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Answers to Your Beach Wedding Frequently Asked Questions

Beach Wedding Frequently Asked Questions & More...

Beach Wedding Planning is dedicated to helping you plan beach or destination wedding. Planning a destination wedding is unique and there are some additional questions and challenges you face. You can't always get the answers you need in general wedding planning books or at traditional wedding planning sites. Our Frequently Asked Questions section was developed to get you the answers to all those questions.

Q. I want to have a Beach Wedding. I'm not sure where to get started.

A. The first thing we recommend is to pick a location. You can best get started if you pick not only where (the country or city) but the hotel. It may help to think about whether you would like an all inclusive hotel or not. First, in choosing a city or country, you will want to consider the time of year you are thinking about for your wedding. The weather in Hawaii, Pacific Coast of Mexico, Atlantic Coast of Mexico are different at different times of the year and very different from each other. Take a look at our destinations page for detailed information about the weather in each location. Secondly, in choosing the hotel you should consider the following:

  • How much do you want to spend and expect guests to spend on accommodations?
  • How far are you willing to travel or expect guests to travel?
  • How much control do you want over the details of your wedding? (Read Is a Beach Wedding Right for Me? if you haven't already)

Q. Is a Destination Beach Wedding really less expensive?

A. The answer can be yes or no depending on some of the decisions you make. If you have fewer people attend then you end up paying for fewer guests. Many all inclusive hotels offer package deals which can cost you less (but also limit your choices). If you end up with a lot of guests or pay for guests hotel accommodations or some excursions during their stay, you may spend just as much if not more than a traditional wedding. Most beach weddings cost between 5K and 15K including your travel.

Q. Is a beach destination wedding really legal?

A. Yes, your marriage will be legal when you return. Each country and state (and sometimes city) will have regulations you have to follow but as long as you follow those to have a legal marriage in that country then your home country (state and city too) will recognize the marriage. Check here for a list of the legal requirements for destination weddings in Mexico & the Caribbean. Check here for the legal requirements for the US. You should check with your local registrar, where you will need to apply for a local marriage license, as to what documents they will need you to bring back from the wedding.

Q. What can I do when some of my family thinks the idea of a beach destination wedding is ridiculous and say they won't attend?

A. It's easy to think that a destination wedding can ease all of the stress of a traditional wedding. In some ways it does, but many times the drama will just be different. Don't plan a destination wedding assuming it will be drama free. However, here is some advice to think about:

Don't back down. It's your wedding and you won't always please everyone. You have to do what is most special for you and your finance. Your wedding day will never mean as much to them as it does to you. Keep talking about how important this is to you. Have a reception when you return and find special ways to include close family and friends who are not able to attend. Record the wedding and show it at a reception when you return. Set photos or a photo album out for everyone to see. Depending on the number of guests, you can offer to pay for the rooms. This may help some family members that would find it hard to attend otherwise. This won’t make your beach wedding cheaper, it that may not be the reason you are doing this in the first place. Try to plan the wedding at a good time of the year for those that are unhappy. Do they generally take a vacation at the same time each year? Have some events planned for a few days before the wedding. Try to make a vacation out of it for the entire family. Beach weddings are not as traditional as ones at home. If you family is upset about this decision, find unique ways to include them in the ceremony. Have both your mother and father walk you down the 'sand aisle’. Have your finance's parents light a unity candle.

Q. Should I feel bad about asking guests to come to our wedding?

A. No. You are not forcing anyone to attend. And you may end up being pleasantly surprised at how many folks will be there. Again, if there are important family members or friends that you want to attend, present the idea as a vacation for them.

Q. How many people will come to my beach destination wedding?

A. Don't plan a destination wedding expecting the guest count to be low. You may be surprised. Generally it will be less than that you would have if your wedding was at home, but destinations weddings are becoming more popular and a lot of people do use them as an opportunity for a vacation.

Q. Can I still have all the traditional things like wedding showers, bachelorette parties & bridesmaids luncheons? Can we still register?

A. Absolutely! Someone in your family or a close friend can throw you a shower or a couple’s shower. It's not against any etiquette rules for someone to throw you a shower or party of some kind. You can still register to make sure you get the things you want and need. Gift giving is about someone wanting to celebrate your wedding and giving you something, not about expecting something in return (like to attend your reception and get a free dinner). If someone is upset because they cannot attend then they don't have to attend showers hosted for you and they don't have to buy you a present.

