Having an outdoor wedding in Northwest Arkansas? 10 tips to keep your wedding guests happy

Take care of these 10 areas at your outdoor wedding for maximum enjoyment for your guests.

Take care of these 10 areas at your outdoor wedding for maximum guest enjoyment.

It’s beginning to feel like summer here and you can cut the humidity with a knife. There’s a saying in Northwest Arkansas that “if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will totally change.” I am amazed how quickly it turns from steaming hot to a chilly fall, and then to cold winter – and that happens in the course of a week. Knowing we are in that “season” of weather and with so many outdoor weddings planned over the next three months, I’ve been working with my brides and grooms to prepare for such unpredictable changes. Many of them worry about keeping their guests comfortable and happy at their outdoor weddings and receptions.

As a wedding planner at Simple Pleasures, I have been taking care couples and their guests for over three years. While I can’t always predict the weather, I can reduce the worry of my brides and their guests by setting up a guest plan that focuses on key areas of concern for our guests. Working with my couples on these 10 areas has reduced countless wedding guest complaints over the years and, allows my couples to worry about the good stuff like, what to do first on their honeymoon. 

Since I get asked for my tips by other wedding planners, I thought I would go ahead and share them with you so, here are my top 10 tips to keep wedding guests happy and comfortable at outdoor wedding events, 

10. Park and Go

The first experience your wedding guests will have is pulling into the driveway and parking the car. Many of my couples have treasured wedding guests that are elderly or disabled, “about to pop” pregnant cousins or a best friend with twins and all their accessories. These types of guests might not be able to walk long distances from a parking lot, on uneven terrain or need assistance.

So, what’s a bride to do?

The first thing to do is to check how close parking is in proximity to your wedding seating and if there is an easy walking path. Here at Simple Pleasures, parking is close to the buildings and we have driveways that can pull right up to our feature areas. At your venue, if parking is not close or is not on even terrain, ask your wedding venue coordinator if a car is permitted to drive up to your outdoor area. If a car is too large or will mess up the landscaping at your venue, ask if you can use a golf cart or something similar to move guests around. Rentals can be very reasonable but, don’t forget to secure a driver and set up a pickup location and drop off point for your guests.

Transportation to and from a parking lot or pick-up service can also be a great experience for all of your guests. This is especially nice to have after the wedding when they are tired from dancing the night away.

9. Thirst Quenchers

When Arkansas weather is feeling a little sweaty, have some ice cold water at your welcome table to help them beat the heat. You can keep it simple with coolers filled with ice or use decorated drink stations that fit with your wedding theme. Your wedding guests will thank you for quenching their thirst while they socialize with other guests in anticipation for your arrival.

Wedding drink station to greet your guests and quench their thirst

Wedding drink station to greet your guests and quench their thirst

Rustic outdoor wedding themed drink station

Rustic outdoor wedding themed drink station

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the weather turns to the cold side, having a station for hot cocoa or hot cider is a great way to keep your guests warm on the inside. You can even order personalized mugs or hand out extra specialty cocoa mixes which make a great guest gift (and can be DIY to save money).

8. You May be Seated

Great chairs are important to keep guests comfortable.

Great chairs are important to keep guests comfortable.

When seating people outdoors, it’s important to think about what kind of chairs you want to provide and where you need to place them. Sitting for long periods of time is not the only thing guests complain about. For example, if your wedding is in a sunny area, a plain metal chair could burn their legs once they sit down. You can make a metal chair work perfectly if you rent or purchase chair covers. The light colors  absorb the heat plus, they dress up your wedding and allow you to use mismatched chairs if needed.

The quality of the chair is also important to guests. I have heard stories of brides trying to save money by renting the cheapest chair, only to see it fold underneath some of their guests. At Simple Pleasures, we purchased our own quality chairs to ensure this doesn’t happen. If you are renting from a third party, check out their chair                                                                                    options in person and only choose chairs from a trusted vendor.

