62 Outdoor Wedding Ideas for an Unbelievable Day
When you imagine your dream wedding, do you feel the sun on your face and a gentle breeze? Is the background music provided by chirping birds and the rustle of leaves or tall grass? Do you imagine snow or the warmth and rustic scent of a fire pit? If your answer is “yes” to any of these, it’s likely your wedding will take place in the great outdoors.
Outdoor weddings require an extra measure of planning, creative ideas, and even grit—when you invite Mother Nature to your wedding there’s no telling what she’ll have in store!
But there are tips and tricks to prepare for a stunning wedding at any outdoor venue, and ways to make sure you and all your guests enjoy the al fresco festivities in comfort. Read on for 62 creative outdoor wedding ideas and tips to help you plan the perfect ceremony and reception outside.
Have an outdoor wedding in your own backyard — or someone else’s
Have a beautiful backyard, or know someone who does? Take advantage of the low-cost venue so you can have more money for the honeymoon. (Bonus: If it’s your house, you don’t have far to go at the end of the day.) Ideas for making a backyard wedding extra special:
1. Create an archway of flowers or ivy (or both!) for the ceremony.
2. Invite beloved pets to take part in the ceremony.
3. Depending on the season, use a flower garden, holly bushes, forsythia, or roses as nature-made décor.
4. Rent umbrellas or parasols that match your wedding colors in case of rain.
5. Add a portable restroom (or two) to accommodate a large guest list.
Say your vows in a local park that has special meaning or a unique beauty
An outdoor wedding venue can be as simple as a local park that offers lovely scenery and convenience. Better still if it has personal significance for the two of you. Choose parks that offer:
6. Pavillions or gazebos. These can vary in size and the number of people who can fit under them, but they make a lovely, covered setting for the ceremony.
7. Playgrounds. Especially if you’re throwing a “kids welcome” wedding.
8. Other unique features. A water fountain, a carousel, or an arched bridge over a babbling brook—all make stunning backdrops.
Toast your new life together with an outdoor vineyard wedding
A vineyard wedding has it all: rolling hills, beautiful gardens, and a bounty of grapevines to provide the backdrop for amazing wedding photos. Most wineries have an indoor venue just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate, and the indoors are often just as gorgeous as the outdoors—think oak barrels, stone archways, and intimate wine cellars. The vineyard vibe is casual yet sophisticated; garden party meets the rustic outdoors. And the wine—oh, the wine.
Wine regions to consider:
10. Washington. After California, this northwestern state has the next largest number of wineries in the country.
11. Oregon. A beautiful state with beautiful wineries, such as Zenith Vineyard in Salem and Maysara Winery in McMinnville.
12. New York. The Finger Lakes region boasts a bounty of wineries for your vineyard wedding, including Glenora Wine Cellars and Heron Hill Winery.
Get married outdoors in an iconic city park
For those who live near a large urban park, or if you want an awesome destination wedding venue, a city park often offers show-stopping views. Some notable city parks to consider:
13. Forest Park, St. Louis. Located on 1,326 acres, this park also has a museum, zoo, and golf course. Flegal Waterfalls has been a popular wedding spot for many years.
14. Balboa Park, San Diego. Enjoy the beauty of cultural attractions, walking paths, green gardens, and gorgeous architecture.
15. Griffith Park, Los Angeles. The mountains make a beautiful backdrop, but you also have a butterfly garden, horse farm, and classic carousel for great photo ops.
16. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Gardens (Japenese Tea), gardens (Shakespeare Garden), and more gardens (Botanical) make this a gorgeous idea for an outdoor wedding venue.
Think outside the barn for an outdoor wedding
You’ve no doubt heard of barn weddings. But how about a wedding down on the farm outside of the barn? You can set up an open-sided tent and have a view of the barn and the entire farm. Some ideas to elevate the charm of a bucolic farm wedding:
17. Livestock entertainment. Guests can wander over to the barn, the outdoor pens, and the hen house to visit with chickens, goats, and cows. They are a joy to watch wandering or frolicking. Offer hand sanitizer to guests who pet the animals.
18. Livestock wedding photo backdrop. Your wedding photos are sure to be a hoot, especially if you can get some pictures with the farm animals in the background.
19. Quilt covered hay bales. These are cozy and fun seating options.
20. Homegrown photo backdrops. From a rustic barn door to wildflowers, farms offer an abundance of lovely wedding photo backdrops.
