Wedding Planning Guide

beach wedding ideas

Creative, stylish ideas to inspire your own wedding by the water.

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…

wedding ceremony on beach with palm tree

Photo: KT Merry

BEACH WEDDING VENUES

If you have your heart set on exchanging "I dos" on the sand, then here are some types of beachfront wedding venues to consider for your celebration:

  • Beach resort: A hotel, club, or restaurant located right on the shore or coastline will give you easy access to the water and scenic ocean views, along with all the conveniences of a fully staffed event venue. These types of resorts will typically have an onsite catering and an event-management team, making this a pricier option but a whole lot less stressful.
  • Public beach: A local beach where anyone is welcome to swim, sunbathe, and celebrate. If you're hoping to tie the knot at your local beach, then start early. Sites run by the local parks department or city government are often affordable to rent but can be competitive to book due to their popularity. Look into applying for any permits required and keep in mind that since the beach is public, you might have a few curious onlookers peeking into your wedding.
  • Private beach: If you or family friends have beachfront real estate, you could save big on fees usually set aside on reserving a venue or location. Make sure to do your homework and understand if there are any noise restrictions, permits needed, or open-alcohol rules. Usually parking can be a challenge at someone’s private beach estate, so you may have to plan for a shuttle service for your guests.
wedding ceremony on beach

Photo: Katie Grant

BEACH WEDDING COLORS

Look to the ocean and the coastline for color inspiration for your wedding by the water. Here are some of our favorite combinations for a wedding by the sea.

  • slate blue + dove grey
  • coral pink + peacock blue
  • sage green + dusty blue
  • blush pink + sage green + dove grey
  • emerald + taupe + moss green
  • coral pink + teal
  • dusty blue + peach
  • navy blue + coral pink + blush pink
  • lemon yellow + marigold + orange sherbet
  • coral pink + olive green + mustard yellow
Bonjour Berry wedding invitation

"In the Flow" by Bonjour Berry

WEDDING INVITATION 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:

  • Painterly beach scenes.
  • Nautical colors or motifs (e.g., anchors, sailboat silhouettes, shells, starfish, nautical flags, rope patterns, etc.).
  • Neutral tones throughout, à la sand.
  • Textured paper for a rustic, beachy-chic feel.
  • Classic beach illustrations and motifs (e.g., the shore, crashing waves, seaside sunsets, driftwood, palm trees, or something more playful like flip flops or beachy cocktails).
  • An invitation designed to resemble an airplane ticket or passport, if you're hosting a destination beach wedding.
  • Save the dates that are rolled up and mailed to guests in a small glass tube filled with sand, to resemble a message in a bottle.
  • Wrap your invites with a piece of rope or twine instead of ribbon.
Sand and Sun wedding invitation

"Sand & Sun" by Nicole Walsh

WEDDING ATTIRE IDEAS

Here are some stylish ideas to bring in that relaxed, beachy vibe to you and your wedding party’s attire.


For the couple and the wedding party:

  • Wedding dress silhouettes with a halter neckline, cut-outs, or open back.
  • Look for wedding dress fabrics in lightweight silk, chiffon, or lace.
  • In terms of wedding dress lengths, choose a style that is mid-length, has a high-low hemline, or an asymmetrical silhouette. All of these options convey an easy-going sensibility that's still sophisticated.
  • Bridesmaids in multiple shades of blue to complement the ocean backdrop.
  • Bridesmaid dresses or skirts in floral or tropical prints.
  • Groom and groomsmen in beige linen suits, with or without ties.
  • Seersucker blazers for a preppy vibe.

For the wedding guests:

  • Invite everyone to go barefoot for a beach ceremony.
  • Don't shy away from color: Bold reds, greens, and corals will contrast well with the sand, ocean, and blue skies.
  • Make a cute sun hat a part of your look.
  • Choose lightweight, breathable fabrics like linen, cotton blends, and chiffon.
  • Skip the stilettos and opt for wedges or stylish sandals.
  • Bring a lightweight shawl or scarf, in case a breeze picks up from the coast.
  • For more wedding-guest attire ideas, read our “What to Wear to a Wedding” guide.

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. Our advice is to choose flowers and decorations that won't compete with the beach setting, but rather beautifully complement it.

Here, we've rounded up our favorite bouquet, boutonniere, and beach wedding centerpiece ideas. And for even more floral ideas, see our complete guide to wedding flowers.


For the bouquet and boutonnieres:

  • Bouquet of tropical elements, like proteas, orchids, pink ginger, and assorted palms.
  • Boutonnieres accented with fresh succulents or small shells.
  • Try swapping in succulents instead of traditional flowers.
  • For bridesmaids bouquets, pair a large monstera leaf or other palm fronds with two blooms, like anthuriums or birds of paradise.
  • Boutonnieres wrapped in nautical rope instead of ribbon.

