Outdoor weddings bring the beauty but can be a beast to plan
– By Emily Kemme –
Colorado’s diverse scenery can provide stunning, natural backdrops for an outdoor wedding. But when you’re scoping out a flawless spot for photos to document this oh-so-special day and your guests’ teeth are chattering so loudly from a chilly mountain breeze that it drowns out the moment, it might shatter the romantic mood you’ve always dreamt about.
That’s because part of a wedding involves being a good host. Basically, you’re throwing a party, Windsor wedding planner Hanna Born of ElizaRose & Co. says.
“Whether you want your wedding in your backyard or up on a Colorado mountaintop, include all the little touches to make your day really special because that’s how you get the best memories. But keep in mind your guests’ experience when planning. They have to be fed, be comfortable and have a good time,” she says.
Planning includes footwear and a dress code. Whether you’re taking up your aunt’s offer of a free wedding venue in her flower bedecked back yard, you’re standing in cowboy boots in the middle of a prairie among swaying sunflowers or you’ve booked a swanky venue with diverse floor coverings, it’s important to let people know that their stiletto heels might be best left at home if they don’t want to sink into the grass walking to their chairs. And a hat is always a good idea to deflect sunshine.
This doesn’t mean outdoor weddings are a bad idea. Born finds that being outside for the ceremony or reception, or having a hybrid event where one of the elements is indoors—like a religious venue followed by an outdoor reception, for example—isn’t unusual in Colorado, especially from May through October, the peak wedding season.
But along with keeping guests informed about what to wear through a wedding platform like The Knot or The Wedding Wire, your wedding budget needs to account for what an outdoor wedding can add to the bottom line.
Decide on your backyard or a destination spot
The first step is deciding where to hold the ceremony and reception. If you have a private home in mind, consider if the space is feasible for the number of guests you want to invite. Is there an enchanting but small garden? Holding the ceremony in the garden and the reception inside the home or another location in the yard might give it the best flow.
Born, who opened ElizaRose & Co. in March 2022 with longtime friend Kimberley Stucker, offers a range of packages to fit all needs and budgets, from month-of-event to a concierge service to help plan the entire wedding.
Since Born (Eliza in the partnership) is Colorado-based and Kimberley (she’s Rose) lives in Montana, they can coordinate in either of those locales. But if you’ve got another state in mind, they can work with that, too.
Weather changes so have a backup plan
Many event venues have an indoor space because they know how quickly weather can change. Born notes that unless it’s a blizzard, they’ll proceed as planned. But they advise brides to be prepared to spend money on renting space heaters, buying umbrellas, putting up a tent or finding a venue with a covered pavilion so you can still be outside in beautiful surroundings.
“The bride who is dead set on having the ceremony outside might have to spend money on nice throw blankets to distribute to guests to stay cozy,” Born says. “You have to be willing to create that balance to make it workable for your guests.”
Create a wedding venue with rentals
Lauren Bird, event and marketing specialist with Flexx Productions in Fort Collins, says Flexx specializes in tent rentals. In addition to deciding what size and style tent to use—pole or clear span tents are typical—the company does due diligence before planting stakes.
“We make sure the landscape is appropriate for staking or weighting a tent,” Bird says. “We’ll go to the location beforehand to measure and assess the ground conditions in case it rains. We prefer putting a tent up a couple days before the event to prevent the ground from getting saturated. It’s not always doable but we recommend it.”
The next step is establishing the mood. Drape tent interiors with fabric to soften the look or adorn it with flowers and other accessories to set the scene.
Flexx offers different lighting options to transform a tent or outdoor space: create a festive backyard barbecue feel with market string lights or enchant guests with a Beauty and the Beast ball and elegant mini-crystal chandeliers. Or give it a funky urban vibe using an LED light curtain and pipe and drape for backdrops to showcase the wedding cake and banquet table, props that are also useful for designing a fun guest photo booth area to match your theme.
Once you’ve got the look, outfit the venue with tables and chairs to keep the theme going. If your vision is casual and outdoorsy, Bird suggests upscale farmhouse Napa-style wood tables with matching bench seating or rustic X-backed wooden chairs, and a wine barrel bar for rustic elegance. For a timeless wedding look, use Chiavari chairs and tables covered with an array of linen selections.
In addition to renting catering items, including flatware, glassware, dinnerware and chafing dishes, Bird says when you’re creating a wedding venue, set out distinct spaces for dinner, dancing and where guests can sit down to take a break on lounge furniture and coffee tables to set drinks down.
“That way it feels like you’re in a wedding venue where you move from place to place,” she notes.
And remember to include a restroom trailer in your budget if the physical venue doesn’t have adequate restroom space to accommodate the number of guests.
Say it with flowers
Holding your wedding outdoors takes advantage of the natural surroundings. But that doesn’t mean you should forego flowers.
Brittany Polverari, wedding manager at Palmer Flowers, recommends trusting your florist to know which flowers will (and won’t) withstand the seasonal elements. Palmer offers packages for elopements that include a bridal bouquet and groom’s boutonniere for around $400, micro-weddings begin at $2,000 and full-service events, including budget-busting table centerpieces, are $4,000 and up.
“For outdoors, we don’t use super touchy flowers, like white hydrangea, anemones, poppies, pansies or certain roses, because they’re very weather dependent,” she says.
Polverari admits hydrangeas are the one flower that really scare her because they need a constant water source and will wilt within an hour of being exposed to 90-degree heat.
“If a bride is stuck on that aesthetic, we can do them but have faux hydrangeas made from silk or bleached and dried ones if you don’t want to risk wilting.”
There are numerous flowers that work well outside, including carnations, which are available in a wide variety of colors and can withstand heat for hours. Roses are surprisingly sturdy, she says, as long as they’re prepped and hydrated correctly when the shipment arrives. If you’re decorating the space with arches and pre-made sprays, your florist will wait in an air-conditioned car as long as possible before putting them up. Blooms can be sprayed with water or a preservative called Crowning Glory to keep them perky.
She says white roses are perennial wedding choices, followed by the double-hearted white Playa Blanca and the velvety dark red Black Baccara. For outdoor ceremonies, Polverari says roses in blush, tan and toffee colors play up a natural terra cotta aesthetic that’s popular now.
“It’s a Boho look when combined with pampas grass that blends well with Colorado landscapes and is beautiful for fall weddings,” she says.
How wedding planners can make your day go smoothly
Putting on a wedding involves a lot of moving parts, including the caterer, photographer, officiant, DJ, florist and more. Adding an outdoor venue into the mix might make it worthwhile to find a professional who offers a little hand-holding and previous experience.
That might include meeting with tent stakers to assure the structure stays put while you’re putting final touches on your fingernails, or it could offer another person to hand out rain ponchos if Colorado’s notoriously finicky skies open for an afternoon shower.
“Utilizing a wedding planner takes pressure off brides so you can soak in every moment rather than worrying about details,” Born advises.
Emily Kemme is an award-winning novelist and Colorado food writer.