Many brides dream of getting married on the beach. The wash of the waves, call of the seagulls, and the fresh ocean breeze can be very alluring. Most people have very fond memories of time on the beach from just about every era of their lives. And though it is an extremely romantic place for couples at sunset, or for even popping the question, it is not nearly the romantic wedding hot spot it is drummed up to be. Before you decide on a beach wedding, consider:
Many beach weddings require that guests park a greater distance from the ceremony location. This can be hard on older guests or guests with disabilities. Also, trying to find parking on a busy summer weekend can be nightmarish (and asking your guests to pay for parking can be seen as tacky). Not to mention your guests will have to walk to the next locale for the evening or right back to their car only to drive 10 minutes down the road for yet another parking fiasco and summer shore traffic. Have a wedding, not a hike and a road trip.
The Sun, Oh the Sun
When you think of the beach, you always think of the sun. You also think of wearing a swimsuit and loose-fitting, half-unbuttoned clothing. Clothing-wise the girls get it easier with dress options; however, for men, wearing a dark suit and a tie is a personal hell on the beach. By the time the cocktail hour rolls around (please get them off the beach for this!), the men will all be sweating through their shirts…embarrassing for your guests, and it looks awful in pictures.
Plain and simple…you can’t wear heels in the sand, and no matter what you do, sand will get into your shoes. Some folks will opt to take their shoes/socks off, but there is always sand in your toes that won’t come out until your next shower. If you expect your guests to dance all night afterwards, expect them all to be complaining about blisters the next morning! Some people offer free flip-flops to their guests- a nice offer, but the scorching sand still covers their feet.
It’s summer, it’s the beach, you wear sunscreen. Unless it’s a wedding, because 1) no one remembers to bring it, and 2) no one wants to look greasy or smell like a walking pina colada. Hello sunburn. Raccoon eyes just in time for the reception!
Can’t Beat the Heat
You usually bring an umbrella or at least a hat to the beach to escape some the sun’s rays. A typical beach wedding has chairs in the middle of the beach with no shade for your guests to escape to. And though you might only be out in the sun for 20 minutes during your ceremony, chances are that between the time your guests have left their car until they finally get to some shade for your cocktail hour, they have spent over an hour in the sun. The heat can be draining, lowering the energy level for your entire evening. Do you really want to sunburn grandma?
The Wind and the Waves
Wind and waves are two classic beach traits. But, they are awful to have during a wedding ceremony. Between the crash of the waves and the whoosh of the wind, you’ll be lucky if the front row hears your vows. There’s no way around it- you will need a PA and microphone. Since you’re on the beach, it has to be battery-powered, and loud (this goes for your musician as well). You also need to make sure the microphone is wired…no fancy lapel or wireless mics. I have seen many ceremonies interrupted by coastguard/boater radio broadcasts picked up over the airwaves by wireless mics. And you’ll need one of those ugly foam wind guards for the mic so that sound of the wind isn’t deafening. You’ll also have to check with the local jurisdiction to find out if amplification is allowed on the beach at all…you may even have to get a permit!
Take your pictures on the beach, and you take your chances. You will be photo-bombed. You will be sweaty and squinting from sun glare. And there is no telling what is going to happen behind you during the ceremony. I have seen everything from screaming kids, to people you don’t want to see in their swimsuits, to loud-mouth adults spewing profanities, to dogs taking care of their business. This is what your guests will be laughing at and talking about later- not how great your ceremony was.
Some of your guests may be unable to attend a beach wedding due to medical conditions. Guests utilizing a wheelchair, walker, etc. will have extreme difficulty moving across sand and will probably skip the ceremony. Some medications recommend users avoid direct sunlight. Guests that arrive a day or two early may already have an uncomfortable sunburn.
Glass, Dogs, and Alcohol
During Summer months, there are no dogs allowed on the beach. That means having your cute pup play ring bearer is out of the question. There is also a rule against glass on the beach. That means that your flower arrangements will have plastic vases or no vases at all. Some beaches have strict rules against alcohol, which means a champagne toast or celebratory drink is out of the question.
Weather or Not
The whole ceremony is hinged on the weather. Perfection and frustration are only a few degrees and a wind gust apart. A perfect day can be destroyed by one wind gust, a sudden downpour, or ridiculous heat/humidity…or as is always the possibility in New England…a July day that feels more like mid-March with a biting wind! Didn’t think about the possibility of freezing in the middle of summer on the beach, did you? I’ve been there!
It’s Not All Bad
Okay, so maybe that was more of a rant…but it’s more just to give you a realistic vision of your wedding day. If you are planning a beach wedding ceremony, here are a few ideas to help things go smoothly:
- Have a shuttle bus carry your guests from their hotel to the beach or have an indoor/shaded gathering space close to the ceremony site. Any of those will limit time spent in direct sunlight prior to formal pictures. That also solve the parking problem.
- Plan your ceremony close to sunset. It will make for a later evening, but you’ll miss the hottest part of the day. You’ll be rewarded with more dramatic photos!
- Allow guests to dress more casually (simple dress for ladies, khakis and button up shirt for guys). Comfort at outdoor weddings is always important!
- A few venues provide a carpet walkway for guests across the sand. It never hurts to ask if your venue can provide that.
- You can try a lapel mic to avoid having a large mic in your photos. Have your JP, priest, etc. arrive early to allow for sound check.
- Let your DJ or musician handle the audio for your officiant. Many JPs bring their own system, which is often inferior and poorly suited for a beach setting.
- Provide refreshments for your guests (water, lemonade, iced tea, etc.) while they roast.
- Have a backup plan that you are happy with! Spend as much time figuring out the specifics of your backup locale as you do for your first choice location. I’ve seen too many brides have their day ruined because nature didn’t cooperate. The thing is, nature doesn’t ruin their day…their attitude ruins their day. And a bad attitude is contagious! Couples that have a great backup plan are happy either way!
- Consider a quick ceremony (for the love of all that is good, please don’t subject your guests to an entire catholic mass on the sand!)…if the weather is particularly windy, you can suggest your guests stand and encircle you. Photographers hate it, but it’s a cool vibe, everyone can hear, and you’ll be protected from the wind!
- If you have a clambake the night before your wedding on the beach, you’d better be planning a pretty awesome reception. Most people remember that night on the beach around a bonfire eating the best seafood they’ve ever had with their best friends way more fondly than sitting in a stuffy banquet room listening to Top 40 in an assigned seat.
- An after-party on the beach around a bonfire is a fun way to end the evening!
- Beach resorts are expensive, but they provide convenience, picturesque location, and all of the amenities and services you will need to pull off a successful event. Going solo at a beach house may be significantly cheaper, but you’re going to need a lot of help and will shoulder a lot of stress to pull it off.
- Avoid peak days (holidays, Saturdays, etc.) to reduce traffic, rental/venue costs, etc. Weekday wedding ceremonies are perfect for destination weddings. There are fewer people on the beach on Tuesday vs. Saturday…more space for you!