I don't know whether it's because here in my little corner of the English countryside we're had a few days of the most wonderful spring like weather or because I'm the kind of girl who prefers to be outside instead of indoors but I am just loving the thought of gorgeous summery weddings packed with sunshine and blue skies. Now, I know that sometimes our famous (or should that be infamous?!) English weather gets the better of us but as long as you have a contingency plan should the clouds roll in and the raindrops fall, there's absolutely nothing better than planning an outdoor reception.
So here, to help you along, is my A-Z guide for fabulous al fresco celebrations...
A Atmosphere is all important so try to keep guests in one space for as long as possible because if people start drifting off, the atmosphere just isn’t the same. By decorating the area you want everyone to use, serving drinks and food in the same space and keeping the entertainment here too, guests will quickly get the message that this is the place to be!
B A BBQ is a fabulous idea for your outdoor reception, whether as the main meal or as the highlight of the evening buffet. Make sure there’s a selection of meat and vegetarian options and serve with some sensational salads and freshly baked speciality breads.
C What could be better to get the fun started than playing some games? Croquet would be perfect and lots of venues would have equipment ready for you to use. If not, you can buy sets from thegardengame.co.uk. Set some deckchairs nearby so those not playing can watch and not miss out on the fun.
D Why not dance outside as well? If your reception rooms open onto a patio or terrace, fling open the doors and strut your stuff by starlight. Could you get anything more romantic than a last dance under the moon?
E If you’re outside, you’ll want an explosive evening! How about exploding roman candles along the drive as you head off at the end of the night and on’t forget, you can have silent fireworks if you want the explosions without the bangs!
F Add some fairground fun to your wedding with a carousel, helter skelter, big wheel and even the traditional side stalls! Take a look at carouselroundabouts.co.uk for more information.
G Keep your canapés cool and something trendy like iced Gazpacho Soup served in little shot glasses will wow your guests.
H Forget the sit-down dinner and keep your outdoor reception informal. Hampers full of tasty treats and mini bottles of wine and water are fabulous, fun and often more cost effective.
I Who can resist ice cream so why not hire an old fashioned Ice Cream Cart to serve dessert outside? Take a look at weddingtrikes.com for more information.
J Homemade Jams make wonderful favours for outdoor weddings. You can make them yourself really easily – get your jars from www.lakeland.co.uk and fruit from your local pick-your-own farm or farmers market. Decorate the tops with co-ordinating fabric and print your own personalised labels and the jars can double up as place-cards. Take a look at another of my blog posts for jam inspiration & recipes.
K If you’re going to serve beer to your guests, how about buying in a Keg of your favourite? Breweries like Hogsback (www.hogsback.co.uk) and Wychwood (www.wychwood.co.uk) sell kegs of their award winning ales – perfect for a summer evening!
L Light is so important outdoors so think about lanterns, candles and fairy lights. Line pathways with lanterns, fill ponds with floating candles, use tiny tea-lights on ledges and wrap fairy lights around trees, archways and anything you want to highlight.
M If you’re having music outside during your drinks reception, place the musicians in the shade, provide them with some cool drinks and think about the volume – you might need it to be a little louder as there are no walls to hold the sound in so keep them close to your guests.
N Non-alcoholic drinks are essential at outdoor receptions, not only for children, those who are driving or don’t like alcohol but also to stop those who are drinking getting too sozzled too quickly or de-hydrating in the heat. Sparkling elderflower is a great alternative to champagne.
O Olfaction, or our sense of smell, is really important for creating the right mood. Use lots of scented flowers in your arrangements and use scented petals for confetti or scatter them on tables or along the aisle or around the dance floor.
P Punch & Pimms are ideal drinks when you’re outside and as they’re often served by the jug, they can be cheaper than bottles of wine or glasses of fizz.
Q Quirky details can often work really well outside because they’re not competing with the interior of the venue. Let your imagination run riot with bold colours and outrageous details!
R Insects can spoil your outdoor reception but citronella candles are a natural repellent. Also add some sprays to your bathroom packs for guests.
S Don’t forget to provide plenty of seating and shade so people can escape from the heat and take a moment to cool down. Ask your venue to put up parasols or arrange chairs under trees.
T Make the most of the outside by setting up a treasure hunt for the children. Concoct your clues and send them on a mini-adventure around your venue, ending up at a heap of goodie boxes that’ll keep them amused during dinner.
U A pile of pretty wedding umbrellas are great to keep at hand, in case of the odd drop of rain or as sunshades for guests.
V A great low-cost way to add extra colour to your outdoor reception is with voile panels. Pick them up from ikea.co.uk and hang them from trees and branches.
W Even hot days can be windy so use some beautiful clip-on weights to stop table cloths from flying away (and if you’ve got a veil, stop it wrapping itself around your head during the photos by pegging it to the back of your dress!)
X X-treme heat can be as bad as wet or chilly weather at an outdoor reception. Think about hiring air conditioning units, buying in more ice and providing more drinks or pretty paper fans if the temperature soars.
Y You and your husband should get some ‘us time’ during the day. How about sneaking off for a walk outside between dinner and your first dance and arranging for your venue to hide a bottle of champagne and two glasses outside?
Zzzzzzz Fresh air can make people sleepy, especially children so making sure there’s somewhere for them to crash out can save you from the over-tired tears at the end of the day. If there’s a room with sofas and blankets, they can escape when they need too.