Picture the most relaxed, romantic setting you can imagine. There's a very good chance it's a beach—a tropical shoreline framed by lush palm trees or a rocky coast where foaming waves rush to meet dramatic jetties. If you think this is paradise, why not get married here? Below, what to know when planning seaside I dos.
Timing and Weather
While no one can guarantee a beautiful day, you can increase your chances for sunny skies by researching your site's seasonal patterns before booking a date (contact the town's chamber of commerce or log on theweatherchannel.com). If possible, pick a month when the weather is most consistently temperate.
Find out about other weather-driven factors, such as how windy the beach gets at different times of the day; you can then plan accordingly (for example, using decorative mesh screens behind you during the vow exchange to shield everyone from overzealous breezes). If you're determined to get hitched at sunset, visit the Navy's Web site at usno.navy.mil.com to fine-tune your timing. Pay attention to the ocean's cycles, too, so you know when the tide comes in.
During high season, beach traffic can be heavy, and during the off-season detours are common, so send guests instructions listing several possible driving routes, including one from the nearest airport, suggests Jeffrey Jacobs, banquet manager of Gurney's Inn, a seaside resort in Montauk, New York. Parking can be tricky, too, if your ceremony is taking place far from the reception (which is best held indoors, not directly on the beach).
Call the chamber of commerce even before you book your date to ask about reserving parking spaces and applying for any permits. If the lot is far from your wedding site, you may want to provide a shuttle bus or van for guests. At the very least, post markers along the route. Balloons tied to a post may blow away, so try something sturdier—for example, a trail of well-placed, tulle-decorated buckets weighted down with heavy rocks.
Let guests know the wedding will be right on the beach so they can dress appropriately. Word your invitation accordingly, with a phrase like "beachside ceremony" or "ceremony on the sand." High heels and a heavy, elaborate gown with a long train will look stiff and formal; instead, consider marrying in a gown of a simpler design made of an airy, lightweight fabric like organza, chiffon, charmeuse, or crepe (avoid silk, which can make you perspire).
Go barefoot or wear flat, dressy sandals; flip-flops are too adolescent. Flowers in your hair are a safer choice than a veil, especially if there may be wind. "If you do want to wear a veil, make sure it's weighted at the bottom with beads or fabric flowers, so it doesn't flap or go airborne," warns Kevin Tobey, social catering director at the Four Seasons Palm Beach in Florida. One word about panty hose: Don't!
The groom's outfit should match the formality of yours: a white dinner jacket for a dressy wedding; a blazer, khakis, and a white or light-colored shirt if it's informal. So you glow rather than burn, apply sunscreen under your makeup.