"You just have to plan ahead and have plan A, B and C ready to implement," says April Rounds, owner of Details Wedding Planning, of Troy. Consulting a wedding coordinator, she says, is a smart idea because there's much the average couple doesn't consider when planning an outdoor event. "They see an open space or they see the color of tree that they're looking for, and so therefore, they want [their wedding] to be there, but it doesn't always make sense," she says. "Some spots that look like they're going to be awesome, logistically are a nightmare."
There are many things to take into account when selecting an outdoor wedding site, including:
Is there adequate, convenient parking?
Is the site handicap accessible?
Is it large enough to accommodate all of the guests?
Can vendors easily access the site? "If not, they will still do it," Rounds assures, "but their service charge will be 10 times more because they have to truck everything in by hand."
Does the ground slope excessively?
Is there on-site electricity?
Are there nearby, well-kept restrooms?
Is there a pavilion, or a spot to erect a tent?
Is there a sheltered place for musicians to play if it's raining or windy?
Will other events be going on in the vicinity on the wedding day?
Will noise from traffic, rushing water or children screeching on a nearby playground interfere?
Are there restrictions regarding alcohol consumption, food preparation, noise, tents, the number of guests?
How long will the space be available to you?
DOING IT ALL OUTDOORS
Although a lot of thought must go into planning an outdoor wedding, it's worth the effort, says Rounds, because you'll come away with memories of a one-of-a-kind event. "I think my favorite location as a wedding coordinator is to go to a very remote, off-site location where there really aren't any barriers. You can really do whatever you want, have it set up however you want. You have real control of the flow of the day," she says.
Mark and Jamie Lansing, of Niskayuna, wanted a unique wedding, so they decided to hold their September 2006 ceremony and reception at the home of a family friend. "We wanted a simple backyard wedding," remembers Jamie. "I wanted to wear like a slip dress and have everything be very simple. But once you realize that you need to get tents, you need to decorate, and you need to set up your own bar, and get the caterer; once it all starts rolling, you realize that it can't be simple."
A backyard, or a spot in a local park, might seem like an economical choice for a wedding ceremony and reception, but costs add up quickly. "You're having to bring in the tents, the chairs, the tables, the linens; if it's a remote location, you're having to bring in a kitchen," notes Rounds.
The Lansings were very surprised by the amount of cash they had to come up with. "It was definitely more expensive by far [than we imagined it would be]," Jamie says. "I actually, at a certain point, stopped counting up how much money we spent."
It could cost more; it could involve a host of planning hassles; the weather could throw a wrench in the works, so why mess with the stress of having a wedding outside? "It's worth it because the clients are able to really get involved, really design and create their wedding," stresses Rounds.
And when it comes right down to it, nothing can compare with using nature's beauty as a backdrop for the big day.
But still there's that looming threat of less-than-perfect weather. Rounds says that's no reason to book a banquet hall. Everything will work out, she assures, as long as the wedding is properly planned. "If you're working with a professional wedding planner, they're already going to have a plan A, B and C in place," she says. "They're going to know what to do if one corner of the tent starts to flood. They're already going to have a plan in place."
Plan for rain
To ensure the wedding won't be a washout in the event of rain:
Inform guests that the wedding and/or reception will take place outdoors -- rain or shine -- and remind them to dress accordingly.
Secure the use of a pavilion or erect a tent.
Consider a tea-length wedding gown, or one that will bustle, to keep it out of the mud.
Skip the stilettos. They'll sink into the ground even if it's not muddy.
Plan for bugs & heat
To ward off insects:
Before the wedding, fog the area with repellent.
Burn citronella candles on the tables.
Provide guests with insect repellent wipes.
If heat could be an issue:
Make sure the site offers shade. If not, put up a tent.
Offer plenty of cool drinks to keep guests hydrated.
Choose sturdy flowers that won't wilt before the wedding ends.
Take measures to keep foods at safe temperatures.
Use white plastic or wooden chairs; they won't get sizzling hot in the sun.
If it could be chilly:
Erect a tent.
Plan to use portable heaters or fire pits, if permitted. "Extra lighting within a tent really heats it, so you don't have to have the noisy heaters," notes Rounds.
If you have no desire to tangle with the details, and don't want the added expense of a wedding planner, option C is to select a wedding venue that offers both outdoor and indoor settings. All of the details of an outdoor wedding held at such a spot are usually taken care of by the establishment. And if the weather doesn't cooperate, the event can simply be moved inside.
