Planning a ceremony at the beach
October evening was clear but windy. A lovely young woman
Frisco donned a perfectly fitting white silk dress that had been
lovingly made for her by a close family friend. She slipped
a pair of delicate white high-heeled shoes and tucked a long, fragile
veil under her arm. Then Natalie Perry left her childhood home in
Buxton and headed into her future.
is one of the many women who get married every year on Hatteras Island.
For her, the location for her traditional wedding was an easy
choice. It is home. This is where her family and
friends are and where she and her parents, Susie and Bryan, know
everyone who would provide the wedding services.
made a point of patronizing island businesses. These are the
people who also shop at their family business, Frisco Rod and Gun and
Frisco Shopping Center, and, besides it is a point of honor for many
who reside here to support local businesses whenever possible.
bridegroom, Jay Kavanagh, is captain and owner of the Bite Me, a
charter boat in Hatteras. Since his livelihood is on the
they chose to hold their rehearsal dinner at sea, aboard the headboat
Miss Hatteras. Their friend, Jimmy Pitetti,
catered the dinner with a traditional barbecue, island style, and
delivered it to the boat.
wedding was at a Hatteras village restaurant. Wooden chairs were set up
for the guests on the deck overlooking the marsh, warm and richly hued
in the late afternoon sun. At the appointed time, the bride
arrived on her father’s arm and took her place beside her
bridegroom in front of yet another friend, the Rev. Dwight Burrus.
wind tried to steal her light veil and Perry, not one to be overly
concerned about such things, didn’t fuss with it. She simply
the veil off and handed it to her father. There was a
giggle in acknowledgement of her oh-so-Hatteras aplomb.
set the tone for the evening and the wedding and reception proceeded
with ease and comfort. Most of the guests knew one another,
the joy of the occasion filled the rooms.
island florist provided the flowers, and a local photographer was
behind the camera. The wedding cake was designed and executed with an
appropriate and very personal theme for the couple. A
marlin topped the confection and more marlins swam around the perimeter
of the wedding cake. The Bite Me was featured atop the
the locals, organizing a wedding involves calling on family and friends
who are eager to help. For a growing population of visiting
brides, it isn’t quite so easy. They often
where to begin. But they, too, will find that one call leads
another. With a little effort, it is possible to have a
on the island completely taken care of by helpful island businesses.
visitors’ weddings on Hatteras Island are not huge or
events, and they are often do-it-yourself affairs, like the
locals. The couples who elect to be married here usually opt
smaller, more intimate weddings. Guest lists are generally
manageable because of distance. In fact, for most
couples, the point of being married here is the laid-back atmosphere
and the sense of place.
and Kevin Dortch is one such couple. They have been coming
from their home in nearby Chesapeake, Va., for the 9 1/2 years that
they have been together. They chose to be married here
“it is our favorite place to go,” and, being so
can come frequently.
decided on a cozy event with a simple beach ceremony. The
supper in the rental cottage was pulled barbecue and chicken, in
keeping with the relaxed mood. They served the usual picnic
dishes and their 50 guests enjoyed a family-style get-together at the
brought the cake with them from a special baker they know in
Portsmouth. That turned into a story for the generations when
icing melted in the heat on the drive down and the cake fell
apart. The groom’s sister saved the day by getting
store-bought icing, putting it back together, and turning one side to
bride and groom, Jennifer and Chris Gardner, traveled from Tennessee to
be married on the island.
had been coming with his family to the island on vacation
years and years and years,” according to his mother,
The family often stayed in the same house so, “It was like
home for a week.”
first place the couple ever went together was Hatteras Island, so the
decision to be married here was natural. They wanted a small,
simple wedding. In total, there were 22 people and the bride
two attendants. One was a dog that served as ring bearer.
family brought much of what they needed and even brought along a chef,
a family friend who had known the bridegroom for many years and
“wanted to do it for him.” But they did
they arrived to stock up on fresh, local seafood.
Realty helped them locate a suitable cottage in Buxton and even
organized someone to help them unload.
rental management divisions of the island’s realty companies
a very limited number of houses that can be rented for very small
events. The decision to allow events at the cottages rests
the homeowners and also depends upon the occupancy, parking, and septic
capacity of the property. The guest services staff at the
companies is happy to direct the bride-to-be to other venues on the
island and, when possible, to other services.
cottages, while rarely the site of the ceremony or the reception, often
provide accommodations for the wedding party and guests.
adequate notice, the guest services personnel will try to find
neighboring properties, since many people plan their vacation around
the wedding and stay for a week to enjoy the extended celebrations
couples indulge their love of the water by hiring a boat for the
service, particularly those who dream of a sunset wedding and those
whose passion for fishing is the reason they come to the
island. Smaller, more intimate parties use charter
and return to shore for the reception. Larger groups often go
on the headboat Miss Hatteras for both the wedding and the party.
sentimental favorite sites, by far, for the visitors who come to the
Outer Banks to wed are the beach and the lighthouse. These
the attractions that usually brought the couple here in the first
place. They are also conducive to laid-back affairs with bare
feet and flip-flops instead of heels and loose shirts rather than
tuxedos. The bride’s “carriage”
is more often a
four-by-four rather than a limousine.
major factor that can affect planning for an outdoors wedding on the
island is the fickle weather. A beach wedding conjures up a
romantic vision but can turn downright unpleasant when everyone is
getting sand blasted. A back-up plan and a sense of humor are
items – from tents to beach chairs – can be
through several island rental companies. Advance orders are
necessary because of the high demand throughout the year, but
particularly in the summer. It is important to discuss your
well in advance, since a number of conditions have to be considered,
including suitability of the potential site.
tuxedos can be rented. Catering and music can also be arranged. Several
island specialty stores carry a large inventory of domestic and
imported wine and champagne.
galleries and boutiques up and down the island offer unique gifts for
the bride and bridegroom and also for the bridal party.
fine art and crafts, custom jewelry, accessories, lingerie, and resort
wear suitable for beach weddings are all available.
seafood shops supply seafood for those who want to do it themselves and
will steam shrimp and crabs to order. A number of people will
provide barbecue. Again, the best advice is to ask for
and spas offer packages to bridal parties that include massages,
manicures, and pedicures and the oft requested
are no grand cathedrals or ballrooms here for hundreds of guests, but
with some thoughtful planning, some flexibility, and some realistic
expectations, a dream wedding on Hatteras Island is possible.
fact, they happen all the time.