Let’s paint the picture — a beautiful ocean sunset, a pristine sand shore, you and your mate tying the knot in the midst of one of nature’s most alluring settings — the beach. A seaside wedding is a romantic ceremony option that should be considered as you go through the planning process. We’ve put together a list of the major planning details related to a beach wedding. Just don’t forget the sunblock!
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE ATTENDING?
Your plans begin with an early decision. Are you eloping, inviting a small group, or having a traditional, larger wedding? Ceremonies with fewer attendees allow greater flexibility in location and planning. But it is still possible to plan and execute a beach wedding with a large group.
This pertains to you and your guests. If you have a large budget available and your guests can afford to visit an exotic location, you should consider paying for access to a private beach attached to a hotel or resort. Private homeowners also rent out their property for wedding ceremonies. Some guests might make a vacation out of the experience, so a resort-friendly location is recommended. A tight budget requires you to get creative. Find a public beach that is off the beaten path so you can have as private a ceremony as possible. Be sure not to pick a spot that is difficult to find or access. Do not plan a wedding that will be unaffordable for most of your guests to attend.
FORMAL OR INFORMAL?
A beach wedding can be either formal or informal. The more formal the ceremony, the more intricate the planning usually is. Decide early in the process and plan accordingly.
TIME OF DAY
Many brides dream of a beach wedding and saying “I do” just as the sun sets in the background. Sunset is an excellent time for the ceremony. Most beachgoers have left the sand, so this gives you more privacy. Be sure to factor in the time required with the photographer if you desire sunset poses. Mornings are wonderful as well. Beaches are empty then and the light is perfect for photography afterward. It is also the coolest time of the day. Tides also change during the day; it is always better to have the ceremony when the tide is not coming in. This will cut down but not eliminate the ocean noise and will also prevent a wet, advancing water line from interfering with the proceedings.
You can’t control them, but you must consider a few weather related variables. Try to find a section of beach that is shielded from the wind. Be sure to have a backup location that provides shelter in case of rain or other inclement weather.
FLOOR OR NO FLOOR
The more formal the ceremony, the more reason to rent flooring. At informal beach weddings, guests are often asked to gather round in the sand, barefoot, as the wedding vows are said. A large flooring system can be constructed at a more formal affair to allow guests easier access to and from the beach. If there will be many elderly or disabled guests in attendance, be sure to consider their safety and comfort. A floor with comfortable seating will eliminate ambulatory headaches and chair legs that sink like they are in quicksand.
Because the powerful visuals associated with the beach and ocean dominate the scenery, it is good advice to keep the decorations to a minimum. Seashells and starfish are popular adornments, as are other marine-themed items such as miniature boats, anchors, oars, etc. An aisle way lined with indigenous flowers is always beautiful as well. If the ceremony is performed at sundown, consider dramatic lighting options such as torches or elaborate candles.
If you forego the floor, chairs will sink in the sand and can prove to be dangerous for elderly or disabled guests. Be sure to have a plan for the chairs so guests are comfortable, especially if the ceremony will be a lengthy process. At some informal beach weddings, guests are asked to stand during the ceremony. But you still must be sure to have some chairs available if that is your choice.
Due to the abundant natural sounds at the beach, you may wish to include a sound system, if your budget allows. This may not be necessary if the gathering is extremely intimate. We all remember the wedding we attended when we couldn’t hear the vows being spoken. Don’t let that happen to you.
Consider portable instruments with high-pitched notes that travel well outdoors without drowning out the natural sounds of the ocean. Flute or violin soloists are popular, as are a saxophone, accordion, cello, harp, or guitar. Another favorite is the steel drum. It can provide the perfect touch to a tropical setting.
If the ceremony is held on a hotel or resort beach, be sure to alert all guests to the exact location of the bathrooms. If it takes place on a remote section of sand, you must consider renting toilets if none are nearby. Even if some facilities are available nearby, your guests might rather use a clean portable toilet than a filthy public restroom.
The beach setting provides exciting options for your arrival. A water landing in a 30-foot outrigger canoe can supplant the traditional limousine service. Some couples have arrived via boat. Other couples have landed on the sand in a helicopter.
The last thing you want to do is obscure the natural beauty of your surroundings by having your ceremony in a tent. However, a tent should be kept on call if there is not a nearby facility that can be reserved in case Mother Nature does not cooperate.
PERMITS AND PARKING
If you have the budget or connections to hold the ceremony on private beach property, parking for your guests and permits for the site (if required) should be part of the negotiated fee. If you plan to hold the wedding on a public beach, be sure to find out if permits are necessary. Pay for them if there is any chance that local authorities will interrupt your event in search of the proper paperwork. Finally, if parking is not free, purchase it in advance for your guests so they do not have to go out of pocket to park.
So go ahead and send out your message-in-a-bottle invitations. There might be no more naturally romantic setting for your wedding ceremony than the beautiful coastline.