How do you do a small beach wedding?
Are you having your wedding on the beach? For shore-loving couples, there’s nothing more romantic than the sounds of the surf, the sand between your toes and the sultry, salt-tinged air as you say your vows. And if you want to invite the whole gang, think about a fun-filled wedding weekend and reunion at an activity-rich resort, beach or lakeside town. Whatever you decide, beach weddings are often memorable, unique and offer a plethora of options. But to make sure everything goes off without a hitch, here’s what you need to know.
Beach weddings are alluring for more reasons than one; and being out in the open, in a romantic oceanfront setting while the wind and waves sing their praises over your union, is one of those. They are far from the typical traditional wedding, which is often hosted within a church, or another elaborate indoor setting. That is not to say there aren’t other outdoor wedding types that aren’t appealing, as the garden wedding for example, but beach weddings are definitely in a category of their own.
Unless you’re getting married at an oceanfront venue or privately-owned beach, there are a bunch of logistics you have to consider before plunking down your chuppah on public sand!
Where Is the Cheapest Place to Have a Destination Wedding?
Cheapest is a relative term, especially when it comes to wedding locations. What’s considered cheap for a beach wedding venue might not be the same as an affordable backyard wedding.
The key is to pick and choose which part of your wedding will get a bigger investment. Maybe you keep your guest list slim or opt for an hors d’ oeuvres heavy reception instead of a sit-down meal. Whatever you choose, know that there are lots of ways to make your wedding gorgeous no matter what budget you’re rocking.
In general, though, you can count on certain types of locations to be more affordable (backyards, parks, and yes, even beaches) and cities (smaller oceanside towns and cities located on lake beaches versus ocean beaches).
Are Destination Weddings Cheaper?
Like any wedding type, it’s all about how you plan it. If your wedding party is intimate, destination weddings can be a very affordable alternative to hometown ones, depending on where you live. When you begin your search, have your total guest count in mind and look for package deals (some places offer wedding ceremonies combined with discounted lodging and catering for groups).
One of the budget areas where destination weddings will save you some money is the decor because the location itself becomes your backdrop. This is especially true for beach weddings where all you need are some chairs and an archway or podium for the ceremony.
And, given the laidback feeling of a beachside wedding, the rest of your wedding choices (like food, attire, and reception activities) will lean more toward the casual side of things, saving you the cost of the more formal and overpriced options.
As an added bonus, your destination wedding location can also serve as your honeymoon location. So you’ll save on the extra travel and grab some longer-term hotel or vacation package discounts while you’re at it.
Is It Free to Have a Wedding on the Beach?
Unlike traditional wedding venues, the best part about a beach wedding is that you all you need to host it there is a permit. These permits can cost as little as $20 or as much as $500, depending on the beach itself, the time of year, and affluence of the surrounding area.
So while it’s not free, it’s certainly one of the most affordable places to get hitched. Then, after the ceremony is over, you can move your party to a reception venue on the water.
How Much Does It Cost to Have a Wedding on the Beach?
Here’s what you have to pay for when you host a wedding on the beach.
- Beach wedding permit: $20-$500+
- Marriage license: Anywhere from $10-$200 depending on the location
- Chair rental for 50 guests: About $500 for rental and delivery
- DIY or rental wedding arch: Anywhere from $50-$300 depending on the material and craftsmanship required
- Flowers: Fresh flowers cost an average of $700 for weddings in Australia
Your beach wedding ceremony could cost as little as $1,280. You’ll also have to pay your officiant, wedding attire, and possibly add some extra decor items to the chairs or aisle.
Important things to consider while planning a beach wedding
There are a few things you’ll need to find out before walking down the aisle at your beach wedding. If you’re travelling for a destination wedding and staying at an all-inclusive resort you can ask your wedding planning team most of these questions ahead of time. They will help you get all the details in place ahead of your big day.
Below are some of the things you need to keep in mind when planning a beach wedding:
Location, Location, Location
Choose a location based on your wedding style and nonnegotiable guest list (if that’s important to you). If you live near a beach, you might already have a favourite spot in mind. A few types of beach locations:
- Resort: A restaurant, hotel or club located right on the beach can give you the water views you crave and a reception venue complete with the full staff to help you pull it all off. This option might be pricier than pulling it off yourself, but vastly less stressful.
