Tips for the Perfect Outdoor Celebration
If the two of you love the outdoors, having your vow renewal in a park may be the ideal venue for you. Nothing feels as natural as being surrounded by trees, flowers, and grass on a sunny day. Plus, it can be a very economical option! Many parks are free to use, and those that require permits or location fees tend to be on the ultra-affordable side compared to other venue types. However, not every day is all sunshine and butterflies. You need to be prepared for issues like bad weather and annoying insects to keep your special day feeling perfect. Here are eight tips plus some delightful decor ideas to help you plan a romantic vow renewal in a park.
Find the Perfect Spot
You have the perfect location in mind at your favorite park already, or perhaps you could use some ideas. The park’s office staff can be an excellent resource for a list of locations that have been used for ceremonies previously. Having an idea of your guest list size is key to finding the perfect spot.
Before finalizing your ceremony site, be sure to visit each potential site several times during the same season, day of the week, and time of day as you plan to have your vow renewal ceremony. Make notes about the position of the sun, noise from park visitors, pedestrian or bike traffic in the area, and any wildlife life (ducks, geese, swans, squirrels) in the area. These will be important details that can help you determine which location is best. They will also help you decided on the exact location and direction you want to place your officiant, attendants, and guests.
You also want to check out the availability of parking and restroom facilities to make sure you and your guests will have convenient access. Ask park officials about other events being held in the same time frame that might be disruptive, like sporting events or concerts in the park.
Once you have narrowed down your list of possible sites, you need to contact the park’s administrative office to find out what you need to do to have your vow renewal there. Ideally, you want to be able to reserve the site to make sure no one else is planning an event in your desired location on the same day. You also want to ask about park regulations and permits. Typically the local parks department will require you to get at least one permit. Permits cover details such as clean up requirements, if you can bring in chairs, whether or not you can play music, the number of guests allowed before you’re required to bring in extra toilets, and so on. Take time to read all of the fine print! It may include stipulations that result in fines if not followed by you and your guests.
Do your homework as soon as possible when planning your vow renewal. Some parks will require you to apply for a permit up to a year in advance, while others do not take applications more than a few weeks in advance. Plus, state and national parks won’t issue permits during busy seasons.
The total cost of having your vow renewal in a park could vary significantly. While permits are typically issued free of charge, you’ll probably have to pay a location fee and possibly an application fee. Each state, city, and town park has its own fees. National parks charge anywhere between $50 and $200 – check out NPS.gov (the official website of the National Park Service) for a listing of all the local park permit offices and their contact info. Chances are you will need some kind of permit regardless of the size of your guest list.
Bonus tip: Don’t forget about park entry fees for you and your guests!
An outdoor vow renewal requires flowers that can stand up to all kinds of weather, from extreme heat to significant wind. Flowers like orchids, alstroemeria, calla lilies, heather, mums, and sunflowers are top picks for bouquets and arrangements. Surprisingly, wildflowers, roses, and bulb flowers (tulips, iris, hyacinth, daffodils) all wilt pretty quickly outdoors. If you had your heart set on a rose bouquet, opt for Leonidas roses. They come in bicolored shades of oranges and browns, including shades of terracotta, coffee, copper, rust, and blush.
Let your florist know the ceremony will be outdoors and ask that a preservative be applied to the flowers to will help them stay fresh longer. If possible, place bouquet stems in cold water and store boutonnieres in a cool place like a cooler. If bouquet stems can’t be submerged in water, place them in a shady spot to keep them looking their best as long as possible.
A plan B is required for any outdoor vow renewal. From relenting rain to excessive heat, Mother Nature can wreak havoc on the best laid outdoor plans. The safest strategy is to get a permit that will allow you to use an existing gazebo, picnic shelter, or bandshell (if one is close by) along with the permit for your ideal location. If the park allows it and you have a medium to large guest list, renting a for the day is another excellent option.
Another good plan B option is to plan to hold your ceremony at an alternative indoor location close to your original site. Inexpensive options include your home, a hotel suite, or the home of a friend or relative. You’ll want to add a rain card that consists of a phone number to call the morning of the vow renewal and the address of the alternate location with your invitations, so guests know exactly where to go.
And remember along with your plan B, a good sense of humor, plenty of hairspray, and some big umbrellas will keep your special day just that—special.
Since most park vow renewals are held during daylight hours, you’ll both want to wear something simpler and lighter than for a more formal nighttime celebration. This holds true even if you are planning a formal style vow renewal. Tuxedos, glitter, and extensive beading should be left for vow renewals held after dark.
For a formal vow renewal, a simple silk slip dress paired and stroller or morning coat with striped pants and a four-in-hand tie would be appropriate. On the other hand, for a casual vow renewal, anything from a sundress to a flowy, gauzy, floral lace, or otherwise lightweight dress in a knee to ankle length paired with a suit, dress shirt, and colorful tie would be perfect. The vital thing to keep in mind is that the formality of your outfits should match. Also, make sure you have the hemline on long dresses raised to the top of the instep to keep them from dragging in the grass and getting soiled!
When selecting your officiant, it’s essential to make sure they are willing to work on location is they are a member of the clergy. While the rules for vow renewals tend to be less strict than those for weddings, you will want to speak with him or her early on in your planning process to be sure.
Make it Easy for Guests
To ensure that your outdoor vow renewal celebration is easy for your guests to find and enjoy, do these three things in advance.
- Point the way. Let guests know where to find you by including detailed directions with your invitations or in follow up emails. Be specific about where they should assemble: “Keaton Garden, Coddington Park”—not “Coddington Park.” If allowed, post signs in the vicinity.
- Mark the spot. To prevent unwanted onlookers, mark the ceremony area, and appoint someone in your party to welcome all invited guests. Having an official “host” will help to let onlookers know this is a private event. Use signage and tie satin ribbons in your color palette around trees to visually mark off the celebration space. (Be sure to remove these after the celebration.)
- Amplify the sound. Make sure your guests can easily hear the ceremony by using a microphone. (Be sure the location has an electrical source when selecting it.)
Park Vow Renewal Survival Kit
Preparation is key to ensuring you’re ready to handle almost anything during your park vow renewal. Pack a “survival kit” with the following items to make sure you and your guest have a wonderful time:
- Bug spray
- Water bottles
- Paper fans
- Cell phone
- Tissues/paper towels
- Duct tape
- Eyewash / Eye drops
- Pain reliever
- Wet wipes / Stain remover
- Safety pins
- Bobby Pins
Park Vow Renewal Decor
Since your vow renewal is being held at a location filled with natural beauty, you shouldn’t need to add a lot of extra decor. You want to select decorative elements that help transform the space from feeling like a public one to one that’s personal. Simplicity and lightness are key to beautiful park decor. The park may also have firm rules about what you can and cannot do, such a staking anything down or hanging things from trees. Focus your attention on adding color with elements such as:
- Chair wraps and covers
- Tulle and fabric swags, streamers, and buntings
- Small table arrangements
- Potted plants
- Table linens
- Colorful paper lanterns
- Ribbons and bows wrapped around columns and trees
- Mantel decor for shelter fireplaces
- Flower petals to mark the aisle
- Colorful food and drinks