Your Guide to Planning a Beach Wedding

Discover advice for holding your ceremony or reception by the ocean.

Nothing says summer like a trip to the beach, so it makes sense that many couples want to have their summer weddings on the shore.

Photo: John Cain Photography

Nothing says summer like a trip to the beach, so it makes sense that many couples want to have their summer weddings on the shore. Strolling through the sand to your future spouse certainly has a dreamy, romantic feel.

It’s easy to understand why so many people fantasize about beach weddings before they are even engaged. Nuptials by the ocean seem to especially appeal to those hosting an intimate celebration, but with careful planning, large events can be held on the sand as well. Whether you have two guests or 200, there are a lot of details that need to be accounted for when planning a beach wedding.

tips for having a beach wedding, how to host a beach wedding
Photo by Yvette Roman Photography; Floral Design by The Hidden Garden

Read below for our suggestions of what you should keep in mind if you want to say “I do” with waves crashing nearby:

- Public or private? Private beaches are difficult to book unless you're having a very intimate wedding. Public beaches allow for more guests, but require a permit and usually can't guarantee a way to keep out curious onlookers.
- For the reception. If you hold the reception on the sand, you'll need to rent tents and may need permits for serving food and drinks. Most beaches don't allow alcohol for regular beachgoers, but you can always check to see if there are exceptions for events.
- Always research. The key is to research your local beaches and find out their requirements regarding the amount of guests allowed, privacy, alcohol, bonfire rules, etc.
- Engagement length. Because of the difficulty with finding a location and all the permits and ordinances to keep in mind, longer engagements are often better for beach weddings.
- Sound issues. You should have microphones for the ceremony, as it will likely be hard to hear the proceedings over the sounds of the ocean and wind.
- Experience counts. Find a planner who has done beach weddings before, so they will be familiar with the necessary permits, ordinances, and other issues that may come up. The same goes for a photographer – lighting can be tricky by the water.
- Consider properties. Beach resorts are a great option since they deal with weddings regularly and often have some wonderful all-inclusive packages.
- Time of day. Have a daytime ceremony; at night the ocean is hard to see, especially in photos. Even sunset is risky, as once the sun sets, it sets fast. If you’re expecting hot weather, morning nuptials will help everyone stay cool.
- Accessory choices. Cathedral veils, no veil, a headpiece, or pretty flowers in your hair are better in the wind. Longer veils flow beautifully, while shorter styles can wind up in your face. Although beachy waves may seem like a natural choice for your wedding hair, an updo will keep hair out of the way.
- The right dress. A sheath dress in a lighter fabric will feel better on the sand, and grooms might be better off without a suit jacket.
- How to walk. If you don't want to go barefoot or wear sandals, consider a hidden wooden walkway for your aisle so you can more easily walk in your heels.
- Accommodate guests. Look into accessibility for your guests. Many beaches – especially those that may be more private – are only reached by steep staircases. Help guests beat the heat by supplying sunscreen, fans, and even sunglasses.
- Have a plan B. As with all outdoor weddings, have a back-up plan in case of weather.

For more inspiration, view some of our favorite beach wedding invitations, take a look at these real weddings that took place on the beach or at a location with a view of the ocean, and read expert tips for having a flawless outdoor wedding