Tips for Beach Weddings: Picking Your Beach (second in a series)

{{This is the second in a series of blogs about beach weddings. Other topics covered include “Is a beach wedding for you?” and “Planning the perfect beach wedding”. If you’d like to have a wedding on the beach in St. Augustine, please call one of our wedding specialists at 904.824.4301–we’d love to help you plan your special day!}}

Beach wedding in St. Augustine FL

Simply beautiful beach wedding decor.

Beach weddings have a beautiful simplicity about them–it’s just you, your soon-to-be-spouse, the people closest to you, and the spectacular water, sky and sand. But that doesn’t mean that beach weddings are simple to plan…if anything, managing the challenges that come with the Great Outdoors take more thought than using a manmade venue, because there are so many more variables.

Here are some questions to think about as you start to plan your perfect beach wedding, and begin the search for finding the perfect beach:

Is it legal? Many beaches have legal requirements for events–they require permits and paperwork, especially for larger parties. For instance, Florida’s St. Johns County requires permits for all events, although they do distinguish between events with a minor impact (under 200 people) and major impact (over 200). To find the requirements in your area, search for “beach wedding permits in [your county]”. In addition to the permit, you may be required to provide bathroom facilities, or pay additional fees for services such as photography, videography and decor.

In addition to permitting requirements, make sure you’re aware of appropriate beach rules for your chosen stretch of sand. Some beaches do not allow loud music (often defined as music that can be heard more than 25 feet away), fireworks (which may or may not include sparklers, if that is part of your exit plan), or lanterns (especially during turtle egg laying season).

Many beaches also have heavy fines for damaging the dunes (that’s the mounded part of the beach, covered with grasses). Make sure that your ceremony is not in the dunes, and remind your guests and vendors not to stand on the dunes while watching the ceremony or getting pictures.

Beach weddings in St. Augustine Florida

This ceremony was held between the dunes. To make the sandy area look more natural, we bring ferns and beach grasses to create a “stage” effect without damaging the natural environment.

Can people find it? The line between secluded and impossible to find can be a tricky one. You may want to create a small map for your guests, and mail it out along with your invitations. Be sure to use a physical address if the beach has one (you can go to Google maps and find the location, then share that with your friends. It will help everyone with a Smartphone get there; suggest that the less-technical ride along with the folks with phones.

Another option is to use a local restaurant as a “staging area”. Talk to the restaurant’s manager, and ask if you can have a room (or even just a few tables) reserved for your group right before your ceremony. Order appetizers for folks, and let them meet there first. Guests can then carpool to the site, which will help with parking (depending on the season, parking could be limited) as well as with directions.

This also helps with the next question you should consider…

What happens when nature calls? Private beaches are beautiful and secluded, but that’s not always a plus when someone needs to use the “facilities”. (Yes, people will go to the bathroom even on your special day!) When you’re looking at sites, look for one that has public restrooms or a small comfort station. And ask your wedding planner to check them when she arrives onsite for set up–they may need a little sprucing up before your guests arrive.

If your ideal beach doesn’t have any bathroom facilities, consider the restaurant as a staging area option mentioned above. Your guests can go right before the ceremony, which will make everyone more comfortable. (Note: The bride may want a last minute “pit stop” as well, particularly if the drive from their hotel venue to the beach is a long one!)

Finally, if your event is larger, you may want to investigate renting port-a-potties (on some beaches, you will be required to rent them for parties over 100 people). We recommend calling an event rental company rather than a port-a-pot rental, as their restrooms will be more wedding/special event appropriate.

Will all your guests be able to access the beach? Guests with mobility issues may have difficulty navigating the sandy surface. There are beach wheelchairs available in the marketplace; call a medical supply company to see if you can rent one for the day. Some areas, like St. Johns County in Florida, have beach wheelchairs for free. Just call the St. Johns County Beach Services Department at (904) 209-0752 to request one of the three available chairs for your visit. They are given out on first come, first serve basis. You can choose delivery (applies to any beach in St. Johns County) or pick one up at 901 Pope Road, St. Augustine, FL 32080.

What time of day is best? Before you pick your beach, think about where the sun will during your ceremony. Will it be behind you, in your guests’ eyes, or will it be behind them? (The prettiest pictures will be in early morning or very late afternoon because the light will be the best).

Light isn’t the only concern: Where will the water be that time of day? Check a tide table for your area to be sure that you’ll be high and dry for your event.

Do you vant to be alone? When you’re applying for a permit, ask if any other events are planned on this beach. Does a kayaking group meet there each Thursday? How crowded does it get on weekends? You can’t guarantee that the beach will look pristine and empty on the day of your wedding, but you can do some homework to ensure that you won’t be just one of a crowd.

Beach wedding in St. Augustine Florida

Working with a wedding professional can help you find hidden pocket beaches, giving you a private venue for your special day.

What will happen if it rains? When you picture a beach wedding, you picture blue skies and a gentle breeze. But sometimes Mother Nature has other plans. You don’t want to have a stressful wedding day, so plan now what your back-up plan is. Will you move inside? Is there a pavillion near your beach? If you have a large group of people coming, print the rain plan on your invitation.

With proper planning, you will choose the beach that’s perfect for you. And that’s a big part of making your wedding day awesome, and an enjoyable day for all.

Beach Wedding St. Augustine Florida

With the right planning beforehand, everyone can enjoy the wedding–including the bride and groom!

Up next: How will you do your hair? What kind of dress do you want? What flowers work best on the beach? We’ll share the latest and greatest trends in our next blog. Come back soon!

Beach wedding in St. Augustine Florida