5 Things to Consider When Planning Your Beach Wedding

The Florida Gulf Coast can provide some of the most beautiful settings in the world for a beach wedding with white sand, the sparkling Gulf of Mexico and spectacular sunsets. Here are Five Things to consider when planning your beach wedding.
Your Beach Ceremony Location –
In choosing the location for your beach wedding, remember that all Florida Beaches are essentially “public”. I can’t tell you how many times brides and groom ask me if the beach will be closed for their ceremony. Even if you choose a Beach Venue with a private section, there will most likely be beachgoers within view.
Also, be aware that every beach town has their own rules as to whether you will need a permit or not. Regulations (as well as the price of the permit) depend on the number of guests that will be attending, the number of chairs set up and whether you will have an arch or any other furniture, etc. Be sure to hire a professional, reputable company if you need these or similar items. Most likely they will be able to help you navigate whether you will need a permit or not; and may even be able to obtain one for you. If you will be staying at a private venue, or working with one providing a wedding package on their property, you will not need a permit.
“Walk On” Beach Weddings do not require a permit, as long as you are not using chairs or an arch, etc. This is usually a small group of people and/or just the bride and groom. You can walk on any public section of the beach and perform your ceremony. Many times, you can have a “million-dollar view” for just the price of a hotel room or a parking fee. If you are staying at a venue, be respectful of their “private property”. Also, make sure that the location you have chosen has adequate parking for you and your guests.
Time of Year-
The time of year can also make a big difference in your wedding plans (for example a 1:00 PM Wedding in the middle of August in Florida might not be a good idea). It is also always advisable in Florida to have a “rain plan”. Also, while sunset weddings are quite spectacular, don’t rule out a morning wedding if that fits into your plans. For beach weddings, remember that walking in sand to a ceremony location may be difficult for some of your wedding guests and family members that have disabilities.
What To Wear –
Brides should choose a wedding dress that is appropriate for a beach wedding. Something light and flowy with a shorter train usually works well (longer trains and crinoline tend to hold sand in). Most of the time, there is a breeze on the beach, so keep that in consideration when choosing your hair style and the length of you veil; and be sure to use a professional hair and makeup stylist who will know what type of makeup to use as the sun and heat will cause your makeup to run with tears and perspiration. Also, keep in mind that you will be on sand, so your 4 Inch Jimmy Choos may not work. For both ladies and men, if you plan to go barefoot, make sure your feet are properly groomed (enough said). Grooms and groomsmen need to also think “light” not only in fabric but color (for example, a wool-blend black tux may not be the smartest choice for your July wedding in Florida).
Since Florida is such a tourist destination, many brides and grooms (along with their bridal party and families), tack on a bit of vacation before or after the ceremony. If you plan on being out in the sun or hitting the beach prior to your ceremony, remember sunscreen, as sunburn and “tan” lines from your swimsuits and sunglasses will show up in your wedding pictures.
Wedding Ceremony –
First, as with all your wedding vendors, be sure to hire a professional wedding officiant who can help you design your ceremony. If you are in full sun on the beach, a shorter ceremony is always better. Recently I performed a ceremony in mid-July for a couple from the Midwest. After I had written up their ceremony, it ended up being 45 minutes long. I cautioned them to shorten their ceremony (20 minutes is an ideal length), but the bride didn’t want to shorten anything. During her ceremony, I seriously thought the groom was going to pass out. After it was over, he was exhausted and told me they should have listed to me and shortened their ceremony. I have seen many bridesmaids, groomsmen and wedding guests pass out because of the heat, so keep that in mind when determining how long your ceremony will be.
With Beach Ceremonies, it is always a good idea to try and weave in some things that work with that theme (Shell Toss, the Knot Tying or Sand Ceremony, Beach Ball Toss, etc.). Remember that there will also be all types of sounds that will compete with your ceremony (wind, waves, beachgoers, beach bars with live musicians, seagulls, banner planes, Coast Guard Helicopters, etc.) so it is advisable to have a sound system and microphone for you and your Officiant. I always tell my brides and grooms that your guests may travel thousands of miles to attend your ceremony and they want to be able to hear you share your vows.
You will also need a Florida Marriage License, so be sure to check with your Officiant or the local Clerk of Court for some guidelines in obtaining that. Married by Mail (www.marriedbymail) is a FL Marriage License Procurement Service that can also help you.
Wedding Pictures –
Be sure to hire a professional wedding photographer who is familiar with shooting into the sun. They should also be comfortable with all types of external lighting as shadows and shooting conditions (especially at sunset) are everchanging. Keep in mind that you are on a Florida Beach and not a private island in the Caribbean. Most of the time, there will be other beachgoers, umbrellas and cabanas within view, and maybe in your pictures. A professional photographer will be able to be creative in shooting angles and in postproduction editing to keep those things to a minimum in your wedding pictures.
Beach Décor –
When choosing your floral décor, choose flowers that have “staying power” to last in the sun. Again, a professional florist should be able to help you with your selections. Stick with a Beach Theme and incorporate shells, starfish, tiki torches, etc. in your décor motif. Remember to also provide water for your guests. Fans, sunglasses, flip flops, etc. are also a nice touch to have available for your guest to use, and keep as a memento of your ceremony.
These are just a few things to keep in mind for your Beach Wedding. Most of all, have fun and enjoy the beautiful beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast for a ceremony that you will remember for the rest of your life.

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