Outdoor weddings can be so beautiful. From orchards and barns to beaches and backyards, they lend themselves to gorgeous photos and some really nice lighting options. However, let’s get real about Florida weather. First of all, it’s crazy. It will sometimes be down-pouring in one place and blue skies in the same city, at the same time!! Not to mention it rains almost every afternoon in the summer, can get hot as early as March and can stay hot as late as November. What’s a Florida bride to do?

No worries, just plan ahead with a few of these tips and there’s no reason not to have that outdoor wedding of your dreams:

1. Know the rules.

We have a ton of natural beauty in Florida – from state parks to beaches to national forests – all making for amazingly picturesque wedding locations. Don’t assume though, that just because you’ve spent tons of weekends relaxing in these locations that it’s okay to drive +100 folks over to have a ceremony or that if you get permission to hold a wedding that you can use any vendors there that you want. If you’re getting married at a public place, check to see if you need special permits, especially for alcohol on the premises.

2. Consider time of day.

First of all, remember that the best times for soft light are early morning and early evening. Midday, not only is it super hot but the sun, high in the sky, will cause everyone to have harsh shadows under their eyes during the ceremony and photos that directly follow. It’s hard to avoid unless everyone is standing in open shade. So for outdoor ceremonies, consider doing a morning ceremony, or having the ceremony in the shade. If you plan on a shaded option, visit the venue that time of day to see how much patchiness of sunlight is coming through, particularly where the bride, and groom will be standing so that you can plan to stand somewhere that will have the most even light. Some outdoor venues have open pavilions, covered areas, or a courtyard next to a tall part of building that will provide more even shade than under a tree, so think about placing the ceremony there. Of course you can always plan the ceremony closer to the end of the day, but if so and you are looking for “light and airy photos,” consider doing couple’s photos, bridal party, and most of the formal photos before the ceremony, while there is still tons of light.

3. Make sure your guests are comfortable.

If there’s a chance for the air to be hot or humid before the ceremony, make sure that there is an indoor location or at least one in the shade, where guests can wait. Give special consideration to elderly and handicapped guests that might be more sensitive to heat. Giving out fans for the ceremony as favors always helps. If you happen to get married on one of the 4 weekends a year that it is chilly in Florida, you might consider having blankets out for guests (that match your wedding decor). Ask your rental company about misters, fans, or portable AC options that might be a good idea for your cocktail or reception area too. You’d be surprised the kinds of things you can rent now.

Also try to make it obvious on invitations if all of or part of the day will be outdoors or on uneven terrain so that guests can plan their outfits (and shoes) accordingly. Just my two cents, but maybe don’t make it a black-tie affair if they are going to be outside most of the day in Florida.

4. Don’t forget about Florida’s unofficial state bird, the mosquito.

Although baskets of sunscreen and bug spray are always an option, think about discretely placing some of those Off Clip-On Mosquito Repellents around the ceremony in case people don’t want to spray their dressy clothes. Of course for outdoor cocktail hours, you can set up some mosquito repellent tiki torches or citronella candles. Even fans can help keep bugs from getting too pesky.

5. Hire a makeup artist.

Ladies, please test how your makeup stands up to the elements throughout a long day. If you’re like me, you put on your makeup in the morning and if you’re running around all morning, it’s already gone by lunch time. A good Florida makeup artist is used to having to deal with how to keep makeup looking nice through heat and sweat. A great makeup artist will actually just stay for a longer part of the day or return at a certain point to refresh your makeup so that you can stay camera ready all day. (If you need recommendations for these type of makeup artists, please email me!)

6. Don’t forget about the heat when shopping for your wedding attire.

There’s nothing that cuts the photography time short than a bride or groom overheating (and sweating like crazy). Usually suit and wedding dress shopping happens in the AC but if you plan on staying outside most of your wedding day, both of you think about getting lighter options for your wedding attire. We can always carry one of those personal hand-held fans with us during photos, but why suffer when there are so many beautiful and handsome options that would keep you way more comfortable. This also pertains to shoes!

7. Cakes need to be kept cool.

If you’ve never seen a cake melt, don’t have the first time be at your wedding. Yes, it is that hot in Florida and so you need to talk to your cake artist about what’s the best way to keep you cake intact. Some frostings and icings work differently in the heat and that might be how you decide which type of cake to go with if you’d like to display it in open air. And on the topic of food and heat, be sure to talk to your caterer about the cocktail hour options and the timing of bringing out the food. No one wants anything that has mayo in it that’s been sitting around in the sun too long!

8. Keep water handy.

Not only for yourself but for your guests. It’s a good idea to help everyone stay hydrated (especially if you’re planning on having an open bar later) with water and other non-alcoholic beverages by having them available to everyone starting before the ceremony and continuously thought the day.

9. Have a rain plan.

Talk to your venue about what their rain plan options are. Sometimes they have options that are not the look you were going for but are fine. Other times there isn’t a great plan or the indoor option is not AT ALL the look you were going for. If this is the case, be sure to investigate tent options. Now I’m going to pause for a moment to express a very biased opinion…white tents are awesome reception options!! Know that I say that for very selfish reasons because I love how reception lighting turns out under white tents, when I get to use any part of the white tent to bounce my lights off of for a great clean look. Having said that, there is a variety of tent options these days and you can even get them with AC or with chandeliers or with all kinds of fun market lighting options. So if you’re planning on everything being outdoors, opt in for a renting a tent for the reception and if nothing else, it becomes an easy plan B if it’s raining during your ceremony time. You may also think about getting a couple dozen umbrellas ahead of time for guests to use if there’s a chance guests could get wet walking to and from the different event locations or even to wherever the restrooms are located.

10. It’s better to setup tents when the ground is dry.

Speaking of tents, know that it is much easier for a rental company to set up a tent several days ahead of time, when it’s dry, and then adjusting on the day-of, if it’s rained during the week, than it is for them to set up a tent right after a heavy rain when the ground is soft and wet. Talk to your rental company, but some will offer to set up much earlier in the week for free, so that they can avoid setting up last minute after a rain. They can make either condition work but it’s much better for them to have the option. You just have to check with your venue to see when the earliest they will allow the rental company to set up.

Keep these in mind when outdoor wedding planning so that you can avoid any surprises the state of Florida’s natural environment might throw at you!