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The Future of Outdoor Weddings

Outdoor weddings have always been a fan-favorite among clients, and what better way to celebrate with family and friends than with the backdrop of a beautiful sunset or clear blue skies? However, COVID-19 has brought about many shifts within the industry, and this includes the future of weddings – specifically those set outdoors. We’ve begun to pull the curtain back on what changes will need to be made once events can safely resume, and there’s already a number of alternatives that couples are opting for. 

Outdoor venues will continue be popular, even more so, as we try to navigate events post COVID-19. Photo courtesy Classic Photographers.

So, in light of breaking tradition and ensuring that we can safely give our couples their dream day, what does this mean for our beloved outdoor weddings?

Their status and popularity

In recent years, we know outdoor weddings to reign supreme as a popular option in comparison to the traditional indoor ceremony and reception combination. Natural lighting, gorgeous scenery, and flexible layouts are some of the driving factors for couples when opting for this route, and they’ll only become more in-demand with the new ‘normal’ of events. 

In fact, Jamie Chang, owner of Mango Muse Events says, “I think outdoor gatherings may be all that's allowed at first.  But even when we can have both indoor and outdoor events, outdoor events will be preferred because outdoor events will be safer.  The less enclosed people are, the better.” 

JoAnn Gregoli, owner and planner of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli agrees: “Outdoors will be one of the safest ways to host a wedding for a variety of reasons. First, you have fresh air at all times, so the air is not being moved around by air conditioners, thus keeping the air at the party fresh. Also, when you have a tented wedding, you can make the tent larger to allow for more social distancing between tables. Ballrooms [can be] too restrictive when it comes to requiring more space.”  

Outdoor venues will be one of the safest ways to host a wedding since there will be fresh air at all times, so the air is not being moved around by air conditioners. Photo courtesy Classic Photographers.

While outdoor gatherings may be the initial reaction for those with a rescheduled wedding in 2021, those that wish to marry in the colder months may not be on-board. “Outdoor weddings are already popular, however, a lot of locations in the USA and Canada are too cold to host outdoor weddings throughout the year. This is a reason that destination weddings are so popular, as areas such as the Caribbean have gorgeous wedding weather all year-round. I think once the travel restrictions are lifted, then outdoor weddings will become more popular,” says Jennifer Borgh, owner and wedding planner of Borghinvilla Wedding Venue.

What adjustments need to be made

When it finally comes time for events to take place once more, that doesn’t mean that safety protocol will be out the window. Many of our standard practices will need to be adjusted in order to keep guests healthy, and this includes outdoor planning.

It’s important to note that the first round of outdoor weddings won’t be the only ones incorporating masks and gloves into their routine – in fact, this is just part of what we’ll see as we ease into 2021 events as well. Gwen Helbush, president of Where to Start Wedding Management notes, “Masks and gloves are the new normal; all event professionals need to be prepared for ever-changing sanitation guidelines. Extra time and care are needed during set up and load-out to ensure everything is placed correctly, and sanitation is maintained. Placement of all items will need to be measured to ensure everything is at a safe distance. All events must be designed with both extra time and social distancing in mind. Our creativity will be tested in ways it has not been before.” 

With a tented outdoor wedding, you can make the tent larger to allow for more social distancing between tables. Photo courtesy Classic Photographers.

This also means preventative floor plans that will ensure social distancing guidelines are met. “Event professionals will have to get creative with the structure of their floor plans, seating capacities and spacing to ensure the safety of guests. Although a table that originally seats 10 may only be able to seat 4 or 5, we can restructure the design of that tablescape to fill the space and provide a feeling of normalcy, as opposed to exploiting the obvious empty space,” suggests Kristen Gosselin, owner and creative director of KG Events & Design

The evolution of menus 

One of the biggest transitions we’ll see is the departure of the once-extremely favorable buffets and family-style serving. Unfortunately, this was an inevitable shift with the introduction of improved food safety and social distancing guidelines, and it will likely impact the creation of custom menus as well. 

“Now is the time for the wedding industry to help couples understand the sanitary benefits of a plated meal instead of a serve-yourself buffet."

That said, there are still plenty of ways in which we can satisfy our clients and still offer them a personalized experience. Shannon Tarrant, founder of, advises helping to educate couples, “Now is the time for the wedding industry to help couples understand the sanitary benefits of a plated meal instead of a serve-yourself buffet. While it can slightly change the vibe to a more formal feel, there is less worrying about cross-contamination with utensils and walking the food around the event space.” 

Despite the lack of DIY setups and buffets, Laura Maddox, co-owner of Magnolia Celebrates, maintains that clients can still be given their ideal food and beverage menu – with slight adjustments. “There will likely be more chef-attended stations and less buffets. More individual, easy-to-pick-up and eat food rather than a build-your-own salad bar or Mediterranean displays.”   

When it comes to navigating this new way of coordinating outdoor weddings, Chang says it best: “Clear instructions, lots of communication and extra staff to direct people is going to be very important at future weddings.” 

It’s understandable that couples are eager to get back to planning their big day, but it’s equally important that we guide them in the right direction – especially when it comes to outdoor weddings. Being well-prepared and mindful of guest safety is exactly what’s needed to show clients that we’re knowledgeable and want the best for them. 


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