Seaside Ceremonies

12 tips for planning the perfect beach wedding

The beach wedding is romantic and picturesque. The South Shore is home to countless beautiful beaches just waiting to host your special day. Imagine your invitations arriving like messages in a bottle. Picture your toes in the sand as the sun sets over the ocean while saying, “I do.” It’s exciting; it’s fun; it’s different; it’s most definitely romantic; but can you pull it off? Yes you can, if you have a plan. Here are 12 tips on planning the perfect beach wedding.

This article by Julie Brewster originally appeared in the Fall 2011 Bridal magazine from Gatehouse Media.

1. Choose Your Beach.
It can be near a resort, hotel or beach club. Make sure you visit the beach first so you know it’s exactly what you want. Some beaches are privately owned, some crowded, some secluded. Make your decision based on the style of wedding you envision. Enlisting the help of a wedding planner can make things much easier on you from choosing your venue to keeping curious onlookers clear of your wedding ceremony. Do some research and hire a reputable local wedding planner who is familiar with planning a beach wedding.

2. Prepare for All Weather.
Since the beach is an open venue, you need to plan for hot sun, wind and rain. You can either rent a tent to be put up on the beach to accommodate all your guests; or reserve an indoor venue close by as a back-up. When setting up pay attention to the way the wind is blowing. No one wants all of their ceremony pictures to be covered up with blowing hair. A good wedding planner will have this in mind and prepare the focus point of your ceremony accordingly.

3. Save the Date.
Choose a time and date for your wedding. Become familiar with the tide: how high it gets, and when. You can obtain that information very easily with a local tide chart (usually available online). Pay attention to the sunrise and sunset on the beach you’ve chosen. You do not want your guests sweating under the hot sun while you say, “I do.” Sunset weddings are your best bet.

4. Seating.
If your wedding is small and intimate, seating is not a necessity. Picture your loved ones standing in an intimate semi-circle in the sand around you during your vows. However, if it’s a bash you’re preparing for with many guests or if you have elderly attendees, seating is a must especially if the ceremony is expected to be lengthy. Seating on the beach can be challenging due to sinking chairs, but by renting flooring such as parquet or carpet you can stay within budget and keep your guests comfortable. Consider bringing in a trellis and decorate with flowers or strands of seashells to stand under while saying, “I do.” This completes the beach look and helps create the focus point for your ceremony.

5. Easy Extras.
Keep your guests cool! Have cold water on site to help everyone stay refreshed and hydrated. A galvanized bucket of bottled water is easy and manageable. Have small paper fans for your guests and let them double as favors! Just add a coordinated color ribbon and display in a basket. If you have a larger budget, then splurge on battery operated fans or misting fans. A basket of sunscreen and bug spray is also a good way to ensure everyone is comfortable.

6. Send Your Invitations.
It’s time to invite your guests via message in a bottle. This will pull together your beach theme and bottles can go directly through the mail without a box (plastic, not glass). With four inserts of paper rolled up inside (invitation, response card with envelope, and directions) add some sand and seashells and the cost is only about $1.00 each! Your guests will truly enjoy receiving these creative invites in their mailbox. How cool is that?

7. Venue.
Will it be a casual clambake on the beach or the will the party move indoors to dine and dance? If you are planning on going inside, pick a hotel or private club on the beachfront and reserve the date and time for your special day. Make sure you book it at least one year in advance. Beautiful locations are sure to fill up fast. Arrange for dancing and dining after the wedding ceremony.

8. Guest Lodging.
Finalize your guest list and know how many people you will be inviting. Arrange some room blocks for your guests at hotels within walking distance to the beach and or the reception.

9. Music and Sound.
If you are exchanging your vows on the beach, using a sound system to enhance the volume of your ceremony is recommended to overcome the chance of whistling wind (positioning will help to avoid enhancing the wind). Guests want to be part of the ceremony and hear the exchange of your vows. There’s nothing worse than sitting in the hot sun not being able to hear what’s being said. When it comes to music, do your research. Some beaches do not allow anything that is plugged in (i.e. DJ’s) so consider a live musician or band for your ceremony.

10. Personal Comfort.
Your guests certainly shouldn’t have to hold it! If your beach location doesn’t have restrooms, you should consider renting facilities. Don’t worry; they don’t have to look like they came from a construction site. Many companies offer beautiful wedding style portable restrooms, complete with sinks and mirrors.

11. Bridal Fashion.
Breezy and beautiful, graceful and classy; this is the essence of the beach bride. The bridal gown should be comfortable and reflect a beach wedding. Barefoot or flats are a must, how graceful can you look walking in high heels while sinking in the soft sand? A carefree hairstyle that can handle possible wind is also in order.

12. The Paperwork.

You may need a permit if you are having the wedding at a public beach. Check with Town Hall to find out if there are any public rules or regulations to be observed. Make it official! Get your marriage license. Remember to have it handy to give to the officiant. The qualifications to acquire a marriage license may vary by state. Check with your wedding planner to help you out.