Let me start this by saying I LOVE outdoor weddings. We had an outdoor reception on my parents' property when my husband and I got married and I truly believe they are timeless and a way to create an aesthetic that is unique to you. As an event planning and production company, we have always unofficially specialized in outdoor and nontraditional settings and here are some things that you need to know if you are considering this kind of event.
1. Getting married outside will NOT necessarily save you money.
I know I might be bursting some of your bubbles, but outdoor weddings are often just as expensive as booking a venue. A lot of people think because they have property they can use to host an outdoor event they will save a lot of money, but let's think about it. You will have to rent EVERYTHING from the tent to the dance floor to the restrooms and everything in between. It's worth it to look at what you will spend (and the extra set up involved) and compare that to the costs of a venue and what they already have included if money savings is your ultimate goal.
2. You need some sort of weather plan
This seems obvious, but it's something we deal with a lot. I understand that Pinterest is full of receptions under the stars, but unless you live in an extremely predictable climate (not Indiana) you need to have a plan. Even if that means having a tent booked and losing the deposit if you don't use it, knowing there is a back up plan will save you a lot of anxiety and last minute scrambling if there is an issue. Also, if rain isn't a factor, heat, sun, and wind could be. Consider these things when you're planning your location. Don't stick your guests in an uncovered area with no shade in the middle of July. That's just mean.
3. Don't forget about power.
I can't stress this enough. Electricity is important to do things. Talk to your vendors about their power needs and make sure you can support it. Most often, that involves bringing in generators and making sure they have plenty of gas.
4. Make sure your vendors can load in and out of your location.
Getting married in a secluded, wooded location sounds really romantic, I totally get that. But if it's not a location that's actually used for weddings (like private property) you need to consider the feasibility of getting everything you need where it needs to go. This often requires some extra planning with the rental company, DJ, florist, etc. and needs to be discussed up front. If it's raining and the ground is soft will vendors be able to drive back to the location? Is there a narrow lane or bridge they will have to navigate?
Most people don't have this kind of crowd parking on their property all the time so consider the space you will need as well as what the ground will be like if it's raining or has been recently. Consider recruiting some attendants to help direct traffic and assist anyone that may need help walking on uneven ground.
6. Plan for Set up and Tear Down.
This also goes for venues that don't have a staff or are not all-inclusive. You will be responsible for all the set up and layout from table and chair placement. to linens and table settings, lighting, dance floor etc. this is hours and hours of work so whether that means hiring a company such as ours to manage all of this for you, making sure you've arranged for your rental company to set up the pieces they are providing, or recruiting able bodied family members. The timing and logistics of set up are an important element that will make or break your experience and ability to enjoy your day. Also, all of these things will need to go back. Who is packing all of this back up? When does your rental company pick up? Who is cleaning up trash?
7. Book a full service Caterer.
This is another one that also applies to venues that that aren't all inclusive. If you're having a buffet, you might think you can get away without a service staff. Especially if you are using disposable plates and cutlery thinking guests will simply throw their trash away when they are done. I'm here to tell you, they will not throw their trash away. I'm serious, I don't understand it either. They will pile it up on their tables and they will walk away. Who will bus the tables? Who will release tables to the buffet? Who will cut the cake? Who will monitor the food on the buffet and replenish it? A full service caterer is worth EVERY penny. Ask these questions in your meetings. Don't just assume all caterers will provide these services.
8. Catered Bars are Worth It.
Again, I understand the thought process behind providing your own alcohol on private property. Money savings can be a factor here. However, unless you are only planning on providing one or two options, this is often a huge source of stress. Between knowing what to purchase and how much, how to serve it, and the liability involved, it's absolutely worth it to hire a catered bar. Not to mention, ice melts you guys, someone has to monitor the ice.
9. Trash Management
This isn't a fun one to think about it but it's a biggie. Do you have trash cans and bags? Do you have enough of them? Who is going to change out the bags when they get full? Do you have a way to dispose of all of that at the end of the night?
It's not just important to light the area where your reception will be. Odds are, you will need to hang or install lights in the other areas your guests will be walking i.e. from the tent to the restroom or to the parking area, or inside the parking area. Remember, especially if you're out of town a ways, it will most likely be dark when your guests leave and you want to try to avoid any accidents.
I could honestly make this into a 20 point list, but I'll stop here. Private property weddings hold a special place in my heart because I honestly believe they are some of the most fun, unique, and personalized events we've done. However, they also require another level of planning from what you might experience if you book a wedding venue.