Guide to Planning the Perfect Beach Wedding

If you’re like many people, you’ve been dreaming of your wedding since you were young. You’ve imagined the dress, the cake, the flowers and, of course, the person you’ll be marrying. But one of the biggest things you probably imagined was the venue.

Some people dream of getting married in a gorgeous church, while others prefer the glamour of a beautiful mansion or estate. Some want the simplicity of getting married in a field of wildflowers, and others want nothing more than the perfect beach wedding.

There’s no denying the appeal of a beach wedding. It’s a naturally romantic setting, with the sound of the waves nearby and maybe even a stunning beach sunset as a backdrop. But how do you go about making this dream a reality? Sure, plenty of people do it in movies, but it’s probably much more complicated in real life, right?

the beach makes a natural and beautiful backdrop for your wedding

As it turns out, not really. With a little planning and determination, anyone can have the beach wedding of their dreams — and that includes you. To help you get a little closer to your perfect beach wedding, we’ve put together a guide with everything you need to know. We’ll talk about beach wedding attire, flowers, setup, weather, color schemes and everything else you need to know. With beach wedding ideas like these, you’ll be on your way to planning the perfect event in no time.

Why You Should Consider Planning a Beach Wedding

Not yet convinced a beach wedding is the way to go? That’s OK. We’re prepared to convince you. Here are a few of our top reasons to hold a beach wedding.

  • A Spectacular Natural Setting. Don’t feel like spending a ton of money on decorations? You don’t have to. The beach makes a natural and beautiful backdrop for your wedding.
  • A More Informal Feel. Sometimes indoor weddings, particularly those in churches and other more austere venues, can feel very formal. There’s nothing wrong with this, but a beach is a great way to instantly create a more casual atmosphere.
  • Gorgeous Photographs. A beach wedding is every photographer’s dream. Between the stunning backdrop of nature and the perfect natural light, your photos will come out beautifully and make great mementos for years to come.
  • A Day to Remember. Holding your wedding on the beach is one way to set it apart and make it feel memorable. Both you and your guests will truly feel like this was a special day you’ll treasure forever.

your photos come out beautifully

How to Plan a Beach Wedding

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s look at a few more general tips that can act as guiding principles throughout your entire decision-making process.

1. Plan Ahead

You’re not the only one who thinks a beach wedding would be a dream come true. The world is full of plenty of other people who think the same thing. Unfortunately, the reality is that many of you are going to be competing for the same beach wedding venues on the same dates. To avoid missing out on your dream venue on the date you’ve chosen, plan ahead.

to avoid missing out on your dream venue on a date you've chosen plan ahead

A good rule of thumb is that the more popular the venue or destination, the further ahead you’ll need to plan. For example, if you want to get married in a small hometown church, you probably won’t need to plan extremely far in advance. If, however, you have your eye on a pristine beach in the Virgin Islands, you may need to factor in several years of planning and booking in advance.

2. Be Flexible

If you have your heart set on a certain beach, realize it may take a little bit of flexibility to make this happen. Perhaps instead of having your ceremony on a Saturday, you might hold it on a Sunday or a Friday. Or instead of holding the wedding a year from now, could you hold it in two years’ time? If you’re willing to give small concessions like these, you often stand a much better chance of getting that venue you’ve always wanted.

3. Decide What’s Most Important

In the previous tip, we mentioned you might want to be flexible on your wedding date to get the perfect wedding venue. In some cases, however, you might have your heart set on a date, and you’re not willing to budge on it. That’s completely fine. When it comes to planning your wedding, it’s all about deciding what’s most important to you as a couple.

Maybe the date is crucial because your closest family members or friends can only be available on a specific day, or there’s a date that already has significance to you and your partner. In that case, the day may be more important than the venue. Before you get too deep into the planning phase of your wedding, decide together which elements you’re willing to compromise on, and which ones are too important.

decide together which elements you're willing to compromise on

4. Don’t Forget the Permit for a Beach Wedding

You can’t have a beach wedding without a permit to hold your ceremony on the beach. It isn’t difficult to fill out and submit this document, but it’s still something you cannot overlook. Make sure to include this permit on your to-do list as you move forward with your planning.

Beach Wedding Specifics

If you follow all the tips listed above, you’re off to a strong start. But what about the finer details? Let’s take a closer look at some of the more specific pieces of your wedding and how you can adapt them to get the beachside wedding of your dreams.

