(Image Courtesy of Sally Rawlins Photography)
It’s Summer and the weather is (currently) glorious so I thought I would write a post about the wonderful world of outside ceremonies and the things you might want to consider if you are thinking about adding them to your repertoire of offerings for couples.
Let’s dive straight in!
Outside ceremonies can be such a beautiful addition to your wedding packages/bespoke offerings but you do need to consider some specifics, namely, whether or not you can get a license for holding legal ceremonies outside.
To hold a legal ceremony outside you must have a licensed structure outside. That means you need a permanent structure which has at least 3 sides and a roof, and can seat up to 6 people (2 x registrars, 2 x witnesses + the couple) at any one time. Licenses for outside ceremonies are notoriously difficult to get so before you embark on building the structure, make sure you have done some basic planning first:
- Speak with your local registry office and check when your license is up for renewal as it can be expensive to be reviewed at another time
- Ask them to do a site visit and confirm the planned plot is suitable for the purposes. Also ask them to review the proposed structure and confirm they are happy with this.
- Speak with your council – you will almost certainly need planning permission as it is a permanent structure.
Of course, if you are lucky enough to have a structure fit for purpose on site – you can skip straight onto getting it licensed! Fab!
Now, don’t fret if you don’t have / can’t have a suitable structure on site – remember, outside ceremonies can take place legally for Jewish weddings with a Chuppa or as a blessing/celebrant wedding (where couples marry legally on another day) as well.
So, now that you know you can do outside ceremonies, what do you need to consider.
- Make sure you have adequate space – inside, and outside! If it rains, you need to have a backup, so don’t plan on having more guests to the ceremony than to the meal as you will have some standing at the back! On that note, if you are licensing a structure, you will be licensed for a specific number of people – don’t let the couple go over it!
- Make sure there is a suitable aisle. This is a big moment for the couple so make sure the route is suitable and not going to be getting any dresses or suits messy, they won’t thank you for that! Remember that traipsing through the woods on a showround might sound like fun but in 3 inch heels and a ballgown it’s less enjoyable!
- Pop-up structures are your friends. There are great companies which can provide pop-up coverings if your couples are concerned about weather but want the ceremony out of doors whatever happens. Build these relationships early so you don’t get caught out. And on that note…
- Flooring. If you value the grounds of your property at all, ensure that adequate flooring is laid for an outdoors ceremony. Ladies in heels can poke holes in the ground so you could consider heel guards too – saves the shoes and the lawn.
- Sound. The weather may be beautiful, the sun may be shining, a lovely breeze wafts the bride’s veil but the audience/congregation can. not. hear. a. thing. Nightmare! Consider what you can do to offset this. Perhaps the celebrant/registrar can wear a lapel mic which could pick up the couple’s words, or like Harry and Meghan did at the Royal Wedding, perhaps a table mic in front of the couple would be more suitable. Whatever the case, remember, the guests have made a long journey see this moment – let’s let them hear it too.
- Seating. Chairs are a funny one for me, and a bit of a bugbear too. Personally, I prefer a naked chair (providing it’s beautiful) but if you are going to cover them then make sure that you are prepared for some heavy laundry charges to get any marks/muddy prints off. Alternatively, if you choose a light, naked chair which can be wiped down, you might find this is easier for you over all. A Limewashed Chivari Chair is always a great investment as the lime wash usually suits all colour schemes, the seat pads can be removed to clean (upholstered) and it is light enough that it likely won’t sink into the ground either.
- Pricing. Do you need more staff to turn the spaces if you have an outside ceremony? Would you have to set up two spaces to accommodate it? Do you have to hire the chairs, covers, aisle runner, pop-ups etc.? Basically, is this going to cost you to offer to the couples? If so, consider what supplement to charge them to make it worth your while. Is being the only venue, which offers this ceremony, within a particular radius enough for you to keep the rate low knowing that you can make up the difference on the bar or with the package? Or is this something you will only offer on demand and therefore you just simply need to know how much it will cost – staffing and all?
- Marketing. If you are going to start offering outside ceremonies, consider how you are marketing this. A great styled shoot goes a long way to support your social media, blog posts, directory listings and brochure marketing so why not get together with your recommended suppliers and grab a couple of models to take part. Or, if you are a Weddingly Member, speak to us about doing a styled shoot at your venue showcasing your outside ceremony space – we might be able to help! There are lots of other ways to showcase this as well, consider writing a blog piece for your own site, or a press release so that local press can cover it, and speak with other blogs and forums where you can show off your new space. Facebook Advertising can help but think about where you might find couples looking for this – are they already outdoorsy? What other venues might they be interested in? What kind of magazines do they buy? What other brands might they love? Test out a few suitable ads and run with the ones that get you the most traction.
Let us know if you are planning on adding an outside space to your venue – and comment below if you have any questions or thoughts!