Spotlight Ceremonies

Top 10 practical tips on how to have the ULTIMATE garden wedding!

Spotlight Ceremonies

Top 10 practical tips on how to have the ULTIMATE garden wedding!

You may be thinking that an outdoor wedding in the UK is not practical. You may also be worrying about the amount of planning. In this blog, I want to convince you that a back garden wedding is not only a very viable option, it also creates the most beautiful and personal wedding ceremonies you could dream of. To start my charm offensive for the most cynical, let me list some major advantages:

© A back garden doesn’t get booked up years in advance so you can get married pretty much when you want (with a year worth of couples rebooking their wedding day, available venues may be difficult to come by!)

© The very nature of the venue is OUTDOORS, and the last year has taught us the freedom outdoor venues can bring!

© It’s often much cheaper

© It’s flexible on timings and what you do with the physical space

© The venue may hold sentimental value already, increasing the unique feel of the day

However, planning an outdoor wedding for an unconventional venue can be stressful. You don’t have the experienced venue coordinators giving advice and telling you about what has/hasn’t worked historically. The sheer range of options is quite mind-boggling so where on Earth do you start?!

Well, here is my top 10 practical tips on the most important things to consider when planning your own back garden wedding (or any outdoor venue which isn’t a traditional wedding venue):

1) You will need a Celebrant.

Your back garden is not a registered venue, and currently in England, you cannot legally get married outdoors. A Celebrant (me! Let it be me!) will perform a beautiful wedding ceremony for you (often much more personal than those in churches and registry offices). Most couples will have a small ‘legal’ bit in the week before their wedding at a registry office (costs 50 quid) and their guests will be none the wiser. This is what I did and I genuinely can’t remember the date I legally got married – the anniversary of my Celebrant wedding is the even I celebrate.

2) Sketch the physical layout onto a piece of paper and plan the location for each section of the wedding day (sounds mad if it’s a small garden, but which section of lawn will be used?):

a. Guest arrival: Where will guests park and how will they find their way to the garden?

b. Ceremony: Where will guests sit for the ceremony, and where will the couple be? Factors that impact this are shade, the direction of the sun, natural backdrops (not got a beautiful backdrop? You can create stunning backdrops in absence of any focal point – just look on Pinterest!). Also discuss with your partner and celebrant if/how the bride and/or groom will ‘enter’.

c. Cocktail hour / photos: Where will the guests go after the ceremony? What will happen during ‘photo time’? Will there be refreshments and/or games?

d. Grubs up: When and where will food arrive/be served? Will chairs need to be moved from ceremony location to dinner location? Who will do this?

d. Home time: Will you/guests need to pre-order taxis to take them home? If you are in a rural location, put this on the invite so your guests can organise to share lifts/book taxis in advance.

3) Be organised with what you need to hire. You may not need all these things, but to get you thinking…

  • Big items: marquee, generator, portaloos, fridge trailer (how else will you keep the drinks cool?) somewhere for guests to sit – chairs, hay bales, picnic blankets (but be mindful of great auntie Ethel with the double hip replacement!)?
  • For eating: tables, water jugs, glasses (how many per person? Do you want separate toast glasses, water glasses etc?), cutlery, plates, bowls, napkins etc. 

4) Have a bad-weather plan.

Marquees really do save the day. There are so many options available. Shop around for different budgets, varying ‘looks’ and various functions e.g. removeable sides, dance floors, lighting to name a few. However, hiring a marquee isn’t the only thing you need to do to be prepared for the UK weather. The following weather conditions can all impact on your day:

Rain –  if the plan is to continue regardless of rain, tell your guests to come prepared with wellies, waterproofs and umbrellas! If it is raining, will the ceremony location move? If you have a marquee, think about how/what to set up the day before if the weather looks changeable.

Wind – check with your marquee hire if there are wind restrictions. Also, some decorations may be unsuitable in the wind (forget candles around a garden path!).

Cold – provide blankets for the non-groovers to wrap up in so they can continue chatting late into the evening.

Heat – ensure there’s plenty of water for guests. You can also buy cheap fans as wedding favours too!

Remember to be realistic. Everyone will be delighted that you are getting married, but no one else at the wedding apart from the married couple have the ‘just married glow’ that does actually seem to keep you warm regardless. Guests may go home early if it’s wet and cold – it’s not because they love you less… it’s because they can’t feel their toes!

5) Wear appropriate clothes!

Shoes: You don’t want to sink in the mud in your white stilettos you bought for your big day. You also don’t want your heel to get stuck in cracked ground. Wedges can be elegant, give you height, but also be very safe on wobbly and soft ground! You can also go bare foot, in flip flops, or in your fave pair of Doc Martens! You will look fabulous as long as you are comfortable and can walk!

Layers: are you a chilly Charlie? Plan for layers – long socks under your dress(!), a beautiful scarf or a shrug.

Umbrella: your photographer may come prepared with a white or transparent umbrella in case of rain, but this is something you can ask them before the big day. If you want something more colourful, do it – it’s your wedding!

Veil: Finally, you also may not want your veil whipping your husband/wife-to-be in the face during the vows!

6) Who is the go-to person on the day for any questions?

On my wedding day, I was bothered by silly questions such as ‘do you have a bottle opener because the caterers forgot theirs?!’ And my poor mum (whose garden it was) got even more questions. In retrospect, a wedding planner would have probably been a really good investment, especially as we’d saved so much on the venue hire. My advice is find someone you click with so you can ask them anything, someone who isn’t afraid to boss people around(!) and someone who has the right energy!

7) Plan outdoor-appropriate decorations that will come into their element at different moments.

Pinterest is a great place to look for inspiration, but use the talents of your near and dear ones – can anyone provide loads of potted plants to dot around the ceremony area? Can a sister create a ribbon curtain for a backdrop? Could you reuse the Christmas fairy lights for lighting the paths around the garden? If it’s a back garden wedding, you’ve got access to the garden months leading up to the wedding. Stand in the space at different times of the day, look around  to see what natural features are already there, and consider what features you would like to enhance.

8) Organise a set-up party the day before with useful and hard-working guests.

This will be a day of full-on graft! Have a plan before the day begins with the jobs broken down, in order of priority, with who will do each job. Plan an easy lunch and dinner for all your elves (pizza is usually a winner!).

9) Discuss with your partner if there is a need for some ‘quiet space’.

If it’s a family home, chances are in the morning it will be chaotic and very busy! Also during the day, your guests may or may not be allowed to pop in and out of the house. Consider the quiet places where you can go to a) get ready and b) escape to. You may also have guests who need to rest during the day – can you provide space for them? If not, let them know in advance.

10) The day after!

Plan the clear up operation. Can anyone stick around and lend a hand in return for a bacon butty? When will the hired items be picked up? If you’re on your honeymoon, does anyone need to be there?

So hopefully this has given you some things to consider, but also the CONFIDENCE that you can have an awesome back garden wedding! First thing to do now is book your Celebrant (me!) for your big day. Click on the button below to send me a message and start the ball rolling!