Enjoying the Casual Sophistication of Outdoor Weddings

Lighter fabrics, nature-inspired details and vintage touches create a laid-back environment without losing style and grace.

There will always be a place for the church wedding followed by an ultra-formal ballroom reception, but wedding planners say that many couples these days are loosening things up and going more casual. That might mean an outdoor ceremony and reception with wildflowers on the tables and lawn games for entertainment. More often it means that couples are incorporating playful, informal elements into the decor and reception activities.

“Weddings are going more casual chic, with brides pulling from different inspirations for a unique look,” says Debbie Wayland, owner of Eastern Shore Events in Bethany Beach.


“I’ve noticed such a difference from when I started in this business seven years ago. There’s definitely a trend toward outdoor weddings, and with outdoor weddings, the look for the bride is usually less traditional,” says Amy Hauser, co-owner of Jennifer’s Bridal in Hockessin. For some brides, that might mean a less ornate wedding gown with a simpler veil or no veil at all.

- Advertisement -

Ball gowns are falling out of favor, with brides looking for A-line gowns or a fit and style that flares at the hips. “There’s a lot of European influence in dress designs,” says Mitra Jaymand, manager of Fantasia Bride in Wilmington. “Gowns are understated, simple, but with layers and texture. It’s a mix of the new and the old.”

Flowing chiffon is a popular fabric for outdoor and destination weddings, says Janet Lawrence, owner of Simon’s Bridal Shoppe in Dover. But it’s not imperative that the gown match the wedding setting, she says. “I tell brides to get the gown they want. If a bride wants an elaborate gown, she should get it.”

Bridesmaids are still wearing long gowns for formal weddings, but for the less formal, many are opting for dresses instead. Even mothers are looking for short, Jaymand says. “Short dresses are pretty, they travel well, and they can be used again after the wedding.”

Hair styles for outdoor affairs and casual weddings tend to be loosened up as well. “Brides are going for a less formal look, not as stiff and sprayed and pinned,” says Maureen Freebery, owner of Maureen’s Hair Salon and Day Spa in Pike Creek. A flowy, half-up, half-down style is popular, with some brides choosing to take down their hair totally for the reception.


Many couples who have an outdoor ceremony will follow with an outdoor cocktail hour, then move into a tent or indoors for the reception. But they want to continue that outdoor theme. There might, for example, be potted trees scattered around the reception room, and the tent sides might be left up so that guests can gaze at the scenery. Wedding decor is branching out, so to speak, to include not only flowers, but also wood, bark, leaves and berries.

- Partner Content -

“Right now, everyone is trying to incorporate the outdoors,” says Wayland. She recalls one couple who had centerpieces of wrought iron trees decorated with crystals and votive candles.

Emily Ferris, catering sales manager at Deerfield, says that even indoor receptions are infused with the outdoors theme. “A lot of florists are incorporating branches into centerpieces and wrapping votive candle holders in sticks. We have one vendor who now does burlap sashes around the chair covers,” she says. Couples are also using outdoorsy colors such as a muted willow green, browns and burnt oranges.

Casual, outdoor weddings call for more homespun favors, as well. Carey Kieffer of Make My Day Event Planning worked with one ambitious bridal couple who made their own favors. The groom brewed and bottled his own beer, and the bride made and preserved her own jam. While you can do it yourself, it’s not mandatory, Kieffer adds. Ferris has seen tree seedlings given out as favors at outdoors-themed weddings, tagged with the sentiment, “May this tree grow as our love does.”

Our Best of Delaware Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!

Holiday flash sale ... subscribe and save 50%

Limited time offer. New subscribers only.