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Beach Weddings: 101

Tried and true tips for planning a beachside ceremony and reception

A pastel sun sets beneath the ocean as the backdrop for your photoshoot in the sand. Waves gently lap against the shore as you exchange “I do’s.” And a cool sea breeze washes over your reception under the stars. These are the conditions that every couple planning a beach wedding deserves.

Northwest Florida’s emerald waters, undoubtedly white sands and seemingly endless sunshine provide pristine conditions for picturesque beach weddings — as long as Mother Nature has it in her plans. So it is that weather factors must be considered when planning your dream day on the Emerald Coast.

One of the first steps in planning is deciding on the date. While rain chances increase in summer months and hurricane season persists from June through November, the Gulf Coast experiences an average 340 days of sunshine annually, with most summer showers passing quickly.

Angela Kramer, weddings and special events manager at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa in Miramar Beach, posits that May, June and October are the most popular months for Northwest Florida weddings, as weather and lighting conditions for outdoor ceremonies are often ideal.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Winkler Photography

No matter the day of year, it’s advised to have a rain plan in place. Venues such as Hilton Sandestin Beach can easily transition beachside weddings indoors to one of their elegant and intimate or beautiful and spacious event spaces. Have a backup plan whether that be an indoor space on property, a tent or an alternate location entirely.

“In terms of timing for a beachside ceremony, the resort’s events team suggests opting for a sunset wedding,” said Kramer. “Beyond the beauty of a sinking-sun backdrop for your ceremony and photos, sunset weddings also elude the heat of the day and intense sunlight that makes squinting unavoidable.”

Other creative ways to combat the heat can be implemented, too, whether completely outdoors or if using a hybrid setup. Shaded spaces, cool beverages, fans and sun protection are all key for an enjoyable day spent beachside.

Attire can also play a role in guest comfort. Encourage lightweight fabrics for men and women, shoes suitable for sand and pulled-back hairstyles. Consider recommending destination or tropical attire on the invite.

Create a shoe station for your guests to deposit their shoes before taking to the sand. As they exit, provide paint brushes to leave the sand behind before hitting the dance floor. Photo courtesy of Jessica Winkler Photography

Waves can become another concern, but fortunately, many coordinators can provide tide schedules to ensure that water doesn’t creep into your designated wedding space. While the sound of waves can be soothing, it can also become a hindrance. Secure a sound system and microphones to ensure every musical note and word is heard over the waves and wind.

If you are booking your wedding through a resort or venue, they likely have private beaches to ensure passersby don’t interfere before or during the wedding. Check with your coordinators to confirm a plan.

When setting up, all decor should be secured well by zip-tying or weighting down all florals, linens, programs, menus and decor. Wood or acrylic chairs are heavier and less likely to be toppled by wind.

For ceremonies on the sand, Hannah Putynkowski, wedding sales manager with Henderson Beach Resort in Destin, encourages couples to think about the guest experience and who might need accommodations. This could include beach wheelchairs or temporary flooring for aisles. Additionally, you can ask your setup crew to pack down the sand, making it easier for all to walk.

Two words: program fans. Keep your guests cool and informed by turning your ceremony program into a fan. We love a multi-purpose find. Photo courtesy of Jessica Winkler Photography

“The Henderson Resort offers two ceremony locations at our beach venue so guests can have the opportunity for their ceremony to be ‘toes in the sand’ or on our beach lawn, providing the opportunity to have the beach view without being directly on the sand,” said Putynkowski.

Embrace your beach setting and serve up seafood, island-inspired appetizers and tropical drinks. Chat with your caterer to ensure there are means in place to keep food hot or cold and protected from insects and the elements.

Just like sunsets, no two beach weddings are ever the same. Be sure to plan ahead for optimal conditions on your happy day.

Feature photo courtesy of Jennifer G Photography

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