torturing loved ones for fun and profit
May 16, 2012 5:36 PM   Subscribe

We're considering having our wedding ceremony outside. At night. In winter. Is this completely crazy? Is there any way to make it less crazy?

Our original plan was to have an evening wedding next May at Stern Grove in San Francisco, with the ceremony outside under the trees and the reception indoors. But now, for various reasons, we've moved the date up to this December. I'd still like to make the original plan work if possible, but an outdoor evening ceremony is May is very different from an outdoor evening ceremony in December. I know the weather would be unpredictable, and my fiance is worried about elderly relatives tripping over themselves in the dark and then freezing to death.

We could also have the ceremony indoors and switch up the layout afterwards for the reception, or we could have the ceremony somewhere else entirely, but I'm not sold on either of those ideas just yet.

Have you ever been to a ceremony that was outside at night in the dark? In December? Was it dreadful? What can we do to make it awesome?
posted by logic vs love to Human Relations (64 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
An outdoor wedding in San Francisco in December in the evening is inappropriate. Change the date or move the ceremony inside. Is there a reason you decided to move the date?
posted by chara at 5:42 PM on May 16, 2012 [8 favorites]

Christmas lights? Either strung on trees or stuffed into Mason jars? (The Christmas-lights-in-a-Mason-jar-thing looks really pretty!)

As for keeping warm, heaters? Maybe even those outdoor lights that warm you? Or hand out festive blankets in your wedding colors?

I've been to an outdoor wedding outside in New Jersey in AUGUST. It was hot and miserable and I got a sunburn. Your idea sounds much, much nicer!
posted by Aquifer at 5:42 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Well, I've been to one that was outside at dusk in late November, in Yosemite. It was nice. A lot of people had their jackets on, including the bride, and they distributed those hand warmer thingies, that you crack the inside membrane so the chemicals mix and make heat.

(You'd have some sort of backup option in case of rain, right?)
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:45 PM on May 16, 2012

(I basically agree with chara though - SF in the winter is COLD and windy. Even without considering the rain, being outside at night is just not pleasant. The Yosemite wedding I mentioned was a small group celebrating all weekend; the outdoor ceremony itself was ten minutes long. I don't think a typical wedding would be pleasant to attend under the circumstances you're describing.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:52 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd totally do it if the guests were just my young friends. But if you have a bunch of elderly, I'd skip it. If it's just one or two grandmas you could assign each of them a young caretaker from amongst the other guests, to make sure they're plenty warm and free from hazards like slipping in the rain or tripping over something they don't see with their elderly eyes.

But I do love a winter wedding. I got married on a rainy January day, albeit indoors in front of a fireplace.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:53 PM on May 16, 2012

You'll need an indoor backup plan. In a typical year in December it rains about 9 days out of 31. Figure maybe another 5 or 6 days it looks enough like it's going to rain when you have to make the decision to switch to the indoor plan. That leaves you with about a 50% chance of actually having the wedding outdoors.

If you do, you'll have a bunch of heating and lighting concerns to think about. The average low temperature in December is below 50, which is pretty darn chilly to be standing or sitting around for any amount of time. Especially for people who feel they have to wear nice clothing without sleeves.

My opinion is if you're doing the wedding in December you should do it indoors. If you're committed to doing it outdoors, you should do it in a different month.
posted by aubilenon at 5:53 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

According to, the average nighttime low in San Francisco in December is 46ºF. Since it's just the ceremony, I think it's doable, but you'll need to take quite a few steps to make it comfortable for your guests.

Here are the things I think you'd need to do, at minimum:
  • set up standing heaters around the seating area
  • place ground level lighting along the aisles (you could use solar powered path lighting, or tube lights strung out along the aisles beside the chairs)
  • have sufficient lighting such that the celebrant and other ceremony participants can read, and such that your faces can be seen by your guests when you are saying your vows
  • have a big basket o' shawls and/or lap blankets for your guests to borrow as they enter the ceremony space
  • have ushers make sure older folks are properly warm
  • have an indoor seating area available if for anyone who decides they need to come inside into the warmth during the ceremony
That is a lot of extra effort and money, but it can be done.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:54 PM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

You'll need some freestanding gas heaters. Make sure you have one near the bridal party.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:55 PM on May 16, 2012

Call a professional tent company and ask if they carry all weather, with heaters.

I love the romance of an outdoor, evening weather, even in the winter, but your guests may not.

