Is a DIY Florida beach wedding feasible?
June 18, 2009 5:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm asking this for my sister, who is engaged and would like to have a beach wedding in Florida. Here's the catch: she'd like to keep it as DIY as possible. (Assuming this is feasible) can anyone share experiences or advice in how to go about this?

My sister and her SO are just starting to plan for their wedding but are having trouble getting underway - while they've been investigating resources like The Knot's beach wedding subsection and All Florida Beach Weddings, much of what they've found has to do with various "wedding packages" and hotel deals. If possible they would like to avoid that, especially as this will be my sister's second wedding and she's hoping to keep it more laid-back and non-traditional (think "drum circles and impromptu bellydancing" rather than "DJ and the hokey pokey"). As I understand it, they want to bring in as few outside vendors/coordinators as possible; they really just want to be able to reserve a space on a beach that they can do with as they wish (after getting the necessary permits and keeping within county/state regulations, of course). Does anybody have experiences with such an event, especially in Florida? Are there any beaches you could recommend that they investigate?

FWIW here are some factors that will likely influence their plans:

1. While they haven't yet set a definite date, they're currently thinking October 2010ish. At the moment they're thinking they'll have ~75-100 guests in attendance.
2. They would prefer a beach on the Gulf Coast to one on the East; somewhere around Tampa would probably be best but they're flexible.
3. If at all possible, they would love to have their three dogs involved in the wedding or at least the reception, so they're hoping to find a dog-friendly beach.
4. They would like to have both the wedding and the reception on the beach, but are also considering renting a beach house for the reception if that turns out to be more doable (assuming they can find a pet-friendly beach house, they're thinking this might also help with their wish to have their dogs involved in such a way as to still give them space to retreat if/when they need to)

There was some helpful information in this thread, and I'll be suggesting that my sister check out Indiebride if she hasn't already, but in the meantime, it would really be helpful to hear from others who are more in the know about this type of undertaking and how to go about it. If there are other details that might be important here I'd be happy to check with my sister, just let me know. Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide!
posted by DingoMutt to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I went to a wedding on Treasure Island (in St. Pete). The bride and groom rented a beach house, held a pre-wedding party there... when the sun started to set, the wedding party, minister and all the guests just walked down to the beach for a very simple ceremony. After, the vows, we went back to the house for the reception (or, more appropriately, the post-party.)

To my knowledge, there were no permits involved. The beaches are public property. I guess it could be a different story if you actually wanted to set up chairs, an altar-like thingy, etc.

As far as dogs go, I am pretty sure, as with most Florida beaches, dogs are allowed after 5 pm as long as they are leashed.
posted by AlliKat75 at 5:24 PM on June 18, 2009

We go to Destin, FL every year. There are many, many nice condos that front the beautiful white beach. Last year, as we were walking on the beach at sunset we came across a beautiful, small wedding. Evidently, they had rented a townhouse-type condo facing the beach that had a large deck. Most of these are in small developments where it would be possible to rent several together, depending on how large of a group you have. They set up large speakers on the deck facing outward to the ocean, and placed candles all around the deck. They planted tiki torches in two rows outward to the ocean to mark the "aisle", and an officiant of some type stood at the end of the row right in front of the beach. All their guests were barefoot, girls in summer dresses and guys in shorts and nice light colored summer shirts, all ages, about twenty people all together. After they walked down the "aisle", the guests gathered around them in a circle for the ceremony. Someone took lots of pictures. All the other people on the beach, including us, stopped and watched from a respectful distance. As we were walking back later, the party on the deck was in full swing with music, a bar, and a buffet.

It seemed to me to be one of the coolest wedding ceremonies I've ever seen. It just struck me as being very quiet and meaningful. Not to mention budget-friendly.
posted by raisingsand at 6:00 PM on June 18, 2009

In addition to indiebride I'd suggest she at least take a look at the offbeat bride website ( No suggestions specific to Florida though.
posted by Lady Li at 6:28 PM on June 18, 2009

Just came in to also suggest offbeatbride. They have an associated "social networking" site that, so far, for my DIY wedding plans, I've found to be a smidge better and more current than indiebrides.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:00 PM on June 18, 2009

See if one of the places on Casey Key in Nokomis can accommodate you.
posted by patnok at 7:12 PM on June 18, 2009