What to Wear: The Women

Ornate wedding gowns are beautiful, but they aren’t exactly suited for the outdoors. They’re hard to move around in, easy to get dirty and extremely cumbersome. If you’re going to be getting married outside, you’ll need to change up the traditional wedding gown a little bit.

The key word for any beach wedding dress is light. Not only will a lightweight dress be less bulky and easier to move around in, but it also fits the atmosphere of the beach better. A light fabric will flow with the ocean breeze and be less likely to pick up beach debris as you walk down the aisle. As a bonus, it’ll look fantastic in pictures.

not only will a lightweight dress be less bulk and easier to move around in

It’s also a good idea to consider ditching the veil. Yes, it’s part of a bride’s traditional wedding attire, but it just doesn’t work as well on the beach as it does in a church or a ballroom. The wind at the beach will constantly whip the veil around, making it a nuisance for both you and the photographer trying to capture every moment. Instead, try accessorizing your hair with flowers or some other decoration you can firmly secure to your head.

While you’re getting rid of the veil, you also might want to consider wearing your hair in an updo for the same reasons. Especially if you have long hair, the wind is going to be blowing it in your face for the entire event. If an updo isn’t an option, at least consider a half-up, half-down hairstyle as your middle ground. Otherwise, you may get your wedding pictures back, only to find your hair is covering your face in almost every photo.

Lastly, be very careful about your choice of footwear. As you know, walking on the beach isn’t always the easiest task. It will become even more difficult if you try to do it in heels. Instead, you’ll want to choose shoes that won’t sink into the sand. Flat-soled sandals are a good option, as are wedges and espadrilles. This way, you’ll be able to walk down the aisle without once getting a heel stuck in the sand.

All the same principles apply to your bridesmaids. They should also wear light dresses of flowy fabric that won’t weigh them down. When it comes to hairstyles, opt for updos or at least mostly updos. Choose shoes that don’t have heels. With you and all your closest girlfriends dressed to fit the beach setting, you’ll look and feel ready for your big day.

What to Wear: The Men

Just as a long, formal gown looks out of place on the beach, so does a tux. Instead, give the guys an opportunity to dress down a little bit, too. Not only will they be more comfortable, but they’ll also look more natural next to the ladies’ more casual looks.

consider ditching jackets for the guys altogether

Consider ditching jackets for the guys altogether, instead opting for shirts with the sleeves rolled up to match the beach setting. Choose light cotton pants or even Bermuda shorts if you’re feeling a bit daring.

Tips for the Ceremony

Let’s move on to some tips about the ceremony itself to help you continue your planning journey.

1. Keep Things Natural

On the beach, you’ve got one of the most beautiful natural settings in the world to work with. When it comes to decorating, Mother Nature has already done most of the work for you. There’s no need to dress things up too much.

Instead of trying to make your setup fancier, choose decorations that help enhance the natural beauty of the setting, instead of masking it. Decorate with seashells and starfish if you like, or forego more traditional decorations altogether. Avoid creating enormous flower displays, and try to stick to a natural look as much as possible.

2. Consider Your Color Scheme

When it comes to a beach theme, you have two different color scheme options. For your first option, you can choose to draw inspiration from the natural color scheme of the beach — incorporating colors like blues, whites and tans.

Alternatively, you can choose to contrast these more neutral shades by adding pops of color like greens, corals or other bright colors you enjoy. These colors will stand out magnificently against the relatively flat color palette of the beach itself.

3. Think About Privacy

A beach wedding suddenly becomes far less romantic the moment you add unwelcome spectators. Keep this in mind as you search for your perfect destinations. Some beaches are private, while others are public, but this information should be readily available to you through a quick Google search or phone call.

keep privacy in mind as you search for your perfect destinations

When it comes to trying to secure a private portion of a beach to get married on, your best bet may be to consider renting a beachfront estate for the day, or at least for a few hours. Doing so will ensure you not only have plenty of indoor space to get dressed and ready, but also the privacy you need in your section of the beach.

4. Tell Your Guests to Prepare

It’s up to you to make sure your guests know you’re holding your wedding directly on the beach. Whether you choose to tell them on the invitations, save-the-date cards or even your wedding website, it doesn’t matter as long as you let them know somehow.

Once you’ve given your guests this heads-up, they’ll be able to make better decisions about what to wear. It will also warn them to apply a layer of sunscreen if the day is sunny, and maybe even bring a fan to help chase away the heat.

