Emerald Coast Weddings: What’s Trending
It’s not surprising that hundreds of couples choose the Emerald Coast each year for their destination weddings. Not only does our region’s natural splendor provide a one-of-a-kind backdrop, but the offerings here are as unique as the brides and grooms themselves.
For example, couples can get married on a boat, at a resort, in a state park, in a lodge, in a chapel, and of course, at the beach. They can opt for simple or extravagant, indoor or outdoor, any time of the year.
Certified wedding planner Kristi Purvis of Kiss the Bride Wedding & Event Planning said that 95 percent of the weddings she handles are destination weddings, with the lion’s share coming from Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. She has spent the last eight years planning weddings and events in South Walton.
Perhaps surprisingly, she has seen a trend away from beach weddings, with couples choosing to be near the beach without actually being on the beach.
“I tend to do luxury weddings, and the brides often want to be able to have their pictures on the beach without necessarily having their toes in the sand during the ceremony,” Purvis said. “They don’t want their guests getting sandy, and the brides often want to be able to wear heels for the ceremony.”
That trend toward weddings near the water drives her to partner frequently with WaterColor Inn and Resort, Alys Beach, Vue on 30A, The Pearl, and the Hilton Sandestin. These venues have become her go-to because they are sought after, and they have so much to offer in terms of accommodations, event venues and amenities.
Alys Beach and WaterColor, for example, have gorgeous lawns steps away from the beach, while The Vue has a terrace overlooking the Gulf. The Hilton Sandestin has Gulf-front decks, and The Pearl has a rooftop space with European architecture that is perfect for weddings.
Unique to Alys Beach, couples can personalize the event food by building an on-site kitchen for caterers to use, while the other properties include their in-house catering staff as part of the venue package.
Purvis pointed out that there’s a misconception about what beach weddings “look like,” and that many people are surprised to find that weddings here can be elaborate and luxurious.
“People assume a beach wedding means a couple of chairs on the beach with people standing in the sand, but that’s not even close,” she said. “People might not think they can find luxury here but places like Alys Beach and WaterColor are known for their beautiful architecture and gorgeous lawns.”
Some brides host weddings that exceed $100,000, with chandeliers, drapings, and clear-top tents, as well as beautiful head tables and seating lounges for their guests.
The other trend Purvis has observed over the last couple of years is the move toward weekend-long gatherings as a way to capitalize on their visit to such a great area. Rather than hosting a one-day event, couples are scheduling bonfires, parties, lunches, and a variety of activities for their guests while they are in town.
Purvis admits that the weather often presents a unique challenge for couples getting married on the Emerald Coast, with anomalies like 80-degree weather for February weddings and 55-degree weather for April weddings. Because these venues are accustomed to hosting weddings in the uncertain Florida weather, the professionals involved work together to implement a plan B when necessary.
Purvis points to the close-knit community of the Emerald Coast as a selling point for brides considering a destination wedding here. She says it’s important to have “boots on the ground” who know how to match your needs and your budget without having to rely solely on information from the Internet.
“Everything operates like a well-oiled machine here because so many of us have established working relationships,” she said. “The venue managers know the people involved in the logistics of the wedding and everything runs like second-nature because of the trust and relationship among those people.”
For those considering an Emerald Coast destination wedding, Purvis clarified that though many brides begin their planning a year in advance, she has worked with brides who planned their entire event over the course of about three months. Though she doesn’t recommend it, she said it is possible.
She considers the 30A area the best-kept secret anywhere because of the broad range of things there are to do during a stay, whether it’s for a wedding or a vacation.
“These are the most insanely beautiful beaches in the world, and they are surrounded by golf courses, breweries, shopping, and anything else visiting couples could hope to do.”
WaterColor Inn courtesy of Kristi Purvis