How to Decorate Outdoor Receptions for a Wedding

Keep your guests comfortable in a colorful setting

By Suzie Faloon

Pink and Floral Table Settings
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Is it your heart's desire to have an outdoor wedding reception at your parents' house, on your own piece of land or at the lakeside retreat in your hometown? An outdoor area gives the potential for a homey, yet elegantly beautiful, wedding reception. With careful planning, you will have a party that keeps your guests comfortable in sunny, cloudy or wet weather. Decorating can be done on any budget with hired decorators or a do-it-yourself family.

  • What You Need to Know
  • Consider renting a reception tent to protect your guests from a rainstorm or the afternoon sun, depending on the expected weather conditions at that time of year. An awning can be attached to the back of the house to give shade. Be sure to clean your swimming pool, mow the lawn and trim the bushes before adding decorations to the yard. Clean and "deadhead" any flowering bushes in a garden area to present it at its best.
  • If you and your families are going to decorate, be sure to have wire cutters, cloth scissors for ribbon or tulle and a spool or two of florist wire. You can purchase or gather fresh or silk flowers, evergreen boughs, a bolt of white tulle and ribbon bows. Borrow or rent potted flowering plants and ferns.
Decorating an Outdoor Space

Step 1:

Wire evergreen boughs or silk ivy to an archway, trellis or gazebo in the outdoor area where your reception will take place. Place silk floral garlands or fresh flowers on the greenery and wire it in place. Stand several feet away and check for any gaps where more flowers will be needed. Add ribbon bows and lifelike doves or lovebird floral novelties to the display.

Step 2:

Place topiary or potted plants at the sides of the gazebo or arch. Float flowers and candles in the pool for a stunning decorative element. Anchor a row of floral designs at the edge of a lake or on the beach for a surprise effect for your guests.

Step 3:

Borrow or rent chairs and tables from a local club or business. Cover the chairs with rented cloth covers and tie tulle or satin bows to the backs. Add embellishments to the tables such as bandannas, bows, flowers and ivy or grapevines, according to your wedding theme. Reception centerpieces can be as simple as wildflowers in canning jars or elaborate arrangements of orchids and roses.

Step 4:

Choose lanterns, luminaries or citronella torches for romantic lighting at an outdoor wedding reception that will go into the evening. Add strings of white lights around tree trunks and across the ceiling of the tent or along pathways on the property.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • Check for sales on strings of lights after the holiday season if you're planning during that season.
  • Have a backup plan ready for the possibility of bad weather during the reception. Keep your eyes on the weather predictions for that day. The forecasts get more reliable a week or two before the date.

About the Author

Suzie Faloon is a floral designer and a freelance writer.

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Planning Reminder:

woman having bad hair day

Weatherproof your hair

Getting married in a humid climate? If you have hair with natural body to it, a straightened style may curl up by the end of the night. Be realistic about your hair type and how it will react to the weather at your wedding locale. Discuss your best hair options with your stylist.

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Wedding Glossary


A parabola-shaped tent with clean lines, capable of withstanding winds up to 70 miles per hour. Contains few internal poles, making it a popular choice for large weddings.

View the Full Weddings Glossary
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