Beach weddings are my favorite. There’s nothing more enjoyable and romantic than an evening dancing with friends and family under the stars with the moonlit ocean just steps away. But pleasantries aside, planning a wedding on the beach is tough. There’s a lot more to consider than a traditional wedding and more chances for things to wrong.
To help guarantee that your seaside wedding goes off without a hitch, I asked experts in the industry who specialize in planning weddings on the beach to offer up their most useful tips.
Here’s what I learned:
#1: Apply for a Permit
“Make sure you apply for a permit at least 6 months in advance (if possible),” suggests Michelle Isabel, a wedding planner from Southern California. “This is especially true during the busier months when the temperatures are ideal for an outdoor wedding.”
Most local governments will want to know information like: whether alcohol will be served, the number of attendants, the duration of the festivities, and if loud music will be played.
Remember that timing is key. If you don’t get the permit taken care of well in advance, you’ll spend the whole week before your wedding stressing over whether or not you’ll even be able to have one.
Isabel has experienced this before, “I’ve done last minute beach elopements with two months notice and were down to the wire with our permit request.” Fortunately, the couple received the permit just in the nick time and the wedding went according to plan. Still, not every couple will get this lucky; relying on your municipality or town office to process a permit in a short period of time is just asking for trouble.
Make sure your planner has insurance for general liability. Depending on where you live, it may be required to have your permit approved.
#2: Beware of the Environment
Michelle also suggests that if you’re planning to go all out with the beach decorations, you’ll probably want to hire a professional. “Hire the pros if you’re having arches, lighting, gift table, sign in table, chairs or floral installations. Winds at the beach are absolutely unforgiving and you never know if they’ll be calm or strong.” A professional wedding decorator will know how to safely secure your decorations and prevent them from harming your guests and the environment. It might cost a bit extra, but the last thing you want is your arch to collapse over you during your vows!
#3: Bring Beach Toys!
At her wedding in the Adirondacks (who knew you could have a beach wedding in the mountains?) Cathy Ballone, Founder of Cathy’s Elegant Events, knew that children would be a major factor. “Our wedding had a particularly large number of small children attending which was a concern because the bride didn’t want a lot of distractions created by them during the ceremony. So keeping this in mind, we had an area set up for them close to the ceremony but still removed with sand toys and castle building supplies.” It was a win-win for everyone – the children had fun playing in the sand and the ceremony was held without any distractions.
#4: Keep Your Guests Comfortable
“Put yourself in your guests shoes, literally, and think of ways to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for them,” says Michelle. “In your invitations mention that they may not want to wear heels in the sand, so advise them to go barefoot or wear stylish sandals.”
Don’t forget that the temperature will also be a factor in your guests’ comfort. “If it’s right in middle of summer, umbrellas go a long way even if just for 20 minutes. And remember, summer nights can get pretty chilly so heaters are a must if you plan to stay into the night at the beach.”
#5: Keep it natural
Suzzette Patten, owner of Exquisite Occasions, warns that overdecorating a beach wedding can really take away from the raw beauty of the natural setting. “An amazing backdrop doesn’t have to be too dressed up,” especially since the horizon should be the focus of your backdrop. Take the inspiration from the color of the sand, stones and water and accent it with your bouquet and stunning dress.” Choosing decorative elements that are not commonly found on a beach and are over-the-top cheapens the event and wastes the natural charm of the ocean.
#6. Inexpensive Decorations: Bamboo, Seashells, Driftwood
One of the great things about having weddings at the beach is that it’s easy to find inspirations for cool and unique decorations. Three of the most versatile (and most inexpensive!) materials to use for a beach wedding are bamboo, seashells, and driftwood.
By using natural materials found on a beach, you’ll spice up your wedding with a more tropical vibe and immerse your guests in the full seaside experience. Bamboo can be used to craft a beautiful archway or as tiki torches to help light up the evening reception. Seashells have an endless amount of uses at a wedding, but the best idea I’ve seen is to use different types of seashells in place of table numbers.
If you want to add a rustic feel to your wedding, then driftwood is the perfect decoration. It can be used as signage, aisle runners, and even table centerpieces! If you’re looking for more suggestions, GulfBeachWeddings.com provides way more ideas on how to incorporate seashells, bamboo, and driftwood into your wedding.
#7: Keep Your Dress Light and Avoid the Train
When it comes to choosing a dress, beach weddings require brides to be a bit more strategic. Wearing the wrong dress under the beating sun can make you feel real uncomfortable fast – you’ll begin to sweat, your makeup will run, and you’ll end up forgetting your vows!
The length of the dress and train also require more attention for beach weddings. During a traditional wedding, most brides prefer a longer dress and train because of how elegant it looks cascading down the aisle, but on the beach it looks anything but. Instead, the bride ends up dragging what looks like a sandy rag down the walkway! So for a beach wedding, skip the train and choose a shorter, more casual dress that will look graceful in the sea breeze. But beware! Isabel Smith, founder or Isabel Smith Wedding Design, points out that not all short dresses are great for weddings on the beach. “High-low hemlines are all the rage at the moment but can look incomplete with bare feet.”
Still not sure what kind of ceremony you want to have? Get some inspiration from these 7 International Wedding Traditions.