Christa Book Marx and Phillip Marx, of Troy, chose that option for their Oct. 2010 wedding. The couple wanted to have their ceremony outdoors, beside the Mohawk River. They contracted with Glen Sanders Mansion, in Scotia, to use their riverside space, with the option to move indoors if necessary.
As the wedding approached, an indoor ceremony was looking more and more like a possibility. "Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, it was just pouring," says Book Marx. "We were really worried about the river [flooding]." Fortunately, the weather cleared in time for the big event. And although high water prevented them from posing for photos on the riverfront dock, everything else went as planned.
"It couldn't have been a more perfect day," says Book Marx. "The setting was so beautiful, I didn't really feel I needed to do any extra decorations outside."
Thanks to their solid plan B, the couple didn't need to stress excessively. "We really, really wanted it outside, but we knew, either way, we'd get married there," Book Marx says.
PURCHASE PEACE OF MIND
If, after the plans are in perfect order, you're still having nightmares about potential wedding day disasters, you can buy peace of mind with wedding insurance. Policies can be tailored to cover postponement due to a host of reasons, including bad weather, illness and no-show caterers.
But the best way to ensure a wonderful wedding is to relax, advises Jamie Lansing. "You always get caught up in the fact that the flowers might not be the right shade of red, or what if it rains, all this stuff, and it's like, really, take a step back and look at it. Our goal was we wanted to have fun. We wanted our guests to have fun. And I always said, 'At the end of the day, we're going to be married and that's what this is all about, so anything that happens in between doesn't really matter.'"
RELAX AND ENJOY
It poured the morning of Mark and Jamie Lansing's wedding, but by the time the ceremony started, the sun was peeking through the clouds. "It was perfect," Jamie says. I just remember it with this beautiful haze of magic."
Memo: Say, "I do," outdoors
A sampling of outdoor wedding sites in the Capital Region
* Altamont Manor, Altamont
Both ceremonies and receptions can be held outdoors at this gracious 1894 restored Victorian Manor with formal gardens. Handicap accessible; indoor option available
More info: 861-8176, altamontmanor.com
* Appel Inn, Altamont
Get married in country elegance, in a romantic streamside setting. Handicap accessible; indoor option available
MORE INFO: 861-6557, appelinn.com
* Crystal Cove, Averill Park
Say, "I do" on one of four wedding decks on the tranquil shores of Crystal Lake. Handicap accessible; large pavilion with tent windows available
MORE INFO: 674-0703, crystalcoveweddings.com
* Glen Sanders Mansion, Scotia
Wedding ceremonies are held in the round, on the scenic banks of the Mohawk River. Outdoor site is not handicap accessible, but golf carts can be rented to transport guests to it; indoor option available.
No outdoor receptions, but patio overlooking the river is available for cocktail hour for those who rent the grand ballroom.
MORE INFO: 374-7262, glensandersmansion.com
* River Stone Manor, Glenville
A gorgeous outdoor setting on the banks of the Mohawk River. Handicap accessible; indoor option available.
More info: 382-8322, riverstonemanor.com
* The Sagamore Resort, Bolton Landing
Ceremonies are held on Shelving Rock Terrace, overlooking Lake George. Receptions also take place on the terrace or on the Sagamore's private boat, the Morgan, a 72-foot replica of a 19th-century touring vessel. Handicap accessible; indoor option available
More info: 1-800-358-3585, thesagamore.com
* Central Park Rose Garden, Schenectady
Wedding ceremonies are held amidst the blooms of more than 5,000 rose bushes. No receptions permitted in the rose garden, but nearby park pavilion can be booked. Handicap accessible; no indoor option.
More info: 382-5151, ext. 222, schenectadyrose.com
* Thacher State Park, Voorheesville
The park offers wedding and reception sites with spectacular views from atop the Helderberg Escarpment. Some sites offer stream views and woodsy settings.
Pavilions available for rent; some are handicap accessible; no indoor option
MORE INFO: 872-1237, http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/128/details.aspx
* Wiawaka Holiday House, Lake George
Get married on an expanse of lawn overlooking Lake George at this sixty-acre property listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Handicap accessible; no indoor option.
MORE INFO: 203-3101, www.wiawaka.org
* Yaddo Rose Garden, Saratoga Springs
Ceremonies are held on this historic property's lawns, beside fountains and pools, in a rock garden, or in the formal rose garden. Receptions are not permitted.
Handicap accessible; no indoor option; no electricity
MORE INFO: 584-0746, www.yaddo.org/yaddo/YaddoGardens.shtml