They asked us to create a list of top things for couples to ask about when choosing an outdoor venue, and we're sharing it with you because you are all so awesome and we know others can benefit from it, too. Let us know what you think about our list by leaving a comment below. And feel free to add to add to the list as well!
Guaranteed parking is essential when selecting any outdoor wedding venue. If your guests can't park with ease, you risk having people arrive late--or even worse--not arrive at all. If it can't be reserved, make sure there is adequate parking close by (like a school or public parking lot) and, if need be, get a permit and arrange transportation to/from the ceremony and reception site. Also make sure to consider any guests who may have particular trouble without reserved parking like elderly and handicap guests, and make sure there is a solution in place. Long story short, it's essential to make sure that your guests won't be competing for parking with any other potential visitors at the venue, so be sure to ask or choose a venue that has private parking.
Generally lighting mostly applies to evening ceremonies and nighttime receptions, however, if you plan on having your reception end anytime near dusk, you want to make sure there is appropriate lighting in place for guests to walk around the venue with ease. At dusk, rocks and branches may be a bit more difficult to spot on the ground, so make sure that paths and walkways have some lighting in place. If you are having a nighttime reception, you want to make sure the reception space is going to be very well lit from start to finish. Not only does this enhance the overall experience for you and your guests, but it also makes sure you get great pictures all night long.
"Public vs. private venue?" is a question that most couples getting married outdoors ask themselves at some point. It is important to assess how much privacy you want on your wedding day and make your decision accordingly. At public venues, there are likely going to be local residents and tourists taking in the beautiful scenery with you and your guests. And for some couples, that works just fine. For others, more privacy would be preferred. If thinking about going with a public venue, it's always a great idea to ask what, if any, policy is in place to make sure that you don't have unexpected guests. And if you are of the "more the merrier!" philosophy, then no worries here.
7. The Tent
The tent is often one of the most expensive items for an outdoor wedding--and for good reason--because it's the most essential. A good tent will keep guests dry even if there is a little summer shower the day of. A proper tent should be able to withstand winds and won't collapse even in the face of a big gust. Make sure to know what weather your tent can handle, and if it doesn't sound impressive, look for another rental company or venue that can provide a very high-quality tent. Though it can be tempting to cut costs here, keep in mind that you are likely saving elsewhere and this is one area where you definitely don't want to shop around based on price alone.
6. Ceremony and Reception Distance
If the ceremony and reception are going to be spaced apart, it's a good to think about elderly and handicapped guests. How easy will it be for them to get around your outdoor venue, and will they need assistance getting to the ceremony, to the reception, to the bathrooms, etc.? Normally this can be solved pretty easily by asking helpful friends or cousins to escort your grandparents and other guests as needed. Just make sure that various guests' needs are considered beforehand, and to get a good plan in place. If the distance is far, make sure to arrange appropriate transportation and that a drop off/pick up areas is close enough to each location.
5. Onsite Employees
Having an onsite employee for your wedding day is a key factor that should not be overlooked. During the course of your wedding day it's likely that someone in your group is going to have a question or request for the person in charge of the venue (think, "The parking gate needs to be unlocked," "The trash needs to be emptied," "Where's the extra toilet paper?" etc.). If there is no onsite employee, it will be up to your group and/or wedding coordinator to solve these issues. If there is someone on hand to address these sorts of minor issues (or in the very least, someone who is able to be reached by phone and within close proximity to the venue), then they will stay just that--minor. And, even better, a good onsite employee will anticipate all of your needs well in advance. If an onsite employee is not available, definitely make sure to work out a good plan with the venue to avoid any last-minute issues.
This item, like parking, applies more to public venues than private but, nevertheless, it is important for everyone to consider when selecting a venue. It's always a good idea to ask--indoors or outdoors--to see the restroom. If the bathroom doesn't look like one you want to use while touring the venue, then chances are that you're definitely not going to want to use it on your wedding day. The main thing that you want to look for is cleanliness. These days there are luxury porter potties that are amazingly clean (some even have chandeliers and TVs in them!), so it's definitely OK to be open to different types of bathrooms--just make sure they are clean and they will be clean throughout your ceremony and reception (again, an onsite employee is great for this reason).
3. The Ground
If there is precipitation or dew the night before the wedding, this may cause the ground to get a bit muddy or slick, so you want to consider what the ground covering is. Cement and textured stone are great because they mean no mud and no slipping. Also, keep in mind if you are getting married at the residential house of someone you know, lots of foot traffic could damage their beautiful lawn. If they are OK with that, then no problem, but if they may not be, it's a good idea to discuss how the lawn will be brought back up to snuff after the wedding.
2. Maintenance Crew
Maintenance crews are the unsung heroes of outdoor wedding venues because it's their responsibility to keep them venue looking beautiful all season long. There's nothing worse than getting to your venue the day before or day of your wedding and realizing the maintenance crew hasn't been by in weeks. Talk about last minute stress if you have to pick up branches and sweep pathways! To ensure your venue is going to be just as beautiful on the day of the wedding as when you're touring the site, be sure to ask who the maintenance crew is, how often they tend the grounds, and what you can expect the grounds to look like on the day of your wedding. A professional team will have a plan in place to make sure your venue is looking great all season long.
1. Eye Sores & Construction
Outdoor venues are definitely the most naturally beautiful, and that's why couples love having weddings outside. To ensure your venue is looking as beautiful as you expect it to on the day of your wedding, be sure to ask about things like trash receptacles, dumpsters, and construction. Are all the trash receptacles out now when you're visiting, or could there be some additional ones put out between now and your wedding day? Is that dumpster staying put for the rest of the season? Is there any chance it will make the area smell at all in the hot summer months? And is there any construction planned that will leave the site looking anything short of pristine for the day of your wedding? Make sure that you ask these questions to ensure there are no last-minute decor surprises.
Bonus: Heaters and Fans
It's always good to have a back up plan in place for a hot summer day or chilly fall day. As always, if the venue doesn't provide what you need, make sure you have a back up plan in place (such as tentatively reserving heaters and fans from a rental company). And if your venue provides heaters and fans, it's a good sign that they aim to please.
Hope this gives you some good questions to have in hand when visiting potential venues, and if you think of any other items to share with couples, definitely comment below--they'll appreciate it! And if you'd like to receive our future blog posts, let us know.