Beach Wedding Basics

by Taryn Bussewitz, New York

So you're planning a beach wedding. Congratulations! Here are some tips to keep in mind as you plan for your big day.

No matter how hard you hope, there's always the chance that it will rain on your big day. There are two ways to avoid spending your wedding day making panicked phone calls to find an alternate wedding site while the rain comes down in buckets. Either you can rent a tent, or you can book an indoor backup site.
Renting a tent allows you to maintain an airy outdoor feeling, allowing ocean breezes in, but keeping rain out. However, renting a tent adds an extra expense to your wedding. Tents can run anywhere from $150 for a tiny canopy to $4,000 for a 6,000 square foot pole tent. An alternative to a tent is to hold your wedding at a catering location with both beachfront and indoor capabilities, or reserving a church fellowship hall. Remember to include inclement weather instructions with your invitations!

Depending on the size of your guest list and the formality of your wedding, you may want to rent flooring. If you have a small group, having guests gather round while you and your fiancee exchange your vows can be intimate and beautiful. However, with a larger group, seating is usually necessary. Beach seating can be tricky. Picture chair legs sinking slowly. Flooring is not very expensive to rent, and can come in many materials, from parquet to carpeted. Flooring is essential for a reception on the sand. You'll need to rent a dance floor, and tables and chairs need a sturdy base. Most tent companies also rent flooring.

The summer sun can be hard on guests, even during an evening wedding. Consider having an usher hand out iced non-alcoholic drinks to guests as they arrive at your ceremony. Keep bottled water in ice-filled buckets at the end of each row of chairs. Give personalized paper fans to guests as a favor handed out before the ceremony. Rent large electric fans for your reception. Set up a few beach umbrellas at the back of the guest area for older relatives and fair-skinned guests to retreat to when the sun becomes too hot. For a daytime wedding, leave small tubes of sunscreen in a basket near the entrance to your ceremony area.

Don't forget:

Bug control - Consider making bug spray available to guests or using citronella candles around your reception area. You don't want people to remember your wedding because they were eaten alive by mosquitos!

Sound system - Consider renting a sound system for your ceremony. Those same ocean breezes that refresh your guests can blow music and words in the wrong direction, leaving your guests with nothing to hear but the roar of the waves.

Tides - Take tides into consideration when you set up your ceremony and reception areas.

Toilets - If there are no acceptable toilet facilities near your wedding site, you'll have to rent portables. Rental companies recommend 1 toilet per 50 guests.

Rules and Regulations - If you are renting a public beach for your wedding, are there restrictions on the number of guests? Are you allowed to use candles? Are electrical outlets available for your sound system? How late can you play music at your reception? Read the fine print on your contract, and ask plenty of questions.

Last, but most important, enjoy yourself! This is your big day, and it will be beautiful, no matter what the weather or temperature. At the end of the day, you'll be married to the love of your life. Congratulations!