Outdoor wedding planning tips
Updated: Sep 7
Image Via @jordannamarstonphoto
Who doesn't love summer? Gorgeous blue skies, long hazy days, blousy blooms in abundance, spending time sipping Pimms in the pub garden and planning a weekend away at a festival with your mates (how good was Glasto this year?!).
Yes, summer is the prime wedding season.
I have so many people telling me about how they want a tipi wedding because it's less formal, more fun, cheaper, and easy to pull off. Yes, it's fun and less formal, but boy, organising a tipi wedding isn't for the faint of heart and it definitely isn't the cheap option! You better have put aside around 30K for a tipi wedding for 80-100 guests. I'm not trying to put you off, you understand, but I would be a bad planner if I didn't highlight the pros and cons of what to expect.
Building your wedding venue from scratch
If you opt for a tipi wedding, you should keep in mind that you are building a venue from scratch! Yes, the tipi company will come and put the main structure up for you, but it will be up to you to source all suppliers, from catering to furniture, decor, crockery, or glassware (shed load - no running water = washing up facilities), linen, candles, booze, bar staff, entertainment, lighting, generators, band/DJ, PA system, mics for speeches, outdoor heaters, toilets, entertainment, photographer, videographer, florist, cake, on the day stationery, signage, transport, accommodation, firepits, bins, a mountain of ice (about x14 10kg bags), the setup crew, the takedown crew - the works!
And even though your mates will offer to help, I wouldn't hold them to their word exactly. I've worked at weddings where the couple promised helpers but out of 10, only 2 turned up and I had to hire help in at the last minute. Not to mention that even less turned up for the clearing up the day after!
You have to be prepared to put in hours and hours (months) of work on logistics into planning your tipi wedding, a whole day (with an army of helpers!) for the setup (this often spills late into the night as people don't realise how long it takes!), and a day for the takedown and clear up (who wants to do that after partying all day and night? No one!). Think about who will coordinate all deliveries, check everything was delivered correctly, do troubleshooting if not, make sure the order of the day is running smoothly (no wedding guest should do this!), direct guests to where they have to be at what time, MC the speeches, and put everything back into correct boxes/crates for supplier's collections the day after.
Where to have your festival-style wedding?
There are loads of places that offer land hire suitable for tipi weddings. It is important you find one that has a wedding licence if you want to get married at the sight, is easily accessible for suppliers and guests alike and has suitable on-sight electrical points. I'm saying this as I had a wedding where there were none and I ended up having to find an electrician from a nearby village and beg him to come to make me 3-point connectors at 9 am so that the caterers could set up the kitchen and have lights in the tipi itself for guests, bar, and band = nightmare! These sights have to offer good facilities and nearby accommodation.
Some wedding venues (that can't offer big enough seating indoors) have a permanent marquee or tipi structure on-site already, and are fully licensed with all the facilities in the main house/hotel/manor available for guests - much easier.
There are many companies offering event structures, from fun-looking circular 'circus' tents, opulent-looking Arabian tents, marquee tents and single or double-hatted tipis.
Most of these companies offer furniture and props now too, which makes it so much easier, but you will have limited options on getting exactly what you had in mind. If you don't mind that your wedding setup looks generic, like all the other weddings and events this particular tipi company does, that's cool. If you want something unique, you totally can put your stamp on it, but be prepared to put your logistics hat on and organise a zillion suppliers - or just hire a planner to do this for you. Honestly, tipi weddings are the most complicated to pull off and coordinate.
Let's say you'd imagined having the most amazing outdoor ceremony. Flowers in your hair. Your gorgeous dress floating in the summer breeze. Shiny happy people all around basking in glorious sunshine and sipping prosecco. But we all know that we're gambling with the infamous British weather here. If it's sunny, it'll be the most magical day ever. But if the weather turns and it chucks it down... Wellies and brollies at the ready!
It is a VERY smart investment to hire the right size stretch tent. One that'll be big enough to cover your whole ceremony setup. A stretch tent is a separate structure to your tipi or marquee that provides shelter for any eventuality (just like Jazz & Greg's in the pic above). It will still feel outdoorsy don't worry - stretch tents are open on all sides but provide good cover at the same time. It'll set you back about 1 to 1.5K, but it's totally worth having and not only for the ceremony.
