The Time and Place

by Anna Jones

Courtesy Fripp Island Resort

The Details

You’re engaged! You’re thrilled. You’re in love. You’re ... overwhelmed. Whether you’ve dreamed of the big day your whole life or never thought about it until the moment you said yes, the actual process of planning your wedding is uncharted territory. Let this guide be your road map — and leave the details to us.
While “Set The Date” has entered the lexicon as a newly engaged bride’s first priority, the truth is that the venue is boss — many places book months, even years, in advance.

Start by asking yourself (and your fiancé, of course) if you’d like your wedding to be indoors or outdoors. Indoor venues offer a safeguard against the fickle Southern weather, but the charm of an outdoor wedding cannot be ignored. Remember, you can always mix and match — an indoor ceremony paired with an outdoor recep- tion, or vice versa. Tailor the scene to your vision and tolerance for risk.

“An outdoor wedding depends on the weather, and if the bride is willing to chance it,” says Tara Skinner of Tara Skinner Weddings and Events, formerly Posh Petals and Pearls. “Late February, March and April and then September and October are the most popular months to do a wed- ding in the Lowcountry. But I would never do an outdoor wedding in the summer — it’s just too hot.”

Summer heat aside, the loveliness of the Lowcountry landscape and surrounding coastal areas holds a certain allure, one that might even convince a bride to ignore the weather forecast.

“I try to encourage people to book out- door ceremonies,” says Sarah Aliffi-Baez, senior catering sales executive at The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. As a precaution, Aliffi-Baez contracts backup space on the property so the bride and groom can make a weather call on the day of the wedding. Kendall Wayner at Savannah Special Events notes that even just talking about a rain plan can make all the difference. “I’ve found that if we have something in place, it isn’t as stressful because we’ve thought it through,” she says. “It’s better to know what the added costs could be rather than waiting until the last minute and having a lot of extra add-ons, which can get very expensive.”

An outdoor location doesn’t necessarily mean a beach wedding, either — venues like Fripp Island Resort offer the golf course for an outdoor ceremony as well, says the resort’s sales manager, Kathy Kluttz.

Next, consider what the venue provides in terms of furniture, equipment, catering and more. A full-service option like The Westin Hilton Head Resort & Spa offers brides and grooms a turnkey wedding planning experience from end to end. Or, if you prefer to customize your wedding with different vendors, you might choose a blank-slate venue where you can create your dream day. For instance, Telfair Museums offer three unique sites that can be customized to your tastes. Either way, make sure to ask about any site fees as well as how food and beverages (if provided by the venue) are charged—and never be afraid to negotiate.

Last but certainly not least, keep an eye on your budget. Even though discuss- ing money is often viewed as gauche in the South, it’s absolutely necessary here. Define your overall spend, break it down into individual line items — venue, food, dress, music, flowers — and discuss with your soon-to-be-groom and family ways you can stick to this outline. Creating the budget early on in the process is crucial to understanding the overall cost of the wedding, according to Austin Wright, wedding coordinator at Telfair Museums. “Some brides book their dream venue, then realize it takes up more than half their budget and have to cut back on other things,” he says. “If you come up with a number for everything, you can plan accordingly.”

Next up: the time of the ceremony, which dictates the formality of the event and cues your guests to the appropriate dress code. Do you want women in sundresses and men in seersucker? If the answer is yes, an afternoon wedding is for you. Are you looking for a more formal affair with the option for guests to wear black tie? Then a ceremony that starts after 6 p.m. is your answer.

“Generally anything past 6 p.m. is considered black tie optional or black tie, but you should specify on your invitation if black tie is required,” Skinner says. “As society as a whole becomes more laid back, wedding attire has followed suit, so we always encourage brides to be absolutely clear.”

Take into account the comfort of your guests — if they’re in tuxes and long dresses, have an air-conditioned space or plenty of fans. Even Southern winters can have the occasional balmy day, so be prepared. There’s nothing worse than sweating through a suit (or a wedding dress, for that matter).