Q. Should we expect gifts?

A. This will vary, but generally no. As a rule, most guests will consider the expense of traveling to your wedding the gift to you.

Q. Do we have to pay for travel or accommodations for guests?

A. No. You are not expected to pay for travel or accommodations for guests. You are expected to pay for accommodations, but not travel, for the wedding party. Of course you can offer to pay for accommodations if you want to. Many couples may offer to pay for some coordinated excursions for guests before the wedding. And many couples will pay for a 'rehearsal' dinner the night before the wedding where all guests attend, not just those in the wedding.

Q. Do we have to take care of coordinating travel and accommodations for guests?

A. No. You are responsible for sending guests all the information they will need to book their own travel and accommodations, but you are not responsible for coordinating it or ensure it happens. You can post a lot of helpful travel information (see our travel guide) for guests on a wedding website or send e-mails with information. You might consider blocking a group of rooms so that you can ensure guests will get any discount that a travel agent arranges for you. Any good travel agent can work with a hotel property to gain discounts and block off a number of rooms for you.

Q. We want our wedding small, family only. I'm worried about not the extended family or friends.

A. If you want a small intimate wedding let extended family and close friends know as soon as possible. If possible before you send out save the date announcements. You don't want anyone booking travel that is not invited. You might consider having a reception when you return and if you are mention that to them when you tell them your wishes.

Q. How much planning do I have to do for a beach wedding? It seems like it will be hard to plan something from so far away (and possible in a foreign country)    Who will help me plan? Can I hire a wedding coordinator?

A. The answer depends on how much of the planning you want to control. If you plan to get married at a resort, they will provide a coordinator who will find out what you want and make it happen (within limits). Their services are free of charge and included as part of your wedding package. If you want a little more control and a broader array of choices, you can hire a local wedding planner. Their services would be in addition to the cost of the wedding package but you might have more choices and control over picking music, flowers & photographers. However please note that some resorts will not allow you to bring outside vendors onsite. Please check with the individual hotel and wedding coordinator to be sure. If you do use a resort planner, your decisions will be few:

  • at home: you still must pick your dress, grooms attire, bridesmaids dresses, picking invitations, writing vows, making the programs, etc.
  • at the resort: you will choose how you want the site decorated (your choices will be limited, picking flowers, picking music.

You can also plan your own wedding and choose a site outside of a hotel or resort. You will most likely want to hire a local coordinator and should plan to make several trips to the site while planning.

Q. What is a Save the Date, do I need to send one and when do I send it?

A. A Save the Date is a card or letter that is sent anywhere from 9 months to 1 year before your wedding to let those you are inviting know about your wedding far enough in advance they can consider whether they will be able to afford to and coordinate making the trip. Some things to know about the Save the Date:

This is the first thing your guests will see regarding your wedding. It's a great time to make it special and different. An opportunity to 'brand your wedding'. Read our Save the Date article for lots of information on where to buy them and ideas on what unique things you can do. They can be simple and only include your name and the wedding date and location and direct guests to a wedding website or they can include a detailed letter with information about the location, list of other hotels where guests can stay, things to do in the area, and other travel advice such as contact information for a good travel agent. After guests receive the Save the Date, they should have all the information they need to book the trip. Information about the exact location of the wedding, reception or other events you have planned can come later with the formal invitation or updated on your wedding website.

Q. I need some help with the wording of my Save The Date.

A. Click here for some examples.

Q. How will I know who is coming to my beach wedding?

A. You will never be 100% sure unless you include an RSVP with the Save the Date or use an RSVP function on a wedding website. However, most guests will probably find a way to let you know they are coming. They might be just as excited as you are about the trip. So you can either include a paper RSVP with the Save the Date or sign up with a company that uses an RSVP feature on the wedding website. Or you can include your e-mail address on the website and ask for the RSVP that way.

Q. Does the guest list for the Save the Date, the Wedding Invitation and the Wedding Reception have to be the same?

A. Generally, an invitation is sent to anyone that is sent a Save the Date. However, a lot of brides don't and that is okay. Some brides will send a Save the Date to everyone they would want to attend the wedding. But then only send the formal invitations to those they know are coming. Some brides will send the formal invitations to those coming plus family. The Wedding Reception guest list can be a different list all-together if you have chosen to only invite family and close friends to the wedding.

