By Will Estell
So, here you are, looking for answers to questions you don’t even know some of the questions for yet. Frantic, excited, nervous, and a host of other emotions, all because you’re about to embark on the biggest day of your life… and you’re getting wedding planning advice from a guy.
What bride-to-be needs this, right? I’d normally have to agree with you. However, since the guy in question — who’d rather drive fast cars, play ball with his sons, and drink a cold one on a hot beach (not necessarily in that order) than attend another bridal show — happens to be the past editor-in-chief of two newsstand wedding magazines, and later, a partner in and publisher of another, just happens to know a little about what it takes to make your beach wedding the best it can be.
I’m not here to give you advice on how to choose the best planner (though you likely would save money, time, and headache by hiring one), what shape cake you want, or anything that has to do with the hottest new wedding trends for the coming year.
What I’m doing instead, is sharing something I do know a little about, and that is how you can make your dream wedding about you, for you, and an extension of who you are as a couple.
In my years in the wedding magazine business, I’ve seen a lot of destination weddings that just kind of started blending together in my mind. Those are the kind you don’t want, and what using some of these tips will help you avoid, while helping you plan a unique event that will stand out in your guests’ memory as being one of the best wedding ceremonies they ever attended.
Remember, it really is your big day, so make it memorable.
1. Dress the Part
You’re at the beach, so act like it. Remember, there’s no rule that states that only diamonds or pearls are acceptable for a bride. Or that your dress has to be a certain length. Throw in some color. Try beach-themed hues such as turquoise, emerald, amber or amethyst stones. Besides befitting a beach venue, this will also add more color to your photos while still keeping the focus on your white gown.
The same goes for your shoes, and what your groom and the entire wedding party wear. What about a pair of bright blue shoes for your “something blue”? For the groom think seersucker instead of silk. Not everything that looks great in a church is going to look as wonderful on a resort deck or the sand. Think beach. Opt for shorter, or lighter weight. Consider brighter hues for accessories such as ties and shoes. Maybe the bride wears bold colored earrings, or the groom rocks a nautical themed hook or anchor bracelet. Don’t get too carried away, but make it fun!
2. Choose the Right Venue
Your options in terms of venues for a beach wedding along these beautiful beach communities are perhaps as abundant as your choices in accommodations when vacationing on these shores. The one thing to remember is that there is a place that suits your personal taste. Maybe that means standing in the sand barefoot along 30A, or maybe it means tying the knot at a specialty wedding venue on the beach in Miramar, or at a resort in Destin.
The point is, the place does exist, and you can locate it and make it your destination wedding hotspot. Just make sure you choose something that says a little about who you are as a couple and what your big day is all about.
3. Use Flower Power
Because you’re at the beach, be sure not to limit your wedding to baby’s breath and roses; consider more colorful and exotic flowers. Think beachy. Flowers such as tiger lilies, orchids and hydrangeas give tradition a little spin. As can lots of other colorful mixtures that a good florist will be able to help you with. There are several great florists on this coast so make sure you choose someone who has a background in wedding floral design, and good recommendations of their work.
4. Light the Mood
Never underestimate the mood-setting ability of glowing lights. Whether you use candles or tiny crystal lights, illuminating your wedding day will give guests a warm and comforting feeling. Especially with a night wedding, use strings of lights and candles to set the mood. Talk with your venue or wedding planner about this and give them your ideas. It is often a small part of the planning, but it makes a big difference in the look and feel of your entire ceremony and reception.
5. Exit in Style
Think outside the box and dream of some ultra-cool way to exit your reception. How about speeding away in an exotic powerboat? Cruising off in a classic D90 Land Rover or vintage Porsche convertible? Maybe you’d like to be picked up by a waiting helicopter instead?
I’ve yet to see a bride whisked away by her groom on a Sea-Doo, but it would be memorable.
The good news is that you can find a way to make any of that happen if you’re saying your “I do’s” along the beaches of 30A.
6. Free the Food
Don’t be shy when it comes to full-flavored food at your reception. Just because you’re having a beach wedding doesn’t mean you have to be serving seafood… at least not only seafood. If you like Chinese or Thai food, then have it. Be open to surprising your guests with cuisine that is not only delicious but also colorful and helps to make your big day memorable. There are several wonderful caterers and restaurants that offer their services on this strip of paradise, so be sure to do your homework and find one that is highly recommended and understands your desires.
7. Entertain the Crowd
Face it, your wedding is going to be a celebration, and when celebrating, music and dancing are often a big part of what keeps it going. When choosing your music, try to entertain your guests with a wide array of songs to invoke emotions from. Think about the age ranges and try to choose music that can appeal to different demographics. It seems the ‘80s and ‘90s top 40 and rock always do this well, since these are tunes most everyone from 15 to 50 know and still hear. You can mix in some country, rap, whatever you personally like. Just remember that you want to please the guests, not just your personal taste. Live music is also great, and there is no shortage of fabulous bands and entertainers on Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast. Some people think a DJ is best, but I say go for both, with a band or guitarist doing multiple sets, and a little recorded music in between.
9. Vows that WOW
I’m a firm believer that your vows should be extremely personal and speak volumes of who you are, both individually and as a couple. You may not be a writer, and maybe you even hated coming up with poems when forced to, in school. Still, think about writing your own vows and try and find that one special line or quote that will make an impact, create smiles and tears, and stick with your significant other, and all your guests, far into the future. If ever there were a time to be memorable this is it!
8. Rule Your First Dance
With all the first-dance trends available on YouTube and other social media, couples have lots of options and plenty of ideas on choreographing that much-remembered number. My suggestion is just to do what is best for you personally though. Be natural and stay within your skillset, but don’t be afraid to move out of your element a little, and show your personal style. You know how to have fun and be romantic during your first dance as husband and wife, so do it! Maybe we’ll see you in a week on YouTube!
10. Stick Around Awhile
Think about it, you are getting married in a place where other people — probably even you — go for vacation. Why rush off to another country to stand on sand or play in water that is often inferior to where you just got married? Now, I travel and enjoy it, so I’m not advocating that you never visit anywhere other than Northwest Florida or 30A. I’m just saying I’ve been to a lot of places and it doesn’t get much better. And since you are already there, why not stay around for an extra four or five days and enjoy some time with your friends and family who traveled to share in your big day? Some of the best destination weddings I’ve ever heard about are the ones where the newlywed couple and their friends continued the on-location party well after the wedding day.