Living in Santa Barbara, known as the American Riviera, I get a lot of calls from brides considering a wedding ceremony on the beach. There is a very romanticized fantasy about exchanging vows on the sand with the soft hum of the ocean as a backdrop.
A beach wedding is not for everyone ... even for some who have always dreamed of it ... but never really thought it through. With each client, I'll walk them through the pros and cons to help them decide if a beach wedding is really right for them. There is a lot to consider ...
First, find out which beaches allow ceremonies on the beach, which ones require a permit and what the specific regulations are for the one you are interested in.
Are chairs allowed on the sand? Or will you use beach towels, or ask guests to stand. Only some rental companies will set up chairs on the sand.
What are the tides supposed to do? Check the tide charts for your wedding date and note what is expected at the time of day for your ceremony. The last thing you want is to arrive for your wedding and discover there is no sand!
Will you be barefoot, in flip flops or in heels? Consider (and practice) walking on the sand. Do you need to create a plank aisle?
A beach is a public place. There will be sunbathers and tourists near your ceremony site.
You may have dogs running through your site (most SB beaches do not allow dogs, and yet they are still everywhere).
Which brings me to another point ... the not-so lovely leavings of the dogs, plus the ever-present sea kelp. If you book through a venue, they will clean up the beach for you. If you choose to do it on your own, bring a rake.
Again, if you go through a venue, they will ensure your stretch of sand is available to you come Ceremony time. However, if you do it on your own, consider how you will "reserve" your event site ... SB beaches do not technically allow you to reserve, so you may have to designate someone to sit out there and mark your area with beach towels and chairs. (Bring sunblock and a hat!)
Musicians have their own set of requirements to work on the sand. They may need a wood plank underneath their chairs to set their instruments on (these can be purchased at a home improvement center or rented) - both to stabilize as well as to keep the sand out of them. They also may need wind shields to keep blowing sand out of their instruments. An umbrella is almost always a must.
Wind is another BIG factor, especially in Santa Barbara. And this is my biggest point to stress. We have more windy days than not, year round. And it can be very difficult for guests to hear over the roar of the wind ripping across the ocean and waves breaking on the sand. No problem, right? We'll amplify. Know that this can sometimes be worse, as the mics tend to pick up the wind more than the voices talking.
And last, I go back to the fact that the beach is a public place. If, after you've considered all of this, you still are set on a beach wedding ... find a way to make your site feel intimate so that you and your guests feel like you're in your own world, instead of in the middle of someone else's vacation.
Tomorrow I'll share a DIY beach wedding I worked on this summer ... Where all of the above were factors, and how we did it right. xo!