- Public beach: A beach where anyone can swim, sunbathe or yes, get married. Start early when planning this type of affair—you may be able to reserve a section of the beach for your wedding. Look into the permit requirements of the state or town. For example, some public beaches’ parks commissions may require you to detail explicitly all pieces of equipment you’ll be bringing to the site, as well as all food and beverages to be served there. Remember you’ll also need to have a plan in place for clean-up.
- Private beach: If you—or a generous friend or family member—has a home on a private beach, you’re in luck. This option offers seclusion and possibly fewer regulations. You may also have the option of renting a villa or other space along a private beach where you can host your nuptials. If you’re marrying on a private beach, look into any permit fees, container laws and clean-up charges.
Destination Beach Wedding
Considering a wedding at a beach that isn’t close to home? A destination wedding is a fun way to get married while you, your family and friends are all on vacation together. Unlike a hometown affair, you can’t assume everyone will be able to attend, especially if the journey is far and costly. Planning a destination wedding starts with choosing a destination, of course. Your beach wedding could happen almost anywhere in the world. Once you choose a destination, you’ll want to choose a venue that fits your style, party size and budget. It’s a good idea to take a trip there, in advance, to check out options in person before committing.
While it may seem like getting married on the beach will be a figurative breeze, we recommend hiring a planner to handle the unforeseen logistics of a beach wedding. Whether you need a permit for a specific area, or you need someone to handle hordes of sunbathers plopped down where your altar will be, it’s good to have a pro on hand to help with these sticky situations.
Work with a bridal consultant who specialises in beach weddings, since they’ll have the know-how you need to pull off this type of shindig.
For a destination wedding, it’s important to get a wedding planner based in the area where you’ll be married to help you navigate a particular beach’s requirements (since these can vary by county and within towns). Planners also serve as expert eyes for finding—and overseeing—local vendors.
Time of Day
Afternoon heat can be brutal in many seaside locales. But even if you’re okay standing there glistening, think of your guests. High temperatures are not for everyone, especially older folks and young kids. To avoid the heat (and crowds), consider a morning or sunset ceremony. Can’t schedule your ceremony at one of these times? Go ahead and have it in the afternoon, but find a shady spot on the beach that’s likely to catch a cool breeze. Check what the weather will be like, and inform guests on your wedding website so they can dress accordingly. Also, check the tide schedule online: Tides coming in are noisier than going out—not to mention the risk of water creeping up on you as you wed.
Make sure the beach is accessible for everyone involved.
Many people overlook the accessibility factor once they’ve found and fallen in love with a beach wedding location. Don’t forget to think about your guests’ convenience, and how easy or difficult it is going to be to make it to the location, from the main road. This can also affect the ease of setting up and transporting chairs, tables, and even food delivery. Make sure your site isn’t too out of the way, and if it is, ensure you make the right preparations.
Don’t let the sound of waves drown out your vows.
There’s nothing quite as magical as the waves crashing against the shore while taking a romantic walk down the beach. When you’re trying to exchange vows, this is a completely different story. To work around this, get a professional sound system, and look into ways to get it powered up out on the beach. You can also rent or buy a wireless microphone and speaker for use by the officiant. Another option is to invest in a windscreen for your microphone, which will ensure the wind isn’t louder than what you’re trying to say. Before you rent or make these purchases, find out if your wedding planner or resort has them available.
Make your décor windproof.
You’ll need to tweak your décor to suit the outdoors, especially in windy locations. This means you may want to think twice about super lavish flowers, towering candles, and even windy ribbons and balloons, which may end up getting blown away by the wind. Use sturdy décor and avoid breakable items. Anything you can’t live without (like name tags, photos, etc.), secure with adhesive, spring, or place something heavier over the top to hold them down. In terms of flowers, you also want to make sure you choose varieties that stand up well against high temperatures, that won’t wilt before the ceremony even begins.
Expert tip: Chrysanthemums, calla lilies, king protea, and orchids do well on the beach. Not convinced flowers will fit your theme or don’t want to risk it? Go for things like fruits or even shells to add some colour to the event.
