Being married on the beach at sunset may be your idea of a wonderfully romantic way to begin your new life together. However, beach weddings present some unique challenges not faced in other locations. Some beaches are public and you can have both a ceremony and a reception there.
Other beaches are privately owned by hotels, restaurants, resorts, and private individuals and you can only use the beach if you are using the services of the owner. You might choose to have only the ceremony on the beach and then adjourn to the hotel or resort for the reception, perhaps on a patio or deck overlooking the beach.
• Before choosing a beach, find out about typical weather patterns in that area at various times of the year. You don’t want to schedule your wedding for hurricane season or the height of sand flea season.
• You may need a permit to have your wedding on a public beach, particularly if it is part of a city or state park. Check with the city or county in which the beach is located and apply for any needed permits several weeks or months in advance.
• Visit the location a day or two before the wedding at the same time of day that you will hold your ceremony so that you can see where the sun sets, the direction from which the wind may blow, how level the area is and how damp, and other considerations.
• Be sure to visit your site early on your wedding day, preferably several hours before the wedding. You may find that you need to form a litter patrol before the ceremony to clean up debris. Also plan on doing a litter patrol after your ceremony or reception ends.
• Chairs and sand don’t mix. Chairs with conventional legs will slowly sink into the sand (usually from the back). Therefore, your guests will either need to stand during the ceremony or you will need to rent flooring on which to place the chairs.
• The weather can be either an asset or a problem for a beach wedding. It may be a hot day and sunburn could be a problem. It could be windy, which is the norm on most beaches. Or it could be rainy, also a frequent occurrence. Consider renting a canopy (if it isn’t too windy) or providing beach umbrellas, at least for elderly guests. Be sure to provide bottled water. Provide sunscreen if guests will be on the beach for long. It can get chilly quickly when the sun goes down, so you may want to provide several throws or light wraps for guests if you will be on the beach after sundown.
• Parking and mobility may be problems. Consider where your guests will have to park and how far they will have to walk. Walking on sand may be difficult for the elderly or those with health or mobility problems. If guests must walk far, consider renting a golf cart to transport them.
• Encourage guests to dress for the location. Ladies will be uncomfortable wearing nylons or shoes with heels. All clothing should be water-resistant, not dry-clean only. Ladies who wear dresses with full skirts may be embarrassed when the wind blows or may spend their time trying to keep their skirts under control. When the sun goes down, it may become uncomfortably cool, so jackets will be appreciated.
• Every wedding needs music, but music at the beach can be a challenge. There may not be access to electricity, so plan on using live music, perhaps a guitar or two, for the ceremony. If you plan to have the reception on the beach, you may need to use live music as well.
• Unity candle ceremonies are difficult to hold outdoors. Candles and wind don’t mix, so choose an alternative to the unity candle ceremony or omit it entirely. You might consider having a sand ceremony in which two colors of sand are poured into a center container.
• If you are having the reception at the beach, serving wedding cake may be difficult. Cakes don’t withstand heat, wind, or blowing sand. If you plan to serve cake, have it delivered as late as possible and place it in a protected location under a canopy. If you are serving food, be sure that it is protected from heat and bugs. Don’t allow food to remain at room temperature for long periods of time, particularly seafood, or your guests could become ill. Provide coolers to pack food in after the meal.
• Bugs are unwelcome guests at most outdoor events. Consider making bug spray available to guests or using citronella candles around your ceremony or reception area. You don’t want people to remember your wedding because they were eaten alive by mosquitoes or sand fleas!
• Consider renting a portable battery-operated sound system for your ceremony. Those same ocean breezes that refresh your guests can blow music and words in the wrong direction, leaving your guests with nothing to hear but the roar of the waves.
• Take tides into consideration when choosing your ceremony and reception areas. What looks like the perfect location during low tide could be under 3 feet of water at high tide.
• If there are no acceptable restroom facilities near your wedding site, you may need to rent portables. Rental companies recommend 1 unit for every 50 guests.
• If you are renting a public beach for your wedding, a number of restrictions may apply that don’t apply at a private beach. Most public beaches are closed overnight to discourage unauthorized camping, so find out when the area closes. Ask if there are restrictions on the number of guests that you can invite. Find out about the location or existence of electrical outlets. Find out if there is a restriction on the time that music can be played and how loudly it can be played. If you are having the reception at the beach, ask if you can have a bonfire and what you should do with trash. Be sure to read the fine print on your contract, and ask plenty of questions.
Having a beach wedding can create lasting memories. By planning ahead and preparing for possible problems, you can have a lovely wedding.