The Two W’s: When and Where | Florida Beach Weddings


The Two W’s: When and Where

November 11, 2011 (pronounced ‘eleven’ ‘eleven’ ‘eleven’) was a busy day for Gulf Beach WeddingsÒ. We performed 17 ceremonies that day, with our team running back-to-back-to-back events from Clearwater to Sarasota. While November is always a big month for us, 17 weddings in one day, plus the dozen couples we had to turn down, is unusual.

For a lot of couples, the idea of getting married on 11-11-11 was too good to resist. The same thing happened on Oct. 10, 2020, with couples wanting to get married on 10-10-20.

There are a few dates each year that really just get the mathematicians excited: 11-12-13, 12-12-12, 1-5-15, 2-2-20, 2-22-22 and the list continues…not to mention all the holiday weekends.

We made the day special for these couples, but their commitment to getting married on a specific Saturday at the peak of wedding season is not one we would recommend. It’s not that you can’t get married on a Saturday in spring, summer or fall – people do all the time – it’s that starting with one specific date in mind throws the planning process out of whack and limits the vendor availability.

Our advice: Be Flexible (ideally have two dates in mind) or book way in advance for these unusually popular dates! Like 18-24 months…

You might get the weekend you want, but the ideal restaurant for the ceremony is already booked, there are no lodging options available, or half the vendors you had in mind are reserved.

So, as you start narrowing down your date and location, being flexible is key. Come up with a couple of dates that work. And since it’s a beach wedding and you are already thinking outside the box, don’t be afraid to consider a less-traditional day and time.

We do weddings more than 250 days of the year, which means more than 75% of our clients are not getting married on a Saturday.

Here at Gulf Beach WeddingsÒ, we book ceremonies on a first-come first serve, and we don’t vary our rates based on the day of the week (holiday’s do carry a premium as it is harder to schedule and we plan for more traffic, travel, fewer vendor availability, etc.). Often companies and vendors will charge a ‘weekend premium,’ but with us your rate will not vary depending on the day of the week.

As you pick a date for your Gulf Beach Wedding, keep a few things in mind:

Weddings in the Tampa area run year-round. Our Weather Page has links to forecasted weather, live radar, average temperatures, and rain percentage by month. As well as hurricane probability. This is an extremely helpful tool used in the planning process.

We’ll get to picking a location soon, but if you are planning an Emerald Coast wedding and will need to be between February and November. Destin is 10 to 20 degrees cooler than Tampa in the winter months, so the picture-perfect, 71-degree sunset wedding in Clearwater could be a chilly affair in the 50’s with a breeze up in Destin.

Think ‘mid-week’

The closer to mid-week you get, the less competition there will be for sites and vendors.

Saturdays, and Sundays are the busiest days for everyone in the wedding and food service industry, followed by Friday. If you plan your special day Monday through Thursday (on non-holiday weeks), the more likely you are to be able to lock in your top choice vendors.

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Privacy

We’ve had couples tell us they would like a private ceremony at 5 p.m. on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend in Destin for 150 guests. Sorry, we tell them, but that is not ever going to be possible. There are certain days and times that beaches everywhere are packed, and everything becomes more complicated (holiday weekends in particular).

The beaches are technically public, so while we do our best based on time, location, setup in advance, etc. it is very difficult to have a lot of privacy. If you are absolutely set on having the most privacy possible, we recommend private property. This could be a beach house, condo rental, etc. that is located on the ‘Gulf.’

This requires written permission from the HOA, Manager, or Owner. Further, most locations like this only allow a guest count that is slightly above what the property sleeps.

For Example: if a property sleeps 18, they will allow 20-25 guests for a ceremony (not 90 Guests for a 3-bedroom house). Most rental properties also have some sort of ‘clause’ in the rental agreement that either prohibits special/high-traffic events or requires an additional fee charged for the additional wear and tear.

Hurricane season

Don’t freak out, but Florida’s hurricane season is one thing to keep in mind. It runs from June through November, with most storms materializing in the late summer months. The Tampa area seems to be somewhat more protected than the Panhandle, although it too has dodged a couple of bullets in recent years.

Since a hurricane is (a) statistically extremely unlikely but (b) completely out of your control, what should you do with this information? Well, if you know it is something you are going to worry about, consider a date in the winter or spring.

Once you have narrowed down your date to a couple of options, let’s talk location.

DT Map

Emerald Coast or Tampa Bay?

Here’s an industry secret: All the beaches on the Gulf Coast are fantastic!

We get calls all the time from people who think we have special access to some private paradise, but the truth is that the entire coastline is dotted with beautiful spots for a ceremony. Now, we do have some seasoned insight here, however only certain locations are hand selected and suitable for a beach wedding ceremony! This is where you bring in the Pro’s…

So, what we tell people is to figure out where you and your guests want to stay, and we can steer you to some great beach wedding options.

