5 ways you can embrace the great outdoors on your big day
Variety, that's the name of the game when it comes to weddings and I'm lucky that I get to see so much of it at the weddings I photograph all over the midlands (and beyond!)
I've photographed weddings in churches, in a Cathedral and in a couple of deconsecrated chapels. There have been marriages at registry offices, hotels, country houses, barns, a couple of old vicarages, an old pub, a library, an old paintworks and even a cinema!
Of course it used to be that you could choose from a place of religion or a registry office, until the Marriage Act of 1994 came into force which allowed other buildings to be licensed to conduct weddings. After that the choice really started to grow and these days there's almost no limit for where you can get married
Now, you might not know this (I certainly didn't until I goggled it!) but it was Giles Brandreth, when he was an MP, that introduced the private members which ushered in this change in the law. So the man probably better known for his eccentric taste in jumpers and being in dictionary corner on Countdown also gave us the choice that we have today when it comes to getting married!
Although this Act of Parliament gave rise to a vast selection of buildings that conduct a wedding ceremony, what it didn't do is allow people in England & Wales (it's different in Scotland & Northern Ireland) to get married outside. So you might be reading this thinking 'but Nick, your blog is called a guide to outdoor weddings? Have you sold us a lemon here?! If you can't get married outside then this is going to be a very short blog'
Well, the answer is that you can get married outside, sort of!
There has to be some sort of permanent structure, like a gazebo, arbour, pavilion, that sort of thing. So to all intents and purposes the whole thing is outside, but technically there's a roof over your head when you actually say I do
This has given rise to lots and lots of venus offering 'outdoor' ceremonies and there are also many other ways you can embrace a love of all things al fresco when it comes to your big day and I've come up with 5 different ways you can get outdoors on your wedding day
1. Outdoor ceremony, indoor reception
The picture at the top of the page was taken at Deer Park Hall, near Pershore in Worcestershire and shows the Bride arriving for her outdoor wedding on horseback, as you do!
What had started as something of a joke with her friends that, being a horse-lover, she had to use an equine mode of transport became reality, (with a bit of help from her local stables) as she rode down the aisle between rows of seats, sitting side saddle on her steed.
The horse then took a back seat during the summer house ceremony, although, as you can see, he stayed to watch!
Here are a few more images from the wedding and of course, Deer Park Hall has deer!!
Another indoor -outdoor option is Moddershall Oaks in Staffordshire. They've really embraced the outdoor ceremony vibe and are really well set up for it, with a dedicated area overlooking their lake
Tears galore at this wedding and a ring-bearer with a difference, a kestrel!!!
This wedding was in October and it was touch and go as to whether the outdoor ceremony would go ahead but the storm clouds parted and that kestrel got to fly!
The wedding breakfast was inside and although the rain came later on that didn't stop this intrepid from having a sparkler parade in the drizzle and a first dance in the rain!!
Another variation on the indoor/outdoor idea is to have a blessing, having previously done the legal stuff in a registry office.
You can see a wonderful example of this in a blog about Georgi & Neil's Tipi Wedding in Warwickshire
2. Indoor ceremony, outdoor reception
Now, there are lots of weddings that are blessed with fine weather, allowing for much of the day to be spent outdoors. You also get quite a few weddings that go for a festival vibe often with either a tipi or marquee
But the example I have here takes it a stage further. Having got married at Malvern Registry Office and then had lunch at country pub in the Worcestershire countryside they took their wedding reception to an actual festival, the Sunshine Festival in Upton upon Severn to be precise!!
They'd been to the festival the year before with their children and knew that it was really family friendly and decided it was the perfect place for a chilled, relaxed, alternative wedding reception with close family and friends
So, the day before the wedding, 'Operation Campsite' began and the Groom, his Best Man and some friends loaded up the van and headed down to Upton to set up their festival wedding village complete with windbreak fence, drinks tent and flag pole!
At the lunch stop all the guests were given 'festival survival kits' kits that included dry shampoo, personalised sunglasses and, of course, paracetamol!!
Just to add to the sense of togetherness at this wedding, the transport from the registry office to the pub and then on the festival was a red, vintage double decker bus. Seeing the bus slowly wending its way between the rows of tents to reach their campsite was quite a sight!
Of course, if you're having your wedding reception at a festival then you're going to have outdoor speeches so time to pull up a camping stool and crack open a tinny!!
Then it's time to head off to the arena to have your first dance alongside 10,000 other festival goers!!