The reality of the matter is, no matter how much you enjoy planning your reception, you won't be able to enjoy much of it. You will be exhausted from the big day, being pulled in a thousand different directions, and having your picture taken constantly.

What about having the rehearsal dinner outside, kind of a bonfire, campy theme? You could have your romance and enjoy it as well.
posted by myselfasme at 5:55 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's your wedding. Do what makes you happy. I would make the outdoors as short and sweet as possible, then indoor reception.
Distribute blankets and use space heaters.

Also, if you are inclined to give up the idea you can do your wedding photos in May outdoors?
posted by ibakecake at 5:56 PM on May 16, 2012

How long a ceremony are we talking about?

I think that when you're coming up to the actual date, you will have a lot on your mind. Why add to that with choosing a place with unpredictable conditions that might make some guests seriously uncomfortable? Plus, if you go down the road of trying to accommodate it, will you be adding worries about lamps and heaters and so on? All this will be much easier, less planning stress for you and your guests, with an indoor venue.

The question is, how essential is that location? Can you recapture some of the elements you love about it, indoors?
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:58 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think this is okay (with many of the above suggestions for heating, blankets, etc.) IF it's a really short ceremony. I once went to a wedding that was outdoor in Nevada in the full sun -- probably 110 degrees...the only reason everyone didn't die of heat stroke was that the ceremony was literally 5-10 minutes. I would much rather go to a chilly, windy wedding than a 110 degree wedding (though YMMV), but in either case I think it's gotta be a really short affair.
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:02 PM on May 16, 2012

I went to an outdoor fall wedding last year. A cold snap made it miserable and the planned outdoor reception was moved at the last minute.

Don't do this to your guests.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:03 PM on May 16, 2012 [9 favorites]

My partner's friend had a burning heart maze with torches they walked to the middle of after the ceremony. It was about 30 feet wide with enough room to walk without being near the fire, presuming you won't be really wrapped up. The fire is going to give off a lot of heat. Other couples will want to walk to the middle after you. But only both will be tied together with the ribbons you gladly take from each other, lighting a torch that will burn forever.
posted by parmanparman at 6:05 PM on May 16, 2012

I think chilly (46 degrees) is doable, and I've been to autumn evening weddings in that weather and it was fine. Outdoor heaters, tents, etc do a lot, and if you're clear about the conditions at the venue people can plan.

But can you have a tent in the place you're thinking of? What will your plan B be?
46 degrees plus rain, no tent, would be miserable. As a planning bride, worrying about the weather would drive me nuts.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:07 PM on May 16, 2012

Not particularly familiar with your location, but from a few google pics it looks lovely. Google says December's average low is 47. That's laughable for "cold" in my neck of the woods, but given that I was the only one in the city in a tshirt and shorts during a 60 degree day in July when I visited, I imagine your guests will need additional heat.

- Patio heaters throw a _ton_ of heat. If the event is small, renting a few should be sufficient.
- If you're worried about the elements, I'd consider renting a pavilion style tent for covering the guest. These will have plastic sides that can be lowered to address sideways blowing rain and then you can stuff 2 or 3 shorter heaters inside and everyone will be very toasty. If the weather is nice, the sides stay open. Getting these set up and struck in time may be an expensive issue, especially if it's a weekend wedding.
- Play with the lighting for this! Lanterns along the path on the ground, uplighting the trees behind where you will be married (uplighting == ethereal), using a diffuser on the light focused on wherever you two and the officiant will stand to give a "moon glow". You'll also want to have multiple lights on yourselves from different directions to kill any harsh shadows. If you're going to do a unity candle, light it separately and very softly so the flame really stands on its own. Have bright lighting for the seating area that you can dim (or cut and have secondary minimal lighting for the ceremony). While the reality of sluggish insects in 50 degree weather is less than romantic, I love the idea of a firefly release.
- Ask your guests to dress appropriately! Men, at least, should have appropriately weighted wool suits that will handle the temperature with ease. Ladies can utilize the blankets that have been suggested and bring coats.

