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Hilton Head Weddings: A Seasonal Survival Guide

Each year, Hilton Head Island is host to thousands of weddings—both local and destination. In the past, the phrase “destination wedding” conjured thoughts of tropical, Caribbean getaways or other far off locations. Today, “destination weddings” are a little closer to home.  Many brides opt to invite guests to enjoy an island vacation wedding that may only be a state or two away from home. Friends and family can ditch their passports, board a quick flight, or even jump into the family SUV to make the trip to Hilton Head Island.

After hearing the special question and responding, “Yes!,” brides immediately enter foreign waters filled with costs, proposals, contracts and many other hard facts not associated with the fairy tale engagement process.

Here are seasonal ideas, tips, cautions and advice for local and destination brides to ensure your day goes off without a hitch!

“April showers bring May flowers.” This popular rhyme may be true, but in our area, April showers also bring no-see-ums. A no-see-um is a tiny biting gnat that is abundant in the Lowcountry, typically from mid-March to the end of April. If you are planning an outdoor wedding ceremony or reception, you may be surprised to learn that Palmetto Mosquito Control is your best wedding gift. This easy to arrange and relatively inexpensive spraying service turns an uncomfortable scene of vicious swatting into a bug-free dream!

A major spring event, the Heritage Golf Tournament, is held on the island in April. Known to all locals and golf enthusiasts, it is surprising to learn how many brides are unaware of the event that brings the hustle and bustle of TV crews, professional golfers and thousands of golf fanatics. The Heritage Golf Tournament is the place to be on Hilton Head, encompassing all aspects of the island, making this weekend best planned around when planning a wedding. Weddings occur during Heritage weekend, but selecting a location mid-island to the north end or in Bluffton may yield more availability and less golf congestion. Encouraging your guests to book air travel and accommodations early helps ensure they get good rates and don’t miss out on availability.

It’s not a secret that the south is warm, especially in the summer months of late-June through mid-September. This does not mean a summer wedding has to produce a melting bridal party. Smart apparel selection is the key. If you are planning an outdoor wedding, a three-piece tuxedo for the guys may not be your best choice. Many summer weddings lean toward a more casual look, with guys wearing khaki pants and button-up linen shirts. However, there are options if you like the look of a suit. A lightweight, comfortable material like seersucker or linen is a breathable material and a cooler fabric option than traditional suits. For the ladies, a lightweight fabric paired with a liner is an optimal choice to hide any hints of perspiration.

The summer months on the island also bring our largest influx of tourists. School is out, and families make their way to the beach for fun and sun. If you’re planning a beach wedding, keep in mind all beaches on Hilton Head are public. Although there is no way to eliminate beachgoers from your ceremony setting, you can make a few arrangements to limit the beach traffic you encounter. Hosting a ceremony later in the day, ideally after 5 p.m., will help reduce the number of vacationers on the beach. Choosing a beach that is less known to the general public than, say, in front of the Tiki Hut at 2 p.m. on a Saturday, is also wise. Hosting the ceremony beachfront at a rental home is one way to find your “secluded” beach setting. If renting a private home for seven days does not fit into your wedding budget, we recommend Islander’s Beach. Islander’s Beach is less traveled as only residents with year-round parking permits may access the beach. By simply renting a trolley or minibus, you can shuttle your guests to and from the quiet ceremony location with ease.

Hilton Head Island is beautiful in the fall. There are limited insects, it is warm, and you can still enjoy a walk on the beach or dip in a pool. As the spring and fall are ideal settings, it’s no surprise that they are the busiest wedding months. There is a small catch to fall weddings, and it is a term used in the wedding arena with a hushed tone. We are talking about hurricanes. Technically speaking, hurricane season is from June until November, so that makes almost half our calendar year in hurricane season. Any local will tell you, “We are in a banana belt and storms always go north”; or “A hurricane hasn’t made landfall since 1896.” While these statements are believed true, hurricanes make any bride (or more often the father of the bride) nervous. If you are planning a wedding in the height of hurricane season, you need to check with the location you have selected to make sure the contract you sign has a Force Majeure Clause. This clause simply states if an act of God or conditions out of both parties’ control occurs, you will work together to move the wedding date and all amounts paid to a new, agreeable and available date or receive a full refund.

Outside of hurricane season, there is another season in the south better known as college football season. When I first moved to the South, I heard someone say, “College football is a religion in the South.” Silly me. I thought this person was kind of crazy, maybe a little dramatic; but I soon learned it’s true that southern schools take their football games seriously. One would not plan a wedding around a football game, right? Wrong! We have had a few brides who unknowingly planned their weddings on a game day. In fear of many of their guests leaving or continually checking iPhones for scores, brides have secured cable TV at their wedding reception to appease everyone (bride many times included). So, if you or your family and friends are die-hard football fans, please check the game schedule prior to booking a Saturday wedding in the fall.

Winter months on Hilton Head Island may seem balmy and warm to many traveling brides. December and January yield average daytime temperatures ranging from 50-60 degrees. To many folks living in Cleveland, Philadelphia or other areas, a 50-60 degree day in December or January is a dream forecast! In addition to pleasant temperatures in the winter months, brides may be pleasantly surprised to find that many locations offer special winter rates, making budget planning much more enjoyable.

When planning a winter wedding, you will want to keep the holidays in mind. There are two sides to consider. On the negative side, the idea of a ringing in the New Year as a new bride might be appealing to bride and groom, but making a trip just after unloading paychecks for holiday presents might make a destination wedding seem more of a chore than a vacation for guests. But as there is always good with bad, there are also positives to planning a wedding around the holidays. A recent bride from Atlanta with a guest list that kept growing and growing, strategically selected the Saturday after Thanksgiving as she knew this date would likely trim her list down. One last detail to consider when planning a wedding around the holidays is décor. Does the location you have selected provide holiday décor, and if so, does that go with your wedding décor? To each their own, but if sleigh bells and a chubby man in a red suit are not your idea of a wedding backdrop, it is wise to ask if the décor may be removed for your wedding.

All in all, it is easy to see why Hilton Head Island has grown as a premiere wedding destination. It offers beauty only inspired by Mother Nature, with stretches of soft white beaches, centuries-old moss-draped Spanish Oaks, picture perfect sunsets as well as the grace and kindness from its local residents, ease for guests to travel and unlimited resources for activities beyond wedding events in terms of accommodations shopping, dining and endless recreation. It’s no wonder brides can’t think of a better place to say “I do,” and with a little careful planning everything can and will be perfect.

Author Allison Weinman and Molly Kennedy