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How To: Plan a Beach Wedding

by Maddie Eisenhart, Digital Director & Style Editor

man and woman getting married on the beach

Disclaimer: This is obviously optimized for throwing a beach wedding in Maine. Specifically Old Orchard Beach (woot woot).

So I always envisioned getting married on the beach in a big hippie love fest, complete with a lobster bake and galvanized bins filled with beer and cheap champagne. (It would have looked almost exactly like this recent photo shoot on Snippet and Ink, actually.  If you asked me in high school what I would have worn, I would have told you jeans and flip flops.

But the reality of getting married on the beach is that beaches very rarely offer the same freedoms as private property. Also some people have serious aversions to sand, and consider it a glorified form of dirt. But beach weddings are possible, and not all of them require you to throw a large chunk of cash at an all-in-one beach resort type place. I guess this is the DIY beach wedding in that way.

The following tips won’t guarantee you the best beach wedding ever. They are my tips for getting you the most bang for your buck, in terms of both finances and the amount of effort you have to put in to pull it off.

Enough rambling. Here are the meat and potatoes:

1.) This may seem like a no-brainer, but pick a date in the off-season. I’m not sure what that means to the West Coast, but for us New Englanders that means any time before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. The weather will still be stunning, but you’ll hear a lot more “yes” if you’re not trying to pull off a huge event in the middle of local business’ bread-and-butter season. Also, they’ll probably be more flexible in pricing than if you were trying to get married over 4th of July weekend or something.

2.) Once you pick a date, you’ll need to decide if you’re going public beach or private beach. We searched high and low for someone with a private beach property who would rent us their house for a wedding and most people very kindly laughed at the proposition. This might not be an issue if your wedding is less than 50 people, but if you are going to have any sizable guest list, you might want to consider a public beach.

3.) If you choose a public beach, literally memorize the city ordinances governing that beach. By studying up on the Town Of Old Orchard home page, we learned that bonfires require burn permits, special events only really require permits if you’re going to block off an area of the beach or require sound amplification, and most importantly THERE IS NO WAY TO AVOID OPEN CONTAINER LAWS. I put this in caps because I spent hours trying to figure out a way around the open container laws on the beach. Not. Gonna. Happen. If your goal is to have booze at your wedding, then the next thing I suggest is to have your ceremony on the beach and a separate location for the reception.

4.) Once we decided to have the ceremony on the beach and the reception at a local restaurant, our wedding planning became a cake walk. Because our little beach restaurant was a very popular spot for music and dining during the summer, they already had a setup for sound amplification (yes, you NEED this if you’re going to have more than 20 people trying to hear your ceremony) and they knew how to feed 200+ people. Done and done.

And honestly, that was pretty much it. Those were the big questions we had to ask (the ones that took *forever* to decide). From there, we approached our ceremony like we would approach it in any other outdoor location. And the reception was mostly taken care of by our restaurant venue.

DIY beach wedding

But I know that this doesn’t answer the real nitty gritty questions people have, so I’m going to take this Alyssa-style and have an imaginary conversation with myself:

You: Ok, I get it, ceremony on the beach and reception at a restaurant, but thanks-for-nothing because that doesn’t even begin to answer my questions.

Me: Boo. What else do you need to know?

You: Everything, duh. For example, if I’m having my ceremony on the beach, do I need to rent chairs?

Me: Not really. You know all those beautiful pictures of ceremony setups on the beach with the white wooden chairs and the rose petals strewn on the sand that create a faux aisle? Exactly. I think they look like a lot of work too. We had over 200 guests standing for our 30 minute ceremony and there were no complaints about the lack of chairs. We did have a few benches up front for the elderly and pregnant folks just to be safe and that ended up being plenty. I mean, I’m all for ceremony decor, but you’re at the beach, you know? If decorating isn’t your *thing* then you kind of have the whole ocean to work with. And if you get married at sunset, then Hello! Sunset wedding. Booyah.

You: Cool, but what about privacy? Don’t I have to rope it off or something?

Me. Um, depends on how much you care. We’re not really *private* people, so we just settled for setting up our ceremony really early in the morning to make sure there was enough space for all of our shit. We had about 30 random spectators set up shop with their beach chairs and watch us get married and that was fine for us. If you are going to try and rope off space, you might need to look into filing your wedding as a special event with the town or city you’re getting married in. That way nobody can yell at you later.

You: Go back to that thing about sound again.

Me: Yeah, we got lucky there. Our reception restaurant had a huge deck overlooking the ocean with speakers built in. Which sounds fancy, but basically any restaurant that blasts music in the summer is going to be set up for that too.

You: What happens when it gets cold outside?

Me: Well if you’re not stupid like I was, you’ll ask your band to set up inside and dance the night away in the warm interior of your chosen venue. If you’re a big jerk like me, then your band freezes to death and you apologize by paying their bar tab. And then wonder how they made it through the Styx reprise after imbibing $250 worth of booze.

You: Hm, but what if I’m still outside and it gets cold. What about a bonfire?

Me: That’s actually pretty easy. Most towns have burn permit applications for stuff like that. Look up the specific rules and regulations for your town; the guidelines should be listed.

You: Also-

Me: – I wasn’t done. Because that actually reminds me of something. If you’re getting married close to home and you’re having your wedding on a public beach and you just *happen* to have friends in law enforcement, it doesn’t hurt to give them a heads up about your wedding. My mom’s husband is a fire lieutenant and he put the word out there that there was going to be a wedding on the beach that day with a bonfire. There was no shady palm-greasing or anything; but it gave us peace of mind to know that local officials weren’t going to be crashing our party before it started.

