Tips for Beach Weddings: Is it For You? (the first in a series)

{{Note: This blog is the first in a series on beach weddings. For information not covered here, please see our other posts, or call us at 904.824.4301 and ask to speak with one of our wedding planners. We look forward to working with you!}}

Beach wedding in St. Augustine, FL

A 2013 beach wedding by the Bayfront Marin House in St. Augustine, Florida.

Are you thinking about a beach wedding? You may love the idea of your man in flip flops and khakis, and the thought of your niece throwing flower petals on the sand. But that’s just part of the wedding.

In the hundreds of weddings that we’ve planned, the ones we wish we could do over are the beach weddings where the bride (or the groom–or the mother of the bride) clearly would have been happier somewhere else. As much as they loved the *idea* of a beach wedding, the reality wasn’t really for them.

To keep other brides from making that mistake, here are a few signs that suggest a beach wedding is NOT for you:

You’re a control freak. Sorry…but a beach wedding is not in your cards, honey. Most of the elements of a beach wedding–including the wind, the sun, and the sand–are not in your control. Be honest with yourself: will you freak out if a storm is blowing in? Will you be depressed for days if the wind is whipping so hard that your chuppa is torn out of the sand and blows down the beach? What about when your grandmother complains that she couldn’t hear a word you said because the waves were crashing too loudly?

And here’s the biggie: will a large hairy shirtless man parked immediately behind your flower-strewn trellis bother you? (Note: all of these things have happened to us. Some we were able to fix–by promising the large man a piece of wedding cake if he would just move his towel a little bit further down the beach, for instance–but some, like the blowing wind, could not be changed even by our very resourceful wedding gurus!)

If any of those things bother you, make yourself happy: Plan a different kind of wedding.

You love the idea of a formal wedding. If you love photos of perfectly aligned chairs on the beach, and perfectly placed petals on each side of the aisle….you might want to rethink a real life beach wedding. Because those images can happen on Pinterest, but they can’t be guaranteed. Most beach weddings are windy–which means that those beautiful petals won’t even be there when you’re ready to walk down the aisle.

It’s true, you can have a formal wedding on the beach. You can have a formal updo; you can wear a long dress. But you need to know that your hair could be blowing around like Helen Hunt’s in Twister…and your train will be caked with dirty wet sand in just a few seconds after stepping down the aisle. If you’re okay with a relaxed formal look (picture a twisty updo, formal tropical flowers in your arms, and maybe a 3/4 length gown), you may be able to pull it off. Be honest with yourself–how formal do you want your wedding to be?

Beach wedding flowers in St. Augustine, Florida

A perfect mix of formal flowers for a beach wedding.

You love music, or have friends who want to play an instrument during your ceremony. We warn all of our brides that it’s possible that their guests won’t be able to hear the vows, particularly if there is a lot of wind, because most wireless mic’s will get static-y in a brisk wind. In those cases, we set up the chairs in a straight row without a center aisle…because the center of the seating area is the only place you can hear anything! We don’t recommend a lot of music during beach weddings–the waves should be your soundtrack. And we promise that they will always be in tune.

You’ve got kids. We love children (we’re one of the few child-friendly bed and breakfasts in St. Augustine), and we have taken some great candid shots of little ones playing in the sand prior to the ceremony. But if you have very young children, a beach wedding can be torture. There are the waves–just a few yards away–and your little one has to sit still in a stiff white chair. With a clip on tie. And khaki pants that will look bad quickly if they play in the sand. If you’re planning a long-ish ceremony (anything over 15 minutes is long for a beach wedding), think about who in your wedding party can keep the little ones out of the surf. (Note: this is sometimes a problem with big kids too). Alternatively, plan on the kids joining the party just seconds before the bride. Most can sit on MiMi’s lap with a shell or small toy for a few minutes, before they slide down her legs and plop in the sand.

Beach weddings in St. Augustine, Florida

Give kids a job at the wedding–here they walked Mommy down the aisle. It kept their cute white outfits clean, and made them feel super important!

You’re perennially late. We know that it often takes longer than you think to get ready, but there isn’t a lot of flexibility when you’re planning a beach wedding. Beaches (especially public beaches) close. Parking lots are locked up. Sun is critical–if it begins to set, your photos will be cut short. We had a bride who wanted a sunset wedding, and then was 50 minutes late. As we gently tried to nudge her down the aisle, she exploded in anger, saying that she didn’t plan on being hurried on her wedding day. We finally explained that the beach was closing–and the gates to the parking lot would be locked. Her guests (not to mention herself and her groom) would be stranded there without access to their cars. She finally pulled herself together and walked down the aisle, but I suspect that she still thought we were “rushing” her because we wanted to leave early (we didn’t–after the wedding and some photos, we still had to tear down all the finery, and get it into our own cars before the beach was locked up. In this instance, we called extra staff members to help us run the chairs and decorations to our cars while Sandy stalled the ranger with the padlock). In retrospect, this is a bride who would have been much happier marrying at our inn, where we have more flexibility when a bride is running late.

Now, all of this is not to discourage people from having beach weddings. Beach weddings are beautiful, heart-felt affairs–with beautiful natural backdrops and a party feeling among the wedding guests. If the obstacles mentioned above don’t bother you at all, give us a call–we will help you plan a lovely, intimate ceremony right on the ocean.

But if some of these scenarios have you biting your lip with apprehension, do yourself a favor–plan an inland wedding. Maybe in a nice gazebo, surrounded by beautiful gardens and the calm water of the Matanzas Bay?

waterfront bed and breakfast wedding in St. Augustine, Florida

A wedding on the water in St. Augustine, Florida–all the water views, none of the sand!