5. Get the Timing Just Right

When you are having an outdoor ceremony, it’s important to pay attention to the timing. You’ll want to say your vows while it’s light outside, and you’ll undoubtedly want to take plenty of pictures in the bright, natural beach sunlight. But you should also to make good use of the gorgeous beach sunset. One idea is to hold the ceremony early in the day, and then dance and party while the sun goes down. Or, you might hold the ceremony at sunset. Whatever option you choose, think carefully about the timing so you can get it just perfect.

6. Don’t Forget the Shade

If your guests are going to be sitting out in the sun for a significant amount of time, be considerate and give them a little shade. If you are holding the ceremony during the heat of the day, set up a canopy to cover the seating area. Keep it natural-looking and consistent with the beach theme by using bamboo poles and a soft, billowy fabric.

if your guests are going to be sitting out in the sun for a significant amount of time, go into the shade

7. Make a Shoe Station

There’s nothing worse than getting sand stuck in your shoe and not having the opportunity to shake it out. However, you can avoid this problem altogether by providing a few baskets just outside the seating area where guests can exchange their more formal shoes for a pair of beach-friendly flip-flops or other sandals. This way, everyone makes it through the ceremony in comfort.

8. Speak Loudly

It’s one of those details you might not think of until you’re already there and it’s too late to do anything about it, but the beach is loud. Between the wind, the waves and the seagulls, it can be hard to hear someone who isn’t standing right next to you. Try renting a wireless microphone to help your voice carry. At the very least, be prepared to speak loudly and project your voice so all your guests can hear you.

9. Be Ready With a Backup Plan

No matter how much you try to keep an eye on the weather, things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to. Storms blow up on days that were supposed to be bright and sunny, and there’s nothing you can do about it. While nobody wants this to happen on their wedding day, it always remains a possibility.

To prevent your wedding from being ruined by the weather, always be ready with a backup plan. Have an alternate indoor setting you can use if it’s too rainy or windy. You may not be able to exchange vows on the beach, but it’s better than you and your guests getting drenched in a deluge.

Tips for the Reception

The ceremony is finished, and it’s time to move onto the reception. Just because you’re hosting it on the beach, that doesn’t mean you still can’t have all the elements of the perfect reception. You may, however, need to make a few slight tweaks to fit the beach setting. Follow these tips, and your reception will be a night for everyone to remember.

1. Keep Things Grounded

Remember when we said the beach could get a little windy? That’s an important thing to remember when it comes to setting up your reception. Chairs and tables need to be heavy enough to not blow away in the wind. Table centerpieces also need to be either weighted or anchored to the tables. Secure any flowers or other decorations firmly, or else they might start blowing away.

chairs and tables need to be heavy enough to not blow away

2. Plan Your Décor

While we still advocate for simplicity and letting the natural beauty of the beach speak for itself, it’s alright to add a few more decorations than you did for the ceremony. Carry the same theme you had for the ceremony through to the reception, whether that’s seashells and stars or just plain, bold colors. Feel free to add things like table centerpieces and decorations, too — just remember tip No. 1 and make sure you have either weighted or tied down everything that might blow away.

3. Provide a Bathroom

At traditional indoor venues, availability of restroom facilities isn’t usually something you need to think about. But when you’re out on the beach, it’s important to realize people are going to need to visit the bathroom.

This is an easy fix if you’re renting a beachside estate, or even smaller houses. People can just walk up the beach and go inside to use the bathroom. If you aren’t renting, however, you’ll need to furnish the reception with some variety of portable bathroom.

4. Think About the Music

Make sure you check with the local regulations if you’re holding your wedding on a public beach. Some beaches may not allow you to play music too loudly, and some may not allow music at all. Whatever these regulations may be, make sure to check them out early on in your planning so you can arrange your reception accordingly.

5. Check for a Curfew

If you’re using a private beach, a cutoff time probably won’t be an issue. But if you’re getting married on a public beach, be aware many beaches have rules stating no one can be on the beach after a certain hour. Research these rules, and decide how best to structure your reception in light of them.

if you're married on a public beach be aware many beaches have rules

6. Is Alcohol Allowed?

While not every wedding reception includes alcohol, many do. However, there are plenty of public beaches that restrict alcohol consumption on the beach. Before you commit to any particular beach, be sure to check for these types of rules.

Plan Your Wedding in Ocean City, New Jersey

Is your heart set on a beautiful beach wedding? If so, there’s no better place than the scenic beaches in Ocean City, N.J. Learn more about planning a wedding with us today. By booking your wedding on one of our beaches and putting these thoughtful tips into practice, you’re one step closer to your dream of a perfect beach wedding.

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