UK summers have long, languid days, with (sometimes!) hot, sultry weather, and who wants to be sat indoors on a day like that? If you have even an ounce of Bohemian spirit in you, you might be thinking about an outdoor wedding, a woodland wedding, or a festival wedding.
I have photographed outdoor weddings at some amazing locations across the UK and abroad. England’s green and pleasant land has an abundance of outdoor wedding venues, woodlands, and barns which allow you to have a free spirited, festival vibe to your day. Below I’ll talk about some of the legalities and practicalities of an outdoor wedding, as well as sharing some tips on planning, and some of my favourite outdoor wedding venues.
Are outdoor weddings legal?
Yes, they are, finally! Whilst outdoor weddings have been legal in Scotland for some time, it took much longer for the legislation in England and Wales to catch up. Historically, a legal wedding could only take place inside a permanent structure, in a place which had been licensed for marriage. In Scotland, weddings were not restricted by location, so if you wanted to marry on a loch, up a mountain, or even in your parent’s back garden, you could, and it would be a legally recognised marriage. To do the same in England and Wales would not have been legally recognised, and you’d have to do the legal part separately in a town hall. This seemed rather outdated and unfair to couples and placed restrictions on the wedding day a couple wanted to have. Temporary measures to allow legal outdoor ceremonies were introduced during the pandemic, and a government consultation found that a whopping 96% of respondents backed the move to be permanent. So since 2022 outdoor civil weddings and civil partnerships have been legal. You can find more information on the government website.
Outdoor Wedding Venues
Where can I have an outdoor ceremony?
Many couples choose a woodland wedding venue, and the UK is lucky to have some incredible licensed wedding venues You could also choose an unlicensed forest, garden, or some private land that is meaningful to you both, and hire a marquee or a tipi. However, with the current legislation, if the venue is not licensed, then the wedding would not be legally recognised and you’d need to do the official bit at your local town hall/government offices/church.
Can I get married in a forest, a woodland, or a field?
You can, although the venue would need to hold a wedding licence. If they have a license then you can get married indoors or outdoors. If you have your heart set on a venue or location which is not licensed, then a humanist or celebrant led ceremony with the legal part done separately is a great option, and one that many couples have by choice rather than legal necessity. Plus you get to have two wedding days. Win win!
What is a humanist wedding?
A humanist celebrant works closely with you both to create a non-religious ceremony which is incredibly personal, unique, and inclusive. I’ve heard many guests at celebrant led weddings say that it’s the best wedding they have ever been to. I’ve worked alongside some amazing celebrants, including Nat Reybould, Zena Birch, and Celebrant Kathryn. Their ceremonies they have been totally joyous and full of laughter and tears. Celebrant led weddings are a great way to inject personality into your wedding ceremony.
What to consider when planning an outdoor wedding
Wet weather plans for an outdoor ceremony
Provide plastic ponchos and have something to cover the seating, particularly if the ceremony is in a woodland area. Big umbrellas are also a good idea. You can get them to match your theme and colour palette, either rainbow ones, white ones, black ones, or even clear ones. eBay and Etsy are your friends here.
Hot weather plans for an outdoor wedding
The summer of 2022 showed us more than ever that some days really are too hot for a wedding. Consider providing sun creams, handheld fans, and light coloured brollies to shield the sun. Woodland areas provide natural sun cover, but if your reception is in an open place, such as a field, consider sail shades to provide sun cover. Some marquees can become like ovens in hot weather. Make sure that the sides open to allow a through-breeze.
Consider food trucks for your reception.
Food trucks are are a great idea for a relaxed and communal eating if you don’t want a formal sit down meal. Outdoor weddings I have photographed have had vegan Mexican, pizza, crepes, as well as cocktail and gin trucks. They create a nice festival vibe and means guests can eat as much or as little as they want.
Consider a band who can play al fresco.
Outdoor ceremony, indoor reception?
Like the idea of an outdoor wedding ceremony but want to eat indoors in an actual building rather than a marquee? There are some great venues that allow you to do just this. A few of my favourites are Elmley Nature Reserve, Voewood, and The Yoghurt Rooms.