During the fabulous Summer months here in the Bay of Islands, many couples choose to have their ceremony on one of the many beaches or islands, and even on the range of boats available for charter, around the bay. Beach weddings can be as simple or as vast as you want them, and they always give the feeling of being free and relaxed with nature.
Here are few ideas and tips to remember for making sure your beautiful beach ceremony is as you want it.
Choose your location wisely – Beaches are usually breezy. Try to pick a cove or area protected from direct winds for your ceremony. Be mindful of the tides on the day.
Decide how many guests will be attending – Most beaches do not require a special permit for small informal weddings. Check with the Far North District Council or local authorities to be sure.
Remember your guest’s comfort and safety – Provide seating for the elderly as well as sunscreen and insect repellent just in case. If some of your guests have mobility impairments recognize that it’s nearly impossible to push a wheelchair in the sand, and it’s very hard for people who have difficulty walking to negotiate sand as well. Note how far parking is from your intended ceremony site don’t forget to find out if the beach has toilet facilities.
Seating – When deciding where to set up your seats, pay attention to both the sun and the wind. You won’t want the wind whipping up sand into guests’ faces, nor do you want them blinded by the setting sun. It is often a good idea to do a trial run or two…set up a couple of beach chairs around the time of day you plan on getting married and sit in them for a half hour or so to see if you notice any issues.
[Use white and foldable chairs if possible as dark or metal chairs can get very hot in the afternoon sun, you don’t want anyone burning their legs!]
If you plan on having a long ceremony during the middle of the day, you should seriously consider using a tent or awning to provide shade. At the very least, plan on having plenty of water available and small tubes of sunscreen for your guests.
Have a few umbrellas or parasols available for the guests to use as shade too.
Also, don’t forget to check on the tide. If the tide is coming in during your proposed ceremony time and you put your chairs too close to the water, you may find your feet getting wet before you make it to the I do’s!
Weather – Beach ceremonies are no different than other outdoor ceremonies, and are subject to the whims of the weather. Even if it hasn’t rained a drop on your chosen date in the past years at your location, there is no guarantee that it won’t rain this year. Rather than worry endlessly up until the actual moment of the ceremony, make sure you have a backup plan. It is a great idea to put a ‘Location B’ on your ‘Notice of Intended Marriage’ form when you lodge it. A nearby hall, pavilion, or tent will alleviate any weather-induced stress.
Wedding Attire – Formal wedding attire can be beautiful for photos on a beach ceremony but sometimes heavy, floor-length bridal gowns can become extremely cumbersome in the sand, tuxedos can be stifling, and high-heeled shoes are nearly impossible to walk in. Make your beach wedding slightly less formal; you don’t have to get married in a cotton sundress (though you certainly can!), but choose a lighter, more breathable fabric and a slightly higher hemline. Men can wear khakis with a button down shirt, or even shorts and a T-shirt if that’s your style!
Dreaming of a barefoot ceremony? You can still dress up your feet.
It is a good idea to communicate appropriate footwear suggestions to all your guests beforehand. Not everyone will realize that high heels are a poor choice, and others may not realize that the sand can be uncomfortably hot to go barefoot on. Suggest that people bring jandals or sandals, or depending on guest numbers, even have a basket of these available at the main entrance to the venue. [Provide a basket of small brushes so that guest can clean the sand off their feet and shoes after the ceremony.]
You also want to keep in mind that the wind can be pretty active at the beach. This is not the place for that long, flowing veil (unless you can find a way to pin it down securely.) It’s also a good idea to keep the wind in mind when choosing a hairstyle.
Bouquet Ideas – If you want to skip flowers and opt for a seashell bouquet, this can be a fun project to make before the wedding and it will last J. The men can include a mini starfish or shell in their boutonniere too.
Wedding Party – Bright leis make fun photo props and giving one or two parasols/umbrellas in complementary colours to your wedding theme, will protect the wedding party against the sun.
Ceremony Ideas – Tie your wedding rings onto seashells for your ring bearer or bridal party to pass to you during your vows.
A sand ceremony on the beach equals perfection! You can pour sand, dyed in the wedding colours, into a special glass vessel that’ll become a meaningful piece of art in your home.
Having baskets of mini beach balls near the guests can be a great alternative to confetti or petals. Kids and adults alike will love tossing these during your recessional and it makes for great photos. [Blow them up before though!!]
You should also keep in mind that the background noise of the ocean will make it much harder to hear. It is often difficult to hear a couple say their vows in a silent church; if you have added wave and seagull noise, it would make sense to rent a small PA system. Or, if you don’t like the idea of using a microphone your celebrant can use one and hold for you during your vows, or practice projecting your voice beforehand .
I have a portable 100W battery powered PA system with mics available for rental if you choose to have them for your ceremony.
Photos – Your photographer will give you more advice but don’t be afraid to get your feet wet and a walk along the beach with your bridal party is always an unforgettable moment.