Photo credit: Rose Photography
Beach Wedding 101
O’side wedding dreams include the warm sun, blue skies, cool breezes, toes in the sand, and salty kisses. With Southern California’s iconic beaches often topping the list for destination weddings, we created this blog on how to assemble the perfect beach wedding ceremony in Oceanside. The beach is a special and unique environment and certain precautions should be taken to ensure your wedding isn’t a wipe out.
Oceanside Beach Weddings
“What beach can I get married at in Oceanside,” is the question that we receive most often. Our top choice is always Oceanside Harbor Beach. There is plentiful sand, lots of parking (including free parking within walking distance) and access is easiest for any vendor set up that is required. Our second choice would be North of the Pier, off Breakwater Way. There is a parking lot on the corner of Breakwater and Pacific that gives guests easy access. While Buccanear Beach is more quietyly tucked away, the City does not permit weddings at that location due to its size.
A permit is most likely going to be required for your wedding ceremony. Please note that permits are not issued between May 15 and September 15 as our beaches are at max capacity during that season. You may apply for a permit up to a year in advance and at least 60 days prior. Your preferred date may not be available due to other permitted events at the beach so it’s best to have a little flexibility.
If you have under 25 guests and you want to literally walk up and have a ceremony (30 minutes or less) with NO set up, you’re good to go anywhere at any time. This includes no chairs, arches, equipment, decorations, tenting, or amplified music. All reception activities will always require a permit
To start the application process, complete this form on the City of Oceanside website to book your beach wedding in Oceanside.
Oceanside Beach Venues
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 with coastal views include:
Mission Pacific Hotel
Pacific Garden at Mission Pacific Hotel is The North Shore’s premier outdoor wedding venue, offering a beautifully landscaped, 2,800 square foot lawn & garden setting set against a spectacular coastal backdrop – all just steps from the historic, picture-perfect, and architecturally significant Graves House.
The Seabird Resort
The Coastal Terrace at the Seabird Resort is a beautiful, 3,050 square foot open-air deck with direct ocean views – an incredible and magical setting where up to 250 guests can gather and toast with the setting sun and then celebrate under a blanket of stars.
Oceanside Marina Suites
If the idea of feeling like you’re on your own private island appeals to you, you will not want to miss this venue. Oceanside Marina Suites features a wedding gazebo for your ceremony and a lush green lawn perfect for receptions. There is nothing but a few rocks between you and the harbor mouth leading out to the expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
The Strand Gazebo, also known as Pacific Street Linear Park, features a white lattice overhang providing partial shade with stunning views of the Oceanside Pier. This oceanfront park is available by permit year-round based on availability and the city’s discretion.
Tyson Street Park
The south lawn of Tyson Street Park is perfect for a wedding. It’s a large even grassy lot sitting right on the strand with easy access from Pacific Street. This oceanfront park can easily accomodate a reception as well. This park is avaialble by permit through the City of Oceanside.
Beach Wedding Insider Tips
Sun and Heat
The sun can be more intense at the beach when it’s reflected back from the water or the sand. You’ll want your guests to be comfortable for the time they’re celebrating with you. For a little shade, consider having parasols in coordinating colors that guests can grab if needed. The fun pops of color will really stand out in your photos. 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. You may want to provide sunglasses for those that weren’t prepared. Also, never underestimate the need for hydration. For your guest’s convenience, have buckets of ice with water bottles at the ceremony site. A special touch will be to add a custom label. Remember, it only takes minutes to burn at the beach and even less for your family from the midwest. Having bottles of sunscreen available could save your weddings guests from damaging their skin and ruining their SoCal experience.
Timing is key here. Marine layer clouds, or “overcast” 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.
Consider avoiding the paper 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 décor or candles. Nice comb the sand with a rake to remove the bumps and rocks. If you must have an aisle runner, put down wood planks first or rent a carpet runner. During the peak heat of the day, the sand can be quite hot. To avoid this potential hazard, shift to a morning or late afternoon wedding or look at dates between late fall to early spring. Tip: In your wedding invitation note that your ceremony will be in the sand so guests will know to wear appropriate shoes and clothing.
The beach is a public space. While you can politely ask sun bathers 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 chance of a passerby. 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 our event calendar for other large events that could create a conflict with your wedding such as surf contests or large sporting events. Give your guests directions and detailed parking information or arrange for a shuttle service or Uber/Lyft credits.
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.
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.
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.