Anyway, I think this is a wonderful idea and suggest that, by all means, you go for it!
posted by bfranklin at 6:08 PM on May 16, 2012

By the way, this was set up in advance on the premises, underneath a railroad bridge. You could do it in the parking lot of the place where the actual wedding is taking place. It could be starting to go by the time you walk back up the aisle to mutually escort everyone to the fire and call out good tidings to all.
posted by parmanparman at 6:08 PM on May 16, 2012

If you hate your family, friends, and generally anyone working at/attending your wedding keep to your original plan.
posted by ZaneJ. at 6:14 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I went to a small wedding outside in the Adirondacks in December. The key was expectations. We were advised to dress for the weather and not worry about wearing something nice like a suit. The snowball fight between the bride's side and the groom's was great fun. I think there were a few older folks who watched through the picture windows of the chalet.

This so depends on what your friends and family are like and what their expectations are. I say go for it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:19 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

In theory, it sounds lovely and romantic. As a guest, I would hate you.
posted by en el aire at 6:22 PM on May 16, 2012 [14 favorites]

A wedding is for the guests, not the couple. You don't get to do whatever you want.

If you must try this, get a tent with good heaters.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:23 PM on May 16, 2012

I think the length of the ceremony will be a big factor. 5 minute ceremony standing in a half-moon around the couple? Ok, I'll suck it up. Sitting outside for an hour? Please, no.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:29 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

If your guests are visiting from the East Coast or Midwest, they will be fine.

If your guests are from California, they will all die of exposure.
posted by akgerber at 6:30 PM on May 16, 2012 [12 favorites]

If you get a big tent with walls and heaters you might as well do it indoors.

If you're willing to risk having a washout because of a rainstorm, well, it's your wedding. I wouldn't do it. (We had our wedding outdoors in Tilden Park. In June.)
posted by rtha at 6:34 PM on May 16, 2012

This is a horrible idea. It's the opposite end of the spectrum from people who have outdoor weddings in Austin in the summer.
posted by rr at 6:36 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

my fiance is worried about elderly relatives tripping over themselves in the dark and then freezing to death.

I really caution against having your elderly relatives sit outside for too long in the cold and damp of an SF December. At the very least, people will spend the ceremony worrying about them, rather than concentrating on the ceremony. They may also be thinking, "I am so miserable right now." Which is not really what you want your guests to be thinking. If you could do it in five minutes around a fire pit, it's workable but otherwise....please be kind to your loved ones and have it inside.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 6:38 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nothing about this sounds very enjoyable to me, either for the wedding party or the ceremony.

An outdoor wedding during the rainy season leaves a lot of important things out of your control. It's up to you two to decide how much uncertainty and discomfort you're willing to put up with, and how much you think you can bring your guests along for.

You will for sure need to have an indoor backup plan in case that's in the middle of a multi-day winter rain storm. Make sure you can actually have tents and heaters and so on at Stern Grove, if that's what you decide to do. I've been to weddings and events there, but have never seen tents up. I am in agreement with the concern about people tripping (or slipping in mud) in the dark.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:43 PM on May 16, 2012

I went to an outdoor late afternoon/early evening wedding in APRIL, in the Santa Cruz mountains, and it was miserable. It was surprisingly cold and even though they passed out shawls and had a fire pit, it was still frickin' freezing and not really a pleasant way to celebrate. And I imagine April in the mountains is a good deal warmer than SF can be in December. I guess it *could* be done (especially if the invitations were explicit about warning people to dress very warmly) but it seems kind of cruel to your guests.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 6:46 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I live where 46 degrees is the evening temperature in the summer, and still I wouldn't want to be standing around in dress clothes watching someone get married. And I'm not elderly, don't have health conditions that make me especially susceptible to the cold, etc.
posted by HotToddy at 6:47 PM on May 16, 2012

I would find or make up an excuse not to attend this wedding.
posted by trip and a half at 6:49 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback so far, everyone!

Our ORIGINAL original plan was just to get married at city hall ourselves, and then have the reception for friends and family at the venue that evening. But the area is so gorgeous and we both kinda fell in love with the idea of getting married under the trees, so that's why we are so set on that location. We would have a pretty short ceremony regardless, and if the weather is terrible, we could always just move it inside. Tents and open flame aren't allowed (and a tent would defeat the purpose of having it outside to begin with), but we could definitely do lighting and heat lamps and blankets...but the more I'm thinking about it, all the extra costs and planning to make it work might not be worth it since we're on a tight budget and there's a good chance it will rain anyway. And even with preparations and cooperative weather, it seems there would still be a bunch of people feeling annoyed and miserable and that's the opposite of what I want.
posted by logic vs love at 6:52 PM on May 16, 2012

we both kinda fell in love with the idea of getting married under the trees
Won't the trees be bare in December anyway? That won't be quite as awesome.