Once the ceremony is finished and all the chairs are put into the tipi for your meal, you can transform the stretch tent into your evening chill-out area with furniture like sofas, pouffes, rugs, lanterns, etc. Word of advice, don't leave it to the last minute to book the stretch tent, hoping the weather will play ball. Book it at the same time you book the tipi itself. Chances are that if you don't, it won't be available anymore and you're risking being drenched at your wedding.
ALWAYS include matted flooring with your tipi/marquee! And include matted flooring leading from the stretch tent to the tipi too. This way, if it does rain, you and your guests won't have to walk in mud. And plenty of festoon and fairy lights to make it all pretty in the dark.
How much alcohol to order for a wedding?
This always comes up when I speak to couples. How much booze do we order? If you rather not have the headache of bringing your own booze, get your caterers to sort this out! I know it will save you money if you do it yourselves, but honestly, it becomes such a pain. Your caterers will know how much wine is needed per guest over the meal, bring it to the site, and dispose of the empties. They will give you suggestions about running the bar, what drinks to serve, and how many spirits, mixers, and soft drinks you will need throughout the whole wedding. They will know how much bubbly to order for the mingle after the ceremony AND will sort out all the glassware (bring it and take it back!). Best of all, anything left over will not be charged to you! Immediately one less thing for you to organise.
If you want to go at it yourself, here are my suggestions:
x14 10kg bags of ice + large ice buckets (you will need some for the drinks and the rest to keep the drinks cold).
Half a bottle of wine per guest each (red and white).
Exact number of wine glasses for the meal (refillable).
Half a bottle of bubbly per person (refillable flutes/coupes but order x2 per guest as you'll need them for after the ceremony and for the speeches).
x2 or x3 spirits for drinks with mixers (keep it simple - gin, rum, or vodka) x6 1L bottles of each if having 3, for example.
Large 2L bottles of mixers like tonic, coke, soda x 2 6 packs of each?
10 L bottles or boxes of water - loads, like x10 - for drinking (get water jugs for tables), and for rinsing stuff at the bar, if needed.
300 pints/bottles of lager, beer and cider. (See if you can find a local brewer that can come and set up their kegs at the bar - always very popular and less wastage as no empties to clear up/throw away/recycle)
If you're having a cocktail hour, limit the cocktail to 2 choices only. Think glassware for this and order 4 per person.
The bar: ice, ice scoopers, paper straws/stirrers, lemon, lime, mint, fruit (if you're planning to serve Pimms), paper napkins, loads of kitchen roll, binliners, glassware - 6 per person. It's handy to have a shelving unit behind the bar to stack all your booze and glasses onto.
What will make organising a tipi wedding less stressful?
Find a venue that offers both outdoor and indoor options.
Have a plan B (stretch tent or nearby chapel for the ceremony).
Make sure you have good nearby facilities.
Limit the number of suppliers - find suppliers offering few services or hire a planner to coordinate everything for you.
Delegate to trustworthy mates or hire professional help like a planner/stylist who can set up and coordinate everything for you, so you can get ready in peace and not worry about anything.
SIMPLIFY EVERYTHING! The less complex the event, the less work it requires.
Good luck planning your festival-style wedding, lovers. If you need help, simply fill in my enquiry form and get the ball rolling now.
Whole Lotta Love,
P.S. So you can see an example of all suppliers used in Jazz & Greg's wedding, here's the list:
Planning & Styling: @wholelottalove_weddings
Humanist celebrant: @natraybouldweds
Brides dress: @poppyperspective
Ottilies dress: @poppyperspecitve
Custom-made shoes: @hettyroseshoes
Bridal party necklaces: @nadiaminkoff
Grooms suit: @vintagesuithire
Groom shirt: @koy_clothing
Grooms & Groomsmen ties & pocket squares: @thelittlegreyhound
Wedding rings: @victoriabedwelljewellery
Furniture & Props: @lunaandthelane
Props, games & crèche: @thelittletop
Paper pompoms: @paperpompom
Disco floor: @dancingonstarsuk
Illustration artist: @cheriejerrard
Hair & Makeup: @naomispurr_studio
Craft beer: @jawbonebrewing
Serving bowls: @cameoeventhire