Outdoor ceremonies – let’s talk brollies and back-up plans

It’s the dream: exchanging vows in golden sunlight under a blue sky, your guests entranced by the gorgeous natural surroundings. But the weather may have other ideas…

Ardanaiseig’s outdoor amphitheatre attracts couples from all over the world (Photo: Bound by Light)

Words Jane Patmore

When the conditions are right, nothing beats a relaxed, natural outdoor wedding. And our unrivalled choice of exclusive hotels with manicured lawns, rugged castles with centuries-old gardens and countless wild, romantic beaches and scenic hills and lochsides makes Scotland a fantastic place for an outdoor wedding at any time of the year.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t dream, just that you should be prepared. And, to help, we have gathered sound advice from industry experts on how to plan an outdoor wedding and make the most of your venue whatever the weather.

If you’re hosting it outdoors, it’s normal to worry about rain on your wedding day. What happens if a downpour arrives at the precise moment the ceremony kicks off, or if heavy rain in the days beforehand have made the ground really soggy and muddy? And who decides when plan B swings into operation – and when is that decision made?

Your wedding co-ordinator will try to deliver what you want, but they also have a responsibility for the safety of your guests. Some venues will make the decision the night before, basing it on the condition of the ground and the weather forecast. Acting early means they can have your alternative ceremony room set up and ready, so there’s no last-minute rush. Other venues might delay the decision right up until a couple of hours before your wedding starts, in the hope the weather clears, giving you the best chance of having the ceremony you’d hoped for.

These Brolly Bucket numbers in bridal white really look the part at this wedding at Loch Lomond (Photo: Natalie J Weddings)

At Winton Castle in East Lothian, wedding ceremonies can be held in the walled garden with the castle as a romantic backdrop, or in the sheltered terraced gardens overlooking Sir David’s Loch. Afterwards, the party moves to the croquet lawn next to the castle, which has southerly views over the terraced gardens and loch. “At Winton, we let couples decide up to the day before whether they want to hold their wedding outside,” says weddings manager Rae McGonigle. “Our set-up is quick – we have a quad bike and trailer for transporting chairs, tables and PA systems.”

“Rain and wind are the main challenges for outdoor weddings,” says Rae. “Wind can be particularly tricky because of what it does to veils and headwear – to say nothing of how difficult it can make it to hear what’s going on.”

Yes, even if it is clear and sunny, Scotland is often a breezy place. As well as making it feel very chilly, it can have your guests clutching their hats with one hand and their skirts with the other. So when you’re investigating venues, try to find out how sheltered the ceremony spot might be. You don’t want your precious wedding hairdo ruined, or your veil constantly blowing over your face, or the groom unable to concentrate on his vows for fear a gust will lift his kilt.

A marquee whose sides open up to let in a cooling breeze can be useful, like this one at Winton Castle (Photo: Crofts & Kowalczyk Photography)

Worse still is the impact strong wind can have on the acoustics – it can whip the sound away. Your loved ones will not be happy if they miss the most meaningful words of the day! Ask your venue if it’s possible to hook up microphones and speakers so everyone can hear what’s being said.

One venue in a fantastic location with plenty of natural shelter is Ardanaiseig, near Taynuilt in Argyll. It has a Greek-style amphitheatre in its grounds that makes an amazing setting for a wedding ceremony. It also has very special views across Loch Awe and up to the majestic Ben Cruachan.

Louise McLean, Ardanaiseig’s wedding co-ordinator, knows it’s not possible to use the amphitheatre for every wedding, but when the weather does allow it, the setting can hardly be rivalled: “It’s near the main building, conveys a fabulous combination of romance and history – and we always have contingency arrangements in hand to move the ceremony indoors.”

Always alert your guests to the fact that you’re planning an outdoor wedding, so they can prepare accordingly. You might be caught up in the moment and be blissfully unaware of the chill, but you don’t want them to be huddled in anoraks, desperate to get inside to warm up.