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Getting Ready for Outdoor Wedding Season

The days are longer, and the sun is out in full force—you know what that means. It’s outdoor wedding season! As couples’ wedding plans shift outside, catering and event professionals must take extra care to ensure the safety and comfort of clients and guests. But it’s more than just finding the shadiest spot in a venue (although that’s important!). 

Outdoor weddings require awareness and consideration of the elements to guarantee a smooth event. Here are a few ways to prepare yourself, your team, and your clients to navigate events in the summer months ahead.

How to support and prepare your clients

Most couples start the wedding planning process without any experience planning a large-scale event. So, when you factor in the added complexities of an outdoor wedding, it’s common for couples to bring unrealistic expectations to the table.

As industry experts, it’s up to catering and event professionals to educate clients on what’s feasible given their wedding season, budget, venue, and other planning factors. For instance, an engaged couple might envision a ceremony on their venue’s lawn without considering how the heat and glare of the midday sun will affect their guests.

A vibrant wedding welcome party for a destination wedding in Capri, Italy by Marcy Blum Events. Photo courtesy Allan Zepeda

Jen Sulak of Weirdo Weddings recommends helping couples prepare for the day with tips for navigating outdoor scenarios. “Have a list of common tips for navigating warmer weather locations, including backups, common attendee suggestions, and things the couple can look through to make decisions for their day,” she encourages.

Walking through potential risks and safety precautions can help to manage their expectations, allowing for a smoother and more agreeable planning journey. Plus, educating your clients early in the process lays the groundwork for a safe and enjoyable celebration for all.

How to navigate the elements

Heat, rain, and bugs—oh my! While warmer months draw us outside, there are some obstacles to plan around in advance. For example, a sunny day is ideal for an outdoor wedding, but such lovely weather can also present heat-related challenges.

From minor concerns like sweating through a tuxedo to significant risks like heatstroke, catering and event professionals must always be mindful of the temperature.

Event planner Penny Haas cautions industry pros to “be sure to have fans, water, and enough ice to get through service.” Shade is critical for guests’ safety and comfort, so find a shady space to use at the venue or set up a tent if natural shade is unavailable.

Hydration is another crucial factor and “one that couples forget about the most on their wedding day,” notes wedding photographer Colton Simmons. To prevent dehydration, “ensure that the caterer has plenty of water on hand, even during the ceremony, so guests aren’t dehydrating themselves while waiting for the festivities to begin,” he says. It’s also wise to remind couples to hydrate throughout the day, especially if they are consuming alcohol. Keep a few electrolyte packets on hand, just in case!

Caterers must also consider what’s on the menu, as extreme heat can melt, spoil, or otherwise affect the quality of food served. For example, it’s often best to avoid a sushi station or raw bar at an outdoor wedding in the thick of July. In addition to the menu, catering pros should familiarize themselves with the venue to identify the best place to prepare, serve, and display food safely. If an indoor kitchen is unavailable, use tents, coolers, ice troughs, and pre-frozen stoneware to keep food chilled.

Heat isn’t the only concern for outdoor weddings. In fact, many couples fear rain more than high temperatures on their big day. To assuage client concerns, Cathy O’Connell of COJ Events urges pros to “communicate about a backup plan early in the planning process.” If the venue has an indoor space, “design an inside floor plan in advance so you are not scrambling when bad weather hits,” she says. If not, she recommends renting a tent in advance, “as you can typically cancel the week of the event.”

As if heat and rain weren’t enough to fret over, “warm weather also brings about mosquitos,” Simmons notes. “Bug repellent will be a lifesaver if you work a wedding in more wooded areas.”

By addressing potential threats from Mother Nature, you can ensure your clients and their guests are comfortable, relaxed, and free to enjoy the celebration.

How to take care of yourself and your team

The show can’t go on without a team of professionals running the event, so it’s just as vital to look after your team’s well-being throughout the celebration. The same rules apply to the vendor team: shade, hydration, and bug spray are essential!

“Working in the sun can take its toll on a team if the setup is outside,” assures Vijay Goel of Bite Catering Couture. “Tents for vendors who have to work in place (catering, DJs) can be helpful. Make sure to have them wear appropriate coverups and sunscreen where necessary as well as bring lots of water.” 

Story Alley Photography’s Leo Sotelo echoes Goel’s sentiment with a reminder to hydrate. “Remember to drink water and take breaks if it gets too hot outside,” he urges. “Listen to your body! Even staying hydrated the day before the wedding day can actually help you be more hydrated while you're out in the heat.”

In addition to shade and hydration, Sotelo notes the importance of outdoor-friendly attire. “Choose clothes that keep you dry, feel light, and are super comfy,” he recommends. “Don't forget to pack a rain jacket, umbrella, and extra layers in your bag, just in case.”

In other words, prepare for the unexpected as much as possible. Keep an emergency bag of clothing, first aid essentials, and other supplies nearby to help staff, guests, or anyone else struggling with the elements. Safety first!

Few things are more enchanting than an outdoor wedding on a beautiful day. With 62% of couples hosting open-air ceremonies in 2023, it’s safe to say that couples and their guests agree. However, executing a successful celebration outside means educating clients and addressing the risks associated with nature. Keep these tips handy as we transition from spring to summer, ushering in the start of outdoor wedding season! 


Meghan Ely

President, OFD Consulting, Richmond, VA

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. 

Photo: Melody Smith Portraits