1. Get Help
The services of a wedding planner can be invaluable when it comes to your beach wedding. If you can, try to earmark part of your budget (about 10 percent of the total) for a planner. She can shoulder the burden of recommending and securing local vendors — and this is especially valuable if you require services specific to a destination wedding or an outdoor wedding, like tents & special food prep stations. A planner is also the behind-the-scene-queen that can create gift bags for guests, greet everyone at the airport, keep people busy with fun activities and get everyone where they need to be on time.
2. Schedule a Test Drive
Remember, unlike a wedding in a hotel ballroom or restaurant, guests are dependent on you once they reach the destination. Make sure you have adequate signage on the beach to direct guests to the ceremony spot. If the beach has limited parking, consider providing a shuttle service from a central location. A wedding trolley for guests and a limo for the bridal party can make several trips if needed.
3. Take a Trip
If you’ve decided to tackle planning on your own, be sure to scout out beaches after you’ve finalized your guest count. You’ll need to know if there’s a limit to how many people you can bring on the beach and how certain spots might affect your set-up. You’ll also want to decide whether you want to have your reception directly on the beach. If so, you’ll need to make catering arrangements for the wedding reception and find a rental company that can provide you with all the necessary equipment.
5. Be Gracious
A good way to make nice with the local vendors is to send handwritten thank-you notes, with tips enclosed, when you book their services. (Remember that they can literally make or break your wedding, and a little goes a long way toward getting them on your side.) During the event itself, it’s wise to have plenty of small bills on hand for palm-greasing, especially for the delivery people who will be setting up your site to turn it into a wedding wonderland. Make sure to provide meals for your vendors at the reception. Usually your band or DJ will need to take a break, along with your photographer and videographer.
6. Forewarn Your Friends and Family
Clue guests in to your wedding’s sandy locale when you send your save-the-date cards so they know to dress appropriately (no stilettos!)
7. Get a Grip
Don’t be upset if some of your closest friends or relatives don’t attend. Some, like your great Uncle Charlie, may not be able to traverse a sandy beach or sit in the sun for an extended amount of time. And while your wedding is, in a sense, a mini-vacation for you, it may not be the one they want to take! On the other hand, you may be surprised how many people will want to attend your wedding when it is on a beautiful barrier island off the coast of Florida. Sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico are so worth the trip to Longboat Key, Siesta Key, and Lido Beach in Sarasota.
8. Mind Mother Nature
Don’t forget to consider the climate when choosing your wedding dress & shoes. You’ll be swimming in sweat if you pair your fairy-tale satin ball gown with the beach’s intense rays. Go for lighter fabrics and silhouettes, and be sure to slather on the sunscreen or you’ll risk some serious burn. Make sure to go over these details with your make up artist. You want to look good for your wedding photos and video.
9. Be a Zen Bride
Don’t keep a constant eye on the time. Remember that you can’t control the environment (really, you can’t) and you may need to wait for the tides to recede or for the beach to empty a bit before you can start the ceremony. Keep an open mind — and remember that minor mishaps can sometimes make for the best memories (really, they can). But, be prepared. Consult the Farmers Almanac and your photographer for sunset times and schedule your wedding ceremony accordingly.
10. Pack Right
Whatever you want to have with you for the ceremony (vase, candles, etc.), you have to lug along to the destination (or ship it there ahead of time). Once there, make sure you can actually cart everything onto the beach with ease. I highly recommend coolers on wheels. They help keep things dry & free of sand while blending in with the beach atmosphere. Shy away from unsightly boxes unless you can hide them.
11. Call on a Courier
Don’t forget to plan for potential wedding presents. If you’ve got a ton of wedding gifts to take home, bring an extra duffle bag to pack them in. Ask someone you trust to keep a close eye on them throughout the day, and keep track of how many you have. Figure this out before the wedding so you’ll have a plan of action if you need it. Better yet, ask guests to make a donation to your favorite non-profit organization instead of bring wedding gifts.
12. Welcome Your Guests
Be sure to place an amenities basket at the entrance to your spot on the beach that is full of essentials for the day outdoors (suntan lotion, water, etc.) and goodies that will remind them of the setting — embroidered beach blankets with your names and wedding date, shawls for the ladies, or pretty parasols in your wedding colors, for example. (Video loves color. Include lots of bright colors in your decorations and bride’s maid dresses to make your wedding video really pop!) Flip-flops of various sizes are fun & useful party favors. Your DJ or musician should play music to help set the mood of your beach wedding. Tropical island & steel drums works well. Acoustic guitar can give you a more classic feeling to modern songs, or a modern feeling to classical music.
12. Be Good Guests
Be respectful of wildlife that depend on the beach for survival. It’s home to many creatures and you are just visiting guests. Assign a friend or vendor to be in charge of “clean up.” Picking up water bottles, party favors, decorations, fireworks & anything plastic will help our feathered friends to live a long and healthful life. Ask them to visit the beach the next morning to insure nothing was left behind. Balloon releases are a big NO NO & illegal in places, because the plastic litter chokes sea life. If you use fireworks or sparklers, please pick up the spent pieces when finished. To many, our sea shores are a sacred place worthy of great respect and reverence. Enjoy your beach wedding and leave nothing behind, but your footprints in the sand!
13. Tie you hair back
With the wind blowing, you don’t want to be constantly brushing your hair out of your face. (Trust me, I see this all the time.) An up-do with lots of hair spray works well for brides with long hair. More often than not, you can count on anything from a light breeze to a gusty wind when you are at the beach. Be prepared by having your done by a professional make up and hair artist in the Sarasota, Venice and Bradenton area. (Even if you just have the front up, you’ll be a lot happier.) Ask your hair stylist to add pearl pins or flowers. Schedule a “test run” with your veil, to make sure your hair style works with your wedding gown and veil. You will have enough on your mind on your wedding day without having to deal with your hair blowing around. You’ll look a lot better in your wedding photos and video too when you have it professionally done up right.