If you haven’t noticed already, Bill & I are big fans of The Outer Banks (OBX for the cool kids) of North Carolina. In fact, Bill will admit that it was HE who, while on an early date, mentioned how he thought OBX would be a great place to get married. I nodded in agreement but didn’t want to appear too enthusiastic even though in my head I was like
So, when it came time to actually plan our wedding, OBX was the obvious choice. But planning a wedding in OBX from Pittsburgh, 10-ish hours away? How?! Here’s the process we took to figuring that out.
1 – Pick a Village and Stick to It
This may sound silly, but ask yourself, do you like having a ton of options? Or would you prefer a few to pick from? Where in OBX you wed makes a big difference. If you aren’t set on a particular village and like simplicity without having to decide between a zillion options, plan to head south to Hatteras Island to Avon, Buxton, Hatteras and the like. These destinations all offer great venues, but the areas are more remote and therefore have fewer vendors to chose from. That doesn’t mean you’ll find bad vendors. In fact, some of the highest rated florists, caterers and photographers call Hatteras Island home.
In contrast, the more developed areas of Nags Head and Kitty Hawk will provide you with a myriad of choices, and more big-name, big-box stores and hotels for you and your guests. These destinations are also closer to the bridge making it faster to reach them. If you want an OBX Destination Wedding, but with the breadth of choices and conveniences you’d likely find at home, then this area is your best bet.
Finally, if you like 4×4 drives on the beach, and are OK with paying a premium for many vendors for their travel time, there are several magnificent event homes like Wild Horse that offer spectacular views and privacy at the northern end of the island by Carolla.
Bill and I always go to Buxton. To us, OBX isn’t right without being day-trip distance from Ocracoke Island, and the pulse of the Hatteras Light in the sky at night, so we knew Hatteras Island was where we were headed.
2 – Venue: What Wedding Experiences are a Must?
We asked ourselves about what kind of wedding experience we wanted. While you can browse Pinterest and think ‘traditional’ or ‘rustic’ – that’s not what I mean here. Themes can be created anywhere. What I mean is, when picturing our wedding day in our minds, what experiences did we want to be sure to include? Did we want to twirl on a full dance floor for our first dance with family smiling from the perimeter, or was a simple sway poolside ok? Did we want to Congo-line to the buffet or enjoy an elegant seated dinner?
While these are questions every bride needs to consider, it’s especially critical for Outer Banks destination brides as it drastically changes the venues you can look at. A small affair without the stereotypical wedding trappings like a dance floor can easily be accommodated at a beach house, while a more traditionally planned wedding may require a special event house rental, or even a designated venue.
We decided a hybrid of sorts was what we wanted. The dance floor was a must, both because we wanted that moment together but also because his family was known for tearing it up to ‘Leroy Brown’. We also wanted space enough for 100 guests to dine seated – and hoped to have lodging close by. Fortunately, we found that and more at The Inn on Pamlico Sound.
3 – Speed-Dating Vendors is a Must
Conveniently , the Outer Banks has their own Wedding Association and annual Wedding Expo where you can sample food and mingle with vendors of all kinds. Bill & I had the luxury of a lengthy engagement and attended the expo knowing we hoped to book at least a photographer and venue. The expo was like wedding-planning-speed-dating in a way as you meandered through the exhibits. It was wonderful to get to sit down and meet with local vendors – a blessing destination wedding brides don’t always get to benefit from. Sampling food, getting to understand the style and approach each vendor took helped us to better decide what vendors would match our vision for our wedding best. If you are considering an OBX wedding, go to the Expo if you can! They also offer mixers throughout the year if you can’t make the big expo.
4 – Pick Proven Vendors
The Outer Banks is blessed with a community of wonderful locals who have so many creative talents. There are so many fantastical, professional folks to chose from for flowers, photography, food and more. But when you’re planning from afar, it’s even more critical that you do your homework before booking anyone. Do yourself a favor and check out whomever you chose. Google their name, and read their reviews on The Knot, Trip Advisor, and and other services. Once you’ve done that and you book them, TRUST. Trust both your gut if something doesn’t feel right (And SAY SO, most of the time, they’ll make it right!), and Trust your vendor when the plans are made. They are professionals, they can do this, just as you asked.
5 – RELAX
Why do you want to get married in the Outer Banks? I’m betting it’s because you’ve vacationed there before and loved it. And you probably loved it in part for the laid-back lifestyle that OBX provides. That laid-back living you love? Means it might take a little extra time for vendors to get back to you. Trust your vendors. Remember what island-time is like, and you’ll be just fine for your perfect day in OBX.
Once you use these steps to pick the where, when, who will feed you and who will take your picture, things will fall into place.
Happy Wedding Planning! Any questions about our personal experiences? Ask away in the comments!