Everything You Need to Know to Have a Summer Wedding

Don't have a wedding in June, July or August without reading this.
by Kristin Koch

If you're dreaming of a gorgeous outdoor wedding, summer is probably perfect for you—but there's a lot more than weather to love about this time of year. From fabulous florals to flexibility with colors and themes, the warmer months give you all the options you could ever want. Here's everything you need to know about hosting a summer soiree.

  1. Why a Summer Celebration Is for You

    Couple shares first kiss
    Iris Photography

    Warm Weather

    Need we say more? While spring and fall can bring unpredictable temperatures, rain or even snow, summer is known for sunny blue skies and warm temperatures that often last into the evening, making it the perfect time of year for outdoor nuptials.

    More Free Time
    "Workloads in many industries tend to lighten up and some people have summer Fridays, which allow for a more open schedule to both plan and attend weddings," says Annie Lee, principal planner and owner of Daughter of Design. "Also for couples who are in school, it's great to take advantage of their summer break for last-minute wedding errands and equally ideal for honeymoons afterward."

    Abundance of Available Blooms
    More flower varieties are in bloom on the summer solstice than on any other day of the year. That means you'll have a greater selection of in-season florals, making for more dynamic, colorful and affordable arrangements.

    Built-in Décor
    Mother Nature will save you on décor in the summer months. The warm weather allows couples in many parts of the country to take advantage of gorgeous natural backdrops, ranging from waterfront locales to lush gardens and picturesque mountaintops.

  2. How to Pull It Off

    Tablescape
    Mallory + Justin Photography

    A Colorful Palette

    For an outdoor or semiformal wedding, think violet, fuchsia, mango, magenta and green. If bold and bright just isn't your style, going with a subdued color scheme can be unexpected—for example, icy blue will exude a cool and refreshing atmosphere, and pastels can feel just as appropriate in the summer months as the springtime. For a palette that works with almost any style—from ultra-formal to relaxed and natural—look to a combo of white and ivory with green accents.

    Seasonal Sips

    Consider offering guests a cold drink like a fruity tea before the ceremony begins. Displaying different flavors (and colors!) of lemonade or tea in giant glass jugs, along with cut fruit for garnishes, makes for a fun setup during your cocktail hour or reception. When it comes to cocktails, think fresh. “Create custom cocktails using seasonal berries that are light and refreshing," Hotchkiss says.

    Light Bites

    Staying local and seasonal can give you the freshest menu and keep your budget down. Another summer menu must: Stick to lighter fare when the temperatures rise. Heavy food and heat don't mix, Lee says. "Serve chilled foods like gazpacho, fruit salads and fresh salads. This will help people from feeling sluggish on top of the heat," she adds.

    Summery Stems

    If you love vibrant flowers, a summer wedding is for you. Year-round blooms include wedding favorites like roses, tulips, dahlias, anemones, gardenias, lilies, hydrangeas, asters, gerber daisies, alstroemeria, baby's breath, orchids, chrysanthemums and tuberose. Opt for flowers that will stay fresh throughout the entire day, especially if you're planning to take photos or exchange vows in the sun. Look for ones with a waxy texture to ensure staying power, or keep a vase of cool water nearby.

  3. How to Style It

    Flower arrangements for a summer wedding
    Hunter Ryan Photo

    Keep It Casual

    "People are really appreciating laid-back outdoor weddings," says Alison Hotchkiss of Alison Events. "Picnic blankets with cute throw pillows, lawn games, wood swings, a dance floor under the stars and stations instead of plated dinners are a great way to mix things up." Lee likes the idea of embracing a summertime standby for cocktail hour. "Have a picnic-style cocktail hour and place blankets and baskets for guests to sit and enjoy," Lee says.

    Think Beyond the Standard

    Worried about wilting blooms? "Try bowls of fruit instead of floral arrangements," Hotchkiss says. "Bottles of lemonade or specialty cocktails preset on the tables also add nice color." And switch up your seating arrangements too. "Consider a combination of couches and chairs for ceremony seating," Hotchkiss suggests.

    Infuse Some Seasonal Nostalgia

    "If you spent your summers going to camp, it might be fun to do a cocktail hour resembling some of those activities," Lee suggests. "Or if summer coincides with the Olympics, bring in some games or a design inspired by this event. Imagine ribbon dancing and synchronized swimming as part of your entertainment." Another summer favorite Lee recommends for outdoor fetes: "Dress up a tree swing with overgrown garlands, vines and blooms."

