No prettier a setting is found for a wedding in May or June than an outdoor wedding. With flowers, greenery, and a well-tended lawn, the wedding reception following the ceremony will be transformed into a colorful lawn party. The only hurdle to the success of a memorable outdoor wedding arrangement is that double preparations are necessary in case the weather proves disappointing. The invitations give no hint of any special features of the outdoor wedding — they follow the conventional formula for any traditional wedding — but a card should be enclosed with each invitation giving particulars about travel to the location of the event.
Traditional Outdoor Wedding
In the Victorian era, the outdoor wedding guests arrived at the door of the bride's home; their private coachmen were directed where to go by a servant charged with opening the carriage doors. A maid ushered the women wedding guests to one room reserved for them, and indicated another to the men guests, where they could, if they chose, remove the dust of travel and their superfluous garments. Friends or members of the bridal family would replace the servants when a more personal style of hospitality was preferred. The bride's mother would then receive her guests on the manicured lawn, wearing a hat or carrying an effective parasol. Occasionally she would delegate this greeting courtesy to a daughter or friend, if preferable. It was essential to have someone close to the bride available to greet the newly arrived guests to an outdoor wedding to make them feel welcome to the special event. The place set apart for the outdoor wedding ceremony would be festive with an abundance of blossoms, as though the earth were putting forth her loveliest efforts in honor of the happy bride and bridegroom. The lawn would be as trim as possible, with house rugs spread on the grass and comfortable chairs and little tables grouped under the trees. Vibrant garlands of foliage and flowers would be suspended from tree to tree to mark an aisle for the bride, with the festoons showing more and more white until within a few yards of the place of the outdoor wedding ceremony.
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This exclusive location would be marked by two white satin cushions at the foot of a great tree draped with a bower of blossoms. The wedding guests would stand outside the aisle fenced by the garlands as the bridal procession passed through the gates decorated with sweet peas. Little girls dressed in fancy dresses would scatter white petals in the bride's pathway as they preceded her down the aisle. A small orchestra under a marquee or on the piazza would add to the festivities of the scene. The outdoor wedding menu for the happy couple was served in courses at little tables set out under the trees. Friends would seek each other and choose their own places. The guests were served by experienced waiters directed by their caterer. The bride's table was set apart at some distance from the wedding guests.
The menu for a traditional outdoor wedding usually consisted of fruit, bouillon, some dainty preparation of lobster, an entrée, chops, salad, and ice cream, concluding with coffee. If a simpler menu was desired, the first course of fruit, the entrée and game would be omitted. Another popular way to serve the guests at an outdoor wedding was from a buffet table decorated with flowers. All the dishes would be cold. Consommé, salad, sandwiches, ices, cakes and the fruits of the season would be an ample provision. Two or three servant girls would assist in pouring tea, chocolate or serving coffee frappe. Where there were no servants, the easiest way to serve refreshments was from a table, from which the guests would help themselves — assisted by members of the family. The appearance of the carriages driving up to the main entrance of the house was the indication to the guests for their departure. The bride and bridegroom were the first to leave — followed by cheers, acclamations, good wishes and a merry pelting of flower petals or confetti..