Key Styling Areas for an Outdoor Wedding
I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the country’s best stylists. I’ve also seen thousands of real weddings, and the creativity that is brought to everyone’s day. Personally, I’m the first to admit I’m styleless. I always look to others for ideas and inspiration, and wedding styling is very much the same. I’ve learned over the years to focus on key styling areas in your space, whether that is within the Tipis or Sailcloth Tent. Break these down to bite size zones to keep it as simple as you can.
Now onto the key styling areas, where do you even begin? Simple, with you. How your wedding looks and feels should represent you as a couple. We will hand over a lovingly built and well thought out celebration space to you. And we positively encourage you to sprinkle… No, forget that, chuck a bucket load of personality into your space. Call this a theme if you may, but I believe these are the weddings people really remember, because it screams you.
The Key Styling Areas:
Walkway and welcome area
Bar and Chill-Out Area
Begin with considering your own personal hobbies – where you’ve traveled, what you both enjoy doing in your spare time. Take inspiration from your own home decor, the sort of style of clothes you wear. Then maybe look at favourite colours, favourite season, favourite flowers. Your wedding is about you, and it’s time to tell your story.
Let’s dive in and look at the key areas we’ve mentioned above to see what you could do to inject personality into your big day.
Walkway and welcome area
This is the first taste your guests will have when they arrive at your wedding field and therefore one of the first key styling areas to focus your attention. The walkway is more than a practical element. It should scream out “come to me.” Drawing your guest in so that they are intrigued and excited to see the space within.
There are a number of ways you can enhance your entrance and welcome area;
– Light The Space
– Welcome Display
– Gift and Card Table
– Seating Plan
Light The Space
A firm favourite is a festooned walkway. This creates the natural walkway into your space, but also transforms the outdoor area in the evening, helping transition from day to night. You could also have small crooks and lanterns with candles. This is one of the first areas guests will see, and it is an insight into what is about to unfold. A lot of photos will be captured around this space too so consider flowers and signage.
I’ve also seen walkways extended into lit outdoor terraces. Providing festoon lit outdoor space by creating a welcome terrace. Perfect for those warm summer evenings.
This may include a welcome sign, welcome drinks, or just a note to say thanks for coming, we really appreciate it.
This photo shows one of my personal favourites. A sign injected with personality. It is not an ‘on trend’ sign, but it is timeless and just oozes personality. Good signage acts as mini photo posing stations without you even realising it. I’m sure most guests will have had a photo taken next to this sign too.
Gift and Card Table
Even though you might have stipulated no gifts, you’re likely to still receive a few. People like to buy gifts so ensure you have some space for them. If you’ve asked for money, or even if you haven’t, guests may have enclosed cash in cards. You may want to consider a secure card post box, for added peace of mind for your guests.
The key is to have some space for these, and where possible add personality to it.
One of my favourite card boxes was from the wedding of James and Ellie. James is a plumber by trade, so incorporated lots of copper pipe in the styling, but also an old boiler that they created a card box from.
The entrance is often a popular place for your seating plan. If you’ve chosen not to have a seating plan, a sign to indicate this can be a good thing.
Guests will never have been to a wedding like yours before that breaks from the tradition. So make sure you give them instructions of what to do, i.e. ‘Sit anywhere’. That way they will know what is expected of them.
Hanging decorations can help to create a more intimate space and can be a really simple way to add in a statement piece without going overboard with your styling. If you are trying to keep table styling to a minimum due to space for food and drinks, then having hanging decor can really inject a heap of wow. Plus it is up there all day, unlike table decor that can sometimes get lost in the evening once the party gets going.
If you do decide to hang anything, do not underestimate the time it takes to do this. I have footed many ladders for Tara Knott over the years and am always amazed at the time and thoughtful consideration this takes.
Hanging decor could be floral hoops or garlands, not only do these look great but they also smell amazing. Plus, the florist will do them for you, saving you time. We can help facilitate the practicalities of getting these into place, working alongside your florist.
Other items could be paper lanterns, paper pompoms, paper cranes, balloons. These are a great way to inject colour into your space. However, be conscious of the colours you choose, as not every colour can go against the canvas colour of the tipis. Whereas the Sailcloth can accommodate any colour.
Places to hang items;
The Tipis: cross poles, central peaks.
The Sailcloth: central internal poles, external side poles.