Throw your outdoor wedding at your favorite festival—or let the festival inspire your big day
Outdoor music festival weddings work best for small groups. The entertainment is built-in and you can partake of the food and beverage offerings. Consider having a brunch or small celebration after the festival to share pictures and talk about the special day. Some of the top music festivals in the US include:
21. Coachella. April - California
22. Lollapalooza. July/August - Illinois
23. Burning Man. August/September - Nevada
Another festival wedding option:
24. An outdoor wedding inspired by your favorite festival. If you can’t find a big festival to match your wedding dates, plan to incorporate festival themes:
Have the wedding party and guests wear face jewels for a Coachella-themed wedding.
Add artistic, bohemian elements to your wedding design for a Burning Man-themed wedding.
Channel inner peace and a Woodstock vibe with flowers in your hair and tie-dyed attire.
Hire a DJ or a local band to play the tunes you’d find at your favorite festival.
Head to the woods for a lush and lovely outdoor wedding
Trees provide a natural backdrop in any season. They’re especially beautiful in the autumn when colors turn, and the leaves drift slowly to the ground in the background. But a big display of summer greens is just as captivating. Choose the nearest forest, or pick an area where the trees are lush and dense, and add a few embellishments to elevate the event. Forest wedding settings to consider:
25. A woodland path wedding. Light the path between the ceremony and the covered reception area with fairy lights.
26. Alongside a babbling brook. No need to hire a musician for the ceremony because Mother Nature provides.
27. A treehouse wedding. Hold the ceremony in a treehouse. Party under the green canopy. Guests can even get a treehouse of their own to stay in overnight if they would like.
Swap out the stars for an outdoor wedding under the lights of a city skyline
Whether you live in a big city or you just thrive on that city-vibe, head downtown for your outdoor wedding. Rooftop weddings give you an amazing skyline view, urban parks offer peace in the middle of the hustle, and city riverboat weddings create a unique experience with a skyline backdrop.
28. Rooftop wedding. Getting married at sunset on the top of a city roof is undeniably romantic. When the sun goes down, turn on the string lights and light candles with hurricane covers.
29. Urban city park. New York City is famed for its bucolic city parks from Central Park in Manhattan to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. There’s no charge to get married in Central Park, but be sure to obtain a New York City marriage license 24 hours in advance.
30. On a riverside boat. A river runs through many US cities, including New York City, Chicago, and Nashville, to name just a few. Cruise past the Statue of Liberty as you say “I do!,” or take in a view of the bustling Port of New Orleans as you dance the night away.
Surround your wedding with nature-made bouquets at a garden
Decorations are already in place when you choose a local rose garden or a famed botanical garden as the setting for your wedding.
31. Botanical gardens. Be sure that the garden you love allows weddings. Here are two that do:
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, Virginia boasts a dozen different gardens, including a children’s garden, rose garden, and domed conservatory.
The Janie E. Furman Rose Garden, Greenville, South Carolina is a small venue that perfect for intimate weddings amidst the blooms and blossoms.
32. Local rose garden. Whether the garden specializes in roses, or just a host of delightful blossoms, make it special by adding white string lights draped through the gardens, or projected lighting that casts a desired silhouette on a lawn when the sun goes down.
33. A butterfly garden. Nature makes it beautiful. Some of the most well-known butterfly gardens that allow weddings include:
Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Chesterfield, MO
Butterfly Wonderland. Scottsdale, AZ
Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory. South Deerfield, MA
Butterfly Pavilion. Westminster, CO
34. DIY butterfly garden wedding. If you can’t find an outdoor wedding venue that brings you beautiful butterflies, create your own butterfly-themed wedding.
Look for a park, wedding venue, or backyard with abundant butterfly bush shrubs (Buddleja). Then time it as close to peak butterfly season in the region as you can. You may get lucky and have the fluttering on full display.
Insert paper or fabric butterflies wherever you have flowers—from the bouquet to the cake table.
Contact a butterfly breeding company and plan a butterfly release at the end of the ceremony.
Hand out butterfly-decorated mason jar favors.
Get married in your bare feet with a beach wedding
The sound of the waves, the wind in your hair, and the smell of the sea make beach weddings enduringly popular. Here’s how to make sure your oceanside wedding is peaceful, and not overrun by beach crowds shaking the sand off their towels off upwind:
35. Plan an early morning beach wedding at sunrise, or shortly thereafter. Have a brunch reception at a nearby beachfront venue and then enjoy the rest of the day lounging in the sand with your new spouse.
36. Hold a sunset beach wedding. Hand out mini flashlights as favors so guests can find the way back to the reception when it gets darker. String mini-lights through your bouquet so guests can spot you in the twilight.
