Beach Wedding Basics: Getting Started

Thinking about planning a seaside celebration? Here's what you need to know first.

If you're looking for a small, simple, and beautifully natural wedding, a beach wedding is the perfect solution. And if you want to invite the whole gang, think about a fun-filled wedding weekend and reunion at an activity-rich resort, beach, or lakeside town. Whatever you decide, beach weddings are often memorable, unique, and offer a plethora of options. Here are eight steps to make planning yours an official breeze.

1. Scout Out Locations
Choose a location based on your wedding style and nonnegotiable guest list (if any). Unlike a hometown affair, you can't assume everyone will be able to attend, especially if you've chosen a beach that requires a journey for most people. You'll want to compare facilities and, if you're marrying on a private beach, look into any permit fees, container laws, and clean-up charges.

2. Start Early
Start researching and planning your beach wedding as soon as possible. Not only do you have to reserve your venue, but fulfilling the marriage and potential permit requirements of the state in which you are to be wed may take a few months. For example, some public beaches' parks commissions may require you to detail explicitly all pieces of equipment you'll be bringing to the site, as well as all food and beverages to be served there. Remember that you'll also need to have a plan in place for clean-up, which is one part of the wedding process you don't usually need to think about when your holding your affair indoors.

3. Ask the Right Questions
Two maxims to keep in mind here: No question is stupid and you'll never know until -- and unless! -- you ask. Achieving your dream wedding means having all the information you need to make the perfect choices. Read our articles about beach wedding ceremony and beach wedding reception basics to guide you through the beach marriage maze.

4. Be Flexible
Mother Nature works in mysterious ways. We can't stress this enough: Always have a back-up plan in place for whatever she throws your way. Don't feel compelled to organize the day on a drill sergeant's time schedule; if you need to be on a rain delay for a couple of hours, the rest of the day can still proceed as planned.

For beach-specific information, call the tourism or parks office for the town in which it's located. Then contact the Association of Bridal Consultants at (860) 355-0464 to find the perfect planner to help you pull it off.

5. Work With Those in the Know
Stress not! Work with a bridal consultant who specializes in beach weddings and/or a wedding planner based in the area where you'll be married to help you navigate a particular beach's requirements (these can vary by county and within towns). Planners also serve as expert eyes for finding -- and overseeing -- local vendors.
6. Guide Your Guests
If you've chosen a relatively unknown section of beach, make sure guests know how to find it and can traverse any boardwalks, rocky areas, or grassy dunes. Be sure to place a welcome basket at the front of your ceremony site (suntan lotion, bug spray, etc.) and goodies that will remind them of the setting -- parasols, refreshing glasses of lemonade, or cozy beach blankets, for example.

7. Arrive Early
Plan to arrive to your site a few hours early to be sure the set-up goes off without a hitch. Try to relax, and stay hydrated -- you don't want to start wilting during the ceremony!

8. Get It in Writing
If you've been on The Knot.com before, you already know our number one rule when dealing with vendors: Make sure you confirm all agreements in writing before you let a single dollar bill leave your wallet!

-- Meredith Gray

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