As if planning a dinner party for 200 people isn't enough work, you had to throw the beach element into it too! Everyone thinks you're crazy for planning a wedding outdoors with the threat of unpredictable weather. Imagine how surprised they'll be when you pull it off without a hitch. It's definitely possible -- you just need to start planning right away. Here's some advice to get you started.
Do Your Homework
Get a handle on things early on by doing research. Know the climate of your destination; look into alternate locations in case of inclement weather; find out if you need a permit to hold your ceremony and reception on site; and figure out other regulations. Don't procrastinate -- you might have limited time to assemble all of the paperwork necessary to make this happen. When it comes to planning a beach wedding, the bottom line is: You need to be twice as organized as your average couple.
Distance: A Good Thing?
You may not have many beaches close to home -- or maybe there's one a few hours away where you spent your summers growing up. Believe it or not, the distance can make you more decisive. How? You've got a strict time frame to work within, and simply don't have the time to travel back and forth to multiple destinations. Believe it or not, you'll find that if you give yourselves one weekend to find a reception site, you'll find one.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
Accept help, and delegate work from anyone who offers -- just make sure it's people whose judgment you trust. Think of it this way: If someone is going to be at the wedding, then she can have a job. If he has an opinion, he can make a decision (with input from you, of course!). You'll especially need plenty of help on the day of, so put members of your wedding party on a mission: a couple of bridesmaids can greet guests and direct them to the ceremony site, an usher can be in charge of a "shoe check," and the best man can oversee rental deliveries.
Don't procrastinate -- you might have limited time to assemble all of the necessary paperwork.
Beach weddings come with stuff (the guest book, the vases for your sand ceremony, amenities baskets, and much more), and getting that stuff to your wedding location and keeping things organized can be a challenge. The easier it is to set up once you arrive at the site, the smoother the day will go, so pack smart. Use lightweight plastic bins or luggage with wheels for easy access onto the sand. As far as wedding gifts, if you've got a ton to take home, maybe you can assign some groomsmen the task of loading them up for you -- and even dropping them off at your home. And make sure you work out all of this before the wedding.
A lot of people will give you cash as a wedding gift -- and that's great (hey, it packs light). But even monetary gifts need to be considered ahead of time. It's easy for things to disappear when you're outside without a proper place to store them. Ask a trusted family member or someone in the wedding party to keep track of envelopes. Or look for a pretty decorative box to place beside your guest book -- just make sure it locks. While we're sure you trust your guests, there might be strangers milling around if your wedding is on a public beach.
With a beach wedding it can feel like you have twice as much to plan for your guests, but don't forget to plan for yourselves. Brides: Book your hair and makeup far in advance so that you and your stylist can find a look that will work in hot or humid weather. (Grooms, be sure you get a haircut before the wedding too. And wear sunscreen!) Of all the things on your list, make your aisle-ready look a high priority. No matter how many people rave about how smoothly everything went, all you'll really want to hear is how great you looked!
-- Meredith Gray