37. Choose the shoulder seasons. In mid-fall or early-spring you can still get lucky with comfortable temps (in most locations) while avoiding the crowds. If it’s a tad chilly, have faux fur or cashmere wraps for you and your bridesmaids.
38. Get married on the bayside. No matter the season, the bay is always less hectic than the beach. And it’s just as beautiful.
Lakeside outdoor weddings are just as beautiful — with less sand
If you can’t get to the beach, or you don’t want to grapple with sand, you might prefer the simplicity of a lake. Some lakes even have small man-made beaches that can be decorated with a tropical or beach-inspired theme.
39. Have a wedding on the shores of the Great Lakes. When you stand on the shore, you’ll feel like you’re gazing across an ocean. The magnificence of the Great Lakes matches the magnificence of your special day.
The Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, OH, has both indoor and outdoor wedding venues for a magical lake-front wedding of Lake Erie.
The Dossin Great Lakes Museum in Detroit, MI, is nestled on the shore of Bell Island and the Detroit River, running between Lake Erie and Lake Superior. This spacious venue is filled with maritime artifacts and boasts gorgeous views of the water and sky.
40. Choose a small lake with personal significance. It might be in a park, it might be on public property, or it might be in the middle of nowhere. Plan accordingly for the ceremony and add a personal touch or two to make it extra special.
You might not have electrical outlets for a band to plug-in, but you can still enjoy beautiful music by bringing in an acoustic band, jazz trio, or string quartet.
Rent a boat and take a row around the lake as your first ‘journey’ as a married couple.
Put out a basket filled with cans of organic bug spray to keep lakeside pests away from guests.
Make history and nature your backdrop with a National Park or National Monument wedding
You’ll have better luck in the off-season, and you’ll definitely need permits. Some parks allow you to have the ceremony, but can’t accommodate the reception. In that case, there are usually venues outside the park you can go to after you’ve made it official. Some national parks offer facilities for receptions too.
41. Acadia National Park, Maine. Head to the top of Cadillac Mountain to say your vows at the highest peak on the East Coast where it will (literally) take your breath away.
42. Olympic National Park, Washington. There’s a million acres to choose from here, so plan accordingly. For sea-loving couples, why not enjoy a whale-watching tour with the wedding party before the rehearsal?
43. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. Get married by a cascading waterfall or surrounded by the late-summer blooming azaleas. Take a celebratory drive down Skyline Drive, a scenic route that runs the entire length of the park.
44. Head to the Nation’s Capital. You can get married at one of three National Monuments in Washington, DC:
The West Lawn of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The Washington DC War Memorial
The George Mason Memorial
You cannot, however, have a reception at any of them. Take the opportunity to go on a mini-tour of the city on your way to the venue of your choice. Stop for photo ops in front of The White House and the Capitol building.
45. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. Purchase decorative kites for guests to fly during the ceremony and reception. Choose bright or jewel-tone colors that contrast against the stark-white sands.
46. Hawaii Volcano National Park, Hawaii. The ‘big island’ is home to two active volcanoes, Kiluea and Mauna Loa, as well as a rainforest. Have your ceremony in the rainforest, surrounded by the sounds of nature, as well as stunning tropical flora and fauna.
Add an adventure to your outdoor wedding
Getting married is an adventure in itself. You can go all out and plan a destination wedding adventure, or create an extra adventurous memory for you and your guests.
47. Amusement parks. That feeling you get when you plunge 40 feet in a free-fall is similar to the feeling of saying “I Do.” Check out:
HersheyPark in Pennsylvania
Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA
Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Vista, California
48. Hot air balloons. Though your guests can’t go up, up, and away with you for the vows, they can release helium-filled balloons once you reach vow-level and cheer as you come back down to earth.
49. Glamping weddings. Rustic and elegant meet in the middle for glamping weddings.
50. Treehouse weddings. High up in the trees or not too far off the ground, you can relive your childhood glory days in a treehouse. Some locations to get you inspired:
EarthJoy Treehouse Village. Brooksville, KY
Treehouse Point. Issaquah, WA
Set up a s’mores bar so that guests can make their own treats at the end of the night. Include coffee and hot cocoa.
Include your favorite sports in your big day
The two of you may have suffered through the ups and downs of a favorite team for years, or you just might live close enough to a stadium that has timeless appeal (e.g. Wrigley Field or Camden Yards). Not all stadiums offer this as an option, so contact the events office to see if it’s possible
51. National sports team weddings. Say your vows at home plate in Citi Field or Fenway park!
52. Community field or court weddings. Maybe you two love a game of pick-up basketball or weekend baseball games with friends. Why not get married with these favorite spots as a backdrop. Play a game in your wedding best—the pictures will be amazing!
