Al Fresco “I Dos”: 20 Amazing Tips for an Outdoor Wedding in the Berkshires
June 15, 2017
There’s something about al fresco dining that is both romantic and refreshing and an outdoor wedding increases those feelings exponentially – especially if you’re saying “I do” in the Berkshires. Still, getting married outside requires some extra planning and there are factors you must consider ahead of time if you want to throw an event that’s memorable for all the right reason.
To help you along, here are 20 of our favorite can’t-fail tips for an outdoor wedding:
- Keep Everyone Together
Wanting to have a huge wedding and include all your family and friends (no matter how distant or far removed) is a lovely idea, but the logistics can be absolutely insane, especially for a destination wedding. How will guests get from point A to point B? When will you possibly see anyone? Do you need to write out a welcome guide just so people will have things to do and know where they’re going? If there’s a change in plans, how will you let people know?
Book a single venue with accommodations that can hold your entire crowd and all those problems go away. The famous Lake House in the Berkshires includes a collection of cottages that can hold up to 50 guests and there are numerous areas on-site that lend themselves to a beautiful ceremony. It’s all-in-one bliss and far less fuss than most – if not all – alternatives.
- Be Finicky About Fabrics
Heavy satin ball gowns are rarely the ideal fit for an outdoor wedding. Neither is a three-piece tux with tails. Skip the 10-foot train and keep bulky accessories to a minimum unless you need a stole or other cold-weather topper to go with your fall or winter nuptials.
The fabric you choose for your table tops can be problematic, too. Gauzy tablecloths will get whipped away by a stiff wind in minutes. Weight down napkins and table runners with vases or place settings or use decorative stones and centerpieces to keep things in place.
- Pick a Pretty Backdrop
There are lots of places to get married outdoors, but try to look at your venue with a critical eye. When you get your pictures back, do you want a brick wall or buildings in the background or a breathtaking panorama filled with rippling water and majestic mountains? If nature is on your must-have list, a wedding on the shores of Lake Pontoosuc is a stellar idea.
- Bond with Your Bridal Party
The actual day of your wedding can be ridiculously hectic, especially if you’re distracted by all those butterflies in your stomach, so it’s important that you find some time ahead of all the formalities to reconnect with old friends and your closest family members. To bond Berkshires style, soak up this precious time with your ladies of honor or best gents with yet more outdoor fun. Try your hand at whitewater rafting, climb the trees (literally) at Ramblewild, take a canopy tour, go skiing or snowboarding, fish or swim on the lake, get in a few rounds of golf, or just have a cookout using the grills outside your lakefront cabins at The Lake House. Want to get inside for a little bit? You can’t go wrong with a spa day!
- Look into Lighting
Natural lighting is great for the ceremony or a daytime affair, but once dusk creeps in you’ll need some extra help if you want to take pictures and actually be able to see your cake while you cut it. String up twinkly fairy lights or bistro lights, use tiki torches, or rent old-fashioned lamp posts. If your venue allows it, you can even do a fire pit for that extra bit of drama. Be sure to check with your photographer as to their lighting needs too – many will bring their own accessories to guarantee the perfect shot but it never hurts to ask.
- Make it a Weekend Affair…
Or party all week! The point is, don’t limit yourself – or your guests – to just a single day of festivities. Western Massachusetts is a beloved travel destination for a reason. There are amazing restaurants, incredible scenic spots, countless opportunities for artistic or musical exploration, and more family-friendly activities than you can imagine. Give yourself time to take it all in – you won’t regret it!
- Give Guests a List of Ideas for Pre-Wedding Activities
From cultural scavenger hunts to hiking trails to paddleboarding and kayak trips, there is plenty to do in the Berkshires. Keep your guests occupied by ensuring access to adventure. That way you avoid bored flower girls and keep anxious in-laws from checking in a little too often.
- Get a Fan Club
We couldn’t possible offer tips for an outdoor wedding without addressing the weather issue. You can conceivably hold your wedding outside in any of the four seasons but the time of year will greatly influence your set up and checklist. Summer temps (or unexpectedly warm spring and fall weather) requires some kind of cooling set-up. Small battery-operated fans are a great idea but regular hand-powered models are fine too, and cold drinks are an absolute requirement.
