Being on Time is Cool
By the time your wedding comes, you will have likely spent months planning the ceremony and reception. You will have agonized over details, paid vendors hefty deposits and daydreamed about the precious moments of saying “I do” as the sun sets into the Gulf of Mexico on an idyllic sugar-sand beach.
You don’t want to invest all that emotional energy and then find yourself stuck in traffic on Tamiami Trail when the ceremony is about to begin.
And you don’t want to be anxiously watching the sun go down with most of the seats remaining empty because your family and friends are late.
That brings us to the most basic but most important item on everybody’s to-do list on your wedding day: Get to the ceremony on time (or early!).
This may sound simple, but after more than 8,500 weddings, we know that it is not. Beach weddings have a few characteristics that make them uniquely special but also make them vulnerable to tardiness.
1 – It’s the Beach, man, Relax!
The reason you picked a beach wedding is likely because you and your friends have a laid-back streak. That is great, but there is good laid back and bad laid back.
- Good laid back: Not being a bridezilla.
- Bad laid back: Not being at the ceremony because you had too much to drink at the beach bar or didn’t build in a 15–30-minute buffer for traffic and parking.
2 – Beaches are Popular Places
You aren’t alone in thinking the beach is your happy place.
The day of your ceremony, you and your guests will likely be competing with other beachgoers as you navigate traffic and look for parking.
It depends on the time of year and the exact spot where you are holding your ceremony, but it is extremely rare to have a completely isolated location with an empty parking lot waiting for you.
We do weddings in the same or similar wedding site’s year-round, so we know where all the best parking spots are, and we can advise you specifically how much time to allow depending on where your guests are coming from. The main reason we try to avoid holding ceremonies during the 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. time frame is to avoid the crowds. Beach goers often sunbathe during the height of direct sunlight, as we move into the evening time frame, most retreat to other planned activities – leaving us the perfect backdrop for your Big Day.
3 – Guests are most likely out-of-towners
Most of the couples that we do ceremonies for do not live on the Gulf Coast of Florida. That means both the couple and their guests are navigating a new town.
So, what can you do ahead of time to make sure your guests make it to the ceremony on time?
- You know your guests. Some people will see that a wedding starts at 5pm, and that means they will be pulling into the parking lot at 5:05pm.
Others know that when a wedding starts at 5 p.m., that means they should be seated by 4:45. You may need to tell some guests that the ceremony starts 30 minutes earlier than it actually will. Some even put it in the Invitation or Program that way.
- Build in buffers. Assume it is going to take 10 to 15 minutes to get everyone loaded into cars, assume you will hit traffic and assume it will take 10 to 15 minutes to find a parking space. If the ceremony is a 15-minute drive away from the hotel, everyone should be walking out of the hotel room, dressed and ready to go, 50 minutes before your target arrival time.
- Give people landmarks. There are no addresses on the beach, so be as specific as possible when telling your guests where to go. Aerials on the Gulf Beach WeddingsÒ website is very helpful. Other helpful hints (‘End of 22nd Ave,’ ‘Rock Jetty,’ ‘Straight out from the Boardwalk 29B,’ etc.)
- Try to avoid scheduling your ceremony at the same time as a major event. We’ve had weddings delayed because the groom and all his groomsmen were glued to the Auburn-Alabama football game.
A Sunday afternoon in the fall can be a beautiful time to get married, but if half your guests are checking their fantasy football scores the entire time, that can be a downer. Plus, they are more likely rushing to be on time for the ceremony.
Even if you follow all the advice we just gave, you still cannot control other people’s actions. If you know that your guests are going to be late no matter what, you may need to advance the timing on the invitations.
If you are timing your ceremony around sunset, you need to be punctual. Remember, the sunset waits for no one! A sunset ceremony is far more picturesque than getting married in the dark.
Transitioning to the reception
OK, so you got everyone to the ceremony on time, you said your vows, everyone cheered — now how do you get dozens of people from the beach to your reception site?
The ceremony typically lasts 20 to 30 minutes. Your close family and friends will likely stick around for a few minutes to take pictures, but the rest of the group is (usually) ready to boogie.
If the folks sticking around for pictures are tough to corral, we have some crowd management techniques that we use.
Blessing Stone Ceremony
Upon request, we will have everyone walk down to the water’s edge and pass out the blessing stones. This is an opportunity to make a wish and prayer for the new couple as they throw their stone into the Gulf. It makes for a great picture, it gets everyone down to the water quickly, and acts as a great way to have everyone involved in one aspect of the celebration. This is known as the Blessing Stone ceremony and takes place at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony +5 minutes down by the shoreline.
Depending on the travel distance to the reception location, you will want to factor in 15-30 minutes of loading/unloading and parking. Again, these transitions will require a buffer and traffic factor. Assume people will dilly-dally, assume you will hit traffic, assume parking will be tough, someone needs to use the restroom, etc. Hopefully none of those things happen, but you don’t want to have a reservation for 40 people at a restaurant and everybody is an hour late.
Often couples opt for a cocktail hour at the very beginning of the reception to incentivize guests to be punctual and is the perfect way to allow for a ‘soft transition’ to the reception itself!