Incorporate a shared passion in your outdoor wedding
What brought you two together? What keeps you close? What do you two look forward to most on the weekends? This takes the above idea and expands it beyond the sports arena. You’ll tailor these ideas just for you, but here are some possibilities to get you thinking:
53. Horse stable wedding. The wedding party can enjoy a trail ride to the ceremony.
54. Library courtyard wedding. If you're a couple of bookworms who met at an author’s book signing, the grounds of your local library would serve as a beloved wedding location. Print small books that detail the story of how you met to share with guests.
55. Roadside bar wedding. Do you love cruising the open roads on the back of a chopper? Have a motorcycle-themed wedding at a roadside bar with a picnic area and serve up burgers, brats, and beer (draft, not craft).
56. Fishing-themed wedding. Fishing on your wedding day keeps things ultra-relaxed. Choose a river-side wedding near your favorite fishing spot. Have plenty of fishing rods on hand for anyone who wants to try to catch a big one.
57. Astronomy-inspired wedding. An outdoor wedding at an observatory or planetarium will be a spectacular way to start your future together. Invite all of your guests inside to view a planetarium show.
Head back to where it all began for your outdoor wedding
Maybe you were high school sweethearts. Maybe you were each other’s college crush. Maybe you both came from the same hometown and met 500 miles away after relocating. If there’s a special place where it all began, consider an outdoor wedding ceremony in a locale that’s close to both of your hearts.
58. High school grounds. Use your high school interests as the theme of your wedding. Maybe you both played high school sports; bring out the football helmets and pom-poms for centerpieces. If you spent your high school years together in drama club, create your wedding programs in the image of a theater playbill and roll out the red carpet for the ceremony. If all of that seems too much, just work with one or both of your school colors to show some pride.
59. College campus. Colleges are bigger than high-schools and often have multiple places that are perfect for outdoor weddings. Take the wedding party on a tour of your campus and hold the rehearsal dinner at your favorite old hang-out.
60. A hometown park. Stick to decorations that are as natural as the scenery that surrounds you. Instead of large floral arrangements, use small flowers in bud vases that complement, not overwhelm. Hand out sunscreen if you don’t have shade. And be sure that your guests know exactly where to find you. Don’t just say Highland Park on your invites. Say at the gazebo near the south entrance of Highland Park.
Put a seasonal spin on your outdoor wedding
Seasonal themes are a natural for outdoor weddings. Use these ideas as a jumping-off point:
60. Pumpkin farm wedding. Let guests find their way through a corn maze to the very center where you’ll take your vows. (Provide maps in case they get lost along the way.) Hand out rustic favors of DIY cocoa kits, homemade jams, and coffee samplers.
61. Apple orchard wedding. The backdrop is beautiful, of course, but add to the theme by serving apple cider in warm mugs alongside frosted donuts in colors that match your wedding colors. Candy apples make charming favors.
62. Ski Lodge wedding. Frosty breath adds a unique touch to winter weddings. Hand out flannel blankets and mittens for your guests in case they get chilly. If it’s very cold, keep those vows brief so you can go inside and dance by the fire. Then pass around warm drinks like hot chocolate and hot toddies.
Tips to pull off a beautiful (and comfortable) outdoor wedding
Now that you’ve got an abundance of outdoor wedding ideas to mull over, you may start wondering about the one thing every outdoor wedding has in common—the weather. What if it rains or snows on your outdoor wedding? What if your wedding day falls on a blustery day? What if the temperature spikes? Here are some ideas to plan for the unexpected:
Have coverage available nearby. Even if you plan to have your entire wedding under the open sky, you must prepare for inclement weather. Set up a tent or reserve a covered pavilion and decorate it with white lights, greenery, and potted trees for a stunning effect.
Hand out umbrellas to guests if the rain is light, or if the ceremony is short enough to go through with before moving inside to the reception.
Arrange for outdoor heat lamps for added warmth if the temperature drops lower than expected.
Place a big basket of parasols near the seating area for guests to use for shade.
Place large patio-style umbrellas over outdoor seats and tables.
Set up a tented lounge area where guests can grab some shade and a cool drink.
Offer plenty of water and flavored water for guests to grab as needed.
Pass out hand-held fans so guests can catch a breeze while they watch the ceremony.
With creativity and forethought, you can plan an outdoor wedding that honors your passion for adventures outside, while ensuring all your guests are comfortable and happy. Many happy returns for a wonderful outdoor wedding.
Next up: Discover our tips on how to bring an intimate atmosphere to a large wedding, whether you choose to have it indoors or out.