You: Any other advice?

Me: You know, I know there are a lot of beautiful beach weddings out there that are really well put together, but I think the magic of getting married in the sand is the comfy casual nature of it all. You can get away with breaking so many of the wedding “rules” when you get married on the beach. Why not take advantage of that liberty?

Here is a separate conversation that is happening as I write this.

Michael: How many e-mails are you writing over there?

Me: Just one. I promised Meg I’d tell her how to throw a lazy beach wedding.

Michael: Find a beach. Throw a wedding. Don’t have a dress code. Done.


So that’s my super lengthy recommendation for how to throw a kick ass beach wedding on the cheap without having to put more effort into it than you would most normal parties.

Maddie’s wedding shot by Monica and Judson of Eve Event Photography; Amanda’s wedding (pictures three and five) shot by In Bloom Photography

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is APW’s Digital Director and Style Editor. She’s been writing stories about boys, crushes, and relationships since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) from NYU in Entertainment and Mass Media in 2008. She now spends a significant amount of time thinking about trends on the internet and the future of Miley Cyrus’ career. A Maine native, Maddie currently lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband, Michael. Current hair color: Purple(ish).

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  • Rachel

    I’m really glad you touched on the privacy issue! I feel like that’s a detail that’s never mentioned in discussions of beach weddings. I think when people picture a beach wedding, they picture a lot of intimacy, and having the whole beach to themselves, and often that isn’t the case, unless you do a lot of forward planning to ensure that.

    I got a real taste of what a beach wedding CAN look like without serious privacy planning about a year ago. I was on holiday in the Dominican Republic, and one afternoon there was a wedding on the hotel beach. This was at 3pm, prime beach time, so the beach was packed. The hotel stuck a few palm fronds up for privacy, but they wanted the altar facing the water with a clear view, so there was nothing down at the end. As soon as the bride walked down the aisle, tourists flocked to the ceremony, topless sunbathers crowded around the altar snapping photos (there’s no way the photographer got a single shot of the couple saying their vows that didn’t have well, boobs, on display in the background – not that there’s anything wrong with boobs, but maybe not in your wedding photos?), you couldn’t hear the ceremony music because it was being drowned out by the loud beats at the beach volleyball tournament right next to the ceremony, tourists were loudly commenting on the bride’s choice of dress, the flowers, the weather, etc.

    I’m not saying all beach weddings will be like this, but rather that it’s an important question to ask when picking a venue. I’m so glad you mentioned privacy, because I feel it’s rarely brought up in discussions of beach weddings (or other public venues, for that matter) but it’s such an important question, if privacy is important to you.

    • kahlia

      These are good points about privacy. The main thing seems to be to know the beach and what goes on at the time of day you were going to do the ceremony.

      • Maddie

        Good point Kahlia. It really does help to know your beach. I grew up spending my summers at OOB, so I knew that as soon as September hit (when we had our wedding) that there wouldn’t be more than 15 people on the beach at any given time.

        And if you don’t know your beach personally, it just means you’ll have to ask your venue all the same nitty gritty questions you asked me above. :)

      • Sara

        Great point. While I didn’t get married on a beach, I had the same privacy concerns. My husband and I chose a nice, quiet summer weekend to get married outside on a college campus. Unfortunately, Phish chose the same weekend to have a 3-day festival on the same campus. I was really worried that our ceremony would be overrun with people heading to pre-party outside the concert venue, but it really wasn’t so bad. The few people walking by were respectful and sweet.

        I think the most important part, for us, was that before the ceremony we made the decision to be okay with whatever happend. We told ourselves that if people were noisy it’d just add to the story about Phish crashing our wedding. I think that attitidue helped us out – mind over matter :)

      • Trisha

        We picked a tiny local beach, and there were about 10 people there when had the wedding. They very kindly moved off to another part of the beach, and we got a couple of kayakers for a few minutes just before we started. Neither of us really minded that much though, so it was all good. Truth be told, I was a little disappointed that no one crashed the reception.

    • Elissa

      Yes, the privacy issue is a big one. We are getting married on a beach in June but we picked later in the day (sunset time) and a cove off of the public beach but still connected. We can’t promise that we will be secluded but this arrangement does help cut down on the looky-loos.

  • Emily

    Just sent this to my SIL! She got engaged last July but is just now starting to plan her Fall 2012 wedding (yay long engagements!). She really wants this type of beach wedding so I know this will be super helpful. And if she’s reading the comments, Hi Brianna!

  • Jo

    I love this! Hilarity ensued on my end.

    And I remember this wedding, so gorgeous!

    • Maddie

      So I clicked over to your blog and I think we should be friends. The end.

      • Jo

        Done! ;)

  • Rhiannon

    Maddie’s wedding has always been one of my favourites on APW wedding graduates…

    Also, it’s worth remembering that in England and Wales (including the Isle of Wight, Isle of Mann and the Scilly Isles) you can’t get married on a beach full stop. You can have your reception on a beach if you wanted, or get married there but do the legal bit seperately, but in the UK you have to be in a licensed building.

    *Boring UK laws… grumble grumble…*

    • Class of 1980

      You need a revolution. ;)

    • meg

      Well hey, at least you can get married legally. I think those of us who can need to be cheerful about that! I’ve had plenty of friends get married in the UK wherever, and sign all the paperwork legally beforehand. Done and done!

