Planning an outdoor wedding can be very daunting as there is so much to think about, but in return it can be a very rewarding thing to do. I'm sharing my story with you about how we found planning our own wedding day, the experience as a whole and things we learned along the way in hope it will make it easier for you if you are about to embark on the adventure.
Where it began..
When picturing my wedding day I had always known I wanted to have something a little different to the traditional route. I had always had a feeling it would be some kind of marquee, but when I say 'some kind', I knew a traditional marquee just wasn't going to cut the mustard. I'm going to take you back to Christmas 2012, as this is when we got engaged and our very own wedding planning journey began.
When taking a trip to the jewellery store to get my engagement ring resized, the chap behind the counter asked if I had brought my first wedding magazine yet. My reply was no, (as it had only been a few days!) But as soon as we left we headed to the shop to buy one! As I flicked through the pages feeling inspired, I stopped and there it was. A picture of a Teepee! I remember saying to my husband, 'this is it, this is what our wedding is going to be held in' at this point I hadn't even considered any of the facts, I just knew that's what I wanted us to have.
The very next day I looked up this Teepee company who were called Papakata. I fell in love with the company, the story, and the vibe of the photos straight away. All we had to do was wait till their first open weekend in April and take a look for ourselves. So we took our mums on a road trip to York (they had no idea where we were going and made some interesting guess's on the way!)
On arriving to Escrick Park I couldn't wait for the reveal. My mum said 'Wigwams!' Now let me tell you, looks can be deceiving, because of the vast scale of the Park they looked tiny from the outside! But I can assure you they are far from it! I remember walking up to the teepees and my mum had changed her tuned already, 'how romantic!' she said, and she wasn't even inside yet!
As we entered under this beige canopy, it opened out into a huge space. The twinkle lights wrapped around the wooden frame made it feel magical, the disco ball that hoovered over my head above the dance floor was calling for a party and the dressed tables were so inviting to dine at, and the fire of course, oh my lord this was amazing! I could see the excitement beginning to brew in my mums eyes, and before we knew it we were planning just how we would dress it!
After chatting to a member of the team, we felt confident we could pull this off, there lay one key question 'where would we put it?'
We had a lot to think about as we headed home, and between us decided to keep the whole thing a secret. Yes that's right not even my dad was told! We wanted everyone to experience what we had when we entered the teepees. The WOW factor!
I began researching places in our area that we could put the teepee, Land, B&B's, Self catering cottages, you name it, but I felt I was beginning to run out of options!
My mum actually suggested one of neighbours gardens to hold it in, I thought there's no way it would be big enough for what we wanted, but we wondered over there for a look. I was blown away by the size of the gardens, I couldn't believe I had lived in the village all my life and didn't even know about this. Now all we had to do was ask the owner. She couldn't of been more nice and said she would love for us to use it. I had finally found the perfect venue!
This was the perfect walkway into the garden, a high hedge to hide the teepees which we worked out they would be just poking out the top a little!
Measuring up to see where it would fit best!
Once my husband had seen it, it was all systems go and what was even more perfect was the village church we wanted to get married in was directly opposite the venue so the guests could just walk across. It was meant to be!
After meeting with the owner, she gave us lots to consider when planning the day, things I would never of thought about, but as she had planned similar functions at her home we took her advice on board. Considering we didn't know her that well, she told us we had a free rein to do as we wish, we filled her in with what we would like and she actually recommended a few reliable suppliers who she had worked with before and we ended up using them as they were what we required.
Things she had experienced in the past gave us an insight to what it is like to organise an event. So keeping it stress free with local suppliers was key for us.
Making it clear in the beginning what you actually want your suppliers to do is a vital piece of advice.
The questions that Sandy had asked us at our meeting had made me realise just how important it was to know every little detail.
One thing that Sandy had suggested on meeting was using waitress's. Again I would never of even considered this. When planning a wedding yourself it is so easy to overlook the basics because your looking at the bigger picture. She asked us, 'who was going to serve drinks', 'who was going to clear away'? It became clear we needed help with this, so Sandy kindly organised some ladies for us, to do those tasks. They served drinks on arrival, they took the plates away after our meal, they served the drinks for the toast, they served the tea and coffee and they brought out the evening food. Without this help the day would of not ran so smoothly.
