Expert Advice/Wedding Planning 101/VenuesArrowVenues

7 Things to Consider When Planning an East Coast Beach Wedding

An East Coast beach wedding can be wonderful. Here are seven things to consider when planning an East Coast beach wedding.

By The Zola Team

7 Things to Consider When Planning an East Coast Beach Wedding
Photo by Freas Photography

The First Look ✨

The East Coast is known for many things. From the old architecture to the bustling cities, this area of the United States is like no other. One of the biggest attractions that draw people to the East Coast is its gorgeous, white sand beaches. East Coast beaches are the perfect place to unwind, soak up the sun, and even have your dream wedding.

That’s right, today we’re talking all about East Coast beach weddings. While beachside weddings are beautiful, laid back, and tons of fun, they can also pose a unique set of challenges to your wedding day. If you’re looking to celebrate your love with friends, family, and the Atlantic Ocean, read on for seven things to consider when planning an East Coast beach wedding.

#1 The Perks of an East Coast Beach Wedding

Before we jump into the risks and variables involved with an East Coast beach wedding, let’s first discuss the reasons why you should have one. Afterall, a beach wedding venue is popular for a reason. So, let’s discuss some of the perks that come along with this type of wedding location:

  • More relaxed – For many couples, planning a black-tie, intimate ceremony simply isn’t what they want. If you’re looking to make things official in a fun, relaxed, and unique way—opting for a beach wedding venue is definitely a great option. With a beachside wedding ceremony, guests can dress a little more comfortably, kick their shoes off, and focus on what really matters: celebrating the happy couple.

  • Less traveling – While this will obviously vary depending on the couple, planning an East Coast beach wedding may be easier on friends and family if you’re actually from this area of the United States. Rather than paying to fly all your wedding guests out for a destination wedding, simply take advantage of one of the many stunning beaches on the East Coast for your dream wedding.

  • Affordable – A wedding location can be pricey, especially if you’re renting out an entire ballroom, church, or hotel. If you’re looking to stay within a strict budget, utilizing a public beach for your intimate ceremony or reception venue can certainly help cut costs. (That being said, you may need to purchase a permit from the city for a beach wedding location—but more on that later.)

  • Perfect for wedding photos – Rather than struggling with the overhead lighting of a church or event space, a beachside wedding is going to provide the perfect, natural lighting for wedding photos. Most couples try to plan their destination wedding ceremony around sunset, in order to take advantage of the golden hour lighting and stunning sunset views. Zola users can even browse our community of pre-screened wedding photographers to perfectly capture these moments on camera.

  • The bottom line There are so many reasons why an East Coast beach wedding may be right for you and your partner. A beach wedding location will provide a gorgeous backdrop for photos, affordable prices, and a relaxed, leisurely atmosphere for your intimate wedding.

#2 The Weather

Locals and visitors alike can agree on one thing: East Coast weather can be unpredictable. Of course, the East Coast is a large area with many different climates and ecosystems. So, the first question in terms of weather should be: Where are you planning your intimate wedding?

New England

New England is the northernmost part of the East Coast region. This area consists of the following states:

  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Connecticut

While New England states boast stunning fall foliage, charming colonial architecture, and plenty of picturesque coastlines, they also pose some problems in terms of weather.

New England is generally considered a cold part of the United States. While the winters are marked by snowstorms and slick roads, even the warmer months can come with tricky weather conditions. If you’re planning a beachside wedding in the spring or fall, keep in mind that the temperatures may be cooler than expected. Wind, rain, and mud should also be factored into your outdoor ceremony, too.

The best piece of advice for a New England beach wedding? Dress in layers, and maybe bring a pair of boots for the rocky and sandy beach.

The Mid-Atlantic

Although separate from New England, the Mid-Atlantic is no stranger to inclement weather and harsh winters, either.

This region consists of the following states:

  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey
  • Maryland
  • Delaware
  • Washington D.C.

Some people also consider Virginia and West Virginia to be part of this region, too, but this may be up for debate depending on whom you ask. Either way, many states in this region boast miles of coastline—particularly New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia.

