If you’re planning a beach wedding…congrats! You’ve basically won the wedding venue lottery. Who wouldn’t want to get married next to crashing waves and a stellar view? While a beach wedding provides you with plenty of natural scenery and decor, there’s still so many fun things you can do to accentuate your location.
Whether it’s wedding photo ideas or gorgeous table settings, a beach wedding allows for your imagination to go wild, from colors to cakes!
Below are a few of my recent favorite beach wedding finds. When it comes to beach weddings, I actually tend to gravitate towards accessories and decor that aren’t always nautical. Even though shells and sand will always have their place, don’t be afraid to go outside of the box when it comes to your decor. Items that look out of place (like, say, a vintage country theme) on a beach can sometimes look the coolest!
But before we get into the ideas, let’s talk what you should definitely keep in mind, first. Beach weddings are gorgeous, they can also go wrong–quickly–if you don’t plan ahead!
Find the Perfect Venue for You (and Your Guests)
When searching for a beach wedding venue, you basically have three options:
If you’re looking to get married on a public beach, keep in mind that you will most likely only be able to have your ceremony there, and not an extravagant party. If you want to have a beach reception, you’ll be better off using a private beach or hotel/resort (more on those, below). While most beaches in the U.S. are public, some DO require a permit which can cost money (the general range is $50 to $250+).
While many beaches do NOT require a permit to have a wedding ceremony, almost all of them have rules and regulations that you have to follow. For instance, there’s no permit required to get married on the beach in Santa Monica, but there are several rules. Rules include having less than 150 people, and do not use a tent with side panels. Most public beaches do not allow alcohol, either. No matter which beach you decide on, be sure to check your city government site for permit information as well as other rules and regulations for beach weddings.
REAL WEDDINGS: This beachfront elopement is everything we needed to see right now.
Most beaches in the United States are public, or have public access. In California and Florida, for instance, the law states that public beach access is allowed to the high-water mark when access is otherwise denied. In other states, property lines are drawn on wet sand/dry sand. So while it might be harder to find a “private” beach that is solely yours to use, you might be better off looking for “secluded” public beaches that will allow for more privacy and less noise. Remember that no matter which beach you get married on, there’s a very good chance that you’ll be surrounded by beachgoers, so be sure to visit your potential beach location around the time of day you’d like to get married before making any decisions.
A hotel or resort is your best option for a ceremony and/or a reception that is on or near the sand. What’s great about a hotel is they have everything you need for the set-up, and have done this a gazillion times so they know the ins and outs of the space. If a beach wedding venue does not have their own designated beach space, they will also usually assist you in getting any additional permits you might need.
The other benefit of having your ceremony and reception in the same area (next to the beach ceremony location or inside) is it will be much easier for your guests to get there, and you won’t have to worry about your guests driving to a completely different location. Even better? If you’re having a destination wedding, and guests can walk from the beach back to their room at the end of the night!
When to Have a Beach Wedding
Once you figure out where you want to have your wedding, the next step is figuring out the best date and time. If you’re getting married in a location that has a hurricane risk, try to work around the season. For instance, I got married in Florida in mid-October, and hurricane season runs from June 1-November 30. So while our wedding was still technically in hurricane season, it was towards the end.
Hurricanes aren’t the only weather you should consider. In California, for instance, it’s not always sun and blue skies,. The rainiest months there are January and February (and sometimes March and April), and May and June can be extremely gloomy. September and October can also be extremely hot. The bottom line? Be sure to check the weather for any location you choose, and have a backup plan in case rain is predicted. This is another benefit of having a hotel beach wedding, where they are likely have several “backup” venues to choose from.
WGM Says: Trying to figure out what the weather will be like on your wedding day? This is the best way to predict your wedding weather!
Aside from the weather, you’ll want to consider the time of day you get married. Sunset beach weddings are gorgeous, but you’ll need to schedule it accordingly. If you want to take photos after your ceremony, you should plan to finish an hour before to capture before to capture the magical “golden hour.” This will allow guests time to make their way to the cocktail hour, or another venue if you’re having your reception at a different location.
What to Wear to a Beach Wedding
For Wedding Guests
casual but elegant” is the ideal attire. For men think linen and light-color suits. And for women it’s best to go for dresses that are breathable! Just be careful with silk, as the fabric isn’t as absorbent as cotton, and can show unsightly sweat stains on a humid day.
For the Groom
You can’t go wrong with a linen or cotton suit (white or beige always look fab, as does navy!). You can also do seersucker. For a more casual wedding, you could also do a linen shirt and nice pants. Or the groom can wear a suit and the groomsmen can wear a combo. The groom could also do a great boutonniere on his suit jacket instead of a tie to keep it casual but chic.
For the Bride
It’s best to avoid wedding dresses that are too heavy (like a ballgown). They may look great in photo shoots, but they’re not all that practical. You want something lighter that you can move in! Off-the-shoulder and strapless look beautiful at beach weddings. Just try to avoid any tan lines before your big day! See our favorite collection of beach wedding dresses.
Shoes are another thing to consider. Avoid stiletto heels, and instead choose a block heel to help keep you steady on sand or grass. You can also choose to have a “shoe station,” where you and guests can opt to go shoeless if you’re having a ceremony directly on the sand, or you can provide flip-flops for guests and you could wear dressier sandals.
For bridal hair, an updo is a great way to stay cool while still being wind-friendly. If you want to wear your hair down, consider a hair accessory to keep your locks in place. You’ll also want to avoid long veils, which can be a disaster if it’s windy (and most days on a beach are).
When it comes to makeup, the more natural the better. Pinks, corals, and peaches look beautiful with an ocean background. Just be wary of heavy eye makeup! Hot weather is difficult for even the most waterproof eyeliner.
How to Make Guests Comfortable
Beach weddings, like most outdoor weddings, can be uncomfortable for guests if you don’t take the right precautions. After all, being outside means you are exposed to the elements. Sun, rain, wind, and bugs can make your beach wedding ceremony not so fun for guests if you don’t plan ahead. To make sure your guests are as comfortable as possible, consider having the following items for guests:
- If possible, a shaded or tented area off to the side if guests get overheated
- Water/beverage station
- Insect repellant
- Hand fans (they can double as wedding programs!)
Beach Wedding Decor
There are so many great options for your beach wedding decor. While nautical elements like shells and anchors are always cute, anything “natural” works well. Our go-to beach wedding decorations include:
- Wicker or bamboo chairs
- Woven and rattan accents
- String lights
- Outdoor lanterns with flameless candles (consider outdoor ones, especially if it’s going to be hot out)
- Fruit centerpieces
- Palms and other tropic greenery in lieu of flowers, or used as a table runner, place cards, or chargers.
- Wedding bouquets or centerpieces with orchids, ginger lillies, and/or pink anthurium