I've been to spring/autumn outdoor weddings that had unseasonably cold weather and they were HORRIBLE. But I think that's mainly because people weren't prepared and therefore did not have warm enough clothes and blankets and outdoor heating.

If you do this, another problem I foresee is that people would need to basically have two sets of clothes, or lots of layers (which are hard to do with formal wear). Otherwise if they are dressed warmly enough for the ceremony, they will stew when they come back inside for the reception.
posted by lollusc at 7:23 PM on May 16, 2012

I attended a beautiful outdoor wedding in central northern Washington last Labour Day weekend. The ceremony was in the late afternoon in a field, and though it was lovely, it was also HOT and the sun really beat down on us. Then as soon as the sun slipped behind a mountain, it was FREEZING. The reception was also outside, under a canopy. They had four of those patio heaters. It was really, really cold. I didn't mind so much, and had fun. So did the bride and groom and their late-twenties friends. The groom's grandmother and aunt, though, were utterly miserable, and as a result, his mom was also miserable and kind of angry. His sister and sister-in-law both had toddler aged kids, and had to leave early because their kids were freezing.

Really, if you have elderly guests or tiny children, it's just not a good idea, no matter how romantic. When I look back on the wedding I think of it fondly, but I wonder whether the grandma does.
posted by looli at 7:27 PM on May 16, 2012

Won't the trees be bare in December anyway?

Not here! Native trees will keep their leaves/needles at this elevation, and the eucalyptus will as well.

I came back partly to say that I just remembered being at Stern Grove at night, in the winter - this was maybe eight years ago, for a friend's memorial service. The thing I remember most was how dark it was. Like, gloomy dark. I can't remember if it was actively raining, but it was very drippy.
posted by rtha at 7:29 PM on May 16, 2012

Won't the trees be bare in December anyway?
Nah, it's nearly all evergreen trees in SF. (Eucalyptus mostly in Stern Grove, I think.)

I don't know how many elderly might be attending, but the last time I went with my mom (who was only 60 or so at the time), she had a little trouble with the walk out of the grove. So there's that.

I totally feel where you're coming from as someone who doesn't think 45 is at all cold, but most people are much more sensitive to cool weather. I think if most of the people are coming from SF, they'll understand the needing to layer thing since it's a way of life out there. But given that most women like to wear not-warm dresses to weddings, and the vulnerability of any possible older folks (to both the walk and the weather) I'd consider looking elsewhere for a winter venue OR changing the date/time.
posted by smirkette at 7:30 PM on May 16, 2012

if you were going to have a ceremony for just yourselves, why not just have the small ceremony exactly where you want it with just a few people and the party after in a more reasonable set up?
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:48 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have frozen my ass off working a daytime event in Stern Grove in the fall. FWIW.

Get married in city hall like you planned all along, and have a wedding celebration party in Stern Grove next spring or summer.

(For all of you who aren't from California, we don't do cold here. It almost never gets to freezing. People from here have had absolutely no chance to acclimate to "real cold". We don't know how to dress for it. Even if we did, we don't own the clothes for it. Our houses aren't built for it.)
posted by mollymayhem at 7:59 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hm, it sounds like you kind of know your own answer here. The cold can cause elderly and other joint-compromised people actual pain, and it seems unfair to tell them they can either sit in pain or miss the grandson's/great-niece's/whatever's wedding they've traveled to see. Also, if your and your fiance's parents are anything like mine, they will be worried about their parents (assuming that's who the elderlies are), which will ruin it for them, too (or they might even elect to keep their parents company indoors, come to think of it -- I might do that for my mom).

I think it sounds theoretically romantic, and I would personally not mind because I'm from a hardy climate and find being outdoors in the cold invigorating, but practically it would mean trading a moral good (showing your elderly relatives that you love and value them) for an aesthetic good (romantic vows under the trees), and I dunno, that doesn't seem like the best symbolic message at that moment.
posted by palliser at 8:18 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Less WTF more answers, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:34 PM on May 16, 2012

I'm a Justice of the Peace in CT. I've done LOTS of outdoor weddings in the winter.

Make sure people know it's outside and to dress appropriately & have specific people keeping track of any elderly guests and you should be fine. No one will die, no one will freeze themselves into a coma, the show will go on.

