Relax, kick off your shoes and get married on the beach

Helen Anders / Cox Newspapers /


Published Mar 3, 2013 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — With sand between the toes of her bare feet, Rebecca Ferguson married Austin Vandever on the beach at South Padre Island in October.

The two University of Texas graduates were both beach lovers — her family had vacationed often at Crystal Beach and his at South Padre Island — and they wanted to get married someplace close to their hearts that wouldn’t be too far for grandparents and others to travel.

The answer: the Texas coast.

Here’s the thing about a destination wedding: The bad news is that not everybody invited will go. The good news is that not everybody invited will go. You keep costs down, and the people closest to you will make the effort, especially if you, like the Vandevers, choose a not-too-far location in the off-season, when everything’s reasonably priced.

Beach weddings are getting more popular, says Jackie Reeves, the Vandevers’ wedding planner, of Beach Bride Guides (texas beachwedding.com). Reeves is even planning the pending wedding of two Irish wolfhounds — both therapy dogs — on the beach. (It’s on hold for the moment, though, she says: “The couple is experiencing difficulties.”)

“If you’re a beach person, there’s nothing better you can do” than have a beach wedding, Rebecca Vandever says. “But if you’re doing a beach wedding, you need to be laid-back about it. Be calm. Expect the unexpected.”

True. An island is no place for a bridezilla. Vandever did have her chance to become one, though, when the caterer accidentally put an A&M logo rather than a UT one on their wedding cake.

“The mother of the bride spotted it,” Reeves says. “I took it off to catering and they tried to melt off the A&M and make it into a UT out of it, but it was the wrong font.” The caterer wound up throwing rose petals on the cake to cover up the goof.

“We were cracking up,” Vandever says. “It makes for a good story.”

So, rule No. 1 for a beach wedding: No freaking out. Beyond that, you’ll find that a wedding in the sand, whether at South Padre, Corpus Christi, Port Aransas or Galveston, creates unmatchable memories for both you and your guests.

A big wild card, though, is the weather. You or your wedding planner should have a tent already lined up in case things turn ugly. (The Vandevers had their reception on the outdoor deck of the Hilton Garden Inn and wound up tenting it when a cold front arrived.) Here are some other beach wedding tips:

1. Choose your chunk of beach carefully, aiming for a less-populated area unless you want a lot of crashers. Reeves stages all weddings at the north end of South Padre Island, where few tourists venture. Even then, she posts lookouts.

2. Get a permit if it’s needed. Your planner can get it, or you can.

Colette Rye chose to renew her vows recently with her husband, Thomas, on the beach at Port Aransas’ Mustang Island.

“We just checked into the Mayan Princess, asked a priest to meet us there, walked out on the beach, did our vows then went right back into the room,” she says. It can, if you want, be just as simple as that.

3. Get married on the sand if you wish, but choose a reception venue that’s not on the sand. The main reason, of course, is the sand. It gets in the food, the drinks, the people. Also, getting permits for a food-and-drink-on-the-beach thing can be daunting. Instead, choose a hotel or venue that’s wedding-savvy.

4. Your guests should assume they are paying for their own rooms, unless you say otherwise, but your invitation could include a line about hotels offering specially priced blocks of rooms. As to whether you pay for your attendants’ rooms: That’s for you and the attendants to work out, but be clear about it.

5. If the wedding is, indeed, on the sand, the only appropriate footwear is flip-flops. (The Vandevers and their entire wedding party were barefoot.) Guests should in some way be reminded about this, as well, either as a line in the invitation or by word of mouth.

6. Remember your darn marriage certificate.

“I’ve had three couples show up without marriage licenses, saying, ‘I thought you were taking care of that,’” Reeves says. Wedding planners do not get marriage licenses. The happy couple does. Remember to get yours.