For the tipis and sailcloth, we positively encourage lots of fairy lights and festoon lights so you might feel no additional hanging decor is needed. Remember, this is your day. You do as little or as much styling of your space as you choose.
This is probably the biggest of the key styling areas. Your table style is the starting point to this – Nordic pine tables, trestle tables or round tables. Or a mixture of the three! Your food choice might also be a deciding factor on what table style you choose. But generally it comes down to what you like and an element of practicality. There is no right or wrong answer about the table style you choose.
I’ll go into more detail for each table individually. However, regardless of table style, the main things to consider are plates, placemats, cutlery, napkins and glassware. Before adding on stationery, flowers, and texture. If you’ve got gorgeous crockery, glassware and linen, this is a really good foundation for your table to look stunning.
Nordic Pine Tables
These tables have been described as slatted. They are 2m long and 70cm wide, with each of the three sections measuring 21cm. Table runners have become very popular, often covering the central section. We’ve seen the trend move from flat hessian and lace runners to a softer chiffon, more ruffled look. We’ve also had wallpaper or printed cloths, where this creates a scroll for the wedding menu or individual table numbers.
Next is the practical items – plates, cutlery and glassware. Once these items are in place, the little space left is available for table decorations and stationery to inject lots of personality and really finish the look off. This could be candles, greenery, flowers or small ornaments.
Another practical consideration is to not overfill the centre section if you need space for food service. For example if you are serving sharing platters, you need to consider where these will sit on your tables.
Trestle Tables and Round Tables
Unlike the Nordic pine tables, both trestle and round tables are not necessarily decorative tables, but more functional. For this reason, they will need a tablecloth. Now, here is the thing, not all tablecloths are the same. There are choices with these, down to both colour and length. In the 2021/2022 wedding season, we have seen the trend shift to tablecloths being floor length, covering any table legs.
Tablecloths may be provided by your caterer. If not, ask them for local recommendations. We’ve worked with a number of companies, which we’ve listed below for you.
Round tables do lend themselves to a centrepiece. An important consideration here is height. Either go high, so people can see through them, or keep them low, so your guests can see over and around them. You want everyone to be able to see each other without having to rock from side to side.
The Cake Table
Go for it! Consider your cake table to be part of your main styling and definitely one of the key styling areas.
Consider what the cake is sitting on. A dressing table can work nicely, a whiskey barrel or wooden crates. If you have more than one cake, you can create theatre by displaying them at different heights, using different cake stands.
You can incorporate flowers and greenery here too. Either on or around the cake, or on the cake table to tie it in with the rest of your styling. If you’ve chosen to do this, get your florist and cake creator to discuss this together, so you have a more succinct team all moving in the same direction.
You could also consider creating a cake backdrop. This helps to showcase the cake(s), in their own right. Use signage around the cake, to be playful with it – “Feed me cake, and I’ll love you forever”. We’ve had a mirrored dressing table used before, so that you can see all around the cake, with messages being written on the mirror too.
Cake cutting traditionally happens before your first dance, but if you’re wanting this as part of your main meal dessert, do that. As always, it is about what is right for you.
Your Bar and Chill-Out Area
You do not need to go crazy overboard here, but this is definitely one of the key styling areas where you’ve actually got space to really pull through your personality. You could have a whole wall of photos of yourselves through the years, telling your story through pictures.
Also, consider adding in a basket of blankets. We always recommend getting these from somewhere like IKEA, as you can pick them up for around £2 each. Therefore, if someone walks off with them at the end of the night, you don’t really mind as they didn’t cost a lot and you don’t need to return them to anybody. You could add a sign ‘Grab a snuggle rug and cuddle up’, something to make it super playful.
This could also be a great place if you’re thinking of having a polaroid camera guest book or a photo booth of some kind. The chill-out tipi is the perfect place to create something really fun and playful. People will be coming to this area to grab a drink, take some time out from the dance floor or just chill out, and if you’ve got a playful polaroid camera in there, you might encourage them to take a photo and write a little message in your guest book as well.
We’ve also recently seen a new style of guest book that is an old school phone that lets you leave a voice message for the happy couple. The slightly quieter area of the chill-out tipi would work perfectly for something like this.
