The Tampa Bay gulf coast area offers couples an amazing opportunity to have beautiful sunset beach weddings in Florida. Many couples make this area a top destination and elopement wedding location for their beach wedding. We asked our friend and award winning Tampa Bay wedding officiant, Bonnie Sanchez from Weddings by Bonnie, to give you her top tips for a successful Florida gulf coast beach wedding. Bonnie has officiated hundreds of Florida beach weddings and can give us first hand these amazing best practices as you plan your sunset beach wedding in the Tampa Bay Area. Here they are:
1. HAVING A “SIMPLE BEACH WEDDING?” There is nothing simple about having a “simple beach wedding!” There are a lot more factors surrounding beach weddings than most people think, especially if there are guests. Parking is often a concern; permits may be required; accessibility for older or handicapped guests can be a challenge (it’s usually a long walk in very loose sand - strenuous walking for some). Not to mention…you have to bring “stuff”! Got Sunscreen? Got water? Got bug repellent? Got wedding swag? Recruit your guests to help!
2. Footwear - please remind your guests to leave their high heels in the car and pull out the flats and flip flops. High heels in the sand make for great entertainment for everyone on the beach as each step sinks a little deeper, but it tends to take the class out of an outfit and could cause injury as the shoe sinks and the person in it goes flying forward.
3. When Is The Best Time of the Day To Hold Your Wedding? Ask your photographer! Your photographer is the lighting expert that can provide the best time of day to begin pre-ceremony photos; best start times for a sunrise or sunset wedding. Their creative and artistic talent behind the lens will guide you on positioning based on lighting conditions.
4. Speaking of Photographer - HIRE ONE! Inviting a friend or family member to capture your wedding is probably the biggest mistake you could make in planning your wedding. Often, they are enjoying the wedding and forget to take photos! In addition to what I mentioned in #3 - please do not rely on an inexperienced hobbyist to capture your beach wedding in paradise. The most recent wedding I served brought a photographer from their home state. I noticed she was kneeling in the sand changing lenses…as the groom was placing the ring on the bride’s finger. iPhones and amateur photographers simply cannot provide the quality a professional photographer can provide, especially when capturing our magnificent sunsets!
5. Have a “Plan B” in case of inclement weather. This is Florida where the weather can often be unpredictable and change several times throughout the day. Discuss options with your wedding vendors and determine if there is flexibility in their schedules should weather behavior require a revised start time or move the ceremony indoors as a last resort.
6. Do Your Homework on Beach Conditions! Unpleasant surprises when you pull up to your altar in the sand can really put a damper on your day and your photos! Be sure to find out if there is any construction or dredging in progress. If Red Tide is in effect your guests may have difficulty breathing. Not to mention, seeing dead fish carcasses is anything but romantic! If there are high winds, turtle nests in the area, or other cautionary notifications, it always helps to be prepared.
7. Beach Decor. If you envision your fairytale beach wedding as standing under a decorated arbor, groomed aisle, musician, chairs with colored sashes and other tropical trinkets - please consider hiring a professional wedding company or planner. Hauling supplies and equipment to the beach and erecting an arbor that can withstand a bit of a breeze - is no easy task! Ask your Photographer, Officiant or Coordinator for recommendations!
8. Hire a Musician! There are no words to describe how the atmosphere of your wedding will come alive with a keyboard, harp, violin, guitar, ukulele…playing your music. Imagine walking down the aisle to your favorite song, having soft music played during your unity tradition…and a romantic first dance once you are pronounced husband and wife! It’s truly magical! All that said…elopements, mini-mony celebrations, or beach weddings with several guests - can be a truly magical experience. Considering even just a few of the recommendations above will make for an enjoyable, comfortable and memorable day for everyone!
We hope these tips can help you better prepare your Florida sunset beach wedding! Make sure to reach out to Weddings by Bonnie if you need an officiant for your Tampa Bay Area gulf beach wedding, she's AMAZING! And of course, if you need a professional wedding photographer or harpist for your ceremony, big or small...contact us! We would love to be a part of your Florida beach wedding!
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Jose & Kristen Hoyos, Tampa Bay Area Wedding Photographer and Harpist for Weddings