Q. When do I send the formal wedding invitation?

A. Formal Wedding Invitations should be sent about 6 weeks before your wedding.

Q. Can I include registry information with my Save the Date or with my At Home Reception invites.

A. No. Information about where you are registered is typically sent with shower invitations. If you are not having a shower, you should not include the registration information on the save the date or reception invite. You can still register and let the information spread by word of mouth. The registry information can be noted on your wedding website which can be sent along with the Save the Date cards or letters. Additionally, you should not include the registry information with a wedding invite.

Q. How do I let guests know about the wedding location, how to make reservations and other general information?

A. There are a couple of ways you can do this. You can include this information in a document that is enclosed with your save the date or you can have all this information posted on your wedding website. There are multiple companies that offer free to inexpensive wedding sites. Click here for a comparison.

Q. How many guests should I expect at my beach wedding?

A. You might be surprise as the popularity of destination wedding rises but it will vary from bride to bride.

Q. Should we invite people we know won't or can't attend such as an elderly grandparent?

A. Yes, You should invite anyone that you wouldn't want to attend your wedding. You never know who might actually be able to make it.

Q. Should we invite someone who is an acquaintance who we know won't attend?

A. No. Don't invite anyone out of obligation. And don't invite anyone that you don't want there. Again, you never know who will surprise you by coming.

Q. Do we have to invite children?

A. No, as with a wedding at home, you can only invite adults. Keep in mind that families with children may not want to leave their children at home and may choose not to attend. Most all inclusive resorts offer babysitters but not everyone will feel comfortable with this arrangement.

Q. Even though our wedding is on a beach, we want it to be a more formal affair. How do we let guests know we want to them 'dress up' a bit?

A. There are many ways you might describe how you want guests to be dressed during your wedding. You could include one of the following on the invitation; dressy resort attire or evening resort attire. If you want the wedding to be bit more casual, you might use 'resort attire' or 'resort casual’. If you really don't want guests to dress up at all, you could just say 'casual dress'

Q. We are having a small wedding with only 25 guests. We planned to have a dinner the night before the wedding. Should we include everyone or just those that are typically included?

A. You should include everyone since it's a small group. Sometimes all the out of town guests are included as a gesture of kindness. If you are having a large crowd, then you can limit it to family and those in the wedding. If you are going to exclude some of the guests you might try to plan something else before the wedding as a way to include the other guests in the wedding festivities so they don't feel left out or have to fend for themselves.

Q. Is it strange to wear a formal wedding dress for a beach wedding?

A. Not strange at all. Many brides chose to wear a formal dress. And you might be surprised to hear and see that they look great next to a groom either in a tux or in more casual wear. Pick the gown you love and go with it. However there are some things you will want to consider. Read our Wedding Gown article to think about picking the perfect dress for your beach location. Click here for a gallery of brides and grooms on the beach. Click here to view some great beach dresses we've picked out.

Q. I'm wearing a more formal dress, what should the groom wear? He doesn't want to wear a tux on the beach.

A. It is very popular for the groom in a beach wedding to wear something more casual than a tux and more casual than the bride. It is very popular for the groom to wear light colors (white or beige) and to wear light weight materials such as cotton or linen. Even flip flops are a go at a beach wedding (for the bride too!) Check out the groom’s attire page for some great ideas for what your groom can wear. Some popular shopping sites are JCrew, Macy's, Banana Republic, Nordstrom & Jos. A Banks.

Q. What kind of shoes should I wear for a beach wedding. I was thinking flip flops would be fun!

A. Yes, we think flip flops would be fun too! Considering where you wedding will take will help you decide what type of shoes you should wear. If your ceremony is on the beach, then heels will sink into the sand. Flip flops, wedge heels or barefoot sandals are a better choice. If your wedding is at a location other than the actual beach then you might be able to get away with heels if you really want them .Stick with a wider square heel when possible. However, it is a beach wedding after all. Check out our shoes page for some great ideas and resources for shoes for your beach wedding.

Q. We do not want attendants, is that okay?

A. Yes, with a beach wedding you really do have more choices and they won't seem all that strange. You can have a few or as many attendants as you want to. If you want your wedding to be legal, most counties will require some sort of witnesses. So while you may not arrange for a wedding you will want to ensure that you have a couple of witnesses available.