I'll vehemently disagree with the people saying it's selfish or your own wedding isn't about you but about the guests and say fuck that noise. Your wedding is about you and what you want. Recognize that what you personally want might cause some distress or for a couple people to grumble or even refuse to attend, but that's 100% your decision to make.

I've seen a number of couples have weddings they didn't want for themselves just because it's what they were pressured to do and they were pretty not stoked and it ruined a momentous occasion for them. Yet every couple I've married that went against some pressure has ultimately been incredibly satisfied and happy they went with a ceremony that they wanted and that represented them.

While some guests may be unenthusiastic at your personal choice, 99% of them will be able to see that it's what you two want, it makes you happy and it represents you. And as people you invited because they care about you, they will be super happy for you. That other 1% who think the wedding is about them as guests? They can eat a bag of dicks.
posted by teishu at 8:58 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I attended a wedding in June up in a mountain. It was sunny and gorgeous...and also very cold. Two years on people in the family (especially the older members) still complain about it.
posted by cobain_angel at 8:59 PM on May 16, 2012

I don't think most of the people in this thread have lived in Northern California, because your original plan was apt to be nearly as cold as the amended proposal (average nightly low in May is 51, compared to 46 in December). My wedding was on a July morning at SF City Hall, with various events in Berkeley and Benicia that evening and the next day, and we froze our asses off the whole time. (I grant that July in Benicia is usually hot. We got unlucky because you know how it gets super-hot in the Central Valley and sucks in the marine layer and there's wind in the hills? Yeah.)

People will be better-prepared to be cold at a December wedding than a summer wedding in
"sunny California". If you clarify that you encourage your guests to wear their sweaters and coats to the ceremony, and you supply blankets and patio heaters, I think you are being way more humane than the average couple having a garden wedding in August in Modesto. (Or in July in SF, for that matter. I warned her and my mother STILL didn't pack a sweater.)
posted by gingerest at 9:18 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am the operations manager at a large conference center that hosts c. 200 weddings a year. Three quarters of the ceremonies are outside.

Don't use patio or standing gas heaters; they are cheap, but you will need one for every four to six people to keep your guests comfortable if there is the slightest breeze. Without wind, they heat up a cone of misery. Your guests will, at best, have burning hair and freezing legs.

Even if you don't use a tent, most good tent rental companies will have HUGE industrial fan heaters that will throw enough heat to keep everyone warm.

Most importantly, have a rain backup and be prepared to use it.
posted by builderofscience at 9:18 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sounds righteous to me, but I only invited like 5 people to my wedding and they only stayed for a half hour. And I didn't give a damn whether they were enjoying themselves.

So .. probably take that as an anti-recommendation.
posted by ead at 9:50 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am from the area and I would decline attending your wedding if I found out it was outside in SF in December. I don't care if I'm dressed like an Eskimo (and people wear wedding finery to weddings, not parkas! Nobody is going to dress warm enough and as was pointed out above, we don't have that stuff here anyway), I'll still be freezing and I doubt any wedding ceremony is going to be all that quick. There's always the last minute crap that means that the guests are sitting around in the elements for longer than you plan.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:54 PM on May 16, 2012

Nobody with kids will come.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:02 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe... a row of bonfires perhaps? It might be romantic. You'd have to have somebody keep a very careful eye on them at all times though, and god forbid a spark gets into the bridal train.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:06 PM on May 16, 2012

Note that even if you plan a short ceremony, people will arrive at least somewhat early and be standing around while they wait for you. You can't guarantee you'll start on time, either. If you go ahead with this, is there at least somewhere people could wait indoors?
posted by synchronia at 10:21 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think this would be awesome. It's going to be 50 degrees and that's not that cold. I think if you encourage people to dress warmly you're fine. The biggest issue may be the dark (and the potential for falling) but you need to exercise control over the lighting.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:29 PM on May 16, 2012

Are there any conservatories or indoor gardens in SF? Probably not, since it's warm there, but just an idea... maybe you could have trees and a roof over your head, too?
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:31 PM on May 16, 2012

it's the rain that's the real worry. I mean 46? What's the big deal? I was in SF yesterday, and at 5:45 pm, the bank temperature sign said 54. It's almost June! The locals are used to it, and those from out of town are even more used to cold Winters. Nearly all the local outdoor weddings I've attended have been chilly.
posted by salvia at 2:09 AM on May 17, 2012

I think it sounds lovely, but take a long, hard look at your guest list and evaluate where the overlap is between people who are going to hate it and people who aren't shy about reminding others about things they hate. Then think about yourself and your fiance and how well you'll handle anyone bringing up for the umpteenth time how dark! and cold! your wedding was!

