Can I throw a beach house wedding?
August 30, 2007 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I've looked on the knot, wedding channel and googled, but I haven't found quite what I'm looking for. My fiance and I have an idea for a beach house wedding and reception, but we don't know if it's feasible with our guest list and budget. I thought maybe some mefites have done something similar.

So we've guestimated the number of attendants to be 60 adults and 6 children under the age of three. I think it could be smaller because most of the guests are coming either from Ohio or Virginia and may not want to travel to South Carolina (where the beach house would be).

Our idea is to rent a seven bedroom house right on the beach in Hilton Head near my fiance's parents (approximately $4,000) with a pool and a patio. We like the idea of having a low-key beach house party where people can take a dip in the pool or the ocean rather than a traditional reception. In the spirt of keeping everything low-key we'd have catered bbq. We'd rent a tent to keep the sun off of everyone and for rain. Beer, wine, and sodas we'd get from Costco or some place similar.

Here are my questions:

1. Can this number of people fit comfortably in a seven bedroom house for a reception?

2. We'd like to rent a dance floor. Will having just an ipod work or do we need a dj? I've seen the thread about having an ipod at the reception. It seems like a good idea -- our concern is about how to keep the music going all night and keeping people encouraged to dance.

3. In the event of a real downpour -- could you feasibly have the wedding inside the house with this many guests?

4. Our budget is about $13,000 - can this be done on this type of budget?

5. I'll need to plan from across the country -- am I crazy for trying something this complicated?

6. Is there anything that will make this especially difficult that I'm not thinkingof?

Thanks for your help!
posted by bananafish to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can't really address most of your questions but I do have some advice: DELEGATE!
See if you can find someone you trust to take charge of renting (tent, tables, chairs) and someone else to work with you for the shopping list and doing the Costco run. Since most people are coming from out of town, they will look to you for guidance for what they should be doing for the whole weekend. For example, you will also need to find a recommended hotel and decide who (if anyone) gets to sleep at the house for the weekend. Hopefully your fiancee's family will take care of the rehersal dinner the night before but you want to host brunch at the house the next morning before leave to back home (and find someone else to figure out the food and shop for it for the brunch)

Good luck!
posted by metahawk at 1:52 PM on August 30, 2007

I'm having a reception for 40-50 people in an old two room schoolhouse. So I think you should be able to easily get 60 people into a house the size you're talking about.

The question is, will there be one larger room where you can fit everyone at once? Or are you okay with splitting people up into multiple rooms? This is more of an issue if you're planning on setting up tables inside for people to hang out and eat. If you're doing it outside--then no problemo.
posted by divka at 1:52 PM on August 30, 2007

A friend of mine got married in July on the Isle of Palms near Charleston, SC -- and buddy, what a headache. She had the same plan as you: rent a beachhouse, get married on the sand, party at the house. That plan didn't work out because a) almost nobody who rents houses down there will allow weddings or receptions on their property (insurance issues, mostly) and b) rental contracts run from Saturday to Saturday, so in order to get everything ready (on Thursday and Friday) and then have the wedding on Saturday, you have to rent the house for 2 full weeks (~$8000). I think some localities also have ordinances about no wedding receptions on the beach. She was able to have her wedding ceremony on the beach, but she had to notify the local government and get a permit approved (or something like that) because of a new ordinance they passed this summer. In the end, she held her reception at a country club or somesuch that was near the beach, because having it at a beach house was just impossible. And she tried everything!

So: You may have a hard time finding a property where you can have a "wedding" or a "wedding reception." I don't know if calling it a "big party" will make that easier or not. And you may have to deal with local ordinances designed to prevent you from doing exactly the thing you want to do.

I have no idea about costs but know that weddings usually end up costing more than you planned for, no matter how closely you budget. Sorry to rain on your awesome beach wedding parade (because it is an awesome idea), but I wouldn't wish the kind of stress my friend went through on anyone. Good luck!
posted by junkbox at 1:53 PM on August 30, 2007

(Oh, and indiebride is another good place to troll for help and answers. Searching the forums may turn up useful things.)
posted by divka at 1:57 PM on August 30, 2007

Is this place an actual party venue of some sort, or is it just a rent house? Parking, beach regulations, the rental agreement, the fire marshall (who can tell you about occupancy), alcohol laws, noise really want someone handling those details. If it is a party venue, probably the management can answer almost all your questions. Don't rent a house-for-living-in and throw a 50-person beach party with just a rental agreement; someone is going to get arrested or sued.

If it is a party venue with management and business contracts and a coordinator to handle all those little things, sure, go for it; that person will sweat the details for you. If you want to hire an event planner there to handle it, it's probably do-able. I think it would be a bad idea to do it alone.

If your people don't dance, don't spend a lot of money trying to make them dance. Have good music playing, on an ipod or cds, and let people do their own thing. If a dance floor will provide extra seating/standing room, it might be a good use of the money. It's tough standing around in sand all night, and you can't really sit in it, and that beach house is going to need a big common area and a whole lot of chairs to accommodate 60 people inside. In any case, keeping the music going all night will be regulated by noise ordinances if you were planning on playing it outside, so find out what your restrictions are before you spend too much on it.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:02 PM on August 30, 2007

just my $0.02, but i generally think that simply pressing play on an ipod or cd is a horrible idea for a wedding. that is, if you care about the music and want people to dance. the whole point of hiring a DJ is that it's their job to decide what music is appropriate for the moment - is everyone dancing? is everyone chilling? does everyone need to be quiet so you can cut the cake? it's not fair to leave this responsibility to a friend. a decent wedding DJ shouldn't run you more than a few hundred bucks.
posted by gnutron at 2:21 PM on August 30, 2007

also, FWIW, i just got married in Florida (i live in SF) - 120 people, reception hall and ceremony on the beach, for about your same budget. you can do it, easily. congrats!
posted by gnutron at 2:23 PM on August 30, 2007

I think whether or not you can plan from across the country depends on a). how much you care about the details and b). whether you have anyone you trust in south carolina who is willing to do the work for you. I just tried and failed to plan a wedding for 60 in Philadelphia while living in Boston. What I found was that the moment I said the word 'wedding', everyone was immediately under the impression that I would care about which brand of starch was used on my color-coordinated napkins and bouquet ribbons.

People have come to demand perfection from their weddings. Your contractors--from the caterer to the photographer to the cab driver who's picking up someone from the airport--are absolutely sure they have to get everything exactly right. I found they all had a lot of questions. I wanted to trust them, but I suppose they didn't trust me not to turn into a bridezilla. How comfortable are you answering them from the other coast? Is there someone whom you can rely on to take care of these details instead of you?

A meeting with an experienced caterer gave me a sufficient idea for all the decisions I'd be expected to make and my likely inability to stomach the process. A wedding planner would have probably been equally effective.

In the end, we planned a wedding on a yacht for 12 people in about a week. It was perfect for us.

Best wishes for a long and happy marriage to you.
posted by whimwit at 11:06 PM on August 30, 2007

I also can't give specific comments, but I second the Indiebride suggestion. Also, pick up a copy of Bridal Bargains right away. It's part money-saving advice and part bridal industry expose + specific workarounds. I can't recommend it highly enough.
posted by wintersweet at 10:59 AM on August 31, 2007

I knew a guy who went to just this sort of reception, and he said it was the most enjoyable wedding he had ever been to. So I say do it!
posted by bystander at 11:24 PM on September 2, 2007

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