Details: Please confirm with the vendors the exact date, time, and location of the events of the day. Even though it is written on your contract, sometimes things may change. Also make sure that your vendors have your cell phone numbers or the numbers of those who will be in charge. The balance due should also be paid ahead of time, as we do not recommend that you wait until that day to pay the balance. Things are crazy, as you know, on that day, and it just adds to the stress of the day to wait until then. Also remember to secure any necessary permits and license fees associated with getting married on the beach-especially if you are using one of the state or national parks. Many times your vendors, such as your photographers, will need to have business liability insurance and separate photography special event permits in order to perform their services on the beach. We strongly recommend hiring a certified wedding planner familiar with the local area, as he or she will know the rules and idiosyncrasies of the various beach locations, as well as the local vendors and reception venues. This will alleviate the need for you to have to make several trips to the location ahead of time to meet with vendors, coordinate details, and deal with the stress of making sure that everything is in place by the day of the wedding. After all, this is supposed to be a wonderful and exciting time in your life, and you should not have to worry about details. That is a wedding coordinator’s job.
Time Frame and Locations: We always field the questions, “Well, what if we are getting married in a church but want beach formals, or what if we are getting ready in one place, getting married on the beach, and having our reception in yet another location? Keep in mind that this takes time, so plan accordingly both with the ceremony/reception venue(s) and with the portrait package that you choose. If you did not opt for full day coverage, the time frame is CRITICAL, because although you may think that everything is going to go according to plan and everything is going to be on schedule, it rarely does. If your package only includes 3 hours, then it is 3 hours INCLUDING travel time to get from location to location. During the busy summer months in a beach town traffic and parking are issues. People wrongly assume that they can get from place to place in a few minutes. Even though your destination may only be a few blocks or a few minutes away, tourists drive very slowly, traffic jams are common, and parking is at a premium in some locations (think boardwalk and oceanfront locations). For example, if your ceremony is on the beach somewhere in a busy downtown beach location and your reception is on the outskirts of town, then you need to allow for travel time even though it technically is only maybe a few miles away. Also keep in mind that photographers need time to do all of those “must-have” before and after shots that you will want to remember on your special day. If you are opting for getting ready shots, then PLEASE be ready to be photographed when the photographers arrive. It happens so often that the brides and her bridesmaids are not ready until the last possible minute or the groom and his groomsmen are doing shots out on the balcony in their underwear, and then the photographers have to scramble to get those all-important pre-ceremony formals. It results in everyone getting all flustered and maybe forgetting something they were supposed to bring or wear or do. It usually takes an hour or so to do these, so that means that your hair and makeup should be done and your dress should be ready to be put on by that time because you will be in every shot. After the ceremony, you will need to allow time for the post ceremony formals. This is so crucial for all weddings, as these are the images that will ultimately end up in your album. Remember that if you scheduled your reception to start a half of an hour after the ceremony, then all we will have is that half hour-subtracting time for travel, receiving line, etc. I always tell brides to allow at least 45 minutes for the formals-especially if the bridal party and/or families are large. Some family shots can be done at the reception when there is more time and when everyone is more relaxed, but the majority of the formals are done directly after the ceremony. It takes time to pose groups of people, and if there are children involved it takes a little bit longer to get them to pay attention. This is when we applaud the brides who have included a cocktail hour for their guests so that we have time to do the formals while the guests are enjoying the beginning of the reception. Although we understand that it is your wedding day and that you should have the right to be late to your own reception if you want, it does cause problems with the other vendors. If you and the bridal party are late to the reception, then the chef or caterer, the DJ, the servers, and the banquet manager are understandably unhappy because the food will be cold and they will be under a time crunch to try to get back on schedule. This is where the venue location is important. It is so much more convenient and a real time saver if you are able to choose a venue that has a beach area to use for the ceremony, a block of rooms that can be reserved for out of town guests, ample parking for those guests, and a reception area large enough to accommodate those guests.
Special Tips for Beach Weddings: Beach weddings are lovely, but be sure to plan for windblown hair, squinty eyes and harsh shadows if the wedding is too early, a possible rainout, and uninvited beachgoers in the background if it is not on a private beach. Often times brides will spend many hours in the salon getting their hair done, only to be disappointed when windy conditions at the beach ruin all of the time and money they just spent on their hair. We recommend up-do’s and lots of hairspray. Also, long veils are pretty, but keep in mind that they need to be anchored down so that they don’t go tumbling down the beach if a gust of wind renders them airborn. Weather is always a factor when considering a beach wedding. Always have backup plans in case of a possible rainout or one of those famous coastal storms (we call them Nor’Easters here in Maryland). You do not want to look like a soggy mess on the most important day of your life. Also keep in mind that you most likely will have elderly guests at your wedding, so they will need to be accommodated with beach wheelchairs, special seating, and a handicap beach access ramp if needed. The last thing you need is for grandma to fall down the dune and break her hip on the way to the beach.
Uncle Tom or Aunt Mary with a camera or a video camera: Although we are very nice about giving family members and friends the opportunity to take their own pictures at your wedding, some photographers try to discourage this. Videographers love to stand behind the officiant during the ceremony, and this makes for a very distracting ‘extra person’ in all of your ceremony shots. If it is a professional videographer, they usually know better than this-but Uncle Tom thinks he is doing you a favor getting his video footage. He doesn’t realize that he is ruining your wedding images by being in the way. This is common during beach weddings, because church weddings do not offer the opportunity for this to happen. Try not to forget that you are paying for professional images of your special day. You would hate to have a bunch of images of the two of you looking at Aunt Mary instead of the photographer or of Uncle Tom in the background during your ceremony in your wedding album!
Final Thoughts: Always remember that it is your special day, so no matter what happens, just enjoy the day and try not to worry about every little detail. If you hire vendors that are used to doing weddings at the beach, you will be assured that they will make sure that all runs smoothly. This is especially true if you do not hire a wedding planner, because then you are at the mercy of your vendors to make sure everything goes according to plan. Like I always tell my brides, choose your vendors wisely!