Aug 062011
When we first became engaged, it didn’t take much effort to convince Mr. Reeftraveler that a beach wedding was in our future.  After a few (research intensive) months of considering various locales, we decided to return to the scene of the engagement – Playa Langosta, Costa Rica.

Photo by Frank Gourley

Fortunately, our wedding was everything that we hoped for – memorable, romantic, intimate and relaxed. But it wasn’t without months of careful (and slightly obsessive) planning.  I’m often asked for advice about planning a beach wedding, so I jumped at the chance to interview the guru of beach wedding planning, Donna Mickley.

Reeftraveler (RT):  Is a beach wedding right for every couple?
Donna Mickley (DM):  A beach wedding is perfect for a couple that thoroughly enjoys everything about the beach and the ocean – the sights, the sounds, the smells and the breezes.  It’s perfect for a couple that have a tropically casual or tropically elegant wedding vision.  Nothing is more romantic than saying your vows at sunset over the ocean…. and it makes for incredible photos.

Photo by Sean Davis

RT:  Are there any special considerations for the beach bride?
DM:  Choose a dress that fits the location.  Lightweight, flowing fabrics work well in the tropics.  The breezes will enhance the flowing fabric and give it life.  Try to keep your hair as natural as possible.  In the ocean air, curly hair will go curly and straight hair will go straight.  A stylist can produce the updo of your dreams, but once you’re on the beach your hair will revert to its natural state, so make the most of it.  A few flowers in the hair add a tropical touch.  Consider wearing flats, sandals or going barefoot.  Heels do not work well in the sand and will cause you to walk awkwardly.  Also, remember to wear plenty of sunscreen prior to the wedding. A sunburn on your wedding day is uncomfortable, and it won’t look attractive in your wedding photos.

Photo by Frank Gourley

RT:  And what about the groom?  What unique considerations should he keep in mind?
DM:  Lightweight linen or cotton attire works well, and be prepared to roll up your pant legs!

RT:  Beach wedding guests often ask how to dress for the occasion.  What are your tips for beach wedding guest attire?
DM:  Choose lightweight, light colored, non-clingy fabrics.  Wear flat shoes, sandals or go barefoot  Make sure to use plenty of sunscreen.

RT:  What is your favorite style of decor for a beach wedding?
DM:  I really like the beach cabana style.  It lends itself to many variations and can be designed to coordinate with all types of weddings and to fit all budgets.  It’s tropically elegant, works for larger weddings as well as elopements, and it provides the wedding party with some shade from the sun.  It can be constructed in bamboo, driftwood or wood.  The most basic rendition of the beach cabana is bamboo with flowing white fabric, but the sky is the limit when it comes to personalizing the decor.  We have designed cabanas using all types of materials including hanging garlands of orchids, crystals, moss and hanging vines, origami birds and the most popular – floral arrangements designed to coordinate with the wedding floral decor.

RT:  What are your top 5 tips for planning a beach wedding?
DM:  1)  Timing is essential.  Mornings or evenings before sunset are the best times of day.  These times offer the best lighting for photos and provide a break from the hot mid-day sun for your guests.  Checking the time of the high tides on your wedding day is a must.  If you plan on a sunset wedding and high tide is at sunset that day, there may be no beach remaining when the tides roll in.
2)  Be aware that the crashing waves will produce background noise. Officiates and musicians may require amplification which must be battery powered.

Photo by Frank Gourley

3)  Check for ceremony site accessibility for elderly or disabled guests. The beach terrain is often uneven and not easily navigated.
4)  Always have a Plan B in case of rain.
5)  When choosing your flowers, consider choosing those that are locally grown.  Not only will their appearance fit the overall backdrop of the beach, but local flowers will remain wilt-proof longer than those imported from other locations.

Photo by Sean Davis

6)  My addition… Hire an experienced wedding planner from the area where your wedding is taking place, and enjoy the day without stress!
Donna Mickley is the owner of and Senior Wedding Coordinator at Pura Vida Weddings in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.  Pura Vida Weddings is an event planning and design company specializing in creating the beach wedding of your dreams to fit your individual style and budget.

Our Reef Themed Cake

And Reeftraveler’s top tip – be yourself.  Let your personal style show through.