Planning an Outdoor Wedding

Have you always dreamed of a stunning outdoor experience for your wedding? Between saying “I do” under the open sky to sharing your first dance under the stars, here are a few important tips for planning a flawless outdoor wedding.

Time of Year and the Ceremony

Before planning your outdoor wedding, it’s important to think about the time of year in which you want to be married and the location. Here in the Hills, weather can be unpredictable; there’s more of a chance for snow between October and May, so if you’re set on an outdoor wedding, you may want to consider a summer or early fall wedding.

When planning when to say “I do,” think about cloud coverage or sun position. This isn’t something you’re likely to give much thought, so talk with your photographer! Ask when the best lighting might be and go from there. If you have a wedding in the middle of summer, a three o’clock time might not be great on a sunny day because the light will be very direct and harsh. You and your guests will be dripping with sweat as you walk down the aisle, so you might want to try later for a little bit of a reprieve from the sun’s hot rays. If you start the ceremony at six o’clock, and you’re facing the west, you may even catch the beginning of a great sunset during the ceremony!


Location matters for a number of reasons, as well. If you choose a site that is more open, think about wind and sun. The blue skies may be gorgeous, but you might run into issues with sound or sunburn later on. By choosing an area shielded by Black Hills ponderosa pines or aspens, you provide a beautiful background for photos, and less of a chance for strong winds! Check out these lists of ceremony and reception venues.

Pro tip: Look for sites that may have an indoor area. This will help you plan for any scenario you might run into, and don’t forget to check for bathrooms!

Bridal Style

You’d be surprised at how warm your dress can make you feel once you hit the dance floor. Even on a beautiful day with a light breeze, any ball gown or wedding dress with many layers might start to get a little uncomfortable. That being said, if you’ve fallen in love with such a dress, consider altering it for the reception or having a dress change in between. Something that doesn’t have as many layers and shows your curves will surely be great for the main dance! Read more about finding the right fit here.

Another thing you will want to keep in mind is what type of shoe to wear. Heels are great until you find yourself sinking into the ground. If you want a little added height, opt for a wedge or pump rather than a stiletto.

Say Goodbye to Pests

Anywhere you have an outdoor wedding, you run the risk of being eaten alive by black flies and pesky mosquitoes. Talk with your vendor and ask if they spray for bugs before the wedding, or if they would allow you to hire a pest control company. The last thing you want is to say “I do,” and then have to face your guests with bug bites all up and down your arms! If you can’t hire an exterminator in advance, consider purchasing citronella candles or tiki torches. You can strategically place them around tables at the reception and the dance floor/ceremony site to add to your decor and keep the pests away.

Weather or Not, Here We Come

As we mentioned, the weather here in the Hills can be a bit unpredictable at times. You don’t want that to ruin your wedding plans, so it’s essential to consider a plan B. Any time of year, it’s a good idea to rent a tent for the reception. This also gives your guests some reprieve from the weather as they sit down to enjoy their supper.

Pro tip: Check rain/return policies on rentals.

Enhance the Natural Scene

Save on your budget when it comes to decor. Don’t go overboard; simply enhance the natural scene you have been blessed with! Dangle lights from the trees and use the backdrop to your advantage. If you want, go all out on your reception tables, and limit your exterior decorations. Check out these creative ways to light your night and discover some of the more popular trends and styles in decor.


Be open with your DJ about concerns you may have with audio at both the ceremony and reception. Unlike church weddings, you may have to hire your DJ for a longer period of time to have good sound at the ceremony. Your guests in the front might be able to hear you without a sound system, but those in the back will be struggling to understand your vows. Think about sounds that might be in the background. For example, if you are getting married at Sylvan Lake, the popular venue provides a beautiful backdrop, but it’s a tourist hotspot! You might be able to hear kids on the beach or cars as they pass through. You’ll want to ensure that the focus stays on you and that the DJ is equipped to handle any situation so every guest can hear the ceremony.


Wherever you set up camp, be sure to speak with those in charge. Ask about trash removal, candle/torch lighting, music/entertainment, alcohol, etc.

Food and Drink

When looking for caterers, ask if they’ve had experience planning an outdoor wedding menu. You’ll want to avoid items that won’t do well in heat like salads with mayonnaise. Sizzle things up with a savory barbecue menu, opt for a build-your-own salad, and offer light foods like fresh vegetables and fruit! When the sun goes down, add to the summer theme and have a s’mores station or fall theme and add hot cider stations.

Remember to have enough for guests to drink. With an outdoor wedding and reception, you’ll want to provide plenty of cold water. It’s easy for people to get dehydrated while outdoors all day, and if your 21 and older guests are drinking alcohol, they’re more likely to experience dehydration as well.

Don’t forget about the cake! You’ll want to ensure you have a spot indoors for your cake so it doesn’t sit in the hot sun all day. You don’t want to cut into a runny, hot mess.