There was never any question as to the type of wedding Kendall Shoffner and Jason Earnest would have -- Kendall had always wanted a wedding on the beach, and her hometown of Emerald Isle in North Carolina was the perfect destination. The timing, however, proved problematic, as the warmer months that followed their engagement were already booked solid with weddings on the shore. "There were only a select number of places to get married along the ocean," explains the bride. "So, we had to choose one of just three different dates unless we were willing to wait another whole year." The couple decided that they didn't want to delay, and bravely scheduled their beachside wedding to take place at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Atlantic Beach just as east coast temperatures would begin to drop for the winter.

Enclosing the ceremony from the wind was the obvious first defense against the chill, so an airy tent was outfitted with heat lamps to keep things comfortable. Black wooden benches used for seating made a striking contrast to the tent's stark white walls and Japanese lanterns, while ebony urns holding natural sea grass made a stylish makeshift altar area. The overall effect of the ceremony decor was clean and casually chic, an approach that extended to the wedding attire as well. The groom and his groomsmen looked relaxed but polished in khaki pants and crisp white shirts, with colorful ties and flip-flops rounding out their ensembles. Each bridesmaid accessorized her chocolate-hued dress with a buttercream wrap, and wore her hair in a neat updo similar to the bride's. Kendall's fresh, white gown was a lovely combination of elegant and breezy. "The dress was not formal," she points out. "I don't have a very formal personality, and am all about comfort and what works." When she walked down the lantern-lined aisle on the arm of her father, she was the absolute picture of simple sophistication.

The ceremony itself was both emotional and lighthearted. "I started to cry at some point while saying my vows, and when I looked at Jason, he wiped my tears away," recalls the bride. However, crying gave way to laughter during the ring exchange. "Jason started to put the ring on my finger, and neither of us realized that I gave him the wrong hand," Kendall remembers. "We finally figured it out when the ring wouldn't fit!" Once the ceremony was completed, the celebration changed locations. "We all went into the ballroom for dinner and drinks," Jason explains, "while the main tent was being transformed into a club-like setting." A series of food stations offered guests a variety of choices, including seafood, southern delicacies, Italian favorites, and a selection of carved meats. An ice bar in the center of the room featured shrimp cocktails and sushi, while an elaborate display of fruit boasted grapes, berries, melons, and more.

The tent's transformation for the post-dinner celebration was a sleek extension of the ceremony's minimalist look. Huge vases filled with long-stemmed calla lilies stood beside crisp white lounges and chairs of contemporary design, while white hammocks were positioned throughout the room. "One of my favorite things about the reception," shares Jason, "was that three old boats had been made into coolers that were iced down with tons of beer. No one had to wait in line for a beverage." A live band beckoned guests onto the dance floor, and three smaller tents reflecting varying themes welcomed those who wanted to relax away from the music.

Once the stylized, asymmetrical cake had been cut, favors of sugar cookies shaped like starfish, seashells, and beach umbrellas were set out for guests to enjoy. Later, the crowd was treated to a late-night snack that fortified them for dancing: "Waiters came into the tent with trays of miniature hamburgers, buckets of French fries, and tiny [bottles of] Coke," Jason says. "I think it hit the spot for everyone there."

Aware of how demanding planning a wedding can be, Kendall recommends bringing in reinforcements if needed. "If you know that you are not one to handle a lot of stressful decision making, hire a planner. They will become your best friend, and it is the best possible way to avoid becoming the bride everyone hates!" Jason found that keeping the bride happy and relaxed while still voicing your opinions is the key advice he would pass onto other grooms. "In the end, she will thank you for it," he says. Working together and with their consultant, the couple successfully pulled off the exact type of wedding they wanted -- regardless of the time of year. "Everything from the decor, the food, and the atmosphere was as laid back and comfortable as I could have asked for," concludes the bride. "[And] in the end I believe everyone had a fantastic time."