Outdoor weddings can be beautiful, no doubt—the clear blue skies, the fresh-cut grass, the picturesque backdrop—but there’s a lot of important factors to consider if you’re celebrating al fresco. With that in mind, we asked N.Y.C.-based event planner Andrea Freeman, the brains behind Nikki Reed and Ian Somerhalder’s recent nuptials, for her pro tips to ensure you dream day goes exactly as planned. “As the bride, your job is to enjoy the party—but leading up to it, you need to figure out how to make it the most enjoyable for your family and friends,” she says. Here, her nine nuggets of hosting wisdom.
1. Set your budget at the beginning.
“You’re building an environment, so there are things you have to bring in that you might not otherwise consider, like china, glassware, and a place to go to the bathroom—you can’t have a party without a bathroom! All of that adds up.”
2. Obsessively check the weather.
“Nobody really wants rain on their wedding day, although they do say it’s good luck. Either way, you have to plan for it. Even if the forecast doesn’t call for rain, you’re going to want a tent for sun protection. Those bright sunshine-y summer days can be brutal.”
3. Arm yourself with the necessities.
“If your event goes into the evening, you need to have whatever it takes to make sure your guests are comfortable. That means sunscreen, bug spray, and water should be easily accessible.”
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4. Get creative with food.
“In terms of food, there are a lot more options with outdoor weddings. If you vacationed in Maine every summer, you could do a lobster bake. S’mores are always a good option, too.”
5. Be as transparent as possible.
“Nobody likes a surprise. Mention the dress code in the invitation, and make sure guests know what to expect. Include a map of the location on the wedding website so people get an idea of how much space there is between one location and the other.”
6. Plan (very) far ahead.
“Just because you’re having your wedding on Saturday doesn’t mean all of the preparation can get done on Friday. Either you or your planner should expect to be on-site at least a week before. If you’re erecting a tent, laying down a dance floor, or installing a restroom, be prepared for how long it takes.”
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7. Choose flowers wisely.
“There are certain flowers that are available in certain seasons, and you want things that can hold up to the heat. Nothing says “wedding” like roses, but you can think outside the box. Hydrangeas and ranunculus are beautiful and rustic.
8. Make sure the space is well-lit.
“If you’re out in the woods somewhere, you’re probably not going to forget to light your tent, but remember to have a lit pathway or flashflights on-hand for guests to exit and find their cars.”
9. Don’t forget about parking!
“Even if you have a huge field reserved, you have to determine whether you want to splurge and hire a valet or let guests park themselves.”