Getting Married on the Beach in California
The beaches of California are enticing when it comes to thinking about a beach wedding. They’re distinctive, with sand that practically shimmers–especially at sunset–with one-of-a-kind rock outcroppings that make for a wonderfully unique backdrop for a beach wedding.
Each California beach has its own distinct beach personality. You can be married with your toes in the sand to the melody of the surf hitting the rocks, on your private hotel balcony looking over the tranquil waters of the bay, on a bluff with ocean views as far as the eye can see or in a pristine park with the ocean waters peeking through the cypress trees.
Whichever you choose, it’s almost impossible to get it wrong. Mother Nature gave us a spectacular array of natural resources in California and we can’t think of any place that is more beautiful or romantic than California’s sunny shores to express your vows to one another. And after you’re married, the fun continues with a wealth of inns, restaurants, attractions, shops and outdoor activities. Whether you want to cocoon, mingle or a combination of the two, you’ll have the opportunity in California!
Is an Elopement on the Beach for You?
There is no doubt that an elopement wedding on the beach can be spectacular–intimacy, fun and romance all rolled into one. Not to mention a combination wedding and honeymoon for most couples! One look at the photos on this page might just be enough to convince you that a beach wedding is a must-have.
And even though elopement-style weddings have considerably less fuss and planning than traditional “pearls, pumps and pantyhose” weddings, there is still some thought and pre-wedding planning that needs to take place in order to pull off the perfect-for-you beach wedding.
Some things to think about include:
- Your tolerance for unpredictable weather conditions. Beaches can be windy; beaches can be foggy; and yes, beaches can get rained on too! Sometimes we need to implement a backup indoor location plan at the last minute.
- When it comes to beach weddings, simple is usually best. Simple attire, bare feet or flip-flops (and think about leaving the veil at home); Simple props (save the Champagne toast for your post-ceremony dinner unless you’re okay with a bit of sand in your glass!); Simple decorations (with the ocean as your backdrop, arches and urns of flowers are not needed).
- Your tolerance for strangers. If you’re planning a destination wedding on the beach, it may be your fondest wish to have it be just between the two of you. However, unless you’re a gazillionaire, securing privacy at a beach on a glorious summer day can be difficult to come by. Even with a permit, you’re only guaranteed that there will be no other weddings in that exact location on your day and time–a permit doesn’t mean you have exclusive beach access. So, if having swimsuit-clad beach-goers watching from a distance and applauding when you’re having your first married kiss is a turnoff, then we invite you to let us suggest some alternatives.
- Beaches shrink (or disappear altogether) at high tide. Check tide tables.
- Your tolerance for unpredictable happenings. Beaches have seagulls. Seagulls poop–and fly overhead. ‘Nuff said. Also, beaches have events scheduled on them–like windsurfing competitions and kite festivals. Check the local calendar of events.
- The needs of your guests, if you have any. A toes-in-the-sand wedding may sound idyllic to you, but if you’re inviting a few family members, consider the walking conditions for Grandma or the fact that the cliff-side spot has no guardrail on the side to protect your inquisitive three year old daughter.
California Beach Weddings
In addition to the general things to bear in mind when getting married on any beach (above), there are a few specific things to things to think about in regards to getting married on the beach in California.
- Weather-related conditions. Mid-summer is not always the best time for a beach wedding in California. In central to Northern California, the temperatures actually peak in late August through October. Overall, the fog and wind on the California coast are unpredictable. The famous California fog is generally not a ground fog that other parts of the country experience; it’s more like low-lying clouds. It’s still possible to have a beautiful beach wedding even on a foggy day. It’s not like you can’t see your hand in front of your face, but more likely that the views of the Pacific Ocean may not be as expansive as you imagined.
- Permit Requirements for a Wedding on the Beach. California can be a bit persnickety when it comes to getting permission for a beach wedding. Do NOT assume that you and your sweetie can just show up on any ol’ beach that offers a fabulous view of the Pacific with your officiant and photographer in tow and you will not be bothered by a park ranger who asks to see evidence of your beach wedding permit. We can help you with permit requirements for California beach and ocean-side venues.
- Traffic & Parking. The majority of California beach towns are also California tourist towns. Tourists love our coastal towns so much that they keep coming back to frolic on our beaches. (Oh yes, California tourists do love their frolicking!).
But all that frolicking,and people and cars does tend to cause us to burst at the seems a bit, especially come summer. It can get a little…shall we say…interesting to get from one end of town on a Friday afternoon in August! And then there is the parking situation. California beach cities and towns are known for parking lots that fill to overflowing in the tourist season. Bottom line? Factor in enough time for you and your wedding vendors to troll for a parking place. Or take a taxi. We also encourage you to plan your ceremony venue and post-ceremony activities (drinks, dinner) to be as close to your lodging as possible. It’ll make your wedding ever so much more frolicky!
- California Marriage License Requirements You’ll need your California marriage license in hand in order to have a legal ceremony performed anywhere in this state. County Clerk’s offices are NOT open on weekends, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.