Welcome to Part Two of Megan Arzbaecher's Camp Wandawega Wedding Series. In Part 1, she walked us through her decision to get married lakeside, which stemmed from a lifelong love of time by the water and was met with a perfect fall day when the venue tour took place. In Part 2., Megan walks us through how exactly she planned the perfect lake wedding and some tips if you're considering one of your own!
Once you have your heart set on a lakeside venue, there isn’t much that can stop you from creating your dream lake wedding. Nor should you -- when it comes to a personal and intimate wedding venue, a beautiful lake setting can’t be beat.
There is a good chance, however, that your venue might not be prepared for all the bells and whistles that come with a wedding. It is a lot of work to plan an outdoor wedding from scratch and when I planned my own Midwest lake wedding in 2016 at Camp Wandawega, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I want to pay it forward to any future brides who are interested in having a wedding at the lake with my 7 things to know before when planning a lake wedding.
Many lake venues are less equipped to handle weddings than an experienced wedding venue or hotel. As such, the bride and groom will need to coordinate a lot more aspects of their special day than a couple hosting a more traditional wedding. I never thought I would pick out a port-o-potty but alas, I did. We chose every detail of our wedding, from the tent to the chairs to light fixtures. This is great if you want to design your dream wedding but maybe not so great if you are not a decisive or organized person. There are a lot of logistics to anticipate and you should know that going in. Try to find vendors that have experience at your venue because it makes things go a lot more smoothly. I would also recommend hiring a wedding coordinator because lake weddings are a lot to handle even for the most organized of us.
Who doesn’t love a good party on the lake? Attending a unique outdoor wedding is something most young people will love. I think my circle of friends were more excited about my wedding than I was! They were all the first to RSVP because they wanted to get a cool room in Wandawega’s bunkhouse. Give them all those ‘grammable moments and maybe throw in a few surprises (like an ice cream truck or sparklers) to take the celebration to the next level. You should expect your friends to cut loose and maybe get a little too buzzed during the reception -- it’s all part of the lake vibes.
When we first told our families that we had decided on an outdoor wedding at a vintage camp on a lake in rural Wisconsin, they were… apprehensive. While supportive, they couldn’t envision the wedding coming together the way we could and it made them nervous. I think most parents would probably react the same because they likely haven’t attended a lake wedding before. This can make it hard for parents to picture it or understand what is appealing about this type of wedding. Be patient with your family. Keep them involved in the process. They will eventually come around to it. By the day of the wedding, all of my family members were calling it Camp Wanttobethere clearly excited about our unconventional setting.
This is one of those inevitable expectations that you should set for yourself -- the weather will be terrible. It will definitely rain. It will be miserably hot or cold. The mosquitos will be awful. It’s part of the bargain you make when you agree to have a lake wedding. On my own wedding day, it rained during the ceremony and a rabid raccoon was put down. So yeah, it wasn’t perfect. But if you set low expectations for the weather (and have a plan B!), then you will be pleasantly surprised, rather than disappointed, if the weather turns out well.
Even if you thought you had enough supplies, you probably don’t. We didn’t. We ran out of ice. Multiple times. From the beginning, I would recommend creating a big checklist of all the things you think you might need—lighting, cups, bathrooms, bug spray, fans— and then when the weekend comes, bring more of everything than you think. Pick out a few family members or friends to be available on the day-of to run into town for some last-minute supplies if needed.
From city permits to religious laws to fire department inspections, there are some unexpected hurdles you might need to work out before having your dream lake wedding. This was something I totally didn’t expect when planning an outdoor lake wedding. Our marriage wasn’t recognized by the church because of our venue and we needed a special insurance policy to cover our event. On top of that, little did I know about the city’s noise ordinances -- the cops showed up promptly at 11pm during our reception to tell us to keep the music down. Get all of your ducks in a row when it comes to the legal stuff so that you don’t have any unexpected disruptions on your special day.
Hopefully the above six tips didn’t scare you off from your dream wedding at the lake because it really is worth it! I wouldn’t change a thing about our wedding. It was 100% worth all the work! Although it might take a few extra steps to coordinate, the best thing about having a lake wedding is how personal you can make it. This will be an event that your family and friends will always remember. I had multiple people come up to me after the wedding to say how much they appreciated a weekend at the lake and attending a unique wedding like ours. It was the greatest compliment I could have received!
Wedding photos via Anda Marie Photography