Hi! I am Katie, a wedding planner and founder of the Rustic Wedding Show. I am so excited to have been asked by the team at Festival Brides to write their monthly wedding planning feature and I cannot wait to help you all on your wedding planning journey. Flood my inbox with all of your wedding planning nightmares – there is no question too big or too small and as they say, there is no such thing as a silly question! To get us kick started, I am going to write about my top tips for planning a festival wedding (well it is Festival Brides after all)….
The very first thing I do with all of my couples is a comprehensive and realistic budget. You need to do this or you will go over on everything and get incredibly stressed out. As part of this process you need to think about what a “Festival Wedding” means to you. Is it amazing music, multiple acts spread throughout the day in which case you need to apportion a larger than normal amount to your bands/entertainment. Is it the wedding weekend vibes – you want people to come and pitch a tent and stay for a few nights – in that case budget in catering options across the weekend, showers and toilets etc. Is it the styling options that naturally fit with this style of wedding? In which case make sure you have budget set aside for a florist, stylist and styling elements as that is where you will need to focus your budget to bring your dream to reality.
I am going to write a whole article about ceremony options because it is one of those issues over which so many of my couples struggle. For now though, ask yourself this question – Does it matter to me, my partner or our nearest and dearest whether the ceremony we have on our wedding celebration day is the moment that we get legally married?
If the answer to this is yes, then you need to find a venue which has a licence for you to get legally married. There are plenty of outdoor venues which are licensed to do not panic but it needs to be at the forefront of your search if this is likely to be an issue as plenty of these venues are not. This also means that you will have to get married under or within their licensed structure so that just effects the style of the ceremony space you are envisaging.
If this is not an issue, then the solution is to have a legal ceremony (usually the day before) and then another ceremony which is witnessed by your guests but is not strictly speaking the moment you become man and wife. I do find this can be a hard concept for parents to understand so my advice … work this out early on. Discuss it with those closest to you and then search for an appropriate venue.
One of the best things about this style of wedding, in my view, is that everyone camps out, sometimes for several days and the wedding has incredible moments which were totally unplanned. There are lots of companies which hire out bell tents for your guests to stay and most even manage guest bookings directly if you want the guests to pay for their rooms themselves. If you are planning to let guests pitch their own tents a word of warning, you need to plan when they are going to be able to pitch their tents and build that time into your day. Even if guests are not pitching themselves most will arrive with bags to put in their tents and you need to think about this in terms of your timing. You do not want all of your guests to disappear off to check out their tents if you have put on reception drinks and canapés for them. I often arrange a bag porter service so that guests bags can be taken to their tents whilst your guests can enjoy the canapés and reception drinks you have provided.
When planning a festival wedding most couples hire a field or pitch site. The reason I chose to specialise in this style of wedding is that I love that the set up tales place over a number of days which means that you have the time and flexibility to create something bespoke. The flip side of that is that the set up takes days and you have to bring everything on site. That means more suppliers, more co-ordination and ultimately more time both in the planning phase and in the set-up and clear up. You need to be prepared for some hard graft. Make sure you choose suppliers who are used to this kind of set up as they are much more likely to have the equipment and experience to make the planning and set up hassle free. You need a team of helpers who are hard working and on board, be that professionals or friends. Do not take it on all by yourself (or like me by almost all of my weddings, you will have lost your voice and be constantly hugging a lemsip on the wedding day itself- not a great look for a bride or groom!)
You will need to think about toilets, generators, showers (if people are sleeping over), mobile bars etc. For each of these, you will need to understand if they need power and water and plan where they will get it from and how (e.g. are they bringing a hose long enough to reach your outdoor tap). Where is the nearest drinkable water for the caterers (if any – if not they need to know). My top tip here is to always know whether your toilets and bars need to be perfectly flat – some do, and it will effect your whole layout if you are on a slope and they need the flattest ground.
There are so many incredible structures available for this type of wedding from stretch tents to marquees to tipis to yurts. Whichever you choose make sure you do a site visit with the company providing it. They will need to be sure that the structure can take the wind at that site at that time of year. I also thoroughly recommend that you visit your suppliers on one of their open days and when you do get pictures of the structure. And not the exciting kind of picture but the intimate kind of all of the places where you could connect things or hang things. Your florist and stylist will definitely thank you for it and it will help you plan out your space later on in the planning process.
Most tipi and marquee structures will come with a standard lighting package which beautifully lights the interior of the structure. BUT there are a couple of other areas you will need to light so factor these in to your budget from the outset.
Firstly, you will need to light the way from the marquee or tipi to the car park and to light the car park if it is not already lit. This is especially the case where you are using fields etc with uneven ground. Recently, at an event which was quite spaced out we decided to use matting to line the route to the car park, coupled with up lighters in the car park. This was a much more cost effective option and also didn’t mean we were using so much light that it ruined the evening ambience.
Secondly, I always recommend putting an uplighter in front of the toilets. Also, think about your suppliers and who will be packing up their vans in the dark. Almost always, your caterer and mobile bar will need an uplighter behind their service tent or van so that they can pack up in the evening.
7. Those all important pictures
When you have a site visit with your photographer make sure you discuss the position of the marquee or tipi with regards to the sun and the light. You can then take the lighting into account when drawing up your table plan and deciding where your speeches will take place (especially if you have clear panels in your marquee). You want amazing pictures so you need to be placed in the best light so your photographer can get them and not anywhere with glare or awkward lighting.
Anyone who needs power at your wedding or event should be telling you how much power they need. That is not how many sockets but how much they intend to pull of that power. You then need to add all of these amounts up and take them to your generator supplier and they will tell you what size of generator you need. Always have a back up option if the power fails. If you are using your house electricity try and get people to plug into separate circuits and remember that you lose power for every metre of cable so if you are far away from the house a generator is usually a safer option.
9. Take out the Trash
When you are booking a bar or caterer or really anyone who is going to have waste at your event MAKE SURE you check that they will take away all the rubbish with them on the night. You do not want to spend your first day as newlyweds going forwards and backwards to the tip with bags of rubbish. At an event recently where my bar left their rubbish I filled an entire trailer with rubbish bags and disposed of it for my client so do not underestimate the amount of rubbish 100 people having a great time can make!
10. Enjoy it!
Okay reading this back I realise now I have terrified you and completely ruined that vision you have of you and the love of your life stood in a field with an epic floristry creation behind you and all of the people you love watching. Cling to that vision. It is as amazing as you imagine. It is worth every second of blood sweat and tears that goes into planning a wedding of this type. And even your second aunt once removed who thinks your a total hippy right now because you don’t want to get married in that lovely 5 star hotel will have an amazing time and tell you its the best wedding ever!
If you have got this far, well done and I look forward to writing the next one!
Katie founded Songbird Weddings which specialises in planning outdoor weddings across the UK. Katie also founded and runs the Rustic Wedding Show which is an immersive wedding show aimed at creative couples.
Written by Katie Slater, Songbird Weddings I Photographs by Sarah Brookes Photography