Q. Do I have to incorporate local traditions into my ceremony?

A. No, but it might be fun. Your wedding is yours to design even if it's a beach wedding. You actually have more opportunities to do something unique than if you were at home. This is what we most love about beach weddings...you do have the opportunity to incorporate all the traditional things from home that you want AND can include some unique local traditions too! But if you would rather not, that is completely up to you.

Q. What are some local traditions I should consider?

A. In Hawaii you can have a blessing of the stones or in Mexico; you can have a sand ceremony. Read our Traditions article to get some good ideas of how you might make the ceremony unique using local traditions.

Q. We are having our beach wedding at a resort. Can you have a dance after dinner?

A. Yes. You can coordinate this with the local wedding coordinator. Depending on the time of year and the time of the wedding, they can reserve the 'disco' on site (for an extra charge). If you are having the wedding at a site other than a resort then you can hire a local dj and have a more traditional dance. You could even rent speakers and bring cd or a mp3 player and play the songs you want at the reception.

If you choose not to have a dance but just want music playing, a local wedding coordinator or resort coordinator can hire local musicians to play for guests during the reception.

Q. We are not sure that we can afford to pay for a large reception for all our guests. If we have a dinner reception, can we ask them to pay?

A. First, it's okay if you can't afford a large sit down dinner reception, and you can choose something less formal. However, you should not expect or ask guests to pay for any part of the reception. If you can't afford it then don't include it in the festivities. This goes for alcohol too. You should not expect for guests to pay for any alcohol served at the reception. Click here for more ideas on how to save money with a beach wedding.

Q. We are having a reception when we return from our Beach Wedding in Mexico. I'm not sure how it works. Do I wear my wedding dress again? What type of activities do we have at the reception?

A. Whether to wear your wedding dress again is up to you. Many brides (and grooms) do wear their wedding attire again. What a great chance to wear your wedding dress twice when most brides only get to wear it once. However you can choose to wear other forma or semi formal attire to your reception. Some great activities for an at home reception after a beach wedding are:

Play the video of your wedding after dinner while the desert course is being served or have it playing on a loop as guests are coming in and mingling before the dinner starts Bring photo albums and have a display table set up for guests to see pictures of your wedding

Q. What is an OOT bag?

A. The OOT (Out-of-Town) bag is a welcome or gift bag given to your out of town guests to thank them for traveling so far to be at your wedding. These are traditional for weddings at home as well for the out of town guests. But at your beach wedding, every guest (typically every couple or family) will receive one.

Q. What is in the OOT bag?

A. They are typically filled with a mix of personalized items, local souvenirs and other fun items. Click here for a complete list of items you can include in your bags and some resources for where to find the perfect bag that will hold all the goodies. This is also the perfect opportunity to give each guest the week or weekend itinerary. let them know the activities for the week. There are a lot of very creative things you can do with the itinerary for the beach wedding. Additionally, you may want to have special bags (either the bag or the contents or both) for the wedding party.

Q. How will each guest receive the bag?

A. If you know when each guest is arriving (you are having a very small wedding or you are just overly detailed) you can present the bag to the guest in person. However the easiest thing to do is to leave it at the reception desk.

Q. Where can I buy all the items for the OOT bag?

A. Click here for some great resources for items for your OOT bag

Q. How will I get all these things to the location?

A. Shipping is always an option, but it can be a very expensive option. Many brides will get the help of family or friend to help carry some of the items in their luggage. Once you are there, the bags can be assembled Make sure whoever is bringing the items is arriving early enough so that you can get all the bags ready for when most guests will be arriving.

Q. How do I get my dress there?

A. You can always ship your dress, but it could be very expensive and it might not get there. If it does not arrive, you won't have another easy option. You can also pack it and have it as one of your checked items. Many brides do this without a problem. You have to consider if you have enough room in your suite case and how wrinkled it might get. Check with your hotel to ensure they have dry cleaning services where you could get it steamed. However, the best option is the carry it on the plan with you. Get a good garment bag or pack is as loosely as possible in the largest carry on you can find. If it is in a garment bag, ask the flight attendants when you board the plan if they can hang it up for you. That won't be guaranteed unless you are in first class, but many times they can accommodate. You might also be able to lay it in an overhead bin if the flight it not a full flight and there is space. Take a travel steamer with you if you are unsure what the hotel can provide.