We do ceremonies out of the Tampa Bay area and the Panhandle.

If you aren’t looking at a map right now, the two locales are about seven hours apart, and while they both have white sand beaches, picturesque settings and a variety of reception venues, there are some key distinctions.

Tampa Bay MSA

The Tampa Bay region is a major metropolitan area with two international airports, thousands of hotels and plenty of beaches spread throughout Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Whatever style of beach wedding you are looking for, you can probably find it here.

This region has everything from the classic “old Florida” opulence of The Don Cesar hotel (known as the Pink Castle), to rusty bucket dive bars, where you and your guests can drink beer and play beach volleyball.

Many of the “World’s Best Beaches,” ranked annually by TripAdvisor are in the Tampa region. Five area beaches cracked the top 25 in 2020, including St. Pete Beach (#1 in the U.S., #5 in the world), Madeira Beach (#5 in U.S.), Treasure Island Beach (#16 in U.S.), Siesta Key Beach (#17 in U.S.) and Clearwater Beach (#18 in U.S., previously #1 award winner too!).

The sand is white, the water is turquoise, and the sunsets are fantastic at all these spots. But the benefit of working with us at Gulf Beach WeddingsÒ is that we know all the spots in between. And we know which of these beaches are a great place to visit, but not a great spot to hold a wedding ceremony, due to limited parking, crowds, no nearby reception venues, etc.

Tampa may be the ideal spot for you if…

  • Many of your guests are traveling in from out of town. There is a large, international airport (TPA) and two smaller, regional airports (PIE & SRQ) within proximity of the beaches.
  • You are open to a ceremony during the winter months (November through March).
  • You want a huge variety of activities and amenities beyond just the beach. Between Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Sarasota, there are plenty of museums, theme parks, sports teams and venues, and major tourist attractions for you and your guests to explore.

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The Panhandle

The beaches of the Panhandle have long been one of Florida’s best-kept secrets.

Destin and the surrounding beach towns are worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the State. They say in Florida, the farther north you go, the more into the South you get, and we can confirm that to be the case. If you want Florida’s beautiful beaches combined with southern charm and hospitality, Destin may be the spot for you.

Destin caters more to tourists, with roughly two-thirds of the population at any time being out of towners. That means there are plenty of activities for you and your guests.

Most of the lodging is vacation rentals, beach houses and condominiums vs hotels and limited vacation rentals in the Tampa Bay area.

You may want to pick the Panhandle if…

  • You and your guests are largely traveling by car from the Southeast or Texas
  • Your priority is “getting away,” and you don’t want the distraction of a major metro area.
  • You and your guests are going to spend most of your leisure time either hanging out on the beach or doing water sport tourist activities (fishing, sunbathing, jet skiing, boating, etc.).
  • You want to see some of the country’s most spectacular beaches. The area is known as the Emerald Coast because of the color of the water, as there are more protected beaches.

Once you have decided on Tampa or the Panhandle, check out our questionnaire to help you find your perfect beach. We know the beaches better than anyone, but before we can direct you to the ideal spot, we need to know your priorities.

If you tell us how important privacy is, how many people will attend and how close you want to be to the reception area, we can recommend some specific beaches for you.

Also, check out our Destin Beach Rating page, where we rank beaches on ideal wedding size, cost of the permit fee, how much privacy you can expect, distance to reception area, a sand rating, cost for parking and an overall rating.

Once you know the budget, you have a couple of dates, know where you want to be, and have some beaches in mind, you are getting closer to being ready to book! Give yourself a pat on the back. Your beach wedding is on its way to becoming a reality.

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Lock it in!

Before you put down a deposit, give us a call to talk through your vision. While our website is designed to help guide you through the process, a wedding isn’t something you throw together like an Amazon order. It always helps to get the professionals involved early because we can help you navigate the process and avoid some of the pitfalls that come when you try to go it alone.

Most restaurants and all vendors require a deposit to reserve their services and reserve the time and date. This is a wedding industry standard, and the typical deposit ranges from a flat fee to 25-33 percent of the final cost.

We handle all the vendor deposits associated with the beach ceremony when you book with us. But you will need to make separate deposits for each of the vendors as it relates to the reception and any outside vendors you reserve directly.

Couples at this point in the process can begin to feel overwhelmed because it seems like a lot of major decisions must be made at once. Picking the date, the location and then finding a reception area that all have availability can feel like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, particularly if you are doing it all from out of town.

That’s why you should give us a call. We can help you navigate the process. We’ve had couples reserve their ceremony through our website on one of the busiest days of the year but didn’t book the reception venue. By the time they got around to it, many of the best venues were already spoken for. We recommend making reservations for the reception venue at the same time as the ceremony and giving yourself the flexibility of a backup date, just in case.





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