The Ultimate Beach Wedding Planning Checklist

Planning Resources

Thinking about getting married on a beach? Don’t know where to start? From the place to the time and everything in between. Planning a wedding can already be a lot. But, a beach wedding can make things a little tricky. There are hundreds of beaches around the world with SO many different types of sand, weather, climates, and lighting. You may or may not have even realized this. But, before you get too overwhelmed here is the Ultimate Beach Wedding Planning checklist!

1. Sand

I don’t know what beaches you’re going to but I’m going to say that a good 99% of them have sand. I think this one is pretty self explanatory but if you and your partner do not like sand then you probably shouldn’t get married on a beach. Some things to consider are if you two are inviting guests will all the guests be ok trenching through the sand to get to your ceremony. Some beaches are not accessible for everyone especially when there’s hiking or walking far distances in the sand involved. It can be a full on workout to get there but so worth it. 

If you’re heart is 100% set on a beach wedding but you don’t know if grandma with the walker will be able to make to her seat don’t worry we’ll hire a buff guy to carry her there! Just kidding, but seriously we can check if the local beach authorities might be able to give her a ride in the golf cart or beach we lay out special that lay on top of the sand. We will get Mema there!!

Pro-tip: bring baby powder to

2. What About the Tide?

As if the weather wasn’t your biggest concern for the day. A high tide could most definitely dampen your big day. This is where logistical planning can really come into effect. Tools, like google earth, NOAA Tides and Currents, and so many other resources come into place.

Depending on the time of the year, the place, and the time of the ceremony the tide is always changing. So, you would want to make sure that your ceremony is in a place and at time during low tide. Unless you just want to wash away with the ocean. You must consider what the tide is doing and make sure you are safe and well prepared. Magic Seaweed is a great site to get this information. They list tons of places for free and get essentially a surfing report so you can know what to expect ahead.

  • Did you check the tide the week of the wedding to see how high the tide will be?

3. Beach Weather

cliff side in Big Sur, California- - The Ultimate Beach Planning Checklist

The weather at the beach is always changing. The day can start looking like a total bummer but by mid day it’s totally sunny and perfect and when the sun sets you have an amazing golden hour. Other days it can start totally clear but by late afternoon the fog is rolling in heavy. It depends on 1) the place and 2) the beach. But, you and your photographer should be prepared with a backup plan either way. Whether it’s sunny and gorgeous or a bit gloomy, everyone should be prepared from the start so there’s no scrambling the day of and last minute trying to work everything out. One really helpful resources for determining what the weather might be like on your special day is the farmer’s almanac.

Another thing to consider is bugs. The type of weather you experience can most definitely determine whether bug are ready to “ruin” your day or there won’t be a fly in site.

  • Is the timeline to optimized for lighting?

4. Public beaches vs. Private Beaches

Depending on your location will determine if private or public beaches are even available to you. In Hawaii, all the beaches are public but there are some that are definitely more secluded ones than others. Private beaches will definitely guarantee that you’ll be alone on that special day. But, depending on the beach, place, and time, you might be able to be alone or almost completely alone with on that dream day anyway. So, keep and open mind and be honest with yourself about what you want most! Either way you’re going to rock it so so what if there’s a couple people watching!

Do I need a permit? 9 times out of 10 you will. Just like a park or another public place permits need to be obtained from local municipals. When obtaining a permit you want to make sure that you know what area of the beach your permit is for, how many people does the permit include

  • Is the beach public or private?
  • Do I need a permit? (check more about permits here)
  • Does my photographer need an additional permit?

5. Not Every Beaches Climate is Created Equally

I think when most people think of the beach they think of sunny summer days, needing sunblock, and running for the water when you get hot. But, not all beaches are created equally. What I mean by that is yes there are some beaches that the sand is tan, the water is blue, and it’s usually nice there in the summer. There are usually some black sand beaches in Hawaii, Bali, and Iceland. All of which have completely different climates. Some beaches have sand that is actually like burning lava as the sun beats down all day while others’ sand is like a nice warm hug. There are beaches in Australia where the sand is white. Literally, There are SO many different types of beaches but it’s so important to know your vision and choose the beach location that’s right for you!

