We might be biased, but we think the UK boasts some of the most beautiful scenery of anywhere in the world. From the rugged mountains of the Lake District to Kent’s Garden of England, we’re blessed with a landscape so staggering it’s sure to make any newlywed couple go weak at the knees. For those looking to make the most of this country’s natural beauty with one of the UK’s best outdoor wedding venues, make sure to check out our essential guide.
While an outdoor wedding sounds great on paper, there are lots of extra things you need to think about. The great British weather is one of the biggest (and most temperamental) considerations, and it’s important you’re protected if the heavens do decide to open on your big day. Catering, decorations and cost are all major points of action, not to mention choosing the perfect venue for your wedding. Take note: not all wedding venues are licensed to host outdoor weddings, so read on to find out exactly which wedding venues are open to you.
If you’re worried about the cost of an outdoor wedding, you can always consider hosting a twilight wedding instead, which skips the wedding breakfast altogether and transitions straight from the ceremony to the reception. These can still be hosted outside and allow you to focus on the fun stuff like entertainment!
To help you with your planning, we’ve outlined everything you need to know when planning an outdoor wedding, from décor to noise to how to troubleshoot any issues that might arise on the day. We understand how important your wedding day is, and we’re here to make sure it goes off without a hitch! Check out our top tips below and remember, we also offer a free wedding concierge service to help you find the venue of your dreams.
Outdoor wedding ceremony laws: Can you get legally married outdoors?
The simple answer is yes, you can! However, there are a few limitations to exactly where you can get married – not all venues are licensed for outdoor weddings so it's important to double check before you book.
The pandemic had a huge effect on outdoor weddings in the UK. Due to the limitations on social indoor gatherings during covid, the rules surrounding outdoor weddings were relaxed to allow people to get married outdoors. Before then, people had to hold civil ceremonies indoors, or outside under an enclosed, permanent structure in order for it to be legal. The good news is that these new regulations now apply to UK weddings indefinitely!
Take note though - the rules state that outdoor civil weddings and civil partnerships can take place in Approved Premises only. This means that the venue must have a license to host outdoor weddings and comply with a set of regulations in order for the ceremony to be legal. You can find a full list of approved premises on the gov.uk website.
Do note that outdoor wedding laws vary in the UK between England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
8 things to think about when planning an outdoor wedding
From decorations to catering, planning an outdoor wedding is a little different to planning an indoor one. Consult these tips beforehand to ensure you're well and truly prepared.
Picking your venue
Before you start thinking about the finer details, it’s really important to find a wedding venue that’s, first and foremost, licensed to host outdoor ceremonies, but also boasts lots of experience in outdoor weddings. Some venues will offer contingency plans if it rains for example, while others boast a wealth of built-in facilities suited specifically to outdoor occasions, so you don't have to worry about renting loads of stuff.
Another thing to note is that because the season for outdoor weddings is fairly limited (i.e. the warmer months), you’re likely to find there’s more demand for these sorts of venues. Prepare to hire your venue a long time in advance if you want to nail down the location of your dreams.
Want to married outdoors in London? The Courtyard at The Langham is a stunning option.
Finally, remember to look at both the indoor and outdoor spaces when you're viewing venues to make sure you're happy with both. If it rains, you may need to move celebrations inside, so it's important you're happy with its indoor spaces too!
The question on everybody’s lips: what do I do if it rains? The UK is notorious for its temperamental weather and, even if you’re planning a summer wedding, the odds of it raining are still pretty high.
We recommend discussing this with your venue from the off. It might be a good idea to hire a marquee or covered structure either way, so you know there’s somewhere for guests to take cover if the heavens do decide to open, or even to find some shade on a really hot day. You can always cancel it at the last minute once you have a better idea of what the weather will be like, although beware that this might mean the loss of a small deposit.
It's also important to remember that if it does rain, it's not the end of the world! For Tanya Somerset, the creative director and owner of Tan House Newland, it was an amazing shared experience that brought everyone together - literally.
'I personally got married in the pouring rain and what I loved about it was that it brought everyone together'
'I personally got married in the pouring rain and what I loved about it (other than the sound of a monsoon on canvas) was that it brought everyone together. No one was wandering around the gardens or outside spaces, they all huddled and danced and laughed a lot.'