Full disclosure: I was the first member of my family to get married outdoors, and two years into our marriage the comments about the flies have yet to stop.
posted by House of Leaves of Grass at 4:25 AM on May 17, 2012

I think it totally depends on your guests. This past winter I went to an outdoor wedding here in VT. It was in the upper 30's and freezing rain. It was also a super casual (read:disorganized) wedding so we were outside far longer than expected, about 1.5 hours. Oh, and it was on the side of a ski mountain. I had a horrible, horrible time but everyone else was acting like it was awesome. I felt like a butthead until I went home and realized that even though it totally sucked. I had acted like I was having the time of my life. Turns out everyone else was ready to shoot themselves too. This was later confirmed through conversations with other guests.

It sounds like SF will be a bit more temperate, but I agree with everyone else. If you must do it outside, have a five minute ceremony. Make sure the guests can be in and out (or, out and in).
posted by pintapicasso at 4:26 AM on May 17, 2012

If I were your guest: I've never been to California. I hate winter, and try to avoid traveling to cold places in winter. If I got an invitation to a winter wedding in San Francisco, I'd think "ooh, it must be pretty warm there if they're holding an outdoor wedding in December!" I'd figure "dress for the weather" meant "bring a cardigan." And I'd go to your wedding in a lightweight dress and bare legs, and shiver, clutching and wrapping my dumb flimsy cardigan ever tighter to no effect, hoping to hell that at least the food is good and the cake is buttercream and not fondant. And I'd forgive you in the end, but it'd be that kind of story I'd mention in casual conversation, like, my coworkers will be talking about wedding bloopers, and I'll mention the December nighttime outdoor wedding where I got pneumonia and they'll say "wow, you win."

Also, I would have a hard time making any wedding in December, since I travel to see family over Christmas. I don't usually have the vacation time or budget or stamina to make two trips in a month. I would really recommend pushing the date to next spring even if you're not dead set on the location.

Eponysterically speaking, logic wins this round; you can go with love for many of the other wedding-planning decisions. Kudos for taking your guests' comfort into consideration this early in the process.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:48 AM on May 17, 2012

A couple of thoughts:

1. "Nightly lows" are usually not achieved until 5 or 6 a.m. in the morning. The temperature between 7 and 10 p.m. is often considerably higher (I spend about an hour biking home every day at 1 a.m. so I like to keep track of this). However, this could not apply in your location's particular microclimate, and last time I was in San Francisco I kind of felt like the weather was all about microclimate in a way that I wasn't used to in the midwest.

2. As noted above, this isn't true for the elderly, babies, etc. but as an average middle-aged guy I have never been to a wedding where I wasn't sweltering. 75° F in a suit and tie is miserable for me, and I would be very happy at 55-60° F. What are your guests like?
posted by pullayup at 4:49 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I went to two chilly outdoor weddings last fall - one in Vermont on top of a mountain, windy and misty/rainy but SHORT (c. 5-10 minute ceremony), the other in New Orleans in November on an unseasonably cold weekend and OMG LONG (37 minutes, I think?). Both were unseasonable weather - it should have been warmer for both of these ceremonies. The New Orleans one was post-sunset but it was in a well-lit courtyard. The Vermont one was just pre-sunset.

I enjoyed the October wedding - the weather was pretty unpleasant but I am a hardy New Englander and I have a nice dress coat. Also there was hot chocolate and blankets. The New Orleans wedding was really hard to get through - I only had a cardigan, because I thought it would be warmer, and I was genuinely shivering by the end of the ceremony. I drank really excessive quantities of coffee with amaretto as soon as the bar opened.

If you're going to do this, make sure your guests know what kind of clothes to wear (and that they *have* such clothes - if you have friends coming from Florida or Mexico or something, they may not own warm dressy clothes), offer blankets/jackets and hot beverages, and keep the ceremony super-short. Eliminate readings and let them be reborn as indoor toasts at the reception.