Make sure there’s some shade.
Just as important as covering for rainy weather, you’ll need to keep in mind that outdoor environments usually mean guests will be exposed to the elements. Especially in hot climates, ensure you keep everyone cool by scheduling your ceremony at a time when the sun is most mild – morning or late afternoon is best. You’ll also want to make sure shade is factored in as well, especially for the sake of older people and children. With beach or outdoor weddings, it’s best to monitor the weather, so you know what to expect. You can source a canopy to cover the seating area or get some bamboo poles which can be draped with light, white fabric to help keep everyone cool.
Finger food storage: keep it cool!
If you aren’t getting married at a resort, food storage is a serious consideration. Food that’s supposed to be refrigerated will spoil quickly in high temperatures, so you’ll need to pick wisely. This is also worth keeping in mind for cake selection – cakes made with buttercream may fight a losing battle against the heat. As a rule, don’t pick anything that’s going to melt or spoil fast.
Expert tip: If you’re concerned about food, you can also consider getting married on the beach, and having the reception at another location, like a nearby restaurant.
Select proper beach wedding attire.
Your wedding day is the most important day of your life, and you’re going to want to dress like it; except that you’re on the beach, so you’re also going to want to wear something that doesn’t cause you to overheat.
Beach Ceremony Logistics
A lot of pedestrian photobombs is just one of the things you might have to contend with at a public beach. There may also be numerous scheduled activities, including cleaning, construction, public events, etc. that could occur at the same time as your ceremony. With that in mind, find out what else is scheduled for that day and then plan your seaside ceremony accordingly. Here are some additional logistical questions to ask:
- Are there any dates that are off-limits? Many beaches don’t allow weddings on holidays.
- Can we reserve a specific time slot for our ceremony? If at all possible, schedule your beach wedding ceremony to take advantage of the best light for wedding photos.
- Are delivery trucks allowed near the ceremony site? If not, are there loading/unloading zones close by? Vehicles are frequently not allowed on the beach, so all items may need to be hand-carried to your ceremony site.
- Is there ample parking nearby for guests?
- Are there public restrooms nearby?
- Is the ceremony site handicap accessible? If not, see if they’ll allow golf cart rentals to transport any elderly or disabled relatives.
- Can the site we plan to use be cordoned off? Beach weddings are pretty open to public viewing, so roping off an area might give you at least the illusion of privacy—and keep out any wedding crashers.
- How early can we set up before the ceremony start time? Nothing like trying to give sunbathers the boot as the clock is ticking to ceremony time!
Beach Wedding Restrictions
Public beaches have pretty strict rules when it comes to protecting the oceanside environment. Things like confetti and streamers, helium balloons, glass, styrofoam, rice, and even faux flowers are usually prohibited. Respect any signage along the beach (such as Stay Off The Dunes or Don’t Pick The Vegetation) and be sure to find out:
- Are chairs, arches, aisle runners, or other decorative elements allowed?
- Is amplified sound permitted? And is there a limit on the decibel level? Oftentimes beaches require speakers to face the ocean.
- Are there electrical outlets nearby/available to use? If not, can we bring in a generator?
- Is alcohol allowed? Note that most public beaches have open container laws that regulate or prohibit the consumption of alcohol.
- What about pets? Many public beaches have a “No Pets” policy, so if you want Fido to be your ring bearer, you better check into that.
- Are bonfires or open flames allowed? If not, consider flameless LED lanterns to illuminate your event.
- Are there size restrictions on tents or canopies? If your wedding is going to take place on a hot and sunny day, think about adding some shade with a windproof tent or canopy.
Always have a backup plan for any outdoor wedding. We know the last thing you want to do is scrap your wedding fun in the sun at the last minute, but sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. Renting a tent is always recommended in case of light rain or needed shade. For backup in the event of a complete washout, make arrangements in advance with a nearby hotel or hall as an alternate locale.
Also, don’t feel compelled to organise the day on a drill sergeant’s schedule. If you need to be on a rain delay for a couple of hours, the rest of the day can still proceed as planned.