      • Rhiannon

        Yeah that’s what a lot of people do who want to have the wedding they want – it’s just a bit archaic that the two can’t be combined.

    • Helen the Snowy Owl
      • Rhiannon

        Are you in Bournemouth? Shut up! I’m in Southampton (I’m not going to talk about the football at the weekend!).

        We could totally have a South Coast APW book group meetup!


    • Alizon

      I’m getting married in July in Scotland overlooking a fab beach (sort of on a cliff top) with an old wooden cabin, big bonfire, a tent, music til the early hours and so on. It’s a kind of festival wedding and in Scotland you can pretty much get married anywhere if you are having a Humanist ceremony (legal) It’s in the John Muir National Park and so beautiful. I know it will probably rain, but the huts’s got a fire and we have the tent. Wer’e having to bring everything on site but we thought it was worth it for such a unique venue. We’re not going too much for the beachy type theme but more of a glam/punk thing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

      • jemma

        How did this go? I’d love to have a wedding basically exactly like you’ve described! Humanist, beach, camping, Scotland :)

  • kahlia

    I love the Alyssa-style questions. Especially where you wanted to add something and cut yourself off from asking the next question!
    Practical advice in a fun format… maybe that should be APW’s unofficial sub-title.

  • Katie Jane

    Both my mom and brother each had beach weddings in North Carolina, and everyone pretty much just rolled up to the agreed-upon meeting point on the beach (my mom’s was at Fort Fisher, my brother’s on Wrightsville), walked to the water, had the wedding, and then everyone just went back to the house to eat. No chairs, no permits. (And no privacy. There were lots of old ladies in bathing suits standing right behind my brother. ha.) It was very easy; I think NC is very beach wedding friendly in general. (Although, I should say, permits might have been required, but my mom and brother were just too lazy to check. Either way, no one bothered us.)

    I would say that if you’re getting married in the middle of summer, it might be nice to pass out bottles of water to the elderly. It was about 98 degrees with no breeze at my brother’s wedding, and I think it was really hard on my grandparents.

    I love Maddie’s bridesmaids dresses! So pretty and colorful.

  • ddayporter

    bahahahah this was awesome Maddie. and of course, yay Maine! :)

    • Maddie

      Yay Maine is right! :)

  • carrie

    I’m getting married in Dewey Beach, DE this summer. Why the summer and the middle of the high season? Because my fiance is a teacher and a wedding at almost any other time of the school year would really kinda suck for him. So while the advice of getting married in the off-season is excellent, it didn’t apply to us and we are planning a wedding in the middle of the summer, and it’s worked out mostly fine.

    Without going into boring details, we ultimately picked a restaurant on the bay side because: less noise than the ocean and the thought of being miked doesn’t thrill me; we wouldn’t have to worry if it was raining – our venue requires a tent rental for a reasonable price so if it rains we won’t get wet or have to relocate; the sun will set on the bay side; and it was a lot less expensive. I wanted to have the wedding Maddie was talking about – the galvanized steel tubs with alcohol, BBQ, crabs. But that wedding? It cost way more than the wedding we are planning now. Of all the other places on the Chesapeake Bay or in neighboring towns we looked at, our venue is downright reasonable. And they have a planner person who you can pepper with questions and who will help with the day.

    The moral of my long-windedness is look at other water options too like a bay side, and even though the summer makes things a little more difficult and expensive (accommodations, parking kinda sucks), it can work.

    • meg

      I’d suggest a mike anyway. As my officant said, “more than 5 people at your wedding? You need amplification, period.” People tend to underestimate how quickly you need amplification, and it totally blows as a wedding guest to realize that you can’t hear ANY of the emotional moments going on (and it’s happened to me plenty of times). Now, being miked usually just means that the officant holds the mike in your general direction while you’re saying your vows, not that you have a body mike a-la-Rent, but seriously, you should do it.

      I could write a whole post about amplification, I feel so strongly about it ;) People don’t think a lot about the basic stagecraft that’s necessary for their guests to feel included/ be able to hear/ see/ etc.

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        Yes please! As someone who’s less-aware of basic stagecraft, it’d be fantastic to have a post on amplification. That way I’d have an inkling about the things that I’m supposed to be aware of but haven’t known to consider.

        • Annie in LA

          Dittoing this! I to am squarely at the “don’t know what I don’t know” level.

      • Leah

        yes! I can’t tell you how sad I am when I go to a wedding with no or inadequate amplification. You don’t have to be rock-concert loud. Maybe it helps to note that churches almost always have microphones for their preacher and readers, and churches are built to be more optimal for sound than many venues.

        • Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

          My husband does sound for theatre, bands, events, etc, and I have learned from him how much having sound amplification and the way the sound is done can contribute to an audience member’s perception of any given event. Even the angle of speakers and all sorts of stuff I had no idea about before. As an audience member, it does stink to be attending any event where you REALLY want to connect with what is going on, and you just can’t hear it all. And of course with weddings, using amplification is a way to let guests fully participate in the moment they have been invited to be a part of. :)

          • meg

            Would you like to write a How-To amplification post, with your husband’s help?? I think it should be combined with basic stage craft how tos, but we could collaborate on that (like, can your guests SEE YOU? No seriously, can they see you?)

          • carrie

            Point taken about mikes, thank you! But yes please, please, please an how-to amplification post.

          • Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

            Meg, I would love to! I asked my husband and he agreed to help me write a post to address sound and tech concerns. I’ll also throw in some directorial suggestions of points to consider (yes, sight lines!) from my theatre director point-of-view. :) We’ll write it and send it your way.

          • meg

            Yay! As a theatre director, your going to cover everything that my theatre director husband and theatre producing self would have added anyway. People spend a lot of time focused on the details, I find, and then miss the basics. If your dress is lovely and your vows are meaningful, but no one can see you or hear you? Fail.

      • Aly

        This makes me think of a conversation I had with my future husband about amplification for our backyard wedding:

        Me: Yeah, we definitely need mikes. I remember your brother’s wedding outside, I was in the third row and couldn’t hear a thing.

        Future Husband: Really? I heard everything just fine.

        Me: Of course you did….you were the best man. You stood next to them.

        Future Husband: Oh yeah….I guess that helps.

        So we will be having amplification. The question now is how to power it (and everything else that needs power)- extension cords all over the lawn? Rented generator? I need a post on electricity!

        • Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

          I’ll see if my husband has any tips about this part of it too. :)

          • Karen

            And tips for those of us who really really really don’t want to hold microphones while saying our vows, please! I think our rabbi has asked for a microphone already (must check her last e-mail), so I’m hoping that her pointing it in our general direction will be enough…but please let me know if it won’t be. (We’re expecting about 150 people and will be on a fake beach on an island on New York Harbor — we’ll have the immediate vicinity to ourselves, but I don’t know how much the general noise of the world will affect things.) Thanks!

          • Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

            Karen, I just asked my husband your question. He said, “The closer the microphone is to the source, the better the sound will be.” BUT that does not mean YOU need to hold it yourselves. You could use a mic stand or you could have your rabbi hold it for you- as close as possible to your mouth. Our officiant held the mic for us. When I asked how close the mic should be to one’s mouth, my husband said, “an inch would would be ideal, but then you might get some popping sound, so you need to filter this out with an high-pass filter at around 150 hertz to remove the plosives. The filter is something electronic that you put on the sound board. You use the EQ of the sound board. Or you could use a microphone with a good pop screen.”). He says it is mostly the “p” sounds that are problematic because the sound “explodes.” If you don’t have a sound person actually running your sound, the main tip is just to have the mic as close to your mouth as you can get it, within an inch or so. :)

            I will add that the mic is not so pretty in some of our wedding photos of the ceremony, but I would rather have people hear than not, so….you do what you have to do. :)

          • Karen

            Jenny, I tried to reply to your reply to my reply (tee hee), but I couldn’t find a reply button…so I’m replying to this reply instead! Just wanted to say thank you for talking to your husband about our issue; I had to read the answer a couple of times before I could (almost) understand it, but I’m saving it so I can use it as part of a conversation with people who know more about these things than I do.

            Thanks again!

          • Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

            Yeah, I know what you mean! :) Basically….stay close to the mic. :)

        • A Team

          I went through this last summer — we got married in another country that doesn’t really do outdoor weddings, outside with no nearby power sources, and we wanted amplification for both the ceremony and our entrance/departure music (ipod-ed). I did a ton of research and then bought this portable speaker/mike/ipod doc system — Worked great for a 100+ outdoor wedding.

      • Trisha

        I really wish we had gotten a mike. We thought that with a small wedding, 20 – 30 people all gathered in close we wouldn’t need it. Turns out some of our guests still had a hard time hearing us.

      • Katie

        Please do write that post. Even if it’s a short one. Until I read this I was still wavering on bothering setting up a speaker and mic for my northwoods sundeck wedding. Because our 100 guests will be able to hear just fine, right? Apparently not, huh?

        • meg

          100 guests? SUPER SUPER SUPER NO. Most of them won’t be able to hear *a single thing you say.*

  • RachelLyn

    Yay! Thanks for this. I am planning my beach wedding now – it is three months away! Planning for the “off season” was really key for us, although we are in the “shoulder season” so to speak. Trying to balance warm enough weather with beaches that won’t be packed and room prices that aren’t sky high can definitely be a challenge.

    I also want to second that it is really important to know your town regulations. There are definitely no bonfires allowed on the beach where I am getting married (and that is a sad fact I have had to deal with).

    And now I need to go look into some kind of sound system. We are getting married on a really remote beach (our guests will be taking a surprise boat ride to get to it) so electricity isn’t really provided, let alone a PA system…

    Finally, yay for DIY New England beach weddings. I hear so much about Caribbean and California beach weddings. I love seeing the northeast get some love!

    • Kristy

      Surprise boat ride!? ***GUSH***

  • A Bicycle Built For Two

    As a wedding planner – whenever we do a beach wedding we set up two people at the ocean/water line stopping traffic from walking behind the ‘alter’ because that is what you see in all the pictures: the couple, the officiant, the bridal party, the ocean and a ton of lolly gaggers watching on. No thanks. But of course a planner and team reduces the lazy beach / low cost factor. I guess you can ask two kids on the beach to do it? Other than that, relish in the lack of privacy – everyone loves a wedding and will cheer you on.

    Also – I want to point out that if it uber hot or sunny please provide shade and/or water – especially if you are going to have everyone standing. People get to weddings early and some men may be wearing jackets (even at a beach wedding) and you don’t want the guests to be uncomfortable.

