Wedding Planning Guide

beach wedding ideas

wedding ceremony on beach with palm tree

Photo: KT Merry

Dreaming of a beach wedding? Us, too (like, a lot). The appeal is obvious: the gorgeous scenery, the stunning photo ops, the warm weather, the casual and carefree vibe, and—of course—the unique decor opportunities. If you can swing a destination wedding, or are lucky enough to have a beach nearby, there’s endless beach wedding inspiration out there.

So, how can you keep up with all these pretty possibilities? We’ve got some great ideas for planning a beach wedding. Okay, a lot of great ideas…

Stationery Ideas

Set the tone (and style) of your beach wedding with your stationery, particularly your save the dates and wedding invitations. You can bring the feel of your big beachy day in a number of design-oriented ways, including:

  • Nautical colors or details (e.g., anchors, sailboat silhouettes, etc.)
  • Neutral tones throughout, à la sand
  • Textured paper for a rustic, beachy-chic feel
  • Incorporating classic beach imagery (e.g., the shore, crashing waves, seaside sunsets, or something a bit more fun like flip flops or beachy cocktails)
  • For destination weddings, bring in imagery or colors of the surrounding culture
  • Unique envelope liners (e.g., tropical patterns/imagery, cultural colors/imagery, glittery gold, etc.)

Attire Ideas

When it comes to what to wear to a beach wedding, you can find more information in our What to Wear to a Wedding guide. But here are a few cute ideas to bring in that beachy vibe to your wedding party’s outfits:

  • Wedding dresses with cut-outs, open backs, or crop tops
  • Tea-length dresses (for the bride and/or bridesmaids)
  • Go barefoot (you can dress them up with gorgeous barefoot sandals or other foot jewelry)
  • Pastel colors
  • Orange bridesmaids dresses to pop against the sand
  • Hawaiian patterns and leis for the wedding party
  • Color-coordinated parasols
  • An all-white beach wedding look for the wedding party to make them stand out in the crowd and in photographs (or, conversely, dress up your wedding party and yourselves in color, and ask that the guests wear all white)

Flower Ideas

A beach wedding doesn’t necessarily call for a different approach to your floral arrangements, but it does open up the opportunity to do something a little different.

  • A bouquet made entirely of seashells
  • Starfish-adorned bouquets and boutonnieres
  • Ocean- and coral reef-inspired flower colors
  • Contrasting, vibrant florals
  • Succulents instead of traditional flowers

Ceremony Decor Ideas

Perhaps the biggest opportunity to differentiate your beach weddings from traditional weddings is with the ceremony. From colorful accessories to unique decor, you can bring your dream beach wedding to life with any combination of these ideas—whether you’re actually saying your “I do’s” in the sand or not.

  • Flower petals in an ombre pattern down the aisle (or that form fun shapes, like starfish, hearts, sea waves, fish, etc.)
  • If you’re ceremony is in the sand, have a shoe check and provide flip flops for your guests (bonus points: also hand out little brushes to quickly wipe off the sand before hitting the dance floor)
  • Carry your rings in seashells
  • A ceremony arch with branches and vines
  • Fans for guests to keep themselves cool
  • Mini beach volleyballs for guests to toss as you exit

Reception Decor Ideas

Let all the dreamy, beachy details carry into your reception—after all, that’s where the fun really starts…

  • Wooden signs directing guests to key points of your venue (ceremony seating, the bar, the dance floor, guest book table, etc.)
  • Message-in-a-bottle table numbers and/or guestbook
  • Nautical table setting details (e.g., anchors, ship silhouettes, etc.)/li>
  • Miniature seashells throughout tablescape
  • Colorful pennant banners in nautical colors
  • Fishbowl or terrarium centerpieces with seashells, starfish, and sand
  • String lights over tables and/or dance floor
  • Kayaks or canoes as coolers to keep beverages cold
  • Sky lanterns for good luck (note: be sure to check with your venue that this is allowed)
  • Escort card inspiration:
    • Cocktail-inspired cards (put sand in the glass and little umbrellas with guests’ names on them)
    • Place your escort cards in the sand
    • Sand dollars with names/table numbers
    • Cultural references (e.g., loteria cards, tropical flowers, color choices, cuisine, landmarks)
    • Miniature jars of jellybeans in tropical colors

Cake Ideas

The wedding cake is a centerpiece in and of itself, and a wonderful (and delicious) place to bring in your beach theme. A few of our favorite cake ideas are:

  • Gilded cakes
  • Ombre cakes in oceanic or sunset colors
  • Edible beach details (e.g., seashells, starfish, treasure chests, etc.)
  • Bright blue or turquoise cakes

Photography Ideas

It’s always good to have a few ideas for your photographer, or a few specific pictures you want him to capture. A beach wedding brings a number of amazing photo opportunities—and we’ve collected a few of our favorite (and most Instagram-able) beach wedding picture ideas.

  • Your reflection in a pair of sunglasses in the sand
  • Walk (or run, or jump) with your wedding party on the beach
  • Your silhouette against the sunset
  • A kiss in front of breaking waves
  • Stand in a heart drawn in the sand
  • Rings on colorful starfish
  • Your handprints in the sand, with your rings on your “fingers” (makes for a great thank you card photo)
  • Get a little (or a lot) wet—walk along the short, or “destroy the dress” (or suit) with a full swim in the ocean

Favors Ideas

Finally, give your guests a piece of your beach wedding to take home (or snack on).

  • Classic beach towels wrapped in twine with a sweet note
  • Miniature pails filled with saltwater taffy
  • Beach-themed cookies
  • Custom shot glasses with your names, wedding date, and/or location, as well as beachy details (e.g., palm trees, flamingos, starfish, etc.)
  • Jellybeans in tropical colors
  • Colorful flip flops
  • Light blankets for after the sun sets
  • Sea glass candy or candy rocks
  • SPF chapstick with a custom label
  • Welcome tote bags (you can also fill these with any of the items mentioned above)