Intimate outdoor weddings
The sky is as blue as a travel brochure for Aruba. No clouds. No wind. The air, which is comfortably dry, and not too hot, is perfumed with the soft scent of peonies from a nearby garden. While cardinals sing happily in nearby maple trees and squirrels perch sneakily on low branches, you make your way along the grassy aisle towards the altar, where your true love awaits with a nervous smile. Outdoor weddings can be pure bliss. After all, what better backdrop than Mother Nature? But they're not for everyone.
Outdoor weddings generally take more planning than indoor nuptials, and they can be just as expensive -- sometimes costing even more. Because brides and grooms are at the mercy of the elements, they're also a bigger risk. Mother Nature can be glorious, but she is often unpredictable -- and unkind. She won't hesitate to offer up a deluge during the most delightful of days.
For that reason, outdoor weddings are not for worry warts. Wedding planning can be stressful enough, without having to worry about the weather. Despite the risks and careful planning required, there are oodles of couples that wouldn't have their wedding any other way. They'd much rather feel the cushioning of cool grass beneath their feet, than the hard floor of a church or rented hall on their wedding day.
For these couples, deciding on an outdoor location is at the top of the "to do" list. While some opt to have their weddings in their own backyards, others get married in vineyards, forests, beaches or public parks. There's also the option of getting hitched at a bed and breakfast.
Judy Duff, a non-denominational minister in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, says 15 to 20 percent of the couples she marries opt for an outdoor wedding.
She says couples that tie the knot outdoors are generally more laid back than those that choose a wedding that is more traditional. And most are nature lovers.
"They have an affinity for the outdoors," she says, adding that many couples choose locations that have personal significance to them, such as a home or favorite vacation spot.
Lea-Ann Suzor, who owns a tent rental company in Windsor, says many couples choose to have their weddings at their parents' homes -- or their own.
"I think people have spent a lot of time and effort on their yards. People are proud of their homes and they like to have their weddings at home so they can showcase their properties," she says.
Outdoor weddings don't have to play by the rules
Some couples opt for champagne brunches, afternoon parties or cocktail receptions instead of the formal dinner reception.
"We've had them go from a casual lobster bake, where guests wore shorts and sandals, to the very formal -- with flooring, carpeting and elaborate floral displays," says Suzor.
Suzor recalls another recent wedding where games, streamers, clowns and balloons were part of the festivities.
"It was almost like a fair. It was pretty and colorful," says Suzor, pointing out that nearly a third of the wedding guests were children.
One formal option is the cocktail party, says Suzor, who points out that more and more couples are choosing this style of reception.
"A popular thing that I've seen this year is more stand-up, cocktail receptions where they have the butler pass around appetizers and wandering minstrel bands in an afternoon or early evening setting," she says.
Whether a couple opts for a barbecue, or something more formal, an outdoor wedding usually requires lots of planning. "It's definitely more work," says Suzor.
And it can be more expensive than an indoor wedding -- especially if a couple wants the works (dance floor, lighting, air conditioning, and d cor done by a professional).