    In Southern California many of the beaches limit how many guests you can have at a beach wedding. I am not suggesting breaking the rules (actually I am) but if you have a planner or someone that can run interference with officials, a 20-30 minute ceremony that is only supposed to have 80 guests can have 150 no problem. By the time they figure it out you have moved on to the reception location (if different).

    Super fun post Maddie and I love Michael’s addition. “Throw a wedding.” If it were ever that simple we wouldn’t be reading this blog but good reminder that it shouldn’t be complicated.

    • meg

      Of course you can have your friends do this! And you should! You don’t need a planner to be organized (we sure didn’t!)

      • A Bicycle Built For Two

        You are killing my business (-;

        Which I am completely OK with!

        • Amy

          My favorite ‘sweet victory’ moment regarding planning on the wedding day is when one of my husband’s groomsmen who busted my butt about how my wedding day schedule (which was sent to both sets of parents and the bridal party/vendors/readers) was ridiculous and anal admitted that he totally understood why I needed one after he got married, and that he wished he’d drawn one up for his wedding.

  • CarMar

    One of my favorite weddings was my old roommate’s Foley Beach wedding outside Charleston, SC. Her and her fiance rented a huge house for the week, and all the guests were able to stay within two or three houses from the main one. They got married on the beach in front of the house (no permit, no chairs), used a battery powered amp for the guitar and mic, and then had the reception in the open-air garage-type area under the house (for about 120 people). They got lucky and were able to find a rental that allowed for large parties. I think some beach areas are better for this, because my husband and I looked into doing a similar thing on Cape Cod and it was a no-go (unless you kept it under 40).

    Maddie, love your wedding and love your advice!

    • Class of 1980

      Yeah, some areas of the country are just so highly regulated now. I find it a bit sad.

  • Meg

    Love to OOB! Fantastic post from a fellow Mainiac!

  • Class of 1980

    I grew up in Miami and as much as we lived at the beach, I remember being surprised that practically no one got married on them. I think more people do now.

    The only piece of advice I can give as far as overbearing regulations go, is to see if there is a stretch of beach that is deserted. We actually had beaches like that where you could get away from everyone.

  • ashley

    A recommendation… one of my friends went to a wedding in North Carolina, I believe. The couple rented out a large house for the week where they and their besties stayed. The last night, they got married by the ocean on the beach and had a big party at the house. This, of course, was cleared by the owners of the property. They got to actually spend time at the beach with friends for days and have a casual, awesome party at the end. Sounded like a fantastic idea for those that want a smaller, easier affair.

  • Other Katelyn

    I went to a lovely wedding a few years ago in Seattle where the bride and groom had a very small (like seven people) ceremony on the beach itself, then hosted a reception afterwards in one of the beach facilities– we definitely still got the beach vibe, guests could wander out on the beach itself if they wanted. WA beaches aren’t sandy, per SE, and rain is always always a consideration, so this was a good compromise as far as keeping folks comfortable.

    • brindey

      My fiance and I are doing this! We wanted to get married on the beach with the sun rising over the water…..which means our ceremony will be at 5:53 a.m. I will have an incredibly gorgeous memory, and get to be married to Josh all day…but we are only inviting 16 people to the ceremony.

      For the reception, we rented a “yacht club” (it’s really a kayak house at the end of a dirt road on the Cape in MA) for the day. We get to play beach volleyball, dance with our feet in the sand, and eat Ben and Jerry’s sundaes out on the sun-shiny dock.

      When I tell people about it, they think I’m crazy (can I give a shout out to the Shame post?). But my fiance and I are going to have the best day ever.

      • Trisha

        We did that and it worked out fine. There were a couple of ruffled feathers, but overall everyone was cool with it. And the people who mattered all understood and ran interference for us with the few who did. And honestly, I think that a lot of the extended family were perfectly happy to just be there for the party.

      • Leah

        That’s really early, but it’s also really cool. How awesome to get married as the sun is rising — quite symbolic of starting anew :-)

        • brindey

          Thanks Leah! And I am kinda glad I’m not the only one, Trisha!

  • Shelly

    I got married in a town on Lake Michigan (which, if you aren’t familiar, looks a lot like an ocean, complete with white sand beaches in a lot of places) and we briefly considered having a wedding on/overlooking the water. One of the venues we looked at was a kid’s camp that had lakefront property, but the downside was the appx 100 stairs down the sand dune to get to the beach. We had a handful of elderly guests for whom a trip up and down those stairs wouldn’t have been feasible.

    Another practical option could be an inland body of water. In the midwest we have all kinds of lakes, some of which come with very lovely beach areas, and are often in parks that have covered areas, less restrictions on alcohol, and are wired for electrical.

    • Jennifer

      I think making sure there aren’t problems for guests with mobility issues can be one of the bigger challenges with planning outdoor weddings in general. (Depending on the specifics of the guest list, of course — even elderly guests might not have any challenges in this area, so it’s not a universal concern, just a fairly common one.)

      A friend of mine had fallen in love with one specific spot for their wedding ceremony but realized the walk there would be too difficult for some grandparents, so they ended up having the ceremony at a slightly-less-picturesque (but still lovely, IMO) spot by the nature center’s visitor center, and used the gorgeous but less accessible spot for a first look meeting (and photos, but I got the impression that was secondary to having a special wedding day moment with her husband in that idyllic spot). I’d imagine a similar compromise would work in a lot of other locations if the couple has a particular location in mind but are worried about the comfort/safety of some of their family and friends — ceremony on a beachside restaurant’s deck, other special moment such as a first look, or private moments together immediately after the ceremony, on the beach that you have to descend rickety stairs to get to from the parking lot, for example.

