There’s just something magical about a beach wedding. The smell of the ocean, the sand under your feet, the sounds of the waves crashing, the sunset in the background as you and your love say your vows—for many couples, it’s the ultimate wedding dream.
But it’s also not the most traditional way to get married. Knowing how to plan a beach wedding takes a little bit of extra research, and most couples need guidance on where to get started.
For that, we’ve got your back. In this guide, we’ll cover the step-by-step process for planning a beach wedding that’s everything you envision. Plus, we’ll provide expert tips to help your day run smoothly from start to finish.
Outdoor weddings are whimsical and awesome, and the beach is one of the best places to have one. Beaches everywhere have reliably stunning natural backdrops and a relaxed, casual atmosphere that for many couples means a more enjoyable wedding experience.
And as a photographer, I’ve got to tell you—beach photo ops are incomparable. The natural light and panoramic scenery are unmatched.
Other reasons couples opt for a beach wedding include:
To make the experience a reality requires careful planning. Destination beach weddings have more logistical moving parts than a traditional wedding. For that reason, about half of all couples who choose a destination wedding hire a wedding planner to help.
That’s our first recommendation, too. If you’re not a naturally organized planner, hiring a professional to help you is a smart idea.
There are wedding planners available for every kind of budget. Having an expert do your planning makes the process less stressful and ensures you won’t run into last-minute mishaps.
If you are an organized planner and intend to do it yourself, do your research thoroughly and outline a detailed plan.
No matter which path you choose, review the steps in the next two sections to think through your beach wedding vision and establish where to get started.
How big do you want your wedding to be? If you’re envisioning a totally intimate ceremony with just the two of you, all you’ll need is a beach and an officiant. If you plan to invite your family and friends, you’ll need to find a venue on or near the beach with enough space and seating.
The size of your wedding also largely determines your budget and the other things you can fit into it. For some couples, having their loved ones present is the number one priority. Others opt for the more intimate wedding so they can splurge in other areas, like their honeymoon.
In either case, deciding what size wedding is best for you sets you on the right path for the rest of your planning.
Once you know the planned size of your wedding, you’ll be able to choose the right destination and venue. Some couples have a near-to-home beach in mind—maybe one they grew up visiting or that has special meaning to them as a couple.
Others look for more of a destination experience, and in most cases, that involves a tropical beach. The top 5 destinations for weddings in the continental U.S. are known for warm-weather beaches, and 4 of the 5 international locations have year-round tropical weather.
Alt-Text: Map graphic showing the top destination beach wedding locations in the United States and globally.
There’s a practical reason for this. These tropical locations have predictable weather patterns that increase the likelihood you’ll score a clear, sunny wedding day to say your I-Dos. Venues in these locations are also accustomed to hosting weddings and often offer budget-friendly and/or all-inclusive pricing.
Next, outline your wedding itinerary. This step sometimes happens in tandem with the previous one as you choose your date and venue.
For example: If you have your heart set on a particular venue, you might be more flexible about your date to ensure you can hold it there. If it’s the date that carries more meaning, you’ll probably be willing to shop around for a venue.
No matter what, it’s important to nail down both your venue and date first. Then, outline your itinerary for the trip. Ask questions like:
Answer all of these questions during this step. Create a day-by-day itinerary that details arrival, departure, and all of the events in between.
Most beach weddings require destination travel of some sort, even if it’s a drivable distance, which means you’ll need to handle accommodations for your guests.
This usually requires booking a hotel block and sharing the information with guests so they can book their room by a particular date, often at a discount group rate. Contact hotels at your destination well in advance so you can be certain enough rooms are available for the number of guests you’ve invited. If your destination also requires a flight, you’ll want to arrange group travel options, too.
Travel agents are your best friends for this step. Even with all of the information and booking capabilities available online, there are tons of moving parts to manage that make handling travel arrangements on your own a little risky.
Hiring a travel agent means everything from the hotel to flights to required travel documents to the actual booking process will be handled for you, and your guests have a go-to resource they can contact any time they have a question.
Travel agents can also typically obtain better pricing to make the trip more affordable for your guests.
There are two primary routes you can go for destination beach wedding vendors: hiring vendors local to the destination, or bringing a vendor with you. In either case, there are some important things about the process to keep in mind.
Some vendors need to be hired locally to your destination. For example: A caterer or DJ can’t really bring their supplies on a flight with them.
All-inclusive resorts or destination venues known for hosting weddings often have in-house vendors you can use, or at the very least can recommend someone local.
Thankfully, technology today allows for easy communication with destination vendors. Video meetings allow you to see and get to know them before the big day.
You can hire other vendors, like your photographer and your wedding planner, local either to you or to your destination. In these cases, there is no right answer—couples do both!
If you have your heart set on a particular photographer or planner, you can ask them to travel with you to your beach wedding. Just keep in mind that you’ll usually be responsible for their travel costs, including flight and hotel stay.
Keep your guests happy and make the travel experience enjoyable for them by sharing wedding details clearly and well in advance. Save the dates, a wedding website, and detailed invitations all go a long way in making your beach wedding feel like a fun trip to look forward to without the stress of planning.
Now that you know the steps for how to plan a beach wedding, it’s important to keep a few other details in mind to make the day run smoothly:
Getting married on the beach means experiencing in the elements. Keep this in mind as you choose day-of attire for both you and your wedding party. Go with styles that are looser, not constricting, and friendly in weather that can get pretty warm at certain times of day.
Think about hair, too. Every beach can be windy at times, so it’s best to choose styles that keep it secure.
Go with decor that’s practical for an outdoor beach setting and secure it well. For example: Use heavy vases for floral centerpieces. Avoid having loose programs or photos lying around. Secure table settings appropriately.
Even the sunniest places on earth have an occasional rainy day. While it might not be the most fun to think about, you 100% need a plan B in the event that weather prevents you from having it outdoors.
Your plan B depends largely on the type of beach wedding you’re planning. If it’s just the two of you, a small wedding party, and an officiant, you might be able to wait out inclement weather or even have a backup “rain date.”
If you’re getting married at a destination venue that’s a flight away, you might need to think of other options. Some venues can be flexible about pushing your wedding by one day if it rains on your planned date. Others may require holding it at an inside site at their resort.
The important thing: Talk to your wedding planner and/or venue reps, and have a plan. Try not to stress, but understand that bad weather risk comes with the territory for any outdoor event. Preparing ahead of time will help you feel at ease should bad weather occur.
Now that you know how to plan a beach wedding and other details to remember, there’s one last piece of advice to leave you with:
It’s your wedding, and it should 100% be everything you envision for yourselves as a couple. If that means having a wedding on the beach, go for it!
Remember, too, that not everyone can easily travel to attend a wedding. If you’re longing for a beach wedding but want all of your loved ones present, you might want to host it at a beach that’s nearby.
If you want to go the true destination route, acknowledge that not everyone may attend—even some people you’re close to—and be okay with that.
In the end, planning a beach wedding may require more flexibility and detailed planning. But if it’s what you’ve always dreamed of, you won’t regret taking the leap.
Did you know that we travel to destination weddings? If you want to know more, book a call with us so we can talk!