You’ve decided on a beautiful beach wedding because it’s the perfect setting to celebrate your love. Crashing waves, warm sand and scenic views will all complement your ceremony, but you also want everything to go smoothly. However, before you set a date, there are some things you need to consider when planning a beach wedding.
Plenty of factors go into a wedding, and when you get married on the beach, you have even more to consider. To create the perfect beach wedding checklist, consider these tips:
Depending on where you’re getting married, you may need a permit for a beach wedding — this may depend on the size of your wedding, how long your ceremony will be and if you need to reserve a section of the beach. Don’t set a date until you know what forms and permits you need to have in order for a marriage ceremony by the sea.
Remember that you’ll also need the appropriate marriage license. Each state has different rules about where the permit can be issued, whether it’s in-state or in the same city where your wedding will take place. For beach weddings in Ocean City, New Jersey, the rules for licenses are:
New Jersey residents can have a marriage license from where they live.
Out of state residents must apply for a license in Ocean City.
The application is good for six months.
The license itself is good for 30 days.
Don’t forget to make an appointment if you’re coming from out of state to get your marriage license in Ocean City, so everything goes according to plan. Be sure to research the beach location at which you’d like to have your wedding to learn about its specific rules for event permits and marriage licenses. As you research, check for information like:
How much the permit costs.
If there are other fees.
If the permit has a flat rate or per-hour fee.
How early before the wedding you need to apply for the permit.
How much space the permit reserves for your wedding.
If you need liability insurance or other insurances.
How many people and vendors the permit allows.
If there are any restrictions for photography.
2. Prepare for Any Weather
Anytime you plan for an outdoor wedding, whether it’s on the sandy shores of a beach or among the lush greenery of the country, the weather is a factor. If you’re concerned that a beach wedding may come with unpredictable weather conditions, prepare beforehand and learn what you may have to face. The main three weather conditions you have to be concerned about with a beach wedding ceremony are:
Heat: Beach weddings are almost always during the summer when temperatures are at their highest. Make sure guests know to dress appropriately with short sleeves and minimal layers. The bride, groom and bridal party should wear loose, flowing and lightweight fabrics to help beat the heat. Offer handheld fans for guests to help keep them cool, and have cold water available, so everyone stays hydrated. If you do offer water, make sure it’s in the appropriate type of container for the beach, as some don’t allow glass.
Sun: With the heat often comes sunshine. Try to plan your wedding at a good time of day when the sun won’t shine in everyone’s eyes, or set up the ceremony to avoid bright sunshine. For East Coast weddings, remember the sun rises over the ocean, and on the West Coast, the sun sets over the ocean. Beach weddings in Ocean City should either have a ceremony after midday or orient the ceremony setup to make sure the sun won’t shine in anyone’s eyes. See if you can set up a tent or canopy on the beach for shade and encourage guests to bring sunglasses or offer ones as functional favors.
Wind: Ocean breezes can easily pick up into gusts of wind. Avoid lightweight decorations and tie or weigh anything down that could be at risk, like ceremony programs. If you have a tent, umbrella or canopy, make sure it’s secured well into the ground, so it doesn’t blow away. Anyone wearing shorter dresses, especially in the bridal party, should go with skirts that have heavier fabrics that won’t blow up in the wind. You can also give the bridesmaids dress weights to help keep their lightweight skirts held down in the breeze.
If you have to plan your wedding months, or even a year, in advance, you can’t know for sure what the weather will be like. Have a backup plan in mind in case of rain or severe wind. Since most beaches only allow for a ceremony, you’ll likely have a venue set for your reception. Speak with the venue about the possibility of using it as an emergency ceremony location in case of unfavorable weather.
3. Determine What You’re Going to Wear
Anyone who is attending or will be in a beach wedding should focus on being comfortable yet stylish. Suggest that people wear light colors to reduce how much heat their outfit absorbs from the sun. You should also avoid textured fabrics and materials, like lace, that could pick up and hold onto the sand.
Since this is the married couple’s big day, you want them to feel as comfortable as possible with the right outfit for a beach wedding. For the bride:
Avoid heels: High heels will sink into the sand on a beach and make it difficult to walk. Instead, opt for sandals or wedges if you absolutely need some height. Some couples even go barefoot for a beach wedding for a relaxed, boho look.
Choose a shorter dress: Long dresses with full skirts and flowing trains are great for indoor ceremonies, but on a beach, you’ll end up with sand on your dress. Instead, choose a style that’s ankle or knee-length to avoid having your hemline drag in the sand. Just make sure the skirt isn’t too short or lightweight that the wind can catch it.
Ditch the veil: While the veil is a traditional part of the bride’s wedding outfit, it could easily get caught in the wind and cause havoc during the ceremony. Try hair accessories like a tiara, flowers or decorative clips instead, and make sure they’re secure.