7. Fabulous Food

Wedding buffet at Simple Pleasures

Wedding buffet at Simple Pleasures

One of the growing concerns of many my brides is choosing what food to feed their guests. With food allergies and dietary restrictions at a seemingly all-time high, it’s hard to come up with a menu that leaves everyone happy and doesn’t drain the pocket book. Collecting special food requests early on will help you work with your wedding planner and caterer to create a workable solution.

Do your best accommodate your guest’s special dietary needs but if you are unable to (say due to extreme allergies or food your caterer can’t provide), call the person directly and let them know that you are unable to provide them a special meal. Make sure they know that if they want to eat with the group, bringing their own food is acceptable. Mosts guests with these issues are typically used to bringing their own special food but, will be so thankful that you tried to find an option for them. They will also appreciate that you took the time to personally call them about it (and generally they will brag to your family members during the reception :)

P.S. For those looking to save money by having mom help you make the food, don’t do it. Just have it catered and I promise, you will be thankful you did. This day can be incredibly stressful already and by adding food preparation, transportation and making sure you keep the hot things hot and cold things cold – that’s too many things you and your parents need to be worrying about.

6. Don’t Bug Me

For some guests, what bothers them the most about outside weddings is not the heat or cold but what “friends” they could pick-up along the way. Whether it’s ants crawling up chairs, mosquitoes biting ankles or when in the woods, nothing can tick you off more like…well, ticks.

A few simple tips to keep your guests at ease and the critters far away:

  • Simple Pleasures provides pest control in their outdoor areas. Ask your venue if their grounds are regularly treated and if so, what do they treat for. If they do not treat for insects, ask if they could do this and offer to pay for part of the service. Treatments can last 3 months or more so, the venue might be inclined to do it since other parties would receive the benefit as well
  • Have citronella candles or tiki torches as part of our decorations (it also adds ambiance and romance for evening events)
  • Offer bug spray or Avon’s Skin-so-soft at the welcome table for guests to “spray and go”.

Whichever option you pick, giving your guests peace of mind that they won’t be “bugged” during your wedding is worth your efforts.

5. I’m a Fan

Wedding hand fans are cheap and easy ways to keep your guests happy in the heat.

Wedding hand fans are cheap and easy ways to keep your guests happy in the heat.

No breeze in this August Arkansas heat (well, really it’s the humidity, right?). No problem. Hand fans have been used in weddings and pews for centuries and now, you can brand them in your wedding colors, use them to send a “thank you” note to your guests or just provide a breeze of relief. These small items can significantly increase your guests’ comfort level in the heat and they are inexpensive and fun.

And when you need to stay warm on a chilly, fall day, one of my favorite tricks is the small but mighty hand warmers. You can find them at Walmart or your local outdoor store. They can fit in a back pocket or small dress purse and can be made available at your welcome table. These warmers can also keep your toes warm although there is no guarantee to help when the bride or the groom has “cold feet” :)

Hand warmers are perfect small "gifts" for a brisk wedding night

Hand warmers are perfect small “gifts” for a brisk wedding night

Another item that is very popular for rustic or outdoor fall weddings is using blankets as part of your decor. Hung on chairs, hay bales or just stacked in a wicker basket signed “just in case”, can allow your guests help themselves when chilled and be a cute way to feature your Nana’s homemade afghan, Granny’s crocheted rocking chair blanket or any of the fleece blankets you’ve had in the top of the closet all these years.

 

Simple Pleasures offers a nice, cozy outdoor fire pit for those cuddle-worthy nights or for making smores at the reception. Check to see if your venue has a similar option available for your guests.

4. Access to the indoors (even at an outdoor wedding)

After trying each and every one of these small tricks, there are some guests that just can’t take the heat or cold of the outdoors for very long and need a place to escape. Providing access to a small indoor waiting area, air conditioned restrooms or an indoor reception gives those guests a place to take a break out of the elements to a place of comfort.

Here at Simple Pleasures, we have many indoor facilities and beautiful grounds to allow our guests to move around as they need. Make sure to check with your venue before signing a contract to see if you will have access to their inside facilities. Some do not include access to other areas unless you pay a separate rental fee for that space so, make sure to ask before you sign.

