Arranging an Outdoor Ceremony

Jul 28, 2015

Who’d have an outdoor ceremony? Especially in the UK!

In the past few weeks of so-called summer, London has enjoyed (if that’s the right word!) temperatures in the high 30s and also spells of torrential showers with maximum temperatures below 20 degrees. I guess I’m rather relieved that I didn’t have an outdoor ceremony to conduct in that period!

So does that mean that you shouldn’t even consider an al fresco ceremony?

The weather cannot be predicted in the UK – or virtually anywhere else, for that matter. (Let’s ignore the Atacama Desert, etc., for the purposes of this article.) So outside is always going to be a gamble. Is that a reason not to hold such a ceremony, then?


  1. One reason to hold a ceremony outdoors is that you can save money. You still have to get permission and pay the appropriate fee (unless you’re using a back garden), but this may well cost less than booking a hotel or restaurant.
  2. You may have a particular attachment to a certain place – maybe you first met or got engaged there. One Vow Renewal I led took place beside a canal for the simple reason that the couple were canalboat addicts.
  3. If it all comes together, there is a wonderful, unique atmosphere about being outside, especially if the setting is special.

vow renewal


Things can go wrong (indoors as well as out), but the main thing to prepare for when outdoors is the weather.

Every venue is different, but if you have a courtyard, say, with a portico, then that offers guests refuge from rain or strong sun. Job done! However, you will still have to consider protection for yourselves and the celebrant in the event of extreme conditions.

The bride will have to consider her footwear, if there’s heavy rain about, and her train, if she has one. Wind can play havoc with her hair, veil and dress.

Parasols or golf umbrellas may be worth investing in, if people are likely to be in exposed places for long. And if you actually get a hot and sunny day, then arrange for water to be available for guests and also for yourselves and your celebrant.

Finally, if the weather is likely to be really cold, then invest in some blankets, at least for older people.

One of the other things you will have to take into account is sound projection. Are you going to need a PA system? How big a ceremony is it likely to be? If you need a sound system, your civil celebrant or possibly whoever is providing music for later may be able to supply one, but you’ll have to investigate.

Some of the most enjoyable ceremonies I have officiated at have been outdoors, but I have not appreciated reading from my script beneath pouring rain! And as for being pursued by an aggressive wasp during the ceremony …!