Todd Nieber and Melissa Joiner Nieber are wed at Carova, on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, in front of the Wild Horse House. Photo by James Dickinson
Wedding planner Michele Damasco doesn't understand why so many couples insist on celebrating their nuptials on the beach in North Carolina's Outer Banks during the month of September.
"That's hurricane season," she says, adding that the ceremonies often take place in the early or late afternoon, which is prime time for storms. "If you're going to take that risk, you need to love your rain plan and be excited about it. If you are, it won't rain."
Starry-eyed brides may fantasize about a romantic wedding set on a white sandy beach with a backdrop of calm, blue waters. But wind, rain, sand and bugs — "You'd better have some bug spray," says Damasco — present a different reality.
Just ask Patti Angus, whose September 2007 Virginia Beach wedding just missed the brunt of Hurricane Gabrielle. "It was so windy during the service that we had to tie down the tulle that was wrapped around the arbor," she says, noting that her wedding made the local news. "There was no one on the beach, so we actually had a beautiful, intimate wedding. We even had a rainbow."
Even without hurricanes in the forecast, beach weddings can still be tricky. Here are a few tips you may want to consider.
Check Your Shoes
Ditch the stiletto heels and tell your guests to do the same. "You want to set up a shoe check instead of a coat check. Put up a cute sign-up sheet that says, ‘Take off your shoes and relax,' " says Colleen Cook of CCS Events. Angela Diggs-Parker of Angela's Elegant Events suggests offering "guests inexpensive flip-flops. Be sure to buy them in various sizes."
A Simpler Dress
Scrap the veil and a full-length gown and train. "Think about a tea-length gown instead," says Damasco. Angus says she considered a simple sundress but fell in love with a "beautiful silk gown from Nicole Miller. It was perfect for the setting. Just because you have a beach wedding doesn't mean you have to settle for something that doesn't make you feel like a bride."
Check for high tide to avoid a washout. "There's nothing like having waves crash down on your guests or ceremony site," says Diggs-Parker. She also suggests amplifying your I-do's. "Consider the sound of the waves. During a ceremony they can be very loud."
Don't go crazy with the guest list. Keep it simple — unless you enjoy lugging heavy rental chairs to the beach. "Some people just seat their elderly friends and family, and the rest of the guests are standing," says Cook. "You could also provide cushions, pillows or beach blankets." But you may have inadvertent guests. "Because beaches are public, you can't ask people to leave or move away," she notes. "When we start to set up, we see if people get the hint. Sometimes we will have an assistant stand around the perimeter."
Nix the orchestra. "We used a single steel drummer for our music," Angus says. "It worked well with the beach setting and didn't require much space or electricity. It was definitely a day to remember."