Outdo your I Do’s in the Outdoors
by Life inTents
When thinking of your wedding, you want much more than an event of "I do's" - you want an experience. You're thinking fresh air, gorgeous scenery, and dance partners-turned-campmates where the fun doesn't stop when hall lights turn on at 10 pm sharp. You’re thinking champagne and campfires, logs and love. You’re thinking of planning an outdoor camp wedding.
While the vision is undeniable, the planning can seem a little, well, daunting. But, when nature is your venue, it’s worth it - all it takes is a little bit more planning and a whole lotta empathy.
Check out our top 10 ideas on how to plan a camping wedding festival that will help it go from a simple dream to simply dreamy.
1. Guest Logistics: map it out.
Get lost in conversation, not on the campgrounds. Think tactically about the logistics of how people are entering, staying, and exiting the campgrounds. From Aunt Bernie who lives in the same town to your friends seeing it for the first time, plan and map out how each and every (and we mean “every”) guest and crewmember would get there and experience the location. If it's looking like a bad math word problem and not like a seamless journey, look for opportunities on how to simplify either in the current situation or through a new camp wedding location.
2. Give yourself plenty of time to set-up camp.
Give yourself as much time as possible when setting up your campground wedding - ideally the day before people start arriving. If the day before isn’t possible, discuss getting camp set up first thing on the day of to give yourself time to troubleshoot any potential obstacles. Your nerves will thank you.
On the flip side, a party’s mortal enemy are the words: “But we have to get up at 6.” Discuss with the grounds what time guests have to check out. Remember, break down of a site can take some time. So, while an 11 am check out time sounds like you’re able to hit snooze, the real wake-up call may be several hours before. Discuss with the venue early in the process with this in mind to work through details and options.
Our advice? If time really is money, invest your money in this time before and after the big day to feel calm and collected.
3. Shuttles, RVs, and Tents - oh my!
Planning a campground wedding takes some creativity, and much of that brain power goes into where people are getting their Zzz’s. You may have selected a venue that only has a handful of sleeping rooms where grandma called dibs. Don’t worry - this is where the fun comes in, as there are many comfortable (and even glamorous) options available.
Offsite locations: While you’re wedding might be among the trees, you can shuttle guests from your venue to other locations. Must-haves with this option: Clear understanding of where your offsite locations are, a plan and schedule for people to get from A to B, distributed communications (with maybe even some check-in calls) to guests before and during the event to make sure everyone knows the “when” and “wheres.”
RVs: RVs are in their renaissance. While they are practical, they can even be extravagant with their possible bathroom, shower, sink, and stove. You can rent several RVs to have a community feel, with the RV option often being a hit with parents and grandparents. Think through logistics of where the RVs would enter and park. Then, think of type. Do you want to go traditional or get glam with Airstreams or a Mercedes Sprinters? Maybe even a quintessential VW campervan rental? Shop around and search through traditional rental locations and peer-to-peer rental platforms, like Outdoorsy.com.
Tents: No matter if your guest attire is blue jeans or black tie, tents are an old-school housing accommodation that adds an element of fun and authenticity. Consider purchasing traditional 3-person Wenzel tent or maybe even roomier family-sized 8-person option. Fill ‘em with sleeping bags, cots, lanterns and a bottle of wine or two. You can also ask guests to BYOT (bring your own tent), but this might be a stretch logistically. A classic option includes a pop-up tent village with Bell tent rentals, adding room and a magical backdrop for those photos. With an element of “glamping,” you can then furnish with amenities, such as queen beds, duvet covers, rugs, chair, lanterns, and rugs.
4. When nature calls (and it can’t go to voicemail).
Dancefloor? Ready for some moves. Buffet? Delicious. Restrooms? Hm, let’s double check that. One big tip: Don’t assume the venue you choose has the restrooms that meet the needs of your guests. Often overlooked, check out the number of restrooms and the state they’re in. You will need a minimum of 2-3 bathrooms stalls for your event - all working, clean, and comfortable. Think about how they can be stocked to meet all your guests’ needs. Thankfully there are services such as Royal Restrooms, who bring portable luxury restrooms (and showers) directly to your venue.
5. Coordinating your vendors and your guests.
Planning your own campground wedding can feel like a full-time job, and an outdoor wedding often requires the skills of a project manager. By having a camp wedding or event, you are sharing logistical errands with vendors. Planning this event goes past knowing if guests want the salmon or the chicken. It’s confirming sleeping arrangements, plotting the tent village layout, and directing guests to their overnight digs. Work with vendors, such as camping tent rental companies that include RSVP management to help take some “to-dos” off your list. Or, if you’re thinking the DIY route, you may want to get some extra aid from your event planner or coordinator who may require a small (well-worth-it) additional fee.
6. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
Let your guests know what to expect ahead of time in terms of the event space. When people feel prepared, they’re able to focus on the fun, so spell out key details that could help them plan and pack. Include what’s on the agenda, suitable attire (e.g., a note saying that you may want to swap your high-heels for flats on the campgrounds), specific instructions on how to get to their specific tent or RV, amenities, etc. Bonus point: Include a site map of the property to eliminate confusion up front. Aim to send these details out 2 - 3 weeks before the big day. During the event, have signs and greeters direct guests around the property, to their digs, and, of course, to the bar.
7. Plan for rain and avoid the pain.
While it might not be ironic to have rain on your wedding day (looking at you, Alanis!), it is a possibility. While rain gets a bad rep, it can create some breathtaking backdrops for photos and even some good luck. But, the weather will be a major variable during your outdoor event, and rain isn’t the only possible culprit. Think: excessive heat, cold, or mugginess. It takes some proactive planning to make sure you and your guests are smiling day of, rain or shine.
If your guests are staying in an RV: Guests should be safe and sound from a drizzle or a downpour (phew!), but “comfortable temperature” effort may vary by RV. If you secure an RV without an air conditioner or heater, look to getting battery powered fans or portable propane heaters to help keep the temperature moderate.
If your guests are staying in tents: Options may be more limited in tents, but don’t let that scare you. The key? Selecting a solid tent and reinforcing it. Select a four-season rated tent rental that has proved to hold up to unexpected torrential rainfall or do some searching online for weather-related tent reviews. Add tarp as an insurance measure, and make sure guests are off the ground through cots or air mattresses.
When a chill is in the air, make sure people have an extra throw blanket or two when those evening temperatures drop. If you feel like the temperature really might get lower than your uncle on the dancefloor, you can even splurge for portable propane heaters.
Hot and humid is another story. For nights where you’re worried the number looks like an aced test, make sure your tents have screened windows and doors to promote airflow. Maybe even get battery-operated fans if the heat is a major concern.
8. Bye-bye Bugs.
Bugs and the outdoors go hand-in-hand, so if you’re sharing some of their property, come prepared. Most venue locations regularly bring in exterminators to spray for bugs, so find out when their cycle is and encourage the venue to pull the timing in closer to your event date.
For safe measure, invest in several cans of yard fogger and spray around the ceremony, reception, and lodging areas before the guests arrive. And, you’ll want to add “bug spray cans” and “citronella candles” on your “to-get” list for the big day.
9. Dance in the moonlight without stumbling home.
Sun’s down and the glasses are up. Between the alcohol and a darkness not quite seen on city streets, you’ll want to think of how your guests will be able to walk home. Strategically incorporate night lighting through affordable solar-powered stake lighting or string lights. Even consider handing flashlights to guests in welcome baskets so people are only falling in love, not on the side of the path.
Part of the allure of the outdoors is the essence of getting away from it all. But, you don’t want to miss out on all the #littlemoments that your guests share using your wedding hashtag. With cell phones roaming, phones might die faster and if they are staying overnight, consider a charging station. This will alleviate your guest’s anxiety from being disconnected and lets you smile at all the candid moments caught by guest’s days after the event. You can easily create DIY charging stations with power strips for your guests to access. As a bonus, run power directly to the individual camping tents.