Pennsylvania is one of America’s most historic and photogenic states and the picture-perfect place to tie the knot outdoors. Mother Nature willing, you can create an unforgettable experience for your guests, and a backdrop for photos that will wow your Instagram followers.
Here are five big areas to focus on when starting the planning process:
As a couple, how do you both picture your dream wedding ceremony? Is it small and intimate with an exclusive guest list, or is it a huge party where everyone you invite gets the plus-one privilege?
Where on the casual-to-formal spectrum would you like your wedding situated? Is there something specific about you two that lends itself to a certain setting? Did you meet in college? Are you religious? Are you huge Eagles or 76ers fans? Do you lean toward a public or private location?
Attending a bridal show together will help you explore the possibilities. Then, it’s time to get started.
If you’re committed to saying your vows under open skies, do some location scouting together. Take photos and write down how you feel about each place. Review afterward and rank your top two or three choices, before inquiring about logistics.
You can build a list by researching wedding venue websites. Map out the best route to visit them all, ideally in one weekend. Decide which atmosphere suits you best:
- Wedding with water: on a boat, a beach, a riverfront, or lakeside.
- Wedding at a park or college campus.
- Wedding on a ranch, farm or garden.
- Wedding at a country club, golf course or resort.
- Wedding on a rooftop with a view.
- Wedding at a private residence.
If it’s an option, many couples find backyard weddings to be the most-personal and most-flexible setting for an outdoor wedding. You will not have the time constraints of other venues, nor restrictions on how you can decorate or on which vendors you can use for the reception.
If you have a home where you can host your event, be sure to make time to get the yard looking its best, starting with the lawn. Taking care of any trouble spots in the spring will set the stage for a beautiful Pennsylvania wedding outdoors. Spruce up the flower beds with native plants to attract the butterflies. With a garden full of flowers, you’ll save a bundle on floral arrangements. No matter which venue you choose, make sure there’s a covered space or awning in case Mother Nature decides to shower you with her best wishes.
When you’re on-site, make note of:
- Overall appearance: Is it well-maintained?
- Accessibility to parking and restrooms.
- Amount of noise at the site.
- Any restrictions on use.
- Preparations the venue will make in advance. For example, will they spray for bugs before the wedding?
Discuss with your partner whether any of the conditions are deal-breakers for either of you. If it’s a close call, cost and availability can be your tie-breakers.
Once you’ve chosen your favorites, find out which dates are available so you can put down a deposit to reserve a date and time. You’ll want to select a day between mid-May and mid-October for the best chance of comfortable weather. Keep in mind, thunderstorms happen mostly in the afternoon and evening hours. Mid-May and mid-October are also busy seasons for area hotels. Letting out-of-town guests know the wedding date ASAP will give them the best choices of rooms and flights.
Of course, the wedding ceremony is just one of many marriage-related expenses. You’ve also got to add in the rings, a rehearsal dinner, the reception, and your honeymoon. If your parents are pitching in, they will appreciate having an idea about costs for items such as:
- Venue rental.
- Wedding attire for the couple, including any hairstyling and makeup service.
- Officiant fee.
- Limo or other transportation, parking, valet service
- Catering, drinks, cake, tables, chairs, linens and place setting rentals for the reception
- Flowers and candles
Every bride wants to look her best on her wedding day. Keep in mind, strong winds and humidity may wreak havoc with your hairdo. Consider a veil that keeps your hairstyle in place. You may also want to have your bridesmaids wear their hair up. (Add a hairstylist to the cost of the wedding.)
You may also want to rethink dresses with long trains that can easily get snagged on a nearby rose bush or dragged in the mud. If you can imagine your heel getting stuck as you walk down the aisle, then you know why stiletto or kitten heels are no-nos.
Your guests will also thank you if you suggest casual attire in your invitation. No one wants to wear a tux or three-piece suit on a 90-degree day!
Consider a suitable backup plan in case of rain. No one will fault you if you suddenly have to move indoors. Congratulations and best wishes.
Courtney Fisher is a designer and wedding planner who enjoys incorporating nature into indoor and outdoor weddings. When she’s not working on a wedding, she’s writing about the latest trends in floral and dress designs.