  • Am I choosing attire that is weather appropriate?

6. Sunblock and Tan Lines

Assuming you chose a sunny beach to get married on always be prepared with sunblock. It’s something so simple that I feel like people always forget. I’m guilty of it as well but be prepared for yourself and if you have guests then your guests too. Because the last thing you want is to end up with some wicked tan lines or red as a lobster. You photographer’s editing skills can only get you so far. So, be kind to your skin and it will thank you later. 

  • Am I evenly tanned?
  • Is sunblock purchased if needed for both myself and guests?
  • Do I need individual umbrellas for additional shade if needed?

7. Always Have a Good Backup Plan

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. This is YOUR wedding day and a beach wedding like any other can go off without a hitch or hit some snags along the way. Have a back up plan. It’s really that simple to be prepared for the worst but hope for the best. 

  • Do I have a solid back up plan?

8. Music Equipment

Something definitely to consider when getting married on the beach is sound. Yes, the waves crashing in the background and the seagulls may sound like heaven to you but what about the music you may want to play in the background as you say your vows? Or what about the song you want to play while you walk down the aisle? Or what about the first dance you might want right next to the ocean? I don’t think the little speaker on your phone is going to cut it. So, figure out if you need a speaker and if so, what speaker will work best. Do you need microphones and if so how many and do they connect to the speaker? Plan it, test it, buy it, and make sure you charge it. 

  • Is my sound system is charged?
  • Is my sound system is portable?
  • Can everyone hear the music and/or voices clearly?

9. Choosing the Right Flowers

floral arrangement for retro beach elopement - The Ultimate Beach Planning Checklist

With all the salt in the air the beach whether can be really harsh on flowers. So, make sure you tell your florist that you’re getting married on a beach and that the flowers you’re in love with will last the entire day. The last thing you want at your beach wedding is this beautiful bouquet that  you pick up in the morning and by evening when you’re ready to take pictures it’s all wilted and sad. 

  • Can my flowers can withstand the salt air?

10. How Will You Store the Food?

Maybe you decide you want to get married at this gorgeous super secluded beach that takes a mile to hike to. And you and your partner will get there have a first look, get married, and then have a super fun picnic. Depending on the temperature of the day you may want to consider something more heavy duty for your food other than your backpack. The last thing you want is to have the food spoil and you not be able to eat it or you not realize it is and you eat and get sick from it. Be prepared with cooled storage and container or whatever the case may be. 

  • Do I need a cooler?
  • Am I going to have the reception and cocktail hour somewhere else?

11. Wind

big sur beach elopement- - The Ultimate Beach Planning Checklist

I don’t know about you but I’ve hardly ever been to a beach where there wasn’t any wind. Don’t let it get you down or frustrate you just be prepared. Maybe that means using seashells to hold papers down or not having any papers at all. Sometimes the happiest people really are the ones that were prepared so make sure things are secured and be ready to go with the flow a little bit here. But, a little wind never hurt nobody and it can make for some EPIC pictures. So, my advice embrace it your beach wedding photos are bound to be AMAZING!

  • Are chairs securable along with everything else?

Alright Now Let’s Check Everything off!

I couldn’t possibly list everything here? So, I created PDF that you can download here! That way when you can print it, use it, cross it things off, send it to the appropriate people. All the good things!

** Disclaimer: All view an opinions are my own from personal experience and or research.

Hi I'm Torez, a die-hard romantic and San Francisco-based wedding photographer with years of experience capturing love stories against the backdrop of our charming city. From intimate City Hall ceremonies to epic coastal elopements, I've seen and photographed it all. I know the ins and outs of navigating wedding planning in San Francisco like the back of my hand - from selecting the perfect location that aligns with your love story, to creating the dreamiest wedding timeline that lets you enjoy your day to the fullest. And guess what? I'm sharing all of that expertise right here with you.

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