Setting up the Teepee
The team that set up the Teepees were extremely professional and organised. It takes a while to set up, depending on how many teepees you are having. Although they have it all under control, it is best not to wonder too far as they may need to ask you some things. The team were faced with extreme heat on the day of set up and required more water to cool theirselves down! (it gets very hot in those teepees!) The team wanted to know where we wanted our openings into the teepees, we had 3 due to it being so hot. We had our main opening at the front which was our show stopper entrance, an opening at the back that lead to the toilets, and an opening on the front side to let air in! We changed our tables around once the team had left as it didn't quite feel right, because we wanted the tables around the fire it made them fairly close together. I will say this made a difficult entrance as Mr & Mrs as we had to squeeze past everyone. So be sure to think about those details when planning your layout.
The team set up 3 days before the big day!
Dressing the Teepees
We had two teepees joined together so quite a big space to fill with decorations. Dressing a venue yourself takes some planning ahead of time, and we had decided to make as much as physically possible. Do not forget you have height in a teepee as well as the floor space. I had my mother in law make bunting to hang around the teepee with the tables in, and we used pom poms which we attached to the wooden frame. The other teepee with the dance floor had the fairy lights wrapped around the frame and benches on the outside with our music booth at the back. We went to several of Papakata's open weekends to get an idea of the layout we wanted and took down dimensions of the tables as we wanted to make table runners and cushions to fit.
We wanted a barbecue for our wedding breakfast as we were getting married in the summer and we was feeling hopeful with the weather! The owner of the venue recommended a company who had worked there a few times before for similar functions and was local to the area. We met with them, and was happy to leave it in their hands. We made it clear that we would be sat down to eat at 5 o'clock on the day. And they would be in charge of the main barbecue which included all the meat choices, buns, salads, sauces and side dishes which we chose ourselves. They were also going to supply tea and coffee afterwards for us. And we would pick up two days before the wedding the cutlery and crockery to dress our tables ahead of time. We also made it clear that we would have a waitress on hand to clear tables for them and serve the tea and coffee at the tables, but there would be no facilities for them to wash up afterwards (meaning they had to take it back with them)
I strongly advise thinking of every detail, no matter how trivial you think it is, ask the questions to avoid surprises.
We decided to enquire at a local cafe about their desserts. We had our eye on their truly scrumptious lemon meringue pie, chocolate gateaux and apple pie all home made of course! We picked these up the day before the wedding, one thing I was not prepared for, was transporting them! The makers had kindly put them in cardboard boxes for us, luckily they hardly moved in the boot of our car as my husband drove steadily! Another thing to consider is make sure you have enough fridge space to put them!
Ice Cream Bike
We are very lucky to have a local ice cream man with his very own bike, who I got in touch with a year in advance as I know he is popular. This was a nice unexpected treat for all the guests! We picked a few flavours that we liked, strawberry, vanilla and rum & raisin. He didn't let me down!
Sandy had recommend a local bar to do the drinks for us (I just happened to know the lady who ran this anyway which made life a little easier when meeting!) Sandy had experienced a bar that run out of drink before, so we didn't want that to happen and took no chances!
Now, I know I knew the lady who ran the pub, but she was as excited as we were! I can't stress enough how important it is to have suppliers who are looking forward to being part of your day too! We discussed how many guests we had and what they liked drinking. She was also happy for us to have our own wine on the tables during the meal and for the toast (not all bars would like this, I'm sure!) and she also recommended the drinks on arrival, which I had forgotten all about! Which we opted for Pimms and orange juice.
I rang around a few local toilet companies, comparing prices, but in the end I went with the company who was the most well know in the area which meant they were more expensive. They were totally worth it, and one less thing to stress about. They also sounded more professional on the phone when organising it, and asked for a deposit. I asked them on booking how much power there toilets would require, so that I knew when looking for a generator.
I did have a quick look around for Dj's in the local area, but I think we had already made our minds up that we would do this ourselves. We seemed to have the longest list of songs we wanted to have played so it came naturally to organise that too! As we had a proper dance floor in the teepee my husband thought it would be a great idea to build our very own Dj booth. I can't tell you have much fun he had designing this! We had inherited some rather large speakers from a family member so he would design it around those, it was going to light up and he even cut out a wooden body for a fake DJ who we decided Chris Rea's face would be stuck to it!