A big focal point of the tipis is often the fire pit. This is a great place for your guests to gather round and is super popular for toasting marshmallows. A s’mores bar is the perfect addition to this, fill it with your favourite biscuits and chocolate treats, and of course, marshmallows. If you’ve not got a fire pit inside, you can of course create something similar around a fire pit outside too.
If you’ve got a bartender coming, check out their choices of physical bar, as they may have more than one. Get photos from them of how their bar setups look. It might be that they’ve nailed it themselves and they don’t need anything else to enhance their bar. But what you could potentially do is enhance it with lighting options. This is great for when the evening comes round and the lighting dips towards ‘ambient’. Adding something like our rope light above the bar looks super cool and will help your bartender show off their bartending skills.
Dance Floor Styling
The final area you might want to consider is your dance floor. And this might just be something as simple as a disco ball and fairy lights. Normally a DJ or band will bring additional lighting for their own set. So it just comes down to if there’s any extra personality that you want to add in here.
We’ve seen a definite trend towards neon lights. Things like ‘Till Death Do Us Party’ and ‘Let’s Dance’. These are a great, quirky way of adding something extra to your dance floor space. But you might also think about having something bespoke made that is just for you, i.e. your new names in neon, that you can then take away and have as a decoration in your home.
Scrolls are also a great way to add personality to this space. Whether that be song lyrics that are important to you both, or ‘Rules of The Dance floor’.
Another thing we’ve seen is metallic balloons. These look great, and have a similar effect to our disco ball, throwing sparkles and light in all different directions with everyone dancing underneath them.
Don’t worry too much about filling your dance floor space, just make sure that you’ve enough room to throw your moves around, and sprinkle a little bit of personality there.
Consider your budget and how much you want to spend on this. Consider your time and whether you have the time needed to create the look you want. You want it to look amazing, but don’t overwhelm yourself with it.
It may be that you hire a professional stylist to do everything for you. This is the pricier option, but the best if you don’t have the time to focus on it. They will have consultations with you and work through a plan of how you want your space to look and feel. They will come in on the Friday and completely set everything up for you. And then, the added bonus is they will pack it all away on the Sunday, which means you don’t have to do this on the day after your wedding.
It might be that you do a dry hire. Meaning you hire all your props – candle holders, vases etc, from a stylist. You then still put it out yourself with family and friends the day before your wedding, but you’re physically not buying all of these items. This is one way of getting the look that you might want without having to source and pay for everything yourself.
The final alternative is deciding that you want to do it all yourself. You have lots of spare time and have family and friends that can help you with it. Brilliant, with a little bit of planning and organisation, this can be a really fun way of adding your personality into your wedding. The main consideration here is what to do with all of your decorations after your wedding, will you keep them or give them away as gifts to friends and family. We’ve also had couples decide to sell everything on, so other happy couples can make use of them.
So, the key to all this is you don’t have to style everything. Focus on those few key styling areas, and even all of those might not be right for you. Just make sure you have fun with it and inject your personality and everything that you care about into it!
We’ve got tonnes of resources to help you out with pulling your wedding styling together. From training guides on using Pinterest and Instagram for styling tips and ideas, to how to use Trello as a wedding planning management tool. Here is where to go to access all of these resources.
As always, if you’ve got questions, get in touch. We always love to chat. Below is a list of some key suppliers that can help you with creating the best look for your day. People that we’ve worked with throughout our time, creating fabulous outdoor weddings. But also head over to our Sami’s Friends page for lots of different suppliers.
We have lots of lovely special touches that you can add to your tipi space, helping with the different areas of styling. Have a look at our Special Touches page for lots of inspiration.
Stylists Tara Knott Styles Events | The Rustic Wedding Company | Boelle Events | Bramble Lane
Florists The Flower Patch | Campbells Flowers | Once Upon a Time Flowers | Catkin Flowers | Cornflower Blue Floral Design | J Austin Designs | Tineke Floral Design
Stationery Polly & Me | Rose Press
Cake Ruby Lou’s Cake Co | Belmont House Cakery | Cottonwood Bakery
Other Executive Linen | White House Crockery | The Thread Tamer
Christopher Terry | Camera Hannah | Megan Wilson | Hannah Hall | Rosie May Kelly | Grace & Mitch | Darren Cresswell | Coales Captures Weddings | Dita Bowen | The Curries | Heidi McClymont | Maree Francis | Matt Brown | Jordan Fox | Jenny Macare | Eleri Tunstall | Dan Hughes | Magda K