The Lowcountry Lowdown 2023-24

by Southern Coastal Weddings

Essential details for a Southern Coastal wedding, from forecasts to forms

Written by HANNAH BUCHMAN & JULIA MULLER

Illustration by MAGGIE B. FRENCH

Southern Coastal Weddings covers some of the most beautiful geography in the world. Although each area of the Lowcountry and Coastal Empire bears its own distinctive mark, they all share certain signatures: stately oaks draped with romantic Spanish moss, preserved historic structures and a cultural reverence for the art of hospitality.

Beaufort, South Carolina, in upper Beaufort County, is awash with romance and history, a quintessential small Southern town. At the southern end of Beaufort County, cross the bridge to Hilton Head Island, where even the gas stations have a posh patina. This island is an ode to meticulously planned high-end residences and manicured golf courses all coming together with understated elegance. Bluffton is Hilton Head’s mainland sister — an eclectic community with an artist’s soul.

Travel over the Savannah River, and you’re in Chatham County, Georgia. Savannah’s massive historic district and tree-filled squares are top-of-mind when it comes to planning a wedding here, but Savannah-area brides are spoiled for choice — beach weddings on Tybee Island, historic venues well away from the bustle of the city and even rustic farm settings make the Hostess City a versatile site for any celebration.

About an hour to the south of Savannah, you’ll find Glynn County, Georgia, home of the Golden Isles — Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island, Sea Island and Little St. Simons Island, plus the mainland town of Brunswick, which offers a picturesque historic district. It’s easy to see why these islands inspired poet Sidney Lanier’s famed “Marshes of Glynn” — they offer an array of wedding venues, from elegant and exclusive villas to earthy, exquisite driftwood beaches.

COASTAL WEATHER

Rainfall: You can expect the heaviest in August (7.2 inches), lightest in November (2.4 inches). While hurricane season runs June-November, August-October have historically been the months to watch.

Average high/low temperatures: Humidity is a year-round presence. High temps have occurred in mid-January, lows in June. Spring, 75/58; Summer, 90/75; Fall, 77/62; Winter, 60/43.

Tides: Beach weddings are wonderful, but be aware that there can be a 7-foot difference between high and low tides, and even greater during so-called supermoons which usually occur August-September.

GETTING A MARRIAGE LICENSE

No passage in life would be complete without paperwork. Below are guides on how to take care of the business end of getting married. The COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. Always check the websites or call the relevant counties before your big day approaches. 

Savannah, Tybee Island and elsewhere in Chatham County: Marriage license applications can be found under “Probate Court” at courts.chathamcountyga.gov. Email the completed application, and you will be emailed a link to set up an appointment for both parties to visit the office at 133 Montgomery St., Room 509, in downtown Savannah. Fees are $66, with discounts for those who undergo premarital education. The court only accepts credit cards, debit cards, cash, money orders or cashier’s checks in the exact amount. 912.652.7264.

Golden Isles: The Glynn County Probate Court, 701 G St. in downtown Brunswick, offers online applications and payment options at glynncounty.org. Appointments must be made by calling 912.554.7234 or 912.554.7235 or by email: [email protected]. The fee is $76 with no premarital certificate, lower for Georgia residents with one.

Hilton Head Island and Bluffton:
The Beaufort County Probate Court offers mail and appointment options for marriage licenses. Fees (cash in the exact amount) range from $50 to $95, depending on the residency status of the applicants. Learn more at beaufortcountysc.gov or from the marriage license division, 843.255.5850. Appointment options are available at the Beaufort County Probate Court’s main office at 102 Ribaut Road in Beaufort or at its satellite office at 539 William Hilton Parkway.

BEACH WEDDINGS

A beach wedding can be wonderful, but be sure to check out the guidelines for each location. You don’t want your day spoiled by a heavy fine.

Tybee Island: You’ll need a $25 beach permit from the City of Tybee facilities manager. For details and restrictions, go to the special events planning section at cityoftybee.org or contact [email protected].

Golden Isles: St. Simons Island beaches do not require reservations or permits for weddings. For weddings on Jekyll Island beaches, head to jekyllisland.com/venues/weddings for answers. Permits are not required.

Hilton Head Island: Go to hiltonheadislandsc.gov/beach/wedding.cfm for information. There is no charge but you do need a permit.

RENTING PUBLIC AREAS/HISTORIC SITES

With the restrictions due to the pandemic lifted, these listings provide the information you need to get hitched.

Savannah: The beautiful squares and parks of the city are available once again. If you plan a small wedding, you won’t need to apply for a permit, but you will need a public assembly permit for gatherings larger than 20 people. Check savannahga.gov/672/Reserve-City-Parks-Squares or call 912.351.3837 for details. You need to apply at least 90 days prior to the event. Fees range from $150 to $750 depending on your residency status and the chosen area. Security fees are extra.

Golden Isles: To rent a historic site on Jekyll Island (ruins), go to jekyllisland.com/venues/historic-rentals for a list of venues and links for more information. The fees at each location vary. At jekyllisland.com/venues/pavillions-outdoor-spaces, you’ll find a similar list and contact information. There are fees for some locations.

ALCOHOL LAWS FOR PUBLIC AREAS

Alcohol licensing and permits vary by venue based on which local government has jurisdiction.

Savannah: To dispense wine or beer in a square/park, you’ll need to apply for a Temporary Alcohol Event Permit from the Revenue Department at savannahga.gov and pay a $50 application fee.

Tybee Island: Alcohol is allowed on the beach but not in glass containers. Tybee has also instituted a smoking and vaping ban for the beach, complete with stiff fines.

Golden Isles: Alcohol is allowed on the beach but not in glass containers.

Hilton Head Island: Alcohol is prohibited on all beaches. 

PET LAWS ON BEACHES

You may love Fido and Spot, but there are regulations concerning dogs on beaches. Check the websites given to be sure you and your furry one will enjoy your time without being hit with a big fine.

Tybee Island: No dogs are allowed on the beach at any time (or you’ll face a $290 fine plus court costs). cityoftybee.org

Golden Isles: On Jekyll Island, dogs are allowed on Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island Beach and Great Dunes Park but must be leashed. On St. Simons Island, dogs are allowed on East Beach and Massengale Park (no leash required) but prohibited between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. during June, July and August. jekyllisland.com; glynncounty.org

Hilton Head Island: Leashed dogs are allowed on the beach, but are prohibited from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day. hiltonheadislandsc.gov

Find more wedding planning resources and ideas in the 2023-24 issue of Southern Coastal Weddings.