3. Open-air ceremony
Ok, so maybe you like the idea of getting married outside but are a bit worried about the chance of it getting affected by rain?
What you need is an open-air or outdoor/indoor option!
I do realise that the last sentence might sound a tad confusing, so let me explain
The image above is taken from a wedding at the incredible Matara Centre, near Tetbury on the Cotswolds. It's not like anywhere else I've been, a grade II listed country house but with Asian influences elsewhere and set in beautiful gardens, a real visual treat
One of their options for a wedding ceremony is the cloistered courtyard, a fish-filled pool surrounded on two sides with seating, a platform jutting out into the water and purple wisteria hanging down.
The day these images were shot, almost to show the unpredictability of a British summer, it rained. Not the whole day, but probably enough to have meant that an outdoor ceremony would have been moved indoors, just in case.
This is where an open-air ceremony comes into its own.
You're able to breathe in the scents of summer (or whatever the season), be surrounded by greenery and feel at one with nature, but you have a roof over your head.
By the time the Bride was walking down the Chinese cloister towards her Groom, with hundreds of origami cranes about her head and the goldfish in the pool popping up for air, the rain had stopped. So after the legal part of the ceremony had taken place (which must be undercover) they were able to step out on to the stone platform, jutting out into the water.
Don't be fooled into thinking that outdoor/open-air weddings are purely a summer option.
Here we have a wedding that took place in the middle of October, at Lyde Court near Hereford with a 17th Century Great Barn and, for an indoor/outdoor option, the long barn overlooking the willow lawn
This Herefordshire wedding venue is another stunning place to get married, full of history and character, if you're looking for a barn that hasn't been gentrified then this is for you!
As is often the case, they've got various options, both indoor and outdoor, and then this open-air choice if you're not wanting to take a chance on the weather. It was actually a warm, sunny autumn afternoon but the long barn has hessian curtains that can dropped down to at least provide some protection from horizontal rain
There's also no reason why the party has to go inside, just because it's October and a bit nippy. Get yourself a firepit and some marshmallows and you're good to go!!
4. In the Great Outdoors
Now this category of outdoor weddings is more about wanting to feel that you're at one with nature and away from the hustle and bustle of the city, rather than having an al fresco ceremony.
Perhaps you've had a Church wedding but want to get some fresh air in your lungs, so what better than to have a tipi or marquee wedding reception?
It gives you the perfect opportunity to spend time outside in a garden or field, to be amongst Mother Nature, and probably to get mud on your shoes!!
I've shot a few weddings like this and this first one, after a church service in Eastnor in Worcestershire had a music festival reception in a field beneath the Malvern Hills. It had a few shepherds huts there already (can't have the Bride & Groom slumming it!) and a pop-up mini campsite for everyone else
5. Not outdoors.....but meant to be!!
If you are planning an outdoor wedding then it's always worth thinking about what would happen if it rains, where would you have the ceremony, is it as nice as the outdoor option?
Birtsmorton Court is a fabulous medieval moated manor house near Malvern in Worcestershire, with a wonderful white garden to hold your outdoor wedding ceremony.
Unless of course it looks like rain
This day dawned on this September member with what can best be described as changeable weather, one minute sunny, then cloudy, then showers, then back to sun, all in the space of five minutes
As the morning passed the weather apps were getting checked repeatedly, but still looking unpredictable
Finally, a decision had to be made and it was just too risky to be out in the garden so Plan B it was, the glorious 13th century Great Hall, resplendent with wood panelled walls and hanging tapestries
I think it's fair to say that Bride was a little disappointed, especially as the sun was shining as she made her way down the aisle.
But, just as they were exchanging rings, there was an almighty clap of thunder and then the heavens opened for a ten minute downpour, totally vindicating the decision.
These two images capture the moment and the Brides reaction!!
But did that mean that the rest of the day was spent indoors?
The rain stopped, the clouds cleared and the sun shone, just in time for the drinks reception so the newlyweds still got to enjoy being outside on their wedding day
So there you have it, my guide to outdoor weddings!
Whether it's indoor-outdoor, outdoor-indoor, open-air, in the great outdoors or outdoors after the rain it's wonderful to enjoy the fresh air and you never know, maybe the sun on your face too!!
If you're planning your wedding then here are some other blgos that might help
5 Quirky and unusual ideas for wedding entertainment
An unplugged wedding or #thehappycouple
5 tips for choosing your wedding photographer
Of course, if you'd like to have a chat about photographing your wedding then please get in touch!!