- Design a Drink Bar
Speaking of cold drinks… most couples address the idea of adult beverages early on but non-alcoholic alternatives are frequently restricted to carbonated mixers and water. Be different and have your mixologist or caterer craft signature booze-free beverages like flavored iced tea, herbal lemonade, or fruity spritzers. They look beautiful, taste great, and they beat the heat far more efficiently than whiskey and wine.
- Be Strategic with Your Catering
Consider the types of food you’re serving and whether they jive with the setting and theme of your wedding. In the Berkshires, local produce and meat are prized commodities and you can build a phenomenal menu around the offerings of area purveyors. From apples to cheese to artisanal charcuterie, Berkshire flavor is sure to impress. For tapas-style eats and more casual spreads, stick to smaller bites that guests can easily eat while standing up and don’t serve anything that will melt or that won’t sit well at warmer temps.
- Take a Photographic Tour
Take an hour or two between the ceremony and reception (your guests will have plenty of fun listening to music, playing games, and snacking back at the venue) to tour some local Berkshire sites with your photography. Get some air on Mount Greylock, wrap yourself in charm in the town of Lenox, sit in a sleigh on Sweet Brook Farm, or embrace history at spots like Hancock Shaker Village.
- Outsmart the Sun
Continuing with the summer wedding theme, you’ll want to offer some kind of sun protection. Think parasols and oversized umbrellas over the seating area combined with baskets of sunglasses and sunscreen (you can personalize them with monogrammed stickers for an extra special touch) and natural shade options like big leafy trees are always winners. Tents are an option as well, but be careful what type you choose – without swamp coolers or a nice breeze off the lake, the heavy material can actually trap heat and boost humidity.
- Ditch the Metal Chairs
For obvious reasons, metal, sun, and sundresses do not mix. Make sure your venue has wooden chairs or something similar so everyone has a comfy seat for the duration of the ceremony and reception.
- Plan for Bathroom Breaks
There are plenty of parks and other outdoor spots that could serve as potential venues, but don’t forget to ask yourself one key thing: where is everyone going to go to the bathroom? You’ll also need somewhere to dress and wait pre-ceremony and if you’re having your reception there as well you’ll probably need electricity for cooking or refrigeration (not to mention a band or speakers). To avoid the hassle, pick a location with all those amenities built in.
- Research Your Flower Choices
Delicate florals will wilt rapidly in the heat while others can’t take cold weather and/or wind. Succulents are hardy options for summer weddings or you can keep your arrangements inside until the last minute. For a winter wedding, pussy willow branches, pine cones, and mistletoe serve as festive alternatives. Paper and wooden flowers are also gaining popularity and they’re stress-free keepsakes, too.
- Give a Treat to Tired Toes
Walking through grass in heels isn’t easy. Neither is dancing all night in stilettos or new dress shoes. A basket filled with flip-flops in various sizes will make your guests more comfortable and increase the likelihood that your party will go as late as you want it to.
- Beware of Bugs
Nature isn’t always convenient and no one wants a parade of ants or swarm of gnats to crash their party. Consider hiring a team or professionals to spray the area ahead of time or, even better, go the sustainable route and use citronella candles and other natural repellents to keep the creepy crawlies at bay.
- Hold a Smaller Family Get-Together the Next Day
Since you’re already hanging out in the Berkshires for the weekend, put your honeymoon off one more day and enjoy a relaxing post-wedding outing with immediate family. Catch a show at Barrington Stage Company, go wine tasting at Balderdash Cellars, check out the Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary, or listen to some music at Tanglewood.
- Break Out the Late-Night Snacks
Hot cocoa and smores after dark? Popsicles and a gelato cart between the Electric Slide and the Chicken Dance? Yes and yes and we’d also jump for joy if you suddenly brought out cones filled with freshly popped popcorn, trays of mini sliders, or smores kits that can double as party favors. Guests get hungry when the party hits the wee hours and outdoor weddings are more susceptible to fun fatigue because of heat, cold, or humidity. Well-timed snacks are both comforting and refreshing right when everyone needs those things most.
- Roll with the Punches
Choosing an outdoor wedding means you have to give up some control. The wind may kick up, some raindrops could fall, but at the end of the day, you’re marrying the person you love and that’s all that really matters. The rest, well, that’s just details.
Looking for more tips for an outdoor wedding? Use our free wedding checklist as your brainstorming blueprint. Even better, contact our team at The Lake House to book your wedding week or weekend and get the real planning underway. It’s the happiest day of your life right here in the Berkshires – what could possibly be better?