It is in a girl’s nature to dream of what her wedding will be like a beautiful dress, the perfect bouquet, and the best ceremony. All of this followed by the grandest reception filled with great food and dancing the night away.
But, I am not your typical girl. Actually, non-traditional would be an accurate way to describe me when it comes to my wedding day.
Don’t get me wrong, I still want a perfect wedding ceremony and a celebratory reception with family and friends, but my issue is that I hate to dance. When I picture my wedding, I don’t want to spend the night doing something that I don’t like. I will be the first to admit that I have two left feet and look like a cat trying to swim when I start grooving (my close friends and family can attest to that). I’m not trying to deter you from dancing. If you want to dance at your reception then by all means you should dance! Blast the music and have a great time busting a move. It creates a great atmosphere for everyone and people enjoy it!
I, on the other hand, want to do something that I enjoy at my reception, and still make my wedding day memorable and fun. I grew up in Okoboji, Iowa, home of the Iowa Great Lakes (Yes, Iowa has lakes!) and I love going to the beach. I think my ideal reception would be a beach bash or a pool party. I want to be outside, in the sun, and near the water.
I know some of you will think I’m crazy, but hear me out. I would be taking a trash the dress session one step further or expanding upon a crazy wedding party that wants to jump in the pool. I do realize that there are pluses and minuses with this kind of reception (but you get those with any reception).
Food, music, social hour, and a good time would all still be included. Instead of a plated dinner, having a buffet with a luau or Caribbean menu would support the ambiance of the reception. A meal will still be served and tables set up, it would just have a more casual or laid back feel. Just because I don’t like to dance doesn’t mean I couldn’t have a DJ. Silence makes things awkward; having some background tunes is perfect to help set the atmosphere. It gives guests who want to dance the opportunity to and could still allow a first dance, father/daughter dance, etc. Receptions are a chance for a bride and groom to celebrate with their friends. A beach bash allows for that same social hour among the guests. There would still be a chance to interact and chat with all attendees and thank them for coming.
If doing this type of reception there are a few things to consider. First, it is probably better suited for an afternoon ceremony. It would leave you with plenty of daylight to splash around or play some sand volleyball, and as the sun sets it’s time for an after party, which includes a bonfire and s’mores right there on the beach. That’s not saying that it couldn’t be configured for an evening wedding. It would just require some extra effort – and a lot of lighting.
Safety is key at any wedding. You want to keep guests safe and avoid a trip to the ER. It’s a good idea to look into hiring lifeguards. It gives that extra security and keeps people from stressing out the entire time. That doesn’t mean it’s okay for guests to act stupid and endanger themselves. Even at a formal wedding if there is a pool at the reception site, having a designated person watching to make sure no one falls in or gets hurt in the pool could be beneficial.
Another must with this kind of reception is the heads-up notice. Whether your actual ceremony is a formal or casual dress code, guests need to know what is in store for them that day. If you don’t tell them to pack a swimsuit, towel, or appropriate beach clothes, it may lead to some unhappy guests and a boring reception if they’re sitting around because they didn’t bring a change of clothes. **Note: it is not normally acceptable to change clothes at a reception unless specifically suggested by the Bride and Groom**
Time and space are important factors to consider when picking a venue, especially if the ceremony and reception aren’t in the same spot and guests have to travel. Since a wardrobe change will be necessary, it is a good idea to have a longer than normal timeframe between the end of the ceremony and the start of the reception. It gives your guests time to get to their cars to grab their beach bags and get changed before the reception starts. Having ample space for people to change and stash their stuff will be necessary as well, and make sure to let them know that this service will be available.
Other considerations when picking a venue include ensuring there are plenty of shady spots, seating, and cold beverages. Not everyone is going to want to get in the water and the last thing you need is grandma getting heat stroke because she’s been out in the sun too long. It is as simple as adding umbrellas and lounge or beach chairs to the décor and making it easy for everyone to stay hydrated. A sunscreen and towel stash is a must because your guests may not think to bring any themselves. In fact, mini sunscreens could make cute favors!
As with any outdoor reception, weather is a risk. Mother Nature may be having a bad day and interrupt the reception with rain. Make sure there is a backup plan in place where guests can take cover. It may be putting up a tent nearby (this could also be a source of shade as mentioned above!)
The nice thing about a beach bash or pool party reception is that it can be done anywhere. It could be tied into a tropical destination wedding theme or be held at your local country club. The options are endless. So if you are a non-traditional bride and are dreaming of something different, don’t be afraid to try it! If you are a more traditional bride and want to have a dinner and dancing reception, go for it! There is no right or wrong answer, it’s your wedding!
Kayla Seeger, Intern at Weddings in Vieques