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Plan ahead for pretty outdoor weddings

By Bonnie Coblentz
MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Few events are more beautiful or memorable than an outdoor wedding in an idyllic setting, but actually making one happen takes a lot of planning and some fortunate timing.

Bob Brzuszek, an assistant professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, suggested those hosting an outdoor wedding or reception start planning a year in advance.

“Think about logistics first, such as location and lighting for photographs, seating areas, where guests will park and where deliveries can be made,” Brzuszek said. “Timing is important because it determines what will be in bloom in the garden and whether or not it's too hot.”

Brzuszek said April and May are good months for outdoor weddings and receptions in Mississippi because gardens are in bloom and temperatures still tend to be moderate.

“Do select a place that has room for seating in the shade, either from trees or a structure,” Brzuszek said.

A patio makes a great starting place, as guests and the event itself can move from in onto the lawn and garden areas. A gazebo can provide covering for the wedding party and guests, depending on the size, and add an interesting element to the landscape.

Be sure heavy traffic areas in the lawn are high and dry. Use grass pavers set into the lawn to provide a firm walking surface when needed.

“Make sure congested areas are on well-drained, higher areas of the yard that are not prone to moisture accumulation,” Brzuszek said. “One of the worst things is to have guests with expensive shoes on muddy lawns.”

Brzuszek encouraged those planning an outdoor wedding or reception to bring the photographer into the planning process early on. Photographers can take lighting into consideration as they help decide the best locations for photographs.

“Shrubs can make a great backdrop for photos,” Brzuszek said. “Create layers of vegetation starting with a good evergreen screen, then stepping down to 4-foot shrubs like spireas and then using low bedding plants.”

Such a backdrop provides a pretty setting for photos and can be used to hide undesired views such as a neighboring property or a fence. Decorative rail fences can be located throughout the landscape to set off areas and to serve as photograph backdrops. Plant a flowering vine, such as Confederate jasmine, Carolina jasmine or clematis, which will provide fragrance and flowers while turning the fence into an outdoor decoration.

Brzuszek suggested hiring a professional to get just the right look for the landscape, especially when operating under a tight schedule.

Norman Winter, Extension horticulture specialist and a well-known gardening expert, hosted a garden wedding for his daughter last year at a mansion rented for the occasion. He used the large front porch as the main wedding site, then moved the guests around back for the reception.

He did not grow, harvest or arrange the flowers for the wedding party, something Winter said made the process a bit less stressful. Winter encouraged anyone wanting to try to grow their own cutflowers to turn the final harvest and arranging over to someone else with experience.

“We had a garden center bring in a packed truck of mixed containers and planters in the appropriate colors, and we placed them everywhere for decoration,” Winter said. “It worked, and the wedding was successful, but it was still stress to the max.”

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Released: Jan. 24, 2008
Contact: Bob Brzuszek, (662) 325-7896