How to: Planning the perfect garden wedding…

Wattle Park Chalet wedding

Summer is well and truly here, bringing with it abundant sunshine and beautiful outdoor wedding ceremonies and receptions. But there are a few things that couples organising garden weddings need to consider before their big day.

Allen Shanahan is the venue manager Wattle Park Chalet, one of Melbourne’s longest running wedding venues. He is an expert at organising garden weddings that go off without a hitch, and had these tips for brides and grooms planning a garden wedding reception.

Check if there are any rules and regulations that might affect your event.

This is the first thing to check when you are planning a wedding, especially in public gardens or parkland. Some events will need special permits, which must be organised well in advance. “Our private garden at the Wattle Park Chalet can host up to 300 guests and can attain permits in the Wattle Park for wedding ceremonies if needed. We make sure all planning is easy for our couples at the Chalet.”

Make sure the garden you choose will look beautiful at the time of your wedding.

If you are viewing the gardens in Spring, but planning an Autumn ceremony, you may want to ask to see photos so you know exactly what it will look like at that time. “Our gardens are designed to be evergreen and look good all year round, and we have plenty of photos to show couples how it looks at different times of the year. You can also decorate our gardens however you’d like with lights and lanterns.”

Make your guests comfortable: What facilities are available for your guests?

Are there toilets that are easily accessible? Are there enough chairs for those who need to sit? If an evening event, is the area well-lit? Is there sufficient car parking? Do you have power for your speakers etc? “We host many weddings in our gardens at Wattle Park Chalet so these details are all taken care of. We can supply as many chairs as you want and the gardens looks beautiful all lit up at night. One couple recently used paper lantern festoon lighting which looked amazing. Fairy lights are also very effective and can create a magical atmosphere.”

Make sure everyone will be able to hear the wedding ceremony – microphones and good acoustics are so important

“Our private gardens are set in 137 acres of parkland so background noise is never an issue at Wattle Park Chalet. Also, we make sure your DJ or band does a sound check before the event begins to make sure the levels are perfect.”

Keep in mind that the weather might be chilly, and make sure you have a wrap or a jacket to wear if necessary, especially in between the ceremony and the reception.

Gas heaters will be helpful for guests in a cold snap. We can supply gas heaters and couples have brought small blankets to keep guests warm during their garden ceremony.

Similarly, there may be a heatwave

Electric fans, air-conditioners, or even parasols and paper fans can be very handy additions, and sunscreen is a must. Make sure there is some available for guests.v“I’ve had a wedding where they had custom paper fans as their bomboniere. Each had their name on it too,” Allen says.

“Another wedding hired an ice cream cart which was very popular with their guests.” Also, think about the position of the sun when planning your ceremony – you don’t want it shining directly into your guests’ eyes.

Remember that outdoor events bring with them the possibility of pollinating flowers, bees and mosquitoes

Citronella candles should help ward off the nasties, and hayfever tablets might be necessary if the bride or groom are hayfever sufferers. “We have supplied mosquito coils and other bug repellants in the past for our garden wedding receptions so that is not a problem.”

Wind can be a real hazard, especially if you have outdoor marquees set up
Make sure everything is prepared to withstand a strong breeze. The last thing you want to be doing is chasing after tents or tablecloths mid-ceremony. This is also a consideration when it comes to your hair and dress, and those of your bridesmaids. “We can supply fully enclosed marquees for light winds and rain and always offer the inside Wattle Park Chalet for extreme weather conditions”

Think about how your shoes will cope

And those of your guests! If the wedding is on grass, you might want to warn guests against wearing stiletto heels. “I’ve seen bridesmaids wear high heel protectors that stop their heels from sinking into the grass,” Allen says.

If the whole wedding and reception is going to be outdoors, then it is probably best to choose a cake that is suited to being outdoors

A nude buttercream cake could melt in the heat, so a chilled mudcake with fondant icing might be a better option. “All cakes should be baked to look great for the duration of the wedding, so we’ve made sure to keep the cakes on display indoors and then brought it out into the garden for cake cutting time,” Allen says.

Finally – and most importantly of all – have a really good Plan B!

You just never know what the weather is going to do in Australia. “At Wattle Park Chalet, our beautiful Grand Hall has hosted thousands of weddings for than 85 years. It’s a stunning room, and if the weather is really not suited to a garden wedding, we find couples are very happy to move everything inside as their Plan B.”

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