Rabbi Lev Herrnson
Planning Your Outdoor Jewish Wedding
Updated: Sep 14, 2019
While every wedding is magical, festive and beautiful, there’s something special about a wedding that takes place outdoors. Flowers, shrubbery, manicured lawns and a green forest as a backdrop, together with a refreshing breeze and a sunset in the distance all add to the majesty of the ceremony. Still, an outdoor wedding is vulnerable to changes in weather that can undo months of planning. My comments below address concerns that are specific to a planning an outdoor Jewish wedding.
Have a backup plan!
Inclement weather can seriously dampen the festivities. Be prepared with a backup plan in the event of rain or extreme heat. I’ve officiated at weddings where, literally one half hour before “curtain time,” the bride and groom—in consultation with their immediate family members and wedding professionals, determined to move the ceremony inside. While a Jewish wedding is comprised of certain fundamental elements (See: “The Wedding Ceremony: Fundamental Components”), it’s also a mitzvah (a praiseworthy deed/commandment) to ensure that the wedding is beautiful. As part of your backup plan, give thought to what you and your wedding professionals can do to beautify the indoor surroundings, at the last minute.
If the outdoor chuppah is stationary, what accommodations can be made indoors?
Are your floral arrangements and center aisle runner easily transported to be set up inside?
How much time will be required to make the out-of-doors to indoors transition so that, from your guests’ perspective, everything is seamless?
Be mindful of the winds!
Even if the weather is good, strong winds can wreak havoc on an outdoor ceremony. Wedding programs go flying away, hats get lifted and thrown, and easels get blown over. I’ve chased after a wind-borne ketubah, anchored one hand on my kippah (yarmulke) during virtually the entire ceremony to keep it from flying away, and seen “Marilyn Monroe” moments with wedding dresses and tallitot (plural of talit—“prayer shawl”). At one wedding the sound of the wind constantly interfered with the quality of sound put forth by the sound system.
If it’s a windy day or night, instruct your wedding organizer not to place any of the items that go under the chuppah outside until the last minute.
If possible, use a heavy, metal easel and clip your ketubah to the easel’s frame.
Weigh down wedding programs with elegantly wrapped kosher candies and provide kippot with clips.
Have your wedding officiant conduct multiple sound checks to ensure that s/he will be heard over the howling of wind (or the sound of rain striking the top of your wedding tent).
Ensure Your Guests' Comfort!
Your wedding ceremony also provides you with the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim —“welcoming in of guests.” In cases of extreme heat there are a number of ways to fulfill the mitzvah.
Be certain to have refreshments available to your guests, at their seats. Bottled water can be purchased inexpensively and labeled with a custom label to reflect your wedding colors and theme.
Handheld, oriental folding fans can provide a cool breeze for the overheated guests and make for a fun and decorative takeaway.
Can your facilities manager spray to keep insects away during the ceremony?
Be mindful of the length of your ceremony; the larger the bridal party, the longer it will take for everyone to march and later exit down the center aisle.
And keep your bridal party in mind; they will be standing the entire time, fearful to move as they are upfront and facing the crowd, with no opportunity to sit, take a drink or fan themselves.
With proper planning you can be prepared with contingencies for most complications due to weather. Yes, the wedding is all about you, but your guests’ comfort should also be tantamount in your mind. Your guests will enjoy your ceremony--and remember it better than you do, if they aren’t also distracted by heat or thirst, or by flying objects!
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