3. Capturing the moment

A picture is worth a thousand words and with the new age of smart phones, everyone is a photographer. Creating a great space for guest photos and encouraging your guests to take pictures during your special event, helps you to get photos that your photographer just can’t get and allows your guests to have the joy of capturing a memory that they can share for a lifetime.

Make this an easy process for your guests by creating a photo booth, finding a beautiful picturesque place in your venue and direct them to post their pictures on Twitter or Instagram using a particular hashtag. You could also have them link to a wedding Facebook account. Although this tip does not relate to weather, this does help your guests to feel like a part of the wedding and they can add their own personal contribution of pictures and memories. 

Find a great spot for family or guest photos. Don't be afraid to make them fun.

Find a great spot for family or guest photos. Don’t be afraid to make them fun.

A wedding is a time for distant family members to come together and in many cases, it’s like a family reunion. I hear guests all the time talk about how they want a picture of the whole family, with the bride and the groom or they want copies of pictures. Let your guests know where your pictures will be posted or if you will be distributing copies of family pictures. Communicating this up front can reduce the questions to your photographers, or to you and your parents. Your guests would be happy knowing they will get access to pictures from such a special occasion. Also, don’t forget to send pictures or a link to those invited but unable to attend. They will also be so thankful to be included.

Let your guests know where your pictures will be posted or if you will be distributing copies of family pictures to everyone. Communicating this up front can reduce the questions to your photographers, or to you and your parents. Your guests will also be happy knowing they will get access to pictures from such a special occasion. Lastly, don’t forget to send pictures or a link to those invited but unable to attend. They will also be so thankful to be included.

2. Time with you

Your guests are at your wedding because they want to be a part of your commitment to the person you love. After you complete your vows and run back down the aisle, your guests can’t wait to get just a few minutes to hug you, tell you how happy they are for you, how beautiful you look and to catch a quick picture. For them, hanging out in the heat, being a bit cold or dusting off their tight suit is worth it for just a few minutes to celebrate with you. But for weddings with lots of guests, personal greetings can be very difficult for the bride and groom to take the time and do. With all the pictures and cake eating and everything else that needs to happen, is it really so important to see all of your guests?

Well, to be quite honest, for many of your guests, spending just a few minutes with them might be one of the most important things that you can do. It can be better than water upon arrival or a car service or, dare I say it, better than bug spray. Taking time to acknowledge their attendance and thank them for coming allows them to personally celebrate with you, even for just a few minutes, and can make all the difference in the world.

Make sure when booking your venue, that you allow plenty of time to meet with your guests. Some bridal parties will do this in a receiving line as guests exit the wedding location for the reception. Another option is to make your rounds as people are enjoying cake, punch or dinner. A third option is to stand in front of a beautiful place that serves as a great backdrop and invite your guests to meet you there for pictures. Any way you choose to do it will be just fine and, your guests will be happy for the time with you.

1.Tell them what they need to know up front

Using an invitation card to provide wedding details helps your guests to plan ahead.

Using an invitation card to provide wedding details helps your guests to plan ahead.

The final thing you can do to help your guests feel happiest at your wedding is to let them what they can expect. Many new wedding invitations include a separate card that provides additional information. Include things like directions to the wedding venue, reception location, dress code, meal selection and if you have out of town guests, basic weather information. Some of my tech savvy brides make a wedding website. You can make them for free and many choose theirs from theknot.com

Make sure your guests know that your wedding is outside, so they can dress appropriately for the weather. Also provide an email or contact number so they can call and ask questions. Guests with special dietary restrictions want to know if you are serving a full meal or just cake and punch, as it allows them to choose to eat in advance or bring their own food if needed. And for those guests that have limitations, it allows them to send their regrets respectfully.

Planning for these 10 areas might not seem like a big deal before the wedding but during it, you will have peace of mind that your guests are taken care of and you can worry about more important things. 

Tara

P.S. If you liked this blog, share it on Facebook and post a comment on which of these 10 you plan on doing at your wedding.

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