There are no guarantees about the weather anywhere. Living on an island like Britain, we are not particularly surprised by heat in winter, or rains and snow in summer. So who would dare arrange an outdoor ceremony?
Almost exactly four years ago, I was privileged to conduct a handfasting on an Iron Age fort that – as the picture above shows – was totally exposed. It was a period of exceptional floods across Britain. I drove down through torrential rain, and had to drive back through a thunderstorm. Amazingly, for the couple of hours I was up on Old Sarum (I had to be there early to set up), it didn’t rain and wasn’t even (very) cold.
I’ve officiated at a small number of outdoor ceremonies in the summer when the conditions were, shall we say, difficult. In one case, there was a sudden cloudburst during the wedding. Somebody had the presence of mind to bring a parasol from the hotel terrace to protect the bride (though not the celebrant!). On another occasion, a vow renewal, there was a yurt available, but the rains held off sufficiently, and we could stick to Plan A. On a third occasion, the day was cloudless and extremely hot for the naming ceremony. Fortunately, this was a garden event, and there were plenty of trees offering shade.
So what can you do, if the forecast is hot and sunny?
You can usually rely on some common sense on the part of your guests. They may bring a hat and maybe sunscreen etc.
You can make sure that plenty of cold drinks (preferably, not alcoholic at this stage) are available. Depending on the sort and size of ceremony and the venue, you may be able to offer parasols or small umbrellas for the guests. If shade is available, then make use of it. Finally, bring the guests out as late as possible, and keep the ceremony short, if that is feasible.
There’s not much you can do about wind, especially if your ceremony will be held at an exposed spot. One thing to be aware of is that wind will take sound away, so the celebrant’s voice, at least, will probably need to be amplified. Hats and veils will need attention, if they are not to be blown away.
When the rains are expected, you may be able to issue umbrellas to the guests. If there are seats, try and keep them covered with plastic, say, until the last moment.
If it’s muddy, perhaps the venue can put down some sort of (red?) carpet, so that heels don’t get submerged and trousers splashed.
Hopefully, guests will have the sense to arrive well-protected. It may be possible to issue blankets. If the length of the ceremony can be kept to a minimum, it might be appreciated by your guests.
Despite all this pessimism, of course, the chances are that the weather will be wonderful for your big day! And there’s nothing like having your ceremony outdoors – it really makes it special (just occasionally, for the wrong reasons, though!).
If your ceremony is in the grounds of the hotel, it’s worth chatting to them in advance, especially if adverse weather is anticipated. They may have a Plan B for you.
An outdoor ceremony? A gamble, yes – but one well worth taking.