    • Class of 1980

      My one trip to Michigan was a revelation. Went from Detroit up to Mackinac Island, which was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The water there is sooooo much more beautiful than I imagined. And yes, it really is like an ocean.

      • Kess

        Yup! Don’t judge Michigan just on Detroit (…from someone who grew up in Detroit…) If you can, try to make it all the way up to the UP. It can be even prettier than Mackinac.

        When I first saw the ocean, I was kind of disappointed. It was just like the Great Lakes!

  • Giggles

    I need to start recording the conversations I have with myself.

  • Hypothetical Sarah

    Here’s my (very specific, slightly long) guide to eloping on the beach. I recommend following steps 3-4 and 9-11.

    1. Have a trip pre-planned to a beach destination (Hawaii) for a conference so that somebody else pays for the plane tickets.
    2. Decide about 3 weeks ahead of time to elope while you’re there.
    3. Freak out about the fact that you’re suddenly getting married in 3 weeks. Consequently, your less-freaked-out other half handles all the planning (finding an officiant and a photographer. No other details. The officiant handles the necessary beach permit).
    4. Spend the rest of the time thinking about how we wound up here and why we want to be together forever, and writing vows.
    5. Fly halfway around the world to meet up with your other half in Hawaii. Discover during a layover that the airline has lost your luggage and that it won’t get to you until after the ceremony. Also discover that even the TSA won’t ask questions if you’re a girl trying not to cry while going through airport security.
    6. Once in Hawaii, pass out from jetlag. Prepare to get married the next day at sunset.
    7. Wake up to POURING RAIN. More rain than they’ve had in over 2 years. In a part of Hawaii where it never rains.*
    8. Assess the facts: lost luggage, pouring rain, no guests. Call officiant and photographer and reschedule for a morning four days later.** Screw sunset. Morning light is prettier anyway, and the beaches are emptier.
    9. Take the days that were supposed to be a mini-honeymoon and have a giddy happy time with your other half. Decide that vacation should be mandatory in the days immediately before a wedding. Go into the ceremony much happier and calmer for having had those days together.
    10. Pick out leis for each other at a supermarket the night before.
    11. Get married on the beach early in the morning.
    (12. Revel in secret-marriage while planning a “real” wedding with family and friends. While not the reason we eloped, this allowed for the intensely personal and private ceremony that the boy wanted, as well as the celebration with community that I want. Unfortunately this keeps our pretty, pretty pictures off the internet for now)

    * When planning a beach wedding, HAVE RAIN PLANS!
    ** This only worked because we didn’t let anyone come. If we’d let my father come like he really wanted to, he would have been holding an umbrella while we got married in the rain.

    • Maddie

      Oh yeah, if it had rained, we would have been f*ed.

    • Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      I have cried going through airport security too! :) (For me it was the whole long distance relationship tears-in-airports-after-yet-another-goodbye thing. Yuck.)

    • Erin

      Wait, is this a wedding graduate post in the comments? This should be amplified to full-on wedding graduate status. Stat.

      Also, so awesome! Love this. Especially getting work pay for your travel.

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        Thanks :) It’s… umm… maybe. Kind of. The problem is step 12. I’m privately a newlywed (we eloped for immigration reasons), publicly just engaged (aside from on APW), and actively planning our wedding (the plans for which predate our elopement) for next year. Most of our nearest-and-dearest don’t know we eloped, and I’d like to keep it that way for now… which means no photos on the internet.

        At the moment I self-identify as a married wedding undergraduate, if that makes sense. The wedding graduate post will have to wait until after the wedding!

        • Kristy

          Oooh, I know Denver APW has a member that falls in this category. Maybe its time for a post on secretly married and planning a wedding?!

        • Erin

          I see. Lips zipped for sure, but secretly way cool, and when you go official? We will all want to see. Congrats and future congrats!

          • Karen

            Yes, congrats and future congrats! We considered doing this (for health insurance reasons) but are registering as domestic partners instead…still, when the idea was on the table, I was worried about what it would feel like to be married and planning a wedding. I’d love to hear your story, now and/or later!

  • crystal

    Fellow Mainer who has been dreaming of a beach wedding in Maine… but also has been politely laughed out of town at requests to rent beach-front homes with beach access…

    Throw a girl a bone and let me know where you did this? I’d be eternally grateful. I’d also love to know who your band was… Thank you!!!!!!!!!!

    • Leah

      I don’t know about the original poster, but I worked at a place in Maine that will do beach weddings. It’s called Ferry Beach . . . camp? I worked at the Ferry Beach Ecology School, and they rented our place from the Ferry Beach camp center that is there. It’s a lovely location, they’ve got beach access, and you can have the reception indoors and catered by their amazing chef. I can’t speak highly enough about it :-) Plus, it’s right next door to OOB in Saco. Oh, Maine.

      • crystal

        Oh! Thanks for another fabulous lead! We’ve been looking at Wolfe’s Neck Farm in S. Freeport, but sure is nice to have runner-up ideas!

