Getting Married Outdoors?

A perfect summer wedding day has the sunshine pouring down, the bride sparkling in her beautiful dress, and the guests enjoying the lush green surroundings. If your heart is set on an outdoor ceremony, there are a few things you need to keep in mind, both legal and practical – courtesy of the South Farm venue in Cambridgeshire, here is a handy guide to all you need to know.

Wedding at South Farm

 Image courtesy of South Farm

67% of couples prefer an outdoor ceremony

South Farm finds that the majority of their couples, whether they are holding a civil partnership ceremony or a wedding reception, choose to do so outdoors with weather permitting. Discounting the 25% of weddings held during the winter when outdoor ceremonies are not feasible, the numbers adjust to around 67% preferring an outdoor ceremony and 58% achieving their ambition, or five out of six, which says something nice about the English weather for once!

Weddings at South Farm

 Image courtesy of South Farm

The rules

For ceremonies to be conducted outdoors, the Home Office rules say a suitable roofed structure must be licensed by the relevant County Registrar and approved by the Fire Officer. Examples include: summer houses, gazebos, follies and dovecotes. The minimum number of occupants approved by the Fire Officer must be six or more. Present inside for the ceremony are the bride and groom, two registrars and two principle witnesses. If the Fire Officer approves, additional people may be  included. The total size of the congregation, mostly seated outside, must not exceed the maximum number for which the venue has an indoor bad weather alternative licensed ceremony space. The location must be published.

The bad weather contingency

Even the atrocious 2012 summer weather surprisingly deters only a minority of outdoor wedding plans. After all, it seldom rains all day. Nonetheless there absolutely has to be a bad weather contingency plan. At South Farm invariably both indoors and outside are prepared for each wedding. The final decision need not be made by the couple in consultation with the registrars until literally minutes before the “off”. The registrars often bend over backwards to meet the wishes of the couple and have even delayed the ceremony by a few minutes on occasion to let the storm clouds pass. In best interest of the couple, the South Farm waives the outdoor ceremony fee if the weather turns against the plans, and write off the cost of the double lay-up.

Weddings at South Farm

 Image courtesy of South Farm

Some dos and don’ts

  • Plan the bridal route to the altar carefully. At South Farm the bride and her proud father are often delivered right to the aisle by tuk tuk – it’s a magical photo opportunity and always a surprise for the congregation!
  • Remember – the bride hardly ever feels the cold, but the guests may!
  • Add a touch of decoration to the structure to personalise.
  • Ensure you have a good amplification and PA system.
  • Consider stage style lighting on sunny days.
  • Have plenty of brollies on hand, both for rain or shine.
  • Use outdoor chairs with suitable feet that won’t bog down in the grass.
  • Clear chairs promptly after the ceremony for photos and drinks.
  • If it’s touch-and-go, have the ushers on hand to transport ceremony flowers and decorations at the last minute.
  • Vacuum up confetti as soon as possible with a fun ride on lawn mower.

The most important thing to remember is that preparation is key – you will not be surprised by the weather if you are ready for every eventuality. Always ask your venue for details of how they handle moving a ceremony from outdoors to indoors, and whether there are any extra costs involved. Your wedding can be fabulous, rain or shine!

South Farm is a Grade II listed country house, located on the Cambridgeshire/Hertfordshire border, and only 50 minutes drive from London. Set in 20 acres of landscaped grounds, it features gardens, a courtyard, barns, granaries and stables, it’s also licensed for both indoor and outdoor ceremonies and offers exclusive hire. For inquiries please call 01223 207 581 or email

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