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July 12, 2018

Beach Wedding 101

By Suzi Battaile

Looking for a beach wedding venue? Be sure to check out our friends at Visit Oceanside who shared these great tips with us.

Beach Wedding 101

When you’re wedding planning in Southern California at some point you may have considered having your wedding at the beach.  You’ve dreamed of the sun setting in the background, cool breezes in your hair, the smell of the salted sea, and your toes in the sand.  Your dream can quickly turn into a nightmare if you’re not prepared.   Here is a list of potential issues that you may run into and how to plan accordingly.

The Sun and Heat

Photo: Holly Ireland Photography

Beach Wedding, Oceanside, umbrella

The sun can be more intense at the beach when it’s reflected back from the water or the sand.  Have parasols in your wedding colors that guests can grab and use to shade themselves.  You may want to have sunglasses waiting on their seats just in case they forgot or they’re using prescription glasses.  Remember, if you’re having a sunset wedding on the beach on the west coast that means your guests will be looking directly into the sun.  Also, never underestimate the need for hydration. For your guest’s convenience, have buckets of ice with water bottles at the ceremony site. Reminder: It only takes minutes to burn at the beach. Protect your guests by handing out sunscreen favors (See example here).

The Marine Layer and Morning Drizzle

Photo: Holly Ireland Photography

beach wedding, Oceanside, bridal party, robes

If you’re from San Diego, you know what Marine Layer is and it’s not always your friend. Timing is key here.  Marine layer clouds are low altitude stratus clouds that form over ocean waters that typically happen during the summer months.  While Californian’s refer to this as “Graypril”, “May Gray”, and “June Gloom”, this weather pattern can hold fast well into August.  As the day warms up, it typically will burn off depending on how thick it is.  It is a good idea to have towels on hand in case of drizzle between the time your chairs are set up and the start of the wedding.

Planning a Beach Wedding in Oceanside? Request an Oceanside Wedding Guide.


The Sand

Photo: Holly Ireland Photography

Beach Wedding, Oceanside, sand

Let me just get this out of the way…Please do NOT attempt one of those papery aisle runners in the sand. Between the wind, the uneven surface, and your wedding party tripping on it, it’s going to end up being a big ole mess by the time you walk down the aisle. All of those pretty pictures you see of a pristine aisle runner are BEFORE any guests have been around it. Instead, line the aisle with petals, décor, and candles. If you must have an aisle runner, consider putting down wood planks first or renting a carpeted one.

Photo: Siegel Thurston Photography; Stationery: Soirees & Showers

beach wedding, invitation, stationery

In your wedding invitation warn guests that the ceremony will be in the sand so they’ll know to wear appropriate shoes and clothing.  Have you ever gotten sand stuck in your tights? Ugh! (Note: On days of intense sun the sand can burn!)

The People

Photo: Holly Ireland Photography

beach wedding, Oceanside, wedding vows

The beach is a public space. While you can politely always ask beachgoers to move, they have the right to not budge. Think of the normal activity that you see on a beach: volleyball, soccer, Frisbee, football, horseshoes, bocce ball, bonfires, BBQs, etc. This activity is not going to cease because it’s your wedding day. Location is going to be the key here. Choose a remote part of the beach where you can lessen the impact of beachgoers. Know what is happening around town and in the travel industry as a whole. Don’t plan a beach wedding around spring break, in peak summer months, or any of the holidays. Check the city calendar for other large events that could create a conflict with your wedding such as surf contests or large sporting events. Just be prepared and give your guests directions and parking information so they’re not caught off guard. Note: Most Southern California beaches, including Oceanside, do not allow beach weddings during peak tourist season (Memorial Day to Labor Day).

The Wind

It’s usually a little cooler at the beach thanks to our coastal breezes.  This is great when you’re trying to escape the heat, but it’s not always convenient when it comes to weddings.  Consider having your hair in a tight up-do to keep it firmly in place and maybe forego the veil as well.  The bridesmaid’s dresses shouldn’t be in danger of being blown upward either.  As far as your décor goes, keep it simple and secure.  Too much draping could catch the wind and blow over your arch.  Plan to hand out programs or anything that could blow away to keep the beaches clear of unwanted trash and debris.

The Tide

Photo: Holly Ireland Photography

beach weddings, Oceanside, tides

As any surfer will tell you, it’s all about the waves. You must make this tide chart your friend.  For the most sand possible and the least chance of a wedding washout, you’ll want to schedule your wedding as close to low tide as possible if your location has limited beachfront.  The beaches north of the pier and adjacent to the harbor have plentiful sand so just make sure your placement isn’t too close to the shoreline if tides are on the rise.

The Accessibility

Photo: Holly Ireland Photography

beach weddings, Oceanside,

We’re very lucky to have beaches in Oceanside which are a straight walk from the parking lot to the shore line, but some of the beaches have only stair access.  If you have elderly guests or those with disabilities, this will not work.  Also, if you have guests with any kind of impairment when walking, the sand alone proposes a challenge.  Make sure there is a way for them to be dropped off close, have escorts ready to help them along, and keep the ceremony close to the road.  Several beaches in California have a complimentary beach wheelchair program, including Oceanside Pier and Oceanside Harbor beach. Contact Oceanside’s Lifeguard Services at (760) 435-4018 for more information.

The Alternatives

Coastal cities embrace the beach lifestyle so we have a host of alternatives from restaurants to resorts that will give you that “beach feel” without the elements.  In Oceanside, CA wedding ceremony sites that are just steps from the sand include:

Read more about Oceanside’s Ocean Side Weddings