With those beach wedding outfit tips for the bride in mind, consider these for the groom:
Wear lightweight fabric: Don’t choose heavy fabrics that lock in your body heat — instead, opt for linen, which is lightweight and breathable, or cotton, which is structured yet airy. Use these fabrics for your pants, shirt and other layers.
Consider ditching the suit jacket: An extra layer with long sleeves isn’t going to keep you cool for a beach wedding. Instead, wear a vest or suspenders for a formal touch. Leave the tie behind if you plan on unbuttoning the top button of your dress shirt for a relaxed look.
Choose a light color suit: Remember that light colors are best to beat the heat and the sunshine. White, tan, gray and light blue are popular for beach weddings. Not only will you stay cool, but you’ll fit in with a summery, beachy theme.
Make sure anyone in the wedding wearing short sleeves or sleeveless outfits avoids tan lines leading up to the wedding. Wear plenty of sunblock and try to wear similar necklines and sleeve or strap styles to reduce obvious tan lines.
Also, ensure that anyone with long hair has it styled and secured, so it doesn’t blow around during the ceremony. Brides with long hair can go with updos or half-up-half-down hairstyles, and grooms can use gel or other styling products to keep their hair in place. Have bobby pins and hairspray on hand for any last-minute touch-ups before walking down the aisle.
4. Plan a Beach Wedding With Privacy
Your wedding is a special day where friends and family join you and your significant other in a celebration of your love. Whether your ceremony is big or small, you don’t want others who aren’t invited to your wedding to intrude. To protect your privacy during a beach wedding, consider these tips:
Choose a private property: This option will be more expensive and difficult to plan than a public beach, but it is an option. Many owners of private beach property may be wary about hosting events, so begin your search early. A private property beach wedding is better for a smaller wedding, so those with plenty of family and friends coming to celebrate should consider a public beach option.
Rope off the area: Make sure you’re allowed to section off the ceremony area according to your permit or beach rules. Roping off your ceremony will let beach visitors know to stay away from the area.
Post signs: Let beach visitors know you have a ceremony going on, and they may be more likely to respect your privacy and control their noise levels. Thank them for cooperating with your signs and guide guests to the ceremony. Stake these signs properly to prevent them from falling or blowing away with the wind.
Pick a date outside of busy times: Certain times of year are more popular for beach visitors, such as summer holidays. Make sure there are no events in the area or upcoming holidays when you pick a wedding date, as that could also draw visitors to the beach. You could also choose a shoulder season, which happens between peak and off-peak times, because there may be better weather and fewer crowds.
It isn’t really possible to get an entirely private beach ceremony unless you rent private property. Even then, you may have passersby on adjacent sections of the beach or along the nearby Boardwalk. Trust that beach visitors will be respectful of your ceremony space, so you can have the beach wedding of your dreams.
5. Make Your Guests Comfortable at Your Beach Wedding
Along with the weather, privacy and permits, you have other elements to be aware of and combat to make your guests comfortable. Help your guests prepare for a beach wedding with the following tips:
Consider any accessibility issues for your guests and how to accommodate them.
Emphasize in your save the dates and invitations that you’re having a beach wedding, so guests can prepare.
Let guests know you have a backup plan for a ceremony venue, so they’ll know the location.
Give them suggestions for parking and transportation.
Give them a favor bag of sunblock, bug spray, a handheld fan, sunglasses, water and other useful items before the ceremony.
Have a shoe changing station where guests can put on sandals or take off their shoes before the ceremony.
Have baby powder at the shoe changing station that guests can use to get sand off their feet.
Keep the above tips in mind to make your guests as comfortable as possible. While the bride, groom and bridal party are important members of the wedding to consider, the guests are just as important, so don’t forget about them either!
Other Things to Consider When Planning a Beach Wedding
You’ve got several items on your beach wedding planning checklist already, but a few more considerations will help you create the perfect celebration. Take these final points into consideration as you get ready for your big day:
See if the beach you choose allows for a reception or only a ceremony.
If you have a reception on the beach, check for rules or laws against alcohol.
Find out how early you can arrive to set up the ceremony.
Check if there are any rules for what you can and can’t have in a setup.
If you want to have a bonfire or something else that’s potentially dangerous, see if there are rules against it or necessary permits.
Consider if you’ll have noise amplification for the ceremony and if that’s allowed or if there are noise restrictions.
If you plan on having an audio setup, see if you can have a power source or need to use battery-powered devices.
Plan your wedding at the right time and in the right spot to avoid any issues with the tides.
Know how much you can decorate — if aisle and chair decorations, an arch for the altar and other decor items are allowed.
Make sure you don’t forget about anything on your wedding checklist, so you get everything you need for the best celebration.
Plan a Beach Wedding in Ocean City, New Jersey
Now that you know all these things to consider for planning a beach wedding, you can move forward with confidence, knowing that your special day will be perfect. And what better place to plan a beach wedding than Ocean City, New Jersey? Natural beauty and romance combine with a relaxed atmosphere that also makes a stunning backdrop for sophisticated celebrations.