Feel the Sand Between Your Toes... (tips for planning a beach wedding)

>> June 29, 2009

Here are a few tips when planning a beach wedding...

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 researching, auditioning, and securing local vendors -- and this last tool is especially valuable if you require services specific to a destination wedding or an outdoor wedding, like tents, special food prep stations, or even portable toilets. A planner is also the behind-the-scene queen (or king) that can create gift bags for guests, greet everyone at the airport, keep people busy with fun activities, vet special requests (babysitters, dry cleaners, etc.), 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 and that the beach itself is navigable (no rickety boardwalks). If the beach has limited parking, consider providing a shuttle service from a central location.

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 and find a rental company that can provide you with all the necessary equipment.

4. Vendor Checkups
Clue guests in to your wedding's sandy locale when you send your save-the-dates so they know to dress appropriately.To be sure your vendors have sufficient experience with beach weddings, ask for a portfolio of pictures and at least three references. Be sure the references are people for whom the vendor did an event similar to yours -- a recommendation from a couple that had 10 guests doesn't help if you're inviting 100. Also ask for the names of other vendors who worked those events and use them as further references regarding the company in question.

5. Be Gracious
A good way to make nice with the local vendors is to send handwritten thank-you notes 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.

6. Forewarn Your Friends and Family
Clue guests in to your wedding's sandy locale when you send your save-the-dates 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 Fred, may not be able to traverse a rocky 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!

8. Mind Mother Nature
Don't forget to consider the climate when choosing your dress. 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.

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).

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.

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.

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, bug spray, 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.


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