Wedding Ceremony Outside

The vision of an outside wedding ceremony strikes a beautiful chord in the imagination of many a bride. And rightly so. Who of us wouldn’t like a beautifully landscaped garden setting or perhaps an open clearing bordered by towering trees for that most important life event, our wedding ceremony?
 

As a wedding musician, I’ve been able to enjoy such scenic places and play a small role in the lives of many a bride. And those settings can be truly wonderful but…. you knew there was a but coming right ? When the stars are aligned in your favor an out of doors wedding ceremony can be a dream. But, Mother Nature can capriciously intervene and pull the rug out from under you.
 

So, it’s important to have a “backup plan”. Try to choose a setting that has a shelter, building, or house nearby which can be the safety net in case of sudden rain showers or high winds. Here in Louisville, Ky. I can think of a number of places that have beautifully landscaped settings with an on-site structure that can be used for receptions or in the case of inclement
weather be quickly converted to accommodate the wedding ceremony. If you’re getting married in the summer, think about the comfort of your guests. Have cold bottled water available for them to take to their seat, and consider printing your program on a fan so they can keep cool. Also, think ahead to where the sun will be at the time of your wedding. Try to position your seating so the sun is at the back of the guests, not in their eyes.

 

On the other hand, if you’ve chosen mid October for your wedding ceremony the mercury can dip in other direction. Here in the Ohio Valley, late September to mid October can be very warm, or it can be downright chilly. While your guests can keep their coats on and even their gloves, please consider your musicians. We arrive usually an hour before the wedding. We get set up and run through a few selections before we begin your prelude music which normally last about 30 minutes. We can’t wear bulky coats and we can’t wear gloves. Even more critical our expensive instruments can be damaged by cold weather conditions or also by direct sun especially in mid summer. We are more protective of the instruments than we are ourselves.
 

So, if your wedding is in mid summer make sure your musicians are in a shaded area. Try to have them on a flat surface. It’s hard to play your best if one leg of your chair is 3 inches below the other and you’re angled like you’re playing on the deck of the Titanic. Position them to the audience left off to the side of the wedding party.
 

To recap: temperature (heat or cold), sun exposure, rain and even high winds, can be factors in an out of doors wedding ceremony. Talk with the music leader and wedding coordinator, if you have one, in advance and plan for contingencies.
 

What about noise ? It’s a good idea to scope out the wedding ceremony site before you book it. Visit it the same day of the week (usually a Friday or Saturday) and time that you plan on having it. I can think of one site in particular in town we play at that, although it’s very scenic, it seems that planes are always flying overhead. It’s near a small airport and Saturdays are popular days for pilots to practice their takeoffs and landings. Another is in a park like setting but borders a residential area. Saturdays are popular days to mow the grass. I haven’t found a piece of music yet that harmonizes with a whining lawnmower! Another consideration along those lines: when you’re checking out the wedding ceremony site position a person at what will be the back row of the seating. Have another person do some speaking up where the minister will be. How’s the volume ? You may need to have sound reinforcement for your minister.I have been at lots of weddings where there are 200 or so guests and only those near the front can hear what is being said or read. Often the couple has carefully picked out a favorite poem or reading and only those who are in the first few rows or have Peter Parker (Spiderman) super hearing can enjoy the recitation. If you’re having a singer make sure you have a mike for them.

 

We often will present a string quartet at a wedding ceremony and may accompany our singer. The strings carry pretty well and we rarely need sound enhancement, but a singer will need it. Even trained singers whose voice can project well in a hall will benefit with some miking when performing outside. The sound is dispersed very differently in an open air setting than in a church sanctuary. If you’re having a DJ or band for your reception inquire if they would be willing (for an extra fee) to take care of the sound for the wedding. Your minister would need a lapel mike and your readers will need a mike. If you have a singer, they should be able to use that same mike. Make sure you have a sound check before the ceremony. All too often, the equipment gets set up but not properly tested. So, it’s about as useful as yesterday’s news. Another word about the band. If the reception is in the vicinity of the wedding ceremony talk with the band leader and make sure the band sets up before the wedding and certainly not during the preludes. They should be set in advance if possible, and have already had a sound check. As ceremony musicians we have often been trying to create a nice ambiance during the prelude music only to have the thumping of an amplified bass or reincarnation of Jimmy Hendrix trying out his latest amazing riff simply annihilate our puny acoustic string instruments. So, a little advance planning there helps too.
 

What else? Well, if your outside wedding ceremony is anywhere near a lake, or low lying water you may need to plan ahead for those pesky flying critters. Have plenty of citronella candles in stock placed along each row of your guests. You don’t want see them constantly swatting the air as if practicing kung fung during your wedding. A lot of what I’ve mentioned comes under the category of “common sense”. Try to think ahead and be prepared for unforeseen circumstances and have a back up plan in case mother nature decides to throw you a curve ball.
It can take a lot of the burden off you if you hire a wedding planner. They have been through all this before and a good planner will have a long check list of to do’s and have contacts for all the services you will need. They can save you a lot of time, hassle and provide peace of mind so you can enjoy your day to the fullest.

 

I hope this helps a little as you plan for your outside wedding ceremony.
Cordially,
Steve Taylor
SMT Music