For your beach wedding centerpieces:

  • Tie a rope around glass vases for a chic nautical touch.
  • Beach wedding centerpieces comprised of glass hurricane vases filled with sand, shells, and pillar candles.
  • Boho, breezy elements like pampas grasses placed in tall vases.
  • Palm fronds placed flat on the table linens like a table runner, with votive candles on top.
  • Small air plants at each place setting that can also double as a take-home wedding favor.
  • Driftwood pieces surrounded by glowing pillar candles in glass cylinder vases.
  • Candlelit lanterns on a base of fresh eucalyptus greenery.
  • Palm fronds combined with white phalaenopsis orchids.
  • Mix tropical fruit into the beach wedding centerpieces, like papayas, pineapples, and mangoes. Place them directly on the tabletop or display them in bowls alongside floral arrangements.

WEDDING CEREMONY IDEAS

Perhaps the biggest opportunity to differentiate your beach wedding from traditional weddings is with the ceremony. From colorful accessories to unique decor, you can bring your dream wedding to life with any combination of these ideas. It doesn’t matter if you’re actually saying your “I dos” in the sand or not. Here are some of our favorite beach wedding ideas:

  • Ceremony arch decorated with palm fronds or other tropical greenery.
  • Ceremony backdrop built from gathered driftwood or feathery pampas grasses.
  • Arrange the ceremony chairs in a spiral so that you and your partner are surrounded by all of your guests in the sand.
  • Have a "shoe valet" station and provide flip flops for your guests to change into.
  • Have your ring bearer carry your rings in a seashell.
  • Provide amenities to help guests to beat the heat, like sunglasses, paper fans, parasols, and sunblock.
  • Have a beverage station set up at the ceremony with chilled drinks so guests can keep cool in the sun. We love the idea of fresh coconuts on ice for a tropical-themed wedding.
  • Line the ceremony aisle with pots of ornamental grasses. Wrap the pots with burlap for a more rustic seaside look.
  • Mini beach balls for guests to toss during the recessional instead of rice.

RECEPTION DECORATION IDEAS

Let all the dreamy, beachy details carry into your reception. After all, that’s where the fun really starts! Here are some stylish beach wedding decorations to consider:

  • Wooden/driftwood signs directing guests to key points of your venue (ceremony seating, the bar, the dance floor, guest book table, etc.).
  • Message-in-a-bottle notes from guests with marriage advice or future date ideas. You could also have bottles that serve as table numbers.
  • Nautical table setting details (e.g., anchors, ship silhouettes, etc.).
  • Miniature seashells throughout the tablescape.
  • Colorful nautical flags as decor.
  • Clear-glass cylinders or mason jars filled pillar candles and sand.
  • String lights over tables and/or the dance floor.
  • Kayaks or canoes filled with ice and used as coolers to keep beverages cold.
  • Sky lanterns for good luck (note: be sure to check with your venue if this is allowed).
  • Place cards made of calligraphed sea glass.
  • Place your tented escort cards in trays lined with sand.
  • Calligraphed oyster shells or sand dollars as escort cards/place cards.

MENU IDEAS

Wondering what type of food to serve at your themed wedding? Keep your menu choices on the lighter side and choose foods that are light and flavorful. Be sure to opt for plenty of seafood to embrace the oceanside setting. You can even let your ocean-theme play over on the design of your menu cards.


For the cocktail hour:

  • A self-serve raw bar with oysters, shrimp, crab claws, and an assortment of sauces and lemon wedges.
  • Sushi station.
  • Miniature lobster rolls.
  • Miniature mugs of clam chowder.
  • Crab cakes.
  • Smoked salmon on a cucumber round with cheese.
  • Fish and chips.
  • Lobster mac and cheese.
  • Tuna tartare on wonton crisps.
  • Miniature fish tacos.
  • Shooter glasses of chilled tomato gazpacho.

For the main course:

  • Surf and turf with petite filet mignon and grilled shrimp.
  • Oven-roasted cod or halibut.
  • Grilled salmon with roasted corn risotto.
  • Grilled sea scallops.

WEDDING CAKE IDEAS

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

  • Subtle, soft shades of blue inspired by the ocean.
  • Edible beach details (e.g., seashells, starfish, coral) fashioned from sugar.
  • Sugar sea glass.
  • Oyster or mussel shells (real or made from sugar).
  • Pair of miniature Adirondack chairs as cake toppers.
  • Rope details made of gum paste to give the cake a preppy vibe.
Wedding cake

Photo: Judy Pak

WEDDING FAVOR IDEAS

Before the night comes to an end, send guests home with a parting gift that will remind them of your celebration by the sea. Here are a few of our favorite themed wedding favor ideas:

  • Rosemary-infused sea salt (the salt resembles fine white sand).
  • Beach towels wrapped in twine with a sweet note.
  • Miniature pails filled with salt water taffy.
  • Beach-themed sugar or shortbread cookies.
  • Custom shot glasses with your names, wedding date, and/or location, as well as beachy details (e.g., palm trees, flamingos, starfish, beach balls, lighthouses, etc.).
  • Colorful flip flops.
  • Lightweight beach blankets for after the sunsets.
  • SPF chapstick with a custom label.
  • Welcome tote bags. You can also fill these with any of the items mentioned above.
  • Discover more unique favor and gift ideas in the Minted Weddings Color Library™.

For more wedding ideas and inspiration, check out these creative wedding themes: