Locals know it’s not uncommon to walk by three weddings on the beach on a typical Saturday in the summer. Locals also know that while the Lowcountry’s beauty shines through no matter the season, the summer gives us temps that hover in the 90s and humidity so thick it forces many of us inside. So what makes June, July and August so popular for destination weddings on Hilton Head?
“I think obviously the beach is one of the biggest draws,” said wedding planner Beth Baldwin of Baldwin Events. “There’s certainly a vibe to Hilton Head that appeals to a lot of brides looking for the perfect destination vacation spot.”
The word “vacation” is the key to why so many pick summer to exchange vows in front of all their loved ones.
“You pick a summer wedding on Hilton Head and people make it into a vacation,” she said. Summer is the time when school’s out and many families are already looking forward to some kind of getaway from the daily grind, so inviting them to a wedding here gives them the perfect “excuse” to choose this sunny, family-friendly island on the Carolina coast as their vacation destination.
“A September or October wedding might be a little more difficult for their wedding guests who do have kids,” Baldwin said.
The Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce doesn’t keep statistics on how many weddings are held here each year, but Charlie Clark, the chamber’s vice president for communications, says the island is perfect year-round for weddings of every size.
“It’s an island that seems almost tailor-made for a great destination wedding. It’s the island with no need for a passport, which makes it easy to access for guests and family,” Clark said. “All the resources are in place to plan everything, from a small, intimate wedding to a large, lavish affair. There is also a cadre of wedding professionals who are very adept at helping plan and source a destination wedding.”
While accessibility and beautiful setting are perhaps reasons enough to plan a summer wedding here, Clark said adding nostalgia into the mix makes for a destination people don’t just want, but have their hearts set on.
“Many brides have come here as vacationers since they were children, and the island holds very special memories for them,” Clark said. “Many of them choose to make their wedding memories here as well.”
That’s exactly what Baldwin did.
“I grew up vacationing here, and I always wanted to live here. So when we got engaged, we decided to get married here,” she said. “I’m always surprised at the sheer number of people who also have that story.”
While memories may be cool, summer temps are anything but, which is why Baldwin and her brides scout out the best wedding hotspots that won’t leave guests baking on the beach for too long.
“The majority of my summer weddings have been indoors, at resorts or country clubs,” Baldwin said. Beachside resorts offer a cool place to party while also allowing guests to stay just a stone’s throw from the water.
“They like the idea that their guests can check into the hotel and spend the weekend at the beach, make it a fun weekend for themselves,” she said. “They’re hoping people will come just to enjoy the island.”
Baldwin and Clark suggest brides-to-be who are planning a wedding long-distance first find an experienced wedding planner to assist them with the ins and outs of the process. Though grandparents or parents might call Hilton Head home, if the bride and groom aren’t local it’s a good idea to reach out to an expert who has worked with many of the local vendors and who knows which island hot spots will keep their guests cool in the summer.
“From a logistical perspective, each wedding comes with a host of details, and if you have professional guidance, every wedding detail is thought through,” Baldwin said. “Plus, I often help coordinate events related to a wedding, like a Lowcountry boil on Friday night, a golf outing or a Sunday brunch.”
While October continues to be the busiest month of the year for weddings, the summer months fare better than some might think.
“Our high season started April 1 and runs through mid-November,” Baldwin said. “I’m always surprised at the number of weddings I have in July and August.”