Planning a beach wedding

By Eleanor Stern
Info Guru,

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Wedding couple on beach
Start your marriage with a beautiful ceremony by the sea
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Many little girls dream of their wedding day long before it happens. One of the more popular wedding dreams is having a beautiful beach wedding. It is romantic, naturally provides a great ambience, and seems to inspire endless creative ideas. Make your beach wedding dreams come true with a little planning and a flexible attitude.

Location, location, location

Start by deciding on the location for your beach wedding. Do you want to be married in the tropics? If palm trees and aqua waters are part of your dream wedding, consider planning a Florida, Hawaii, or Caribbean wedding. Destination weddings are growing in popularity, and many resorts are now offering wedding packages including discounted rooms for wedding guests, the services of a wedding planner and information on area clergy, services and events.

If you decide on a destination wedding, be sure to check out the marriage license requirements before you book the date. Some places may require blood tests, waiting periods or additional documentation particularly if you or your groom have been married before.

Think outside the box

A beach wedding does not have to be in a tropical setting. The beaches of Northern California or coastal Maine would provide a dramatic setting for your wedding vows. Although most people expect warm weather and bright sunshine when they hear about a beach wedding, if you live in the north you may wish to plan your wedding closer to home to save your guests the cost of travel.

A foggy day on a rocky shore makes an unforgettable backdrop for your wedding vows, and may cost significantly less than booking a popular tropical setting.

What's the weather going to be?

Whether it is in Florida, the Jersey shore or even Hawaii, no one can control the weather. Find out when the rainy season falls in the location you choose, and try to pick a different time of the year.

If rain is a possibility, have umbrellas and ponchos ready for your guests just in case. If rain is often an issue in your area, consider having plastic raincoats or ponchos printed with the names of the bride and groom.

Many people who plan beach weddings also book an event room in a local hotel, or set up an outside tent, just in case Mother Nature also decides to be a special guest at their occasion.

Just as rain can become a problem, so can the sun. Tropical locations or even summer days in temperate regions can make it far too hot for traditional suits or fancy dresses. Suggest that guests bring sunscreen, or provide a basket of sample size tubes at the entrance to your wedding area. Parasols, umbrellas or hats for shade can be provided if you think that the day may be exceptionally hot and your location provides little shade.

If it's a hot day, having lots of refreshments on hand is crucial. This way you can re-hydrate Aunt Betty before she passes out. You can also hand out small fans as party favors for the guests. You also want to have at least a small seating area in the shade, so tired people and children have a place to go when they want to rest and relax.

Set up the ceremony

Now that you are prepared for the weather and you have chosen a location for your beach wedding, let's talk about the setup. Trying to create a seating arrangement on sand can be quite a challenge. Most people put down some kind of artificial flooring before putting down their seating. This way the chair legs won't sink in the sand.

If you are having an intimate wedding you do not necessarily need seating as the people can just gather around the ceremony. However if the ceremony is to be a long one, your guests include some elderly family or friends, or you are having a large wedding, seating of some sort is necessary. What to wear

Another very important concern is bridal attire. The bride must dress for the setting. Remember if it's summer, it may be hot! Choose a dress that is very airy, and light, and consider the outside elements when selecting your train, shoes, and hair. The beach bride can still have a train, but you should try to make it a little shorter. Designate a few close friends to carry the train so it does not blow in the wind.

Brides who will be married in a cooler area or season should consider including an elegant but warm wrap as part of their wedding ensemble. Shivering through your vows would not be a good way to celebrate your special moment.

It may seem obvious, but unless you want to spend your wedding day trying to walk across the sand – and failing - don't wear high heels to a beach wedding. Wear flats, or even skip shoes altogether.

Don't forget the groom!

Just as the bride needs to dress for the occasion, so does the groom. In warm weather, he can wear a more casual look with an open linen shirts and a light jacket. The material should be as ventilated as possible. If the setting is chilly, an open-necked dress shirt with a tweed jacket or navy blazer might be a good choice.

Hair and makeup

Many opt to just keep their hair down and natural. On a calm day, this might be a beautiful choice. But if there is a strong breeze, you might end up with your hair blowing in your face, or even your mouth as you try to recite your vows.

A simple up-do will keep your hair in place and still give you the casual look you want. If you are really worried about your hair, you should hire an on-call stylist for the wedding so he can do touchups to your hair and makeup.

Keep your make up soft and simple for your wedding. If your location is tropical, be sure to start with a good sunscreen to prevent sunburn during the ceremony. Choose soft shades of lip color and eye color…the beach wedding is no place for vivid red lips and heavily lined eyes. Use just a little powdered bronzer to add a healthy sun-kissed look across your cheekbones, the bridge of your nose, forehead and chin.

Decorating for the ceremony

Have fun with the your beach wedding by using a tropical theme, or a romantic theme in all of your decorations. Create a trail of seashells leading from the parking area to the ceremony site. Or sprinkle the sand with tropical flowers just before the ceremony.

Whatever you plan, keeping it simple is a good idea. When you're planning a beach wedding, you don't want to choose decorations that are likely to blow away or be damaged by the sand and sea spray. Use decorative accents on the beach chairs, or under a centerpiece altar. Carry your theme through to the decorations at your reception site.

Note You might want to choose a photographer who is experienced in beach weddings. The beach experience can be challenging to a photographer who is used to inside services and hotel settings.

Now you are ready to start planning a beach wedding. Take your time, enjoy the moment and let your dreams come true.

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