        • Leah

          ooh, Wolfe’s Neck is so pretty too. Sounds awesome. I’m a bit jealous. We’re having a winter wedding (between Christmas and New Year’s) because that works best for us. We’re teachers and just don’t have the energy to plan for this summer. So I am super excited to have hot chocolate at the reception and wedding pics of me in snowshoes but also a wee bit sad to not have a beach/lake outdoor bash. Maybe we’ll do an engagement party this summer . . .

          Anyway, I hope the venue works out. Or Ferry Beach, if you need a backup. I really can’t recommend them enough — their chef is super, duper fantastic, and it’s on a lovely bay.

    • Maddie

      Oh I am so excited about all these fellow Mainers! We got married right next to the pier in OOB and had our reception at Surf 6 restaurant. I can’t say enough good things about working with them. They are very much a casual beach restaurant, but if that’s not your style there is also The Brunswick, which is just on the other side of the pier. They have a huuuuge patio right on the water.

      Our band was Under the Covers. They are an old family friend of ours and they are AMAZING. (

      I will say – something I did not touch on in my post, but which is REALLY important is that not having to clean up after your party is a huge advantage to hosting your reception at a restaurant. Because I promise you, the last thing you want to be thinking about the next morning is whether or not your friends tracked sand in the carpets of your rental (and if you’re renting from anal retentive people like, say, my dad, they look for that).

      I say this as someone who rented a house down the street from our venue and threw a huge party after our wedding. It was a great party that I wouldn’t trade for the world, but we were also vacuuming until 5pm the next day.

      But I promise you that you will be in good hands if you end up with any of these guys! They took great care of us and really enjoyed in the process because, again, it’s not what they do every day.

      Good luck!

  • ka

    “We searched high and low for someone with a private beach property who would rent us their house for a wedding and most people very kindly laughed at the proposition. This might not be an issue if your wedding is less than 50 people, but if you are going to have any sizable guest list, you might want to consider a public beach.”

    Same thing happened to us–even with less than 50 people! We were either laughed at, scoffed at, or quoted astronomical prices at. (But then, that’s what usually happens with anything less than traditional on Long Island.)

    Awesome how-to, awesome wedding. Much need on a day like today when I want to throw my ever-evolving tropical beach becomes local beach becomes local-woods-a-15-minute-walk-from-the-beach wedding plans out the window.

    (And also, this comment-er really hates the less-than and greater-than symbols… So glad we can edit them now, because my attempted use of arrows made quite a mess.)

    • Amy

      Oh man, as someone who has parents that own a house (not beachfront mind you) on the outer banks of NC I kind of get where the homeowners are coming from. After dealing with the fallout of numerous renters who break/steal/burn/destroy stuff (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not) I can understand why owners wouldn’t want to rent to a group they know for sure is going to be having a wedding. Think about who has to deal with the house after the wedding – spilled beverages, general stuff tracked in/out, carpet damage/etc.
      And while I’m sure no one on APW would be the type of person to flat out not tell the homeowners they’re planning a wedding, if anyone is thinking of pulling that for a rental to get around the “no weddings rule” know that most rental contracts have a clause that will get you kicked out of the home with no return of your deposit if you try that.

  • crystal

    Thank you SO much! I truly appreciate the open share of info! Super familiar with OOB and Surf 6 – just couldnt quite place it in the pics!

  • FM

    Maybe this is totally obvious, but I would add the recommendation that you let your guests know the wedding will be on a beach, so they can pick appropriate footwear (or shoes that are easy to take off).

    • RachelLyn

      Yes! My invitations say “Ceremony on the Beach” and our dress code includes “Bare feet optional.”

  • Vanessa

    Maddie, when I see you on here I feel like I know someone famous. Love it!

    • Maddie

      Ha! I feel famous. :)

  • Richelle

    GORGEOUS wedding photos! Maddie, I especially loved your dress (below your very smiley face which is what rocked it) and your girls in all different great dresses. Happy wedding, happy marriage to you!

  • kelly

    This is my first comment on APW (or any blog for that matter). My fiance and I are getting married April 16th (ack!) in Seacrest, Florida, so I am excited to see this post. We are incredibly lucky in that we were able to rent a private beach house for a wedding for 50 people (and from what I understand other weddings at the same house for 100+guests have been allowed). We did have to search high and low to find private beach rentals which would allow a wedding, and were able to come up with a handful to choose from.

    Regarding privacy: from what I gather from discussions with county officials, the beaches are private and we don’t need any permits for an event on the beach with less than 50 guests. (FYI, its the Beaches of Ft. Walton). I think even if the beach were a little less private, and there were spectators, I wouldn’t mind; but, the fiance does, so I’m happy we found what we did.

    Also, although the wedding hasn’t happened yet (but so soooonnnn!), I have to say if you’re looking to do a beach wedding and can find a beach rental which allows weddings, its a great way to save on costs. I know it isn’t feasible for everyone, but for us it was – we’re in New Orleans, and Seacrest is about a five hour drive (its in the Florida panhandle between Destin and Panama City). The set-up is truly ideal – we have been able to purchase and supply our own alcohol , hire our own bartender, do our own decorations (not much, why compete with the beach?), etc. We’re saving a ton this way. Plus, we’re fortunate that our parents/families are splitting the price of the beach rental, reasoning that they’d be renting a place to stay anyway (and they wanted to contribute in any case). The bonus: because its a great big house, our immediate families get to stay in one place with us and get to know each other over the weekend. This is incredibly important to us, and one of the things I am most excited about.

