Finding and selecting a wedding venue is one of the biggest decisions a couple will make during the planning process. I was lucky that my outdoor venue chose me. I was not lucky in how much work an outdoor venue meant. Outdoor lake weddings are a lot to organize. All the time spent will inevitably be worth it when you have your dream lake wedding!
Here is how I managed to plan (and pull off!) my dream Midwest lake wedding:
Step One: Work With Experienced Vendors
I know this seems obvious, but I can’t say it enough—find people who know what they’re doing. Ask your venue if they have a list of vendors they have worked with in the past, because it means they are familiar with the location, needs to the venue, and special equipment they might need to rent or bring for the weekend. Thankfully, my venue, Camp Wandawega, had a great list of experienced vendors for me to review.
While I wasn’t required to go with any of them, I chose almost exclusively vendors who were familiar with Camp Wandawega already. It is just one less thing I needed to worry about! If your venue doesn’t provide you with a list of previous vendors, make sure to ask any vendors you’re considering the following questions:
Have you ever worked an outdoor wedding before?
What will you need on the day of?
Will you be bringing sufficient staff on the day of or do you expect to have the venue supply one?
Will you need access to any special equipment, such as a generator, water supply, power source?
Do you have any references I can speak too?
Step Two: Get Yourself Organized
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to a wedding at a non-traditional venue like the woods or at the lake. Staying organized from the start of the process is a major key to having successful wedding!
Start by making a separate folder in your email and Google Drive for all wedding related correspondence. I also love using color coded flagging and subfolders, but this might be a little bit overboard for others. I’m a naturally organized person!
Next, create a few spreadsheets—yes, like the boring excel spreadsheets. Pinterest is great for inspiration, but it doesn’t get the job done when it comes to staying organized. Opt for Excel! These will help keep track of all of your research and allow you to easily share information with family members who might be helping in the process. Wedding coordinators create similar sheets to track the progress of wedding planning. If you’re not hiring a coordinator, then these sheets will be immensely helpful for you to be your own planner!
I created several spreadsheets to track my wedding planning:
Guest list and addresses: People will begin to send you their addresses, and Excel makes it easy to track. Make use tabs to track RSVPs, table arrangements, etc.
Vendor Information: Keep tabs on vendors you’re interested in, their cost and service. You can create a new tab for vendors once you’ve confirmed the contract so you have their contact information all in one place!
Important deadlines and payment schedules: Your vendors will be SO appreciative when you pay your bills on time.
Day-Of Timeline: Track the flow of the day for you, the bridal party, the guests and the vendors.
Step Three: Create Excitement by Making It A Destination
Naturally, people get excited about weddings but you can create even more excitement by turning your wedding into a destination weekend. Many of my family members were initially apprehensive about an outdoor wedding at a lakeside camp. It was out of their comfort zone and they had never attending a wedding like that before.
In order to help appeal to them, I “branded” my wedding as a destination wedding. The destination was the lake! I wanted our wedding to be an accessible destination for our family and friends, a majority of whom lived in Milwaukee, Madison or Chicago, while also making them feel like they were going to have mini vacation getaway.
I was able to “brand” our wedding through the save the dates/invitations, the wedding website, and sharing itinerary ideas for the weekend of. Consider including a map of the lake site or a suggested itinerary for guests to help them picture themselves at your wedding.
Step Four: Anticipate the Unexpected
My wedding planning process had gone fairly smoothly and I kept thinking “When will something go wrong?”. I was mentally preparing myself for the unexpected hiccups that inevitably come when planning a wedding, especially an outdoor wedding in the woods!
I would recommend that you start to run through possible scenarios in your mind so that you can toughen up in the face of day-of stresses. Every wedding will be different, but for my special day some of the unexpected moments included a rabid raccoon at camp, rain during the wedding ceremony, running out of ice and missing utensils for dinner.
Careful preparations and overplanning can help to mitigate some of these unexpected moments. Choose a few trusted family or friends that can help you handle them as they come up or can quick run an errand if you need it. Make sure the venue’s coordinator has all the contact information in the event that there is an issue with one of your vendor’s.
And if all else fails, take a few deep breaths and remember that it will all work out ok. I spent about 15 minutes prior to my first look just sitting in the sun with my eyes closed listening to the sounds of the water lapping against the dock. This quiet moment helped me get centered and calm down ahead of the ceremony and reception. This was one of the most rejuvenating decisions I made throughout the day and I can’t recommend it enough!
With these four steps as well as the seven tips I provided for planning in last week’s post, you should be on the right track to plan the most perfect lake wedding! Thanks for following along with my 3-part wedding blog series and I hope it helped inspire your own dream wedding in the woods.