June 20, 2014 at 1:00 am


Consider ins and outs of an outdoor wedding

Even on a warm summer afternoon, your guests can have it made in the shade iof you supply hats and fans. (Gemma Hart Ingalls and Andy Ingalls)

Ah, to celebrate outside! The bright blue skies, the au naturel decor, the romantic breezes ... at least, that’s how you envision it. The reality? A lot can happen when partying en plein air. Here are things you need to know to pull it off from beginning to sweet end:

Consider your locale


Pros: Close your eyes and hear the sound of gently lapping waves. Feel the warm sun on your back. Need we say more?

Cons: A steady sea breeze means taking precautions to secure decor, keep candles lit and, let’s be honest, prevent your hair from becoming a bird’s nest. You can expect to be billed for everything but the view — from tables, chairs and tents to catering equipment.


Pros: The vino! The rolling hills! Plus, wineries often have lovely private spaces (think charming courtyards or sun-splashed patios).

Cons: In the summer, vineyards can be hot and dry, so you’ll need to provide ample shade and refreshments. And many wineries are in residential areas, where a noise ordinance may force your party to end at 9 or 10 p.m. Another note: If you’re hoping for a full bar, you may be out of luck. At a winery, vino is the name of the game.


Pros: Securing an all-inclusive reception venue can eat up to 50 percent of your budget, a nonissue if you’re considering a loved one’s yard or your own. And the sentimental value can be priceless.

Cons: You will save on site fees, but you still have to shell out for rentals, including portable restrooms, a dance floor and, potentially, a tent (if inside the house isn’t a viable rain plan). And if the home’s kitchen doesn’t suit your caterer’s needs, add cooking equipment to that list. Pests can present problems, too, so spend time in the yard to determine where they like to swarm. Then suss out parking, permits and liability insurance, which covers personal injury and property damage.

Nail down the details

Keep them comfortable: If your site doesn’t have electricity, you’ll need generators for your caterer’s kitchen appliances, and amps and speakers for your band or DJ. There’s also the issue of lighting. And no matter the time of year, fans, air-conditioning or portable heaters are almost always necessary. Your best bet: Have an electrician survey your setup so you’ll know exactly how much power you need.

Have a good Plan B: We get it — the last thing you want to do while planning your wedding is ... plan another wedding. But worst-case scenarios happen, and you’ll want to be organized. “You have to move fast to set a rain plan in motion,” says event designer Claudia Hanlin, founder of the Wedding Library in New York. Don’t tempt fate: If there’s no indoor option, put a deposit on a tent, just in case.

Cool them down: In hot months, “shade is key,” says Peter Callahan, owner of Peter Callahan Events in New York. “Offer plenty of it, whether you set out fans and big floppy hats for the ceremony or place huge outdoor umbrellas over tables at the reception.” And provide hydration with a help-yourself lemonade or iced tea stand, says Sean Ryan, co-owner of Shindig Events, in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Warm them up: Even if it’s pleasant during your vows, “temperatures can dip as much as 20 degrees after sunset,” says Hanlin. Your solution: space heaters inside tents — a must in the fall — and, for an elegant touch, pashminas for the ladies. (Bonus: The scarves can double as favors.)

Questions should be sent to Martha Stewart Living, 11 W. 42nd St., New York, NY 10036. You may also email questions to mslletters@marthastewart.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.