( based on our names being Chris & Rea, we thought it would be funny, so we ran with the idea!)
For the music itself we used a laptop on the day, where we made two playlists, one for the main disco, then a slower playlist, what we could play when we felt the night was slowly coming to an end! This way we could play all our favourite tunes without being interrupted.
One thing to note is you need to have a music license, the lady who ran our bar had one so we did not have to sort this out, thankfully.
We hired a local company to supply the generator for us. We had to calculate the amount of power we were going to be using on the day. We had toilets to run, music playing, the teepee lighting, and outdoor lighting. They were just after a rough idea to know which size generator to give us. This was the only stress we had on the lead up to the day. My husband and I were waiting at the venue for them to arrive with it and they were nowhere to be seen. They had changed the time a week before so we was not worried until we got past an hour of pacing up and down and we had other places to be that day! I rang them and they were on there way, I think they had forgot!
Charlotte our photographer had not shot a Teepee wedding before so she was really looking forward to the challange. She meet us at the church the evening before when we were having our rehearsal and then came over to the venue to have a sneak peek at the teepee. We discussed that we would love our photos with family to be in front of the teepee and she clocked a corn field to take our portrait shots too. I would say it is vital for your photographer to see your venue before hand so they are aware of their surroundings if they haven't been before.
When discussing the bar and caterer, Sandy advised putting up a gazebo for the bar and a catering tent for the caterer to get ready in. A friend of hers kindly did this the day before. The teepee company did supply these which can join to your teepees, but we knew already Sandy had this sorted.
Sandy also gave us a heads up on what type of vehicles to not use on her lawns, when having suppliers drop stuff off, as previous companies had churred up her grass badly!
We had to leave the Teepee the evening before the wedding with everything dressed, it was perfectly safe, but depending on where you hold your outdoor wedding I would advise someone stay with it.
Don't under estimate how long it takes you the dress the teepees! Between the four of us we managed to do it in one day, but we could of made it easier for ourselves and dressed it earlier as it was put up 3 days before. We had a week off before the wedding and every moment was filled with tasks. We did not stop, just as you think you've finished, you have to sweep the pavement to the venue! lol! I almost forgot the lawn games as we were leaving for our church rehearsal the evening before. Even the super organised can get caught out! And I would strongly advise pre making pom poms ahead of time, as this took us what felt like forever!!
As we were getting ready to close the teepee for the evening, it suddenly dawned on us that opening the teepee in the morning would be a two man job! So we quickly found a neighbour to come and help my husband in the morning with this task.
Make sure to get in touch with your suppliers nearer the big day to confirm details, make final payments and make sure everything is covered which will put you at ease.
One thing I did not think about was seating outside for the guests. We had some grand parents who wanted to sit down while guests were mingling with drinks and games. The venue luckily had out door benches which some guests kindly fetched over for them to sit on, but I had just ran out of time to think of this!
Something I had not thought about was being announced as Mr & Mrs into the Teepee to sit down for our meal. The bar lady had kindly offered to do this for us which made a nicer entrance and she did a great job!
No matter how well organised you are, there are still going to be things that need attending to on the day. My husband had a fairly long list of things to get ready before he made it to the church himself. But he had it all under control and I had complete trust in him! If you don't want to have things to do on your wedding day I would strongly advise asking for help. But me and my husband actually felt more relaxed as we had done the tasks ourselves.
Ask for help
We did ask our mums to help us with dressing the teepees and making decorations for the day. But as we kept it a secret, we certainly did not make it easy on ourselves. Doing it alone makes you realise what family and friends are for, but we worked even harder to make sure everyone enjoyed the day. Involving your loved ones is all part of the wedding experience and I would stronger advise letting them help you where they can.
Have a plan B!
Something we didn't have, but I wouldn't advise it! We didn't have an alternative if it had rained, although we were pretty sure for the weather that week! It was a scorcher! I would advise thinking if the worst case senerio was to happen what would you do? Always have a back up plan.
Due to our venue already holding different events there, they already had public liability insurance. If you are holding it in a field you may want to sort this out yourself.
I hope this has given you some pointers when embarking on planning a wedding yourself. It is extremely hard work but we found it a joy to plan and you will look back at it as a massive achievement, as we do.
I would do it all over again in a heart beat!
If you have planned your own teepee wedding and would like to add further tips and advise then please leave a comment below to share them.