    As a last note I have to say to Meg (and Alyssa and Lauren): a huge THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for everything you do. I found APW about six or eight months ago, just as the future hubs and I were sitting down and beginning to really plan, and its been my go to site for everything – logistics, advice, support, like-mindedness from other sane and thoughtful people – I could go on. Anyway, thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.

  • Trisha

    “Because our little beach restaurant was a very popular spot for music and dining during the summer, they already had a setup for sound amplification (yes, you NEED this if you’re going to have more than 20 people trying to hear your ceremony)”

    Can I second this? And third it as well? Even with only about 30 people at the wedding, people still had trouble hearing us. Turns out waves and wind can drown out your voice more than you’d think!

    “You know, I know there are a lot of beautiful beach weddings out there that are really well put together, but I think the magic of getting married in the sand is the comfy casual nature of it all. You can get away with breaking so many of the wedding “rules” when you get married on the beach. Why not take advantage of that liberty?”

    Yes, yes, and yes. We had no chairs, and nobody cared. And it really did seem to cut out a lot of the ‘This is how you’re supposed to do a wedding’ noise. It was relaxed, fun, and just the way we wanted it.

  • smallwonder

    Just went back and read the original Lazy Girl post and, uh, we are throwing that wedding (just not on the beach). Lazy girls for life!

    • Maddie


  • Koru Kate

    Especially on the East Coast, it’s a good idea to have a back-up plan in case of rain or other bad weather. You never know with Mother Nature. I adore beach weddings- the ocean is the most beautiful backdrop!!

  • Katie

    I love Maddie’s Lazy Girl posts. Her first one (combined with a few other APW posts) has been the main thing keeping me sane through planning my wedding and will probably be read another 20 times before I get married. It’s just so comforting to see a wedding without all the full out decorating and to see that it looked good and the bride thought it looked good. Not because I dislike the look, but because I’m a lazy girl who doesn’t like to decorate and won’t/can’t pay someone to do it for my wedding.

    This post is a good reminder why we chose a secluded resort on a big lake with tons of nature as its backdrop. Ready-made decorations.

  • McPants

    Yay beach weddings! I’d also add that (at least on the East Coast) you should consider hurricane season when you’re planning. Even if there isn’t a direct hit, you can lose a lot of beach space with a big offshore storm. I had this happen with a friend’s wedding in the Outer Banks, NC. She rented a great big house had planned a lovely beach ceremony behind it, but come the weekend of the wedding, the beach was down to about 6 feet wide. It turned out okay; they moved it to their backyard and it was still gorgeous, but I know it wasn’t what she had in mind.

    • Amy

      I’ve been going to the outer banks my whole life. They are known for drop of a hat weather changes anytime from August/November. As someone who has been evacuated off the island for hurricanes and just seen how fast roads flood down there I wouldn’t ever get married at a beach front location known for hurricanes without both a rain plan, and knowing (truly) whether you are the kind of person who will be ok if there is a downpour during your wedding.

  • Lily

    I’ve been planning a beach wedding (well ok I’ve been looking at a lot of wedding sites and planning on planning a beach wedding, I’ve got a while give me a break folks!) and this is literally the down right funniest and best thing I’ve ready so far in my whole wedding hunt! Er-mazing! Thanks so much for the entire site, its brilliant! x

  • Alexandra

    Awesome. Reminds me, I wrote into Ask Team Practical in October of 2010, mildly freaking out that my sweetie wanted to get married at the water line, and what did that mean for our attendants [men in shorts? I’d wanted my gals in long skirts!], and do they even ‘need’ to be matching if there may be no aisle…and Alyssa kindly and awesomely replied something like, “Girl, you’re getting married on the beach! That’s awesome, and don’t worry about the rest; it’ll work out”.
    And it did–we found a beachfront restaurant so that we could be on a deck looking at the ocean, but not in the sand. Phew!
    Definitely gotta recommend the restaurant as a great lazy way to do things! ;-)

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  • mel

    thanks for all the wonderful thoughts. we’re planning our beach wedding for march 2013 in nz. some advice from my parents (who live right across the road from the beach we’ll have our ceremony)… check the tides for the day of your wedding. some beaches don’t leave much room at high tide. worth considering especially if you have a lot of guests! xo

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  • toni

    Toni writes

    We had a beach wedding on Koh Samui Thailand with a wedding planner from and we had the same worries of lots of people on the beach and women in bikinis, men in tight swimwear photo bombing our wedding photos.
    All the beaches are public here, they are not private unless its away from the busy parts which ours was. We had a private villa wedding and all the privacy we wanted, we were given many choices on the water line with water flowing over our feet, beach or grass We had a fantastic day. We couldn’t have asked for anything better. it met our expectations 10 fold
    I did see another wedding being performed by the same company at a beachside resort and it was held at around sunset, all the sunbeds were put to one side and security as well as the partition flanking the ceremony I would say they done a great job of giving the newly weds a intimate wedding.

  • Mike & Cathryn

    thanks I am going crazy trying to decide on a place and we wanted a beach wedding. can you tell me the name of the restaurant you used for your wedding thanks again

  • Rose Petals

    Thanks for this joyful information……..i also use this tips for my wedding decoration.

  • Mrs. Goodall

    Thank you so much my fiancé and I want a beach wedding but had no idea where to start, this is perfect

  • Benny

    I loved this article! It took so much out of the stress of planning a beach wedding!

  • Mikito Ohara

    I think you should include the use of Marquees in planning the venue for the wedding… Just my opinion.

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