    Consider Double-Duty Transportation

    "Park a beautiful vintage bicycle with its basket overflowing with summer flowers for a great ceremony floral installation piece," Lee says. "Or rent a classic convertible car and use it as a display table and additional seating. The tail, of course, needs to have a 'just married' sign."

    Create a Carnival

    "For your cocktail hour, re-create a summer carnival with fun décor, possibly some games and cotton candy. Extra points if you can get a Ferris wheel," Lee says.

    Layer on Lightness

    "Watercolor is very in and very appropriate for summer weddings," Lee notes. Carry the theme from your invitations to your table design. "Create menus, table numbers or even custom cuffs for vases. Use a thin layer of gauze as an overlay for a soft, airy feel on the tables, and serve sides family style in wooden salad bowls to add to the summer outdoor dining experience." If you're planning to host guests in the sun, offer some shade with lightweight parasols in soft hues.

  4. What Your Menu Should Look Like

    Wedding reception fruit
    Ryan & Jacy Photography

    Keep It Cool

    Serve cake à la mode to keep guests cool—consider fresh flavors like strawberry or lavender-infused ice cream. Or offer a fruit-flavored gelato.

    Try a Pie

    Have your caterer present each guest with a petite serving of summer peach cobbler, topped with a dollop of fresh cream.

    Shake It Up

    To cool off dancing guests, if it fits with your theme, you can serve mini milk shakes with fun old-fashioned straws or even fresh-fruit ice pops.

    Incorporate Your Colors

    Serve a mini-scoop trio of sorbet that mimics your wedding colors. With so many kinds to choose from, you're sure to find a delicious flavor that suits your style.

  5. Setbacks and Solutions to Have on Your Radar

    Summer wedding reception venue
    Ashley Goodwin Photography

    Heat and Strong Sun

    Make sure an outdoor venue offers some shade or air-conditioning (tent rentals can include portable air-conditioning systems). If the location is outdoors with minimal shade, keep the ceremony short and sweet and have cold water bottles, fans and umbrellas on hand for guests. Sunburn can give the term "blushing bride" a whole new meaning—wear a moisturizer, foundation or powder that contains SPF.

    Wilting Blooms

    Have flowers delivered the day of the wedding and make sure there's a refrigerator on-site to store them before the ceremony starts. When your photographer isn't snapping away, have a friend or bridesmaid hold your bouquet in a shady spot, or place it in a vase of cool water. If your blooms will be exposed to the summer heat for an extended amount of time, keep a spray water bottle on hand and give them a light misting every hour or so.

    Summer Showers

    Even though summer is your best bet in terms of weather for outdoor weddings, you should have a backup plan in case of extreme heat or rain. "Summer showers are a big risk in most areas," Lee says. “Always, always, always have a plan B covered area." Reserve an air-conditioned indoor venue nearby or a tent and portable air-conditioners.

    Bugs

    "Beware of bugs," Lee says. "They're thriving at this time of year and may be a nuisance to guests." Have an exterminator or landscaper spray a few days before to avoid a mosquito or gnat infestation. Stock up on bug spray and other bug repellents. "Light citronella candles and tiki torches around the perimeter to deter buggies," Lee adds. If the ceremony or party is outdoors, have a communal basket of repellent at the ready. For a more display-friendly alternative to bottles of drugstore spray, try Aromaflage—insect repellent in pretty bottles that looks and smells like a fine fragrance. It's perfect for displaying on tables and in bathrooms.

    Competition for Venues and Vendors

    Summer is prime wedding time, which means you'll face competition from other to-be-weds for popular venues and vendors. Book early. As soon as you get engaged, start looking for venues and reserve any must-have vendors. It's also a good idea to start reserving spaces for your surrounding events. Since your vendors will be booked up with other weddings throughout the summer, take advantage of their more focused attention and time by working ahead on the plans during the off-season months rather than making most of the big decisions in the weeks before your wedding when they'll be working events every weekend.

    Few Free Weekends

    Between long holiday weekends, summer vacations and other weddings, convenient wedding weekends seem few and far between. Send save-the-dates extra early—nine months or more before the wedding—to get your day marked on everyone's calendar. And think twice before scheduling your wedding for a long holiday weekend. Not only do many families have long-standing plans, travel expenses tend to peak then as well. "Keep in mind you'll be competing with other summer weddings your friends may get invited to, since it's such a popular time of year," Lee says. Make your day stand out from the sea of other summertime soirees with special touches.

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