Are you planning your perfect beach front wedding? I have photographed many ceremonies and portraits on the beach for several years and now that I have established a business where I focused on serving clients on Cape Cod, I like to say that I now specialize in beach weddings!

Now, I know what you’re thinking- lets just got to the beach and get married…right? Well, there are a few things to consider logistically when planning to be married on the beach…unless you are using a privately owned beach or oceanfront venue.

A beach wedding may come with a few challenges so I put together a check list for you to make your toes in the sand, beach wedding a little easier.

BEACH WEDDING PERMITS

Having a permit is not always required if you have your wedding on a public beach, however if you have a large amount of guests attending, you may want to reserve a large space on the sand for as long as the ceremony will take place, a permit might be a good idea to look into. Before choosing the beach that your heart falls in love with, I have put together a list of questions to ask-

  • Does the beach require a permit to hold a wedding? Some beaches allow small weddings on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, many public beaches require a permit regardless of the guest count.
  • If the beach does require a permit, how much does it cost—and are there any other fees? Keep in mind that some permits have a nonrefundable application fee, and some charge additional fees if you have a larger number of guests.
  • How is the permit fee structured? Is it a “per hour” charge or a flat rate that covers the entire length of the event?
  • How far in advance does the permit need to be submitted for approval? Some beach locations issue permits as far as a year ahead, so start this process early!
  • How large of an area of the beach does the permit cover? If you weren’t required to map out your desired area during the application process, be sure to ask how much space you’ll have reserved (it usually depends on your guest count).
  • Will liability insurance be required? Some locations ask you to get liability insurance naming the city/county as an additional insured.
  • What is the maximum number of people allowed under the permit? This includes not only you and your guests, but your bridal party, officiant, photographer, and any other vendors.

Bridal TIPIf all this permit talk makes your head spin, then we have 4 words for you: Hire. A. Wedding. Planner! They’ll do all the leg work for you in terms of permits and logistical planning so you can relax and enjoy the ride.

Beach Ceremony Logistics

If you are getting married on a public beach, having photobombs of beach goers is one thing to consider. There also may be beach cleaning scheduled, construction areas, public events, etc. These distractions could all be planned around the same time as your ceremony. Having this in mind, look into what else might be scheduled for that day and plan accordingly. This might mean the ceremony time will need to be bumped up a few hours or pushed back. Some questions you can ask are:

  • Are there any dates that are off-limits? Many beaches don’t allow weddings on holidays, like the July 4th weekend. 
  • 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

Many public beaches have BEACH RULES when it comes to protecting the oceanside environment. Confetti, streamers, helium balloons, glass, styrofoam, rice and sometimes faux flowers are prohibited in many areas. Respect any signs that you see along the beach and be sure to find out a few this:

  • 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 wind-proof tent or canopy.

Life’s A Beach

We all know that Mother Nature can be a BEACH! so be sure to consider the following when planning your beach wedding:

  • When is high tide? You’ll want to avoid the possibility of your ceremony being dampened by waves.
  • What’s the forecast? If rain is predicted, you’ll need a contingency plan. 
  • How windy will it be? You may need to windproof and weigh down some of your décor. (And rethink that cathedral-length veil!)
  • How noisy will our site be? Crashing waves, rustling breezes, and general beachgoer chit-chat can all add up to a pretty loud environment. Your sound system should be set up so that all your guests can hear your vows.
  • How hot will it be, and is there any shade? Wild guess, but you’re probably used to wearing a swimsuit on the beach. Now imagine being in a suit and tie, which is what your guy guests will likely be sporting… If there’s no shaded area, consider a canopy. But if that’s not allowed, giving out parasols can offer some protection from the sun.
  • How crowded will the beach be? Again, a beach wedding isn’t exactly private. If you really want to avoid the droves of summer bodies, consider an off-season wedding. 
  • What’s the bug situation? There are some nasty insects that hover around seaweed, so try to situate your ceremony away from them.
  • Sand. Sand is a beach. Keep some towels and baby powder handy so you and your guests can dust off before the reception.

 BRIDE TIP: Another thing that might need to be weather-proofed? Your bridal bouquet and other flowers. Many blooms don’t take kindly to direct sunlight, and the last thing you want is wilted wedding flowers in your photos.

Beach Wedding Receptions

Beach ceremonies are very popular, but if you are dreaming of having a sea side reception as well, this might be difficult to plan, you see… in many areas, partying on the beach is not allowed. I recommend that you have your ceremony on the beach and all your portraits on the beach too, then move the reception to an oceanfront venue. If you are really wanting to have it all in one place, and your heart is set on the beach front party, consider asking these questions:

  • Is a beach reception allowed? Many beaches will only accommodate wedding ceremonies.
  • Is cooking permitted on the beach? While you can eat on most beaches, cooking on the sand is oftentimes prohibited. 
  • Can my caterer bring in food? They may be able to do so if they have a Special Event Permit, but keep in mind that there might not be a kitchen or prep space nearby.
  • Are there table décor restrictions? Many beaches don’t allow glass, so you may need to opt for plastic vases and cups.
  • Is live music allowed? Many beaches don’t allow amplified live music, but may allow some background music played via speakers.
  • One more time—is alcohol allowed? Probably not, but Google “Best U.S. Beaches to Legally Drink” if serving alcohol is high on your priority list.
  • Is there a curfew? Be sure to leave a cushion of time to gather your belongings and clean up all of your trash before the beach closes.

Prep Your Guests

High heels and sand don’t mix, right? Find creative ways to let your guests know not only what to wear at your wedding, but what else to expect.

  • Create a wedding website to highlight additional details about the day. Include a suggested dress code (e.g. “beach chic” or “smart casual”), along with a note about the anticipated weather. Depending on the forecast, mention bringing sunglasses, sunblock, paper fans, a hat, sweater, etc. You should also give your women attendees a heads-up about the sand situation so that they can opt for wedges or flats instead of stilettos!
  • Pick the perfect wedding save-the-dates and invitations to set the stage (and style) for your beach bash.
  • Consider giving out beach swag. A welcome basket at your ceremony entrance is a nice gesture. You may want to fill it with mini bottles of water, sunblock, bug spray, parasols, or anything else that might make your guests more comfortable in the beachy elements.

BEACH PORTRAITS

As a photographer, I do my best to capture those perfect moments in any lighting that I can. That being said, many beaches do not have an area that is shaded when the sun light is very harsh. The best way for me to capture your moments in the harsh sun light is to make sure that she sun us behind my subject. Depending on where the ocean is and the sun is at the time of day we are celebrating, consider the sun light being behind you to get the photos and backgrounds you are looking for.