Summer is the best time for an outdoor wedding, and the natural beauty of the beach allows the bride and groom to create an event that reflects their personalities. Beach weddings may range from casual to elegant, but they are always very romantic — especially when the beautiful setting is complemented with natural textures and colorful floral accents. The following décor concepts are perfect for a beach wedding, and most will translate perfectly to other outdoor wedding venues as well.
Incorporating elements that look as if Mother Nature left them there is key for a beach wedding. An arch or chuppah made of bamboo or aged wood can be dressed in flowing chiffon for a romantic touch. Adorning your structure with an array of colorful orchids such as cymbidiums, makaras, phaleonopsis, dendrobiums or vandas will give your ceremonial space an elegant yet tropical feel.
First, consider if you’ll be walking down the aisle barefoot or in heels, as this decision will determine the right surface for your aisle runner. If you’re a barefoot bride, a simple sprinkling of white dendrobium-orchid blossoms along the sand will delicately define the sides of the aisle. If you plan to wear shoes, place wooden boards down the aisle and have them professionally covered with mats of bear grass. The wood will create stability and still stay in keeping with the natural surroundings.
Placing floral clusters on the sides of the aisle chairs with each trailing a touch of flowing chiffon will complement the romantic, wind-blown look of the ceremony arch. A sunset ceremony is ideal for candlelight, but remember that it can be breezy by the sea, so candles need to be shielded. Grouping hurricane lamps surrounded by orchid blooms or set in puddles of rose petals next to aisle chairs is a pretty, wind-proof way to incorporate candles. For daytime, cymbidium, makara, or dendrobium orchid stalks submerged in tall glass cylinders of water will line the sides of your aisle beautifully and be very sturdy in the sand.
Aisle entrances that utilize natural elements and floral petals will excite guests visually as well as create a nice backdrop for photos of you approaching the aisle. Seashells and river rocks are perfect for anchoring programs to a table or chairs (remember that breeze?), and don’t forget touches such as baskets filled with flip flops for guests who aren’t prepared for sand, or stacks of pashmina blankets in case the weather is cool.
A unique twist on traditional seating cards — and a great keepsake for guests — is to opt for large sand dollars with guests’ names calligraphed on them. Placing them in a wooden box filled with sand and set beside a lush floral display of cymbidium or phaleonopsis orchid blooms is a stunning presentation and a great way to dress up the seating-card table.
Bringing elements from the beach to the table is a beautiful way to decorate. Bamboo-and-chiffon canopies set over each settee allow you to hang candles and shells from the frames for a perfect complement to starry surroundings. Napkins wrapped in pieces of lily grass and knotted with seashells look lovely topped by single orchid blossoms, and cylinders filled with sand and pillar candles will complement any floral arrangement. A color palette of flowers in sunset tones such as tangerine, sunshine yellow, and citrine green is bright and vibrant; for a softer look, choose subtle shades of soft blue hydrangea, blush Sahara roses, and creamy white tulips.
You can also bring the indoors outside. Tenting the reception will protect your guests from the seaside evening chill, and can also take the event to another, more elegant level. This is a nice option if there are differing opinions on location — a beach ceremony followed by a tented reception may be the ideal compromise. A tented reception space is also a blank palette when it comes to décor. Drape the walls and ceiling with chiffon, cover the floor with carpet, and hang chandeliers dotted with orchids from the tent beams, and voilà — you have a ballroom on the beach! The sound of waves crashing in the background is an added bonus to an elegant evening by the sea.
Opening photograph by John Solano