It's been about 8 years since I lived in florida, so laws could have changed. However, when I lived there, dogs were allowed at beaches on a county by county basis. If I remember correctly, Dade did not allow it, Broward did. When I moved to the west coast (Naples/Ft. Myers area), there was a dog beach, but dogs weren't allowed on the regular beaches. I'm not sure if that was in both Lee and Collier counties, I lived on the boarder of the two and at that end, the beaches sort of weave in and out of the two counties.
posted by necessitas at 7:16 PM on June 18, 2009

I've been walking the length of St. Pete Beach and back one day each weekend in the morning for well over a year now. It's amazing how many weddings I see along the way. I must be in about 30 couple's wedding photos. The Don CeSar and the Tradewinds are particularly popular wedding spots, but I've seen them at the public beaches too. By public I mean beaches with public parking spots, technically, the entire beach is public. I don't have any specific suggestions, really, but if you had any questions about the area I might be able to help.
posted by lordrunningclam at 4:07 AM on June 19, 2009

I've been to two beach weddings, and the one thing I remember about both of them was the wind. I hope your sister is not planning on an intricate hairstyle.

Also, and this is just me, but I have never been a fan of food at the beach. The sand just doesn't know that it's supposed to stay out of food.
posted by archimago at 4:12 AM on June 19, 2009

I was a beach lifeguard in St. Augustine, Fl (on the East Coast, just south of Jacksonville) for 7 years, and during that time probably witnessed 100 beach weddings. As far as I know, no permits are required there; I don't think the county views setting up chairs and an altar any differently than setting up a big cabana and beach chairs, which anyone is free to do normally.

My main advice, based on some of the boondoggles that I've witnessed, would be to KEEP IT SHORT AND SIMPLE. While it sounds like your friends aren't planning on intricate floral arrangements or string quartets or anything like that, I still think it's worth mentioning all of the compelling reasons to avoid complexity in a beach wedding.

-Wind: Beaches have the potential to be extremely windy places, and even mild days are typically pretty breezy, depending on the time of day. This means that paper (like seat cards) and decorations (like crepe) will get blown away almost instantly, and any structures not specifically designed for use on the beach (like cheesy wedding columns, etc.) will be vulnerable to embarrassing and sometimes dangerous collapse. This also ensures that a reception featuring food (especially a buffet) will be a sandy, inedible disaster (more on reception woes later).

-Weather: Separate from the wind (which is a constant) is the weather, which in Florida in October will still be on the cusp of the "daily summer thunderstorm" variety. Moreover, October is smack in the middle of hurricane season, with all of its related dangers. While it's entirely possible that the day your sister chooses will be perfect weather-wise, it is imperative that she have a backup plan in case weather becomes a problem (and it can become a problem very quickly and unexpectedly in Florida). Even in October, a sunny, windless day on the beach in Florida can get brutally hot, and anyone unlucky enough to be caught in dark, formal clothing will be doomed to suffer a miserable day. Conversely, with only a light wind coming off the water, an unseasonably cool day inland can get very cold very quickly.

-Tides: I know this seems obvious, but I've seen at least a half-dozen ceremonies ruined by poor placement with respect to tides; in their zeal to be married close to the water's edge, couples sometimes fail to consider that "the water's edge" is a relative term. Pick up a tide chart and study it well before making decisions on precisely where on the beach the ceremony will staged.

-Other Events: Again, it seems obvious, but check the local paper, etc., to make sure that nothing else is going on while the wedding is planned. You'd be surprised what sorts of events can completely ruin a ceremony, given the wide-open, extremely public nature of beaches; for instance, several years ago I witnessed a frazzled bride dissolve into tears because a B-2 Bomber kept making low altitude passes over the beach directly above her ceremony. Turns out there was an airshow at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station about 30 miles north of us, and the bomber was using St. Augustine Inlet as a staging area before he made his grand entrance at the show.

-The Reception: I cannot encourage you enough to NOT hold the reception at the beach. Food will be sandy and will invite the unwanted and extremely aggressive attention of seagulls. Alcohol will likely be prohibited (at a minimum, glass will probably be prohibited), thus ensuring the restlessness of your guests. Music and dancing will be logistically difficult; beaches have very high levels of background noise due to wind, surf, visitors, etc., (so live music is tough) and little in the way of electrical outlets (so canned music is tough). Forcing older relatives to sit through a half-hour ceremony and a 3 hours reception in the aforementioned potential heat and/or cold is a recipe for disaster.

-Logistics: Keep in mind that every element you add to this wedding will be another thing that you have to physically lug down to the beach through soft sand, then lug back to the U-Haul you'll have to rent to get it to the beach in the first place.

That's about it, I think. Feel free to email me with any other questions you might have, and have fun!
posted by saladin at 6:20 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

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