The Social Connection

by Celia B. Cunanan
The Social Connection

Sand, Sea and Sky... and the Sunset...
What a romantic setting! A setting fit for a wedding.

The Philippines is blessed with so many beautiful beaches dotting its shoreline from Aparri to Jolo. And being a tropical country, people go to the beaches almost the whole year through. Filipinos are known to be incurable romantics, so more and more Filipinos are now having their wedding ceremony or reception in beaches. Generally, beach weddings are less elaborate to plan, more informal, more personalized, and thus, more fun. If you're one of those planning a beach wedding, here are some wedding planning details you may consider.

Any one of whatever race or religion can have a wedding reception on a beach, but not all religions can have a wedding ceremony there. The Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, which is the religion of majority of the Filipinos, does not allow a wedding ceremony on a beach, or anywhere outside the church for that matter. The Roman Catholic religion believes that marriage is one of the holy sacraments instituted by Christ, and it is called the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Therefore, the wedding has to be officiated in a Roman Catholic Church, usually in front of the Blessed Sacrament. This is also true for the sacrament of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Order.

It is best to check with your church affiliation if you will be allowed to have a beach wedding ceremony before you proceed in planning a beach wedding.

The general rule in picking the location is that it should not be too difficult to find and it is accessible. Choose a beach that may enable most of your guests to attend. If the beach is too far, you should not expect everyone to be able to attend. Compare facilities of several beaches such as sanitation facilities, restrooms, cost of food and venue, and an indoor wedding venue option or just a covered area in case it rains or drizzles.

Other things to consider are the needs of the caterers and other suppliers such as availability of electricity, kitchen area for the caterers, and holding area for suppliers' equipment. It is also very important to know the policies within the neighbourhood: do they have curfew for the guests, do they have restrictions regarding the playing of the band? Will they allow fireworks? What are their parking facilities?

It is best to start scouting for a location once you have decided that you want a beach wedding. The moment you find the perfect location for you, make the reservation to confirm the date. Then you can move on to the hiring of suppliers and planning other details.

Summer is the best season to have a beach wedding. It is the time where guests can also frolic and have fun on the beach before and after the wedding. Most guests take this opportunity to have a family vacation, too. The most common months for beach weddings in the Philippines are: January to mid-May, and mid-September to December. The end of May until mid-September are the rainy season months in this country.

The best time to have the ceremony if you're going to have it on the beach is when the sun starts to come down. I had a wedding where the sun was slowly setting down just as both bride and groom were saying their vows. That scene was unforgettable, and it really awed all of our guests.

Planning for a beach wedding will entail more details in preparation. It is a bit different because chances are you are not familiar with the venue, the local contacts and other concerns.

You need to be doubly organized compared to the couple not having their wedding on a beach.

The marriage requirements in the Philippines are basically the same anywhere, but there may be additional permits required to hold the wedding on the beach. It is best to know the rules and regulations of the locality.

Since this is an out-of-town wedding, the packing of all the items to bring for the wedding should be properly done and handled, and make sure that nothing is left behind. If the items needed can be sourced locally, I suggest that it's better to get them locally for convenience, and to avoid mishaps in handling and delivery while in a long trip.

For decoration, you shall want torches around the area, luminaries along the pathway, some plants and flower arrangements, and other sea-themed decor. Yet, these should not detract from the view of nature, so keep the decor to a minimum.

If there is really no available covered area then I strongly suggest that a tent is a must, not only for the guests but for the caterer and other suppliers as well. We cannot fathom the ways of Mother Nature nowadays. Lately, the weather is so unpredictable that it suddenly rains or showers any time of the day. Even a slight drizzle is enough to dampen the mood of the guests.

For the ceremony, the venue is arranged simulating those in the church, with flower-lined aisle, chairs for guests, table for the wedding elements. But if you have very few guests, and it shall be a short ceremony, you may ask them to gather around barefoot on the sand, as you say your wedding vows. This will make the ceremony very intimate and personal.

For the reception, since you shall be on a sandy ground, consider also the comfort and safety of the elderly and some disabled guests. It is a good idea to provide flooring at a certain area for their tables and chairs so these shall not sink like they are on quicksand. The younger guests may sit on low tables with mats and cushions.

It is best to invest in a good sound system appropriate to the area. Remember you are in the open air and there will be sounds coming from everywhere: the sea, the birds, airplanes and more often those of other people on the beach especially if it's a public beach. All these may drown your voices that your guests will not hear what are being spoken.

For the attire of the Bride, the Groom and the wedding entourage choose light weight and non-clingy fabrics that don't need to be iron-pressed. Get materials that should not make you sweat. The female party may opt to have mid-length gowns to avoid having sand and water on their hemline. Flowing lines that accentuate your curves, rather than stiff princess-style ball gowns, will be ideal for a bridal gown in an open air wedding.

Brides, have a pre-nup trial of hair & make-up, and find a look that will work in hot or humid weather. Grooms, get a haircut before the wedding. Oh, and don't forget your sun block!

Here are more ideas and tips you may find helpful in making your beach wedding a truly unique and memorable one:

  1. Visit The Place Before The Wedding. A few months before your set date, plan a visit to your beach location, but before you leave, make a daily to-do list. Contact the suppliers on your shortlist and make appointments with them so that no time will be wasted. Set one day to check on your civil and church requirements and another day to visit the local suppliers you hired.
  2. Get a wedding planner who is from the area because they shall be more knowledgeable with the requirements of the locality. They can also better assist you in finding and overseeing local suppliers for the day.
  3. Make the stay of your guests as convenient and memorable as possible, Give them welcome baskets containing small items like suntan lotion, sun block, insect repellent, native fan, and even a small umbrella or parasol. You may also throw in a pair of beach slippers.
  4. Have a "Drinking Station" with refreshing glasses of ice cold juices and water. Offer locally available fresh fruit juices.
  5. Don't forget rest room access and amenities. If the rest room is too far, or if it's for public use, it is a wise idea to rent a portable one. Your guests might rather use one that is nearer to navigate, or a clean portable toilet than a dirty public restroom. These portable toilets can be sanitized and you can place sweet-smelling deodorizing sachets.
  6. A directional map to the venue should be given to the guests with the invitation. But it is best, too, to have signages along the way to the beach area, and a welcome sign at the entrance to the actual location.
  7. Use hurricane lamps for your candles, alongside with small votive glasses, to protect the candle light from being put off by the wind.
  8. Talk to the local police and discuss security concerns, especially in the parking areas. A good investment on security measures is worth all the hassle it may entail when something happens.

A beach wedding is truly a unique and often memorable alternative to a traditional wedding. It usually turns out to be a fun-filled wedding weekend and reunion of relatives and friends. With the tips and various ideas above, you are on your way to having a "stress free," beautiful start to a wonderful life together, with the romantic beach wedding you have dreamt about!

This article was published in the premier publication of BRIDES MANILA, June 2012

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