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Having an Outdoor Event

At the outset, let me say that having an outdoor wedding reception or event at a public park is not something that I recommend. There’s good reason for that: it’s public. Even with an assigned security staff it can be difficult to control who will be strolling around enjoying your appetizers and beverages, and mingling with your guests. Northern Michigan is lush with beautiful, privately owned estates, clubs, resorts and properties available for anywhere from a reasonable fee to no fee at all. You will be able to much better manage access to your event within these venues.

An outdoor wedding and reception can be romantic and elegant, charming, or whimsical and fun. But, beware of the special circumstances that come with such an event. Here’s how to overcome some of the big ones.

We’ll Say Our Vows at Sunset

What a lovely, romantic idea! But, do remember the “sun” part of sunset. Those west-facing chairs will be fine in the morning when they’re being set up, but by sunset your squinting guests will be having a hard time. Whenever possible, do position chairs to face away from where the sun will be at the time of the ceremony. You might also want to consider having a canopy, backdrop, gazebo, chuppah or other structure that blocks the sun’s rays.

…and Speaking of the Sun’s Rays

Afternoon heat can be overwhelming, especially in July and August. Have you ever attended an outdoor summer wedding only to have your hair glued to your neck with perspiration, and ever-widening marks on your clothing? I have. A few thoughtful touches will let your guests know that you’re a considerate host who is glad they came. Print your programs on hand-held fans. Provide plenty of chilled bottled water, or have punch bowls of ice water. Float mint leaves or slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, or strawberries for a special touch. All are refreshing and they add an extra bit of sparkle to your special day.


It Never Rains in July

While that’s almost true in Northern Michigan, it’s not entirely true. My own daughter wanted a romantic outdoor wedding at the edge of the bay in the middle of July. True to its reputation, July that year was dry as dust – absolute drought conditions – until the morning of her wedding. It poured. Buckets. Did we have a backup plan? You bet we did. Should you? Absolutely. Your best choice is to hold your event at a hotel, vineyard, country club or other venue where you can easily move inside if necessary. Remember: although a tent with sides can shelter you and your guests from light wind and rain, it becomes a frightening and unpleasant place to be in a storm. (And my daughter’s wedding? The farmers got their much-needed rain; the skies then cleared in time for decorating before her lovely wedding ceremony. A great day for us all!)

Unwelcome “Guests”

Whether creeping, crawling or flying, insects are not likely anywhere on your guest list. Citronella candles do double-duty in keeping pests at bay and providing a romantic glow, and can be displayed in a variety of attractive containers. (Be sure the containers are deep enough that the candles won’t blow out easily.) Spray the perimeters, walkways and gathering areas with a non-poisonous, pleasant smelling insecticide shortly before festivities begin.

Take Cover

Be sure to have a large tent or canopies that provide protection from the elements. The shaded area is welcome relief on a hot, sunny day, and equally welcome should a summer shower come your way.

On The Fly

In an outdoor environment an array of normally docile items can take wing or at least gain considerable movement: table decorations, place cards, disposable plates and cups, and paper napkins (especially napkins) are all examples. Keep this in mind while planning your space, and be sure that there are plenty of (clean) trash receptacles available throughout the area. People will be more apt to pick up and dispose of a fluttering napkin if there is a place nearby to discard it. Plan to hire an attendant to keep things stocked and your area tidy and litter-free.
Note: physical items aren’t the only things that the breeze can carry. Beware of possible offensive odors from dumpsters, farms, etc. when choosing your site.


Take a mental trip through your day from the eyes of your guests and make note of items that could be useful. Have baskets or other containers available with things like sunscreen, hand sanitizer and scented bug spray for guests who didn’t come prepared. If bathrooms aren’t close at hand, do rent a quality “porta potty” or two.

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