Beach Wedding 101
Photo credit: Vallentyne Photography
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. The beach is a special and unique environment and certain precautions should be taken to ensure your wedding isn’t a wipe out.
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 half-hour they’re celebrating with you. For a little shade, consider having parasols in your wedding 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. A finally, 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.
Clouds on the Coast
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.
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 décor or candles. If you must have an aisle runner, consider putting down wood planks first or renting a carpeted one. Also, in the heat of the day, the sand can be quite hot. Consider a morning or late afternoon wedding during the early fall months. Tip: In your wedding invitation warn guests that the ceremony will be in the sand so they’ll know to wear appropriate shoes and clothing.
The beach is a public space. While you can politely always 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 the city calendar for other large events that could create a conflict with your wedding such as surf contests or large sporting events. Be prepared and give your guests directions and detailed parking information so they’re not caught off guard. Note: Most Southern California beaches, including Oceanside, do not grant permits for beach weddings in the summer during peak tourist season. See below on if your event requires a permit in Oceanside.
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.
To preserve our beaches, the City of Oceanside would like you to join their Road to Zero Waste movement by leaving no trace and remembering your three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints when visiting Oceanside’s beaches. For more information on this program, visit GreenOceanside.org
MORE: Looking for tips on how to have a zero-waste or eco-friendly wedding? Check out our Green Oceanside Wedding Blog
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.
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
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. This hotel 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.
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.
Also known as Pacific Street Linear Park, this location 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.
Permitted Beach Weddings
- Do I need a permit? Most likely, yes. If your ceremony has more than 25 people and/or includes chairs, arches, equipment, decorations, tenting, amplified music or other items not normally part of typical daily beach use, a permit is required.
- Date Exclusions: Permits are NOT issued for beach weddings occurring during the peak summer season (Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend). As an alternative, Strand Gazebo is beachfront parks that are available for weddings and events virtually year-round. A permit may not be granted based on other citywide events and/or high-traffic weekends. This is at the city’s discretion.
- Walk-up Ceremonies: 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.
- Receptions: All reception activities require a permit.
- Parking Reminder: All beach area parking lots are first come first served pay parking.
- Booking your beach wedding: Visit the City of Oceanside website to book your beach wedding in Oceanside.