Also, some of your friends and relatives will bitch about it at the time, and others will continue to bitch about it for months afterwards. Some of the bitching will be good-natured, some will not.
posted by mskyle at 7:50 AM on May 17, 2012

How about an outdoor ceremony under a heated tent?
posted by lotusmish at 8:11 AM on May 17, 2012

A heated tent could work. But isn't that sort of an indoor wedding at that point? I don't know. I see your concept. But I think planning an outdoor wedding in wintertime is unfair to your guests, who may not share the emotional connection you and your fiancé have to the concept. They might just think "it is freaking cold and dark and I am miserable".

Let me put it this way: I had an outdoor wedding ceremony in winter, but it was in Arizona. During the daytime. Some people were still cold and uncomfortable, especially the more frail among our guests. (Something to consider.) We moved the reception inside.
posted by anonnymoose at 8:37 AM on May 17, 2012

P.S. If you do decide to go this route, try to be understanding if some guests are unable (or unwilling) to attend.
posted by anonnymoose at 8:39 AM on May 17, 2012

Don't do it!

I am a photographer, I've photographed an outdoor sunset wedding here in New York in October. It was an absolutely beautiful location, with the changing leaves, sunset..and it was also somewhere between 45-55 degrees out. Everyone thought the location was lovely for the first two minutes...and then just wanted it to end so they could go inside and warm up. Everyone had red cheeks and runny noses.

Another thing to consider is lighting. Sunset is around 4:45PM in December. If you have an evening wedding after sunset, and you want people to actually be able to see your ceremony, you're going to need to make sure that it's lit. If you hire a photographer, they will probably have to use a serious amount of flash (which can be annoying, especially in the dark), and you will also probably end up with photos that don't really show the ceremony location well. (I can do some fancy things with lighting, but I cannot light up the entire woods at night).

You should somehow let your guests know, if you decide to go for it, that the ceremony will be outdoors so they can dress appropriately.
posted by inertia at 10:19 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could you still have your city hall ceremony in December, and then plan the same wedding for a more weather-appropriate time of year? My parents did not have their wedding at the same time as their legal marriage began--they had the party four months away from the legal ceremony, and people still talk about how good the party was thirty years later.
posted by epanalepsis at 10:26 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you do go ahead with it I agree that you need to tell your guests and choose a recommended attire they could work around. So no Black Tie Optional, more Fleece Blanket/Gloves/Hat Recommended.
posted by ArgyleMarionette at 10:45 AM on May 17, 2012

some more anecdata for you: one of my cousins got married outside in the fall here in Minnesota, on a day that turned out to be unseasonably cold and windy. she looked gorgeous and it was very romantic (even despite the fact that it was grey and cloudy and I was freezing), but I spent the whole time very worried about my grandmother. I think it's easy for us younger folks to not realize how you can lose the ability to conserve/produce heat when you are older, and I don't think that when my grandmother was cold it felt the same to her as it did to me. She couldn't warm up for hours afterwards, and it really was a bad situation. I know my cousin was caught up in the romance of the idea and setting and was hoping for better weather, but if she had known how hard it would be on our grandmother I think she would have made other plans (or at least had contingency plans for what happened).

They also had planned a short ceremony, so they didn't have any chairs set up. As others have pointed out, the guests are out there before the wedding party and after the ceremony is over, so it's pretty hard to have the outdoor time be less than a half hour unless you have a very small group. That's a decent amount of time for an older person (or kids) to stand outside.

Another issue was that the wind made it difficult to hear during the ceremony.

All this is not to say that you shouldn't do it--just to make sure you really consider the perspective of your older relatives. (But I am of the school that thinks the wedding itself is more of a family affair than strictly about the couple--I know there are differing attitudes about that.)
posted by ialwayscryatendings at 3:02 PM on May 17, 2012

Is there a reason you are set on an evening ceremony? I've been to an outdoor wedding in Stern Grove and completely agree as to how charming it is. It was in early spring and really cold, but it was during the daytime and the ceremony was like 20 minutes max including the bride entering and the couple leaving. I think even in December a daytime ceremony would be perfectly fine, but bear in mind that SF weather is so finicky. You might have a great clear, crisp day or it'll be bitterly cold rain, but from my memories of growing up there it will just be dull skies and cold (which you might not even see because of all the trees).

Basically, I think if you can move it to be a daytime thing, this is totally possible. You can easily move the ceremony indoors if it does rain.

(And all that said, SF City Hall is also GORGEOUS. My friends got married there and the architecture captured in their wedding photos was so beautiful. AND it rained and they got lovely shots of them under an umbrella together outside.)
posted by like_neon at 4:22 AM on May 18, 2012

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