As South Walton has become popular with tourists, it has also become popular with brides.
Brides flock to our beaches by the hundreds every year making weddings big business at the beach. South Walton's Tourist Development Council lists 26 wedding venues on its site, and there are more.
In addition to beach weddings, brides can also choose to get married in the State Forest, at a stable, a resort, a chapel, at a lodge, or aboard a yacht.
Whatever their choice, weddings are a business and not cheap these days.
One of South Walton's newest wedding venues is The Bellamy of 30A. For a Friday or Saturday wedding during prime season, The Bellamy rents for $7,000. Included are tables, chairs, dishes, glasses, flatware, security, bar, kitchen, and lighting. Not included are tents, décor, flowers, food, beverages, valet, set up/breakdown, linens, photography, DJ, hair or makeup.
"Overall, the total cost on average is $30,000," said The Bellamy's Tiffani Salinas.
This figure appears to be the norm these days in looking at several venues on 30A and beyond.
Madison Smiedendorf, wedding sales and service manager at St. Joe Club & Resorts, said they charge between $135 to $215 per person depending on location. A minimum of 100 guests is required for a Friday or Saturday service during prime season. Prime season is April, May, June, September, October. This includes chairs, a wedding manager, a four-hour bar serving spirits, hors d'oeuvres, dinner, carving station, utensils, tables, china, a bottle of sparkling wine for bride and groom, and rehearsal.
“St. Joe Club & Resorts has a variety of different venues to accommodate every size and type of wedding with prices generally ranging from $170-$265 per person," she said.
Kristin Rustin, private event director at Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Resort said pricing varies depending on the size of the event, what spaces are needed, and food and beverages selected. Ceremonies cost $500. Receptions in season range from $5,250 up to $22,500 for the entire club and 200 people.
At the Hilton Sandestin, guests can choose from packages ranging from $5,900 to $23,500.
Down the road a bit at Alys Beach, wedding prices begin at $1,500 and go up to $20,000 for a reception at Caliza.
Alice Pauls rents her 3,700-square-foot Celebration Hall on 30A for $4,250 for a ceremony and reception. Add $250 for a tent, $950 for Hall director, and $25 per hour for a Sheriff's deputy, which is required if alcohol is being served.
Seascape's Carolyn Northcutt said cost depends on how many people, location, and menu. Offered are all-inclusive packages starting with an Elopement package for two from $1,750 for ceremony only. Ceremony and reception packages for 30 people are $6,495, and for 50 people, $10,495. Included are beach permit, arbor, chairs, flowers, officiate.
If a wedding on the water instead of overlooking the water is your style, pricing for The Solaris dining yacht start at $1,150.
Or if a day wedding would suit your style and you like a rustic feel, the Lodge at Camp Helen may be for you. Camp Helen is a state park located just across the Walton County line in Bay County. The lodge was built in 1942 and offers rustic charm. It holds 100 people and has a full kitchen, and comes equipped with 100 chairs and 15 tables. However, the park closes at sunset and does not allow overnight stays. To rent the lodge for the day is $421.
A popular wedding spot that is not on the beach is Eden Gardens, home to many flowering plants and 400-year-old oaks. Eden is located north of U.S. Highway 98 and overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay with a mansion as a backdrop. During operating hours, the grounds may be rented for an event for between $96 to $401, and the pavilion may be rented for $267. After hours, the grounds may be rented for $2,250 for up to 200 guests.
If a chapel is more your style, Carillon Beach's lake-front chapel will hold 80 guests and rents for $3,600 for a ceremony, and $5,200 for a wedding and reception venue.
There is also Point Washington United Methodist Church located on County Road 395N. Built in the 1800s, the stained-glass windows and charm of the historic church draws many brides. Use of the church pricing is in the $3,500 range for non-members.
No matter what your dream wedding looks like, you can find it in South Walton.