How to Plan a Beach Wedding in Santa Cruz
At Visit Santa Cruz County, one of our most frequently asked questions is how to have a wedding at the beach. To some, there’s no more perfect or memorable place to tie the knot, but how does one pull it off and what are some tips to make sure it all works out? Here are some reminders of important things to consider when planning your beach wedding:
Carefully select the beach
In order to make sure the wedding of your dreams translates to
reality, take some care in picking the right beach for the atmosphere
you envision. It seems straightforward, but make time to think about the
season, day of the week, and time of day. For example, if you desire a
serene affair, you’ll want to avoid highly trafficked beaches during
summer weekends. Think about accessibility for you and your guests… are
there stairs or trails to get to the beach? How far of a walk through
sand will it be to get to the site? Can all my guests get there
comfortably? Are there enough parking spots and restroom
facilities? Lastly, be flexible about the exact location… the sand moves
and shapes with the tides, presenting a different landscape at
different times of year.
You probably need a permit or, at the least, a reservation with beach management
Most Santa Cruz County beaches
are public and protected, as these beaches are along the Monterey Bay
National Marine Sanctuary. The beaches are used and loved by the local
community, so you’ll want to reach out to the organization managing the
beach to ensure your event is not overlapping with other happenings.
Depending on which beach and how many guests you expect, this could be
as simple as making a reservation with the City, County, or State Parks.
For a more complex affair, the reservation process may involve fees,
applications, and restrictions. See
here for specific instructions about contacting the right department for the beach of your choice.
Be aware of the beach rules
Since most of the beaches are protected by State Parks, there are
certain rules to uphold that keep Santa Cruz County beaches healthy and
safe for people and wildlife. Alcohol, glass containers, fires or flame
of any kind, and amplified sound are not permitted at many beaches.
You’ll want to be informed of the specific rules for your beach of
interest when making plans for your special day. Also think about your
setup – on most beaches, everything must be hand-carried. Vehicles are
not permitted on State or City Beaches.
Choose time of day wisely
Are you sensitive to bright sunlight? Do you loathe the idea of
your wedding photos featuring you and your loved ones squinting or
hidden behind sunglasses? Try a morning wedding when the light is less
harsh and follow up with a lovely brunch reception. Alternately, a
sunset ceremony with an evening celebration can help you avoid harsh
mid-day rays. Be sure to use sunscreen all times of day to prevent
having a sunburn while on your honeymoon.
Put thought into the comfort of your (and your guests’) attire
Ascending down an aisle of sand takes a knack to do elegantly. A
constricting or heavy dress can make this special moment awkward or
uncomfortable. Also, consider the train of your dress. A strapless gown
shouldn’t have a heavy or long train that will create drag, or you’ll be
constantly re-hoisting and adjusting. If you have a bustle, make sure
you do a test run with whoever will be fastening it that day, to ensure
it’ll be a quick and fuss-free process. Also, stilettos are pretty much
out of the question for a beach ceremony… but, by all means, break them
out for the dance floor later! Get some cute slides to slip off
before going barefoot in the sand. Be sure to provide guidelines
for your guests about expected attire for your special day. If you have a
wedding website, this would be great information to include!
You’re subject to the elements…
This may seem to be a minor issue, but even the most casual of
affairs can be thwarted by the surprise of inclement weather. The
California Coast has a temperate climate, with comfortable temperatures
year-round. That said, being in close proximity to the ocean allows an
element of unpredictability. Humidity and wind can make it feel colder
or hotter than it really is. Wind in particular, can make eyes water and
blow sand onto the skin. Be ready for anything and ensure your makeup
and hair are low maintenance or set with strong hold products. It’s also
a good idea to have your maid of honor (or other appointee) keep an
arsenal of beauty essentials in your Beach Wedding Survival Kit, see our
recommended list below!
…And the birds!
In addition to tissues, you may want to have some handy-wipes to
recover from whatever the local wildlife may, ahem, drop onto you or
your guests. Hey, it can happen!
Your Beach Wedding Survival Kit
You don’t need to drag a bursting duffel bag to the ceremony and
reception in order to be prepared! Travel pack size is best for most
items and you should be able to fit these into a mid-size purse or bag.
Keep the bag sleek and coordinated, and preferably with compartments and
a zipper or snap closure (not an open tote bag that items can spill out
Here’s what you’ll need to be pretty much unstoppable and amazing for your beach wedding:
- Handy-wipes/makeup remover wipes
- Your makeup essentials (gloss, liner, mascara, makeup sponge, blotting papers)
- Hair essentials (bobby pins, hairspray)
- Toothpicks, floss, mints, and/or water-less mini toothbrush
- Dish towels (for cleaning up sandy feet before you slip into those stilettos)
- MOST IMPORTANTLY – your smiling, happy self!
On the big day, scout your spot early
Send out some helpers to make sure your ceremony space is clear from
any debris, kelp, or otherwise undesirable items. While you likely won’t
be able to rope off your area, the presence of your caring scouts and
set up will set the tone for other beach-goers to respect the space and
commencement of such a special occasion.
Have a good attitude
You probably picked the beach for your wedding because of the
carefree vibes and warm memories you have of the location. Don’t let
wedding stress overcome this joyful feeling! With a little preparedness
and the right tools, you’ll be ready to roll with anything mother nature
throws at you and enjoy your special day! Sometimes the unexpected
things can become the most memorable. Cheers!