If it does decide to pour down, she suggests 'getting matching brollies, wellies and rain chimes - these will help embrace that the rain may come but it won't put a dampener on things!'.
'We had one wedding where it didn't rain and everyone sprayed each other with hoses instead so they could use all the things we set out "just in case"'.
Of course, it's not just rain that can put a spanner in the works. Even if it’s set to be a scorcher, it can get a little chilly in the evening so have a think about how you’re going to keep guests warm and comfortable. While we’re sure that dancing into the night is sure to work up a sweat, how about laying out blankets for guests to snuggle up under if they get chilly? Less environmentally friendly, but worth a shout, are outdoor heaters. Or, for a rustic touch, a firepit is a fun way for guests to keep toasty (leave a few bags of marshmallows out too for a sweet snack later on).
Food and drink
If your venue already offers an in-house catering team, great! They’ll already be familiar with the rules of the venue, and understand what’s possible within the existing space and facilities. It gets a little more tricky if you’re hiring external caterers but is by no means an impossible task. You’ll just need to ask them a few questions beforehand to check they’re able to cater for your outdoor event. Make sure to ask how many outdoor weddings they’ve catered for in the past, as well as what sort of facilities they can bring with them and what might need to be rented separately. If your venue boasts a kitchen, they might be able to use this to prepare food. If not, check to see if they’re comfortable cooking in an outdoor tent.
Tie the knot in Bromley Court Hotel's landscaped gardens
While you can absolutely host a more traditional sit-down meal around a table, being outdoors offers plenty of opportunities to get creative with your catering. Hire a pizza oven, host a big BBQ or go all-out with a hog roast, for example. There are lots more ways to include food and drink at your wedding than just the main meal. Food trucks are a really popular option, or you could hire an ice cream van if you’re planning a wedding at the height of summer. This is your chance to think outside the box!
Music is a key part of any wedding, but there might be noise restrictions depending on the location of your venue. If your venue is really remote, such as being surrounded by fields or set in acres of parkland, you probably won’t need to worry too much. However, if you’re planning on getting hitched in a residential area, then make sure to check out sound limitations and curfews. Some enact a sound limit on music to a specific number of decibals, while others require you to turn off the music by a certain time.
Outdoor weddings are often a trickier, and more expensive, undertaking than indoor weddings because of all the extra elements they require. Many venues won't offer everything you need from the off, and you’re likely to have to outsource multiple elements like tents, a caterer, décor and lighting, which can all add up. Of course, if you're planning a back garden wedding with a small number of guests, then outdoor nuptials can actually be a cost-effective way to go. Depending on the scale of your wedding, you’ll need to account for this in your budget.
One of the benefits of hosting an outdoor wedding is being able to take advantage of a natural setting. Ideally, you want your decorations to complement, rather than cover, the beauty of your surroundings. Tents are likely to feature heavily within celebrations, so have a think about how you’d like to decorate these. Some will allow for the likes of chandeliers and proper wooden flooring, but if you’d rather keep it less formal, then twinkling lights will go a long way to making it feel magical.
Chelsea Physic Garden: Dress up your tent with soft blue fabrics
Of course, decorating your outdoor space will vary hugely depending on the setting, but we recommend using your existing landscape to your advantage. Consider hanging lanterns from tree branches, lighting up specific pathways, or incorporating a theme. DIY signage is a fun and cost-effective way to spruce up your surroundings, as well as upcycling mason jars with tealights which can be used to line the aisle.
It's really important to tell your guests in advance that the entire wedding will be outside. You can do this on the invitations, or on your wedding website if you have one. Especially for older guests who are more susceptible to the elements, giving people a heads up will ensure people are able to plan their attire accordingly, but also know what to expect from the day in general. Let them know if there might be a long walk from the ceremony to the reception area, for example, and whether they need to think about wearing specific footwear.
It might seem like a small detail, but ensuring there are enough toilets located within easy distance of your main wedding area is vital. No one wants to have to traipse endlessly for the bathroom, so have a think about whether they’re easy for guests to reach, and if you need to hire extra porter loos (don’t worry, you can hire luxury facilities) for your wedding.
Planning to get hitched in London? These are the best outdoor wedding venues in the capital.