them money. Think long and hard before you decide to go this route as, even with a lot of help, it is not an easy task to open up your house and garden to a large number of wedding guests. (This subject is covered in greater detail in my book, The really useful WEDDING BOOK for South Africa.)
Picnics aren’t fun in the rain, but in addition to weather considerations, there are several other points to be taken into account if you are thinking of going this route:
- Where will the guests be seated – on blankets on the ground or will tables be provided?
- If you plan to seat your guests on blankets, you might have to consider hiring chairs for any elderly relations who will be attending.
- The choice of wedding dress and wedding party attire will need to be appropriate for sitting on the ground!
- Bear in mind that guests will interpret a picnic wedding as a casual affair, and will definitely dress down accordingly.
- Is your caterer able to provide sufficient number of baskets for the picnics or will they be served in paper bags?
Open air ceremonies
If you are planning to hold your ceremony outside at the reception venue, it is best to find out in advance if there is any additional charge for this and if there are any items you need to hire, e.g. gazebo, lectern, chairs, electrical facilities for your musicians etc.
It is dangerous to assume that these will be provided at no extra cost.
Finally, should cost be a major reason for choosing an outdoor venue for your wedding, make sure you spend time beforehand working out exactly what your final costs will be.
A factor that is often overlooked is that, unlike a wedding ceremony held in a church or place of worship and followed by a reception at a hotel or wine farm, if you plan to hold a garden or beach wedding you will be faced with having to hire everything from chairs and tables to tablecloths, waiters, marquees and so forth. So make a note to include all these costs when working out your budget, as they add up extremely quickly.