In addition to chilly winters, these states may also experience heavy rainfall, hurricanes, and strong ocean winds. For the more southern states, heat and humidity may lead to problems for a summer ceremony.

The South

Finally, we have the Southeastern coast of the United States. This area is composed of the following states:

  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi

In this region, you’ve got two coastlines to choose from for a beachside wedding: the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. While this area offers mild winters and hot summers, it also comes with a higher risk of hurricanes.

If you’re planning a beachside ceremony during hurricane season—from June to November—it may be helpful to track the weather and have a backup plan in place.

Other Considerations Related to Weather

No matter what region of the East Coast you’re in, there are a few considerations that every couple should take when planning an outdoor wedding. Keep these factors in mind when planning a beachside celebration:

  • Flowers – Are your bouquets prepared to handle the heat? Or perhaps you’ve chosen blossoms that thrive in humidity. Rain on your wedding day may be considered good luck, but uncovered flower arrangements won’t always be so lucky. Discuss potential weather conditions with your florist before finalizing the floral elements of your beachside wedding.

  • Hair and makeup – If you, your partner, or your wedding party are planning on getting hair and makeup done, this is another factor to consider in the event of bad weather. Are you prepared to pay for touch-ups if sweat, humidity, or rain get in the way? Umbrellas, fans, and hairspray will ultimately be your best friend for an outdoor wedding.

  • Attire – Even on a hot day, the sandy beach can get chilly—especially at night. If you’re including an attire card in your invitation suite, it may be worth advising your guests to dress appropriately, wear layers, or at least bring a jacket (or maybe a bathing suit, if you plan on taking a post-wedding dip). Fortunately, Zola’s stylish enclosure card designs can be customized to include any and all important information about your beachside wedding.

The bottom line – The East Coast climate can be tricky when planning a beach wedding. It’s important to fully understand your local climate, track weather in advance, and have a backup plan in case of serious weather emergencies.

#3 Take the Necessary Precautions When Setting Up

Even when East Coast weather cooperates enough to have a beachside wedding, it’s important to make sure that the necessary precautions are taken when setting up.

More specifically, you’ll want to make sure that chairs, decorative pieces, and other furniture items are strapped down, weather-proofed, and ready to go before the ceremony. Otherwise, you may lose a bouquet or two when the ocean breeze comes by.

While everyone’s wedding decor will be a little different, here are a few basic tips and tricks for putting together a wind-proof beach wedding:

  • Keep flower arrangements small and tightly bound.

  • Secure smaller decor elements with adhesive.

  • Secure larger items with sandbags and straps.

  • Forgo lightweight, flowy decorations, such as ribbons, aisle runners, and balloons.

  • Swap fragile, breakable materials (like glass) for sturdy, beach-friendly ones, such as reusable plastic or wood.

  • Choose heavy chairs that won’t fly away in the wind.

  • Note where the tide comes in and make sure that your setup isn’t too close to the water.

While canopies may be susceptible to harsh winds, they can also be helpful in providing shade for an outdoor wedding. If you plan on setting up temporary shade, make sure that your canopy is connected to a secure set of poles. Use sand to your advantage by burying the base of furniture deep into the ground for added support.

Determine Where You’re Getting Furniture From

Whether you’re hosting a beachside ceremony, reception, or both, you’ll need some amount of furniture and decor for your setup. It’s important to determine where you’ll be getting these pieces from, especially if you’re renting them from an outside vendor. Transportation, delivery costs, and proximity to the location should all be factored into your furniture/decor budget.

Note that you may need to rent and transport many of the following for a beachside wedding:

  • Dozens of chairs

  • A structure to recite the vows under, such as: an altar, arch, canopy, gazebo, chuppah, or mandap

  • Tables

  • Dishes, glasses, and cutlery

Once you’ve secured your furniture rentals, make sure to set up an organized seating chart to keep everything running smoothly. Use Zola’s digital seating chart and guest list tools to make this part of the process a piece of cake.

The bottom line – Transporting decor and furniture to a beachside wedding can be tricky, and setting it up may be difficult if you’re fighting mother nature. Couples opting for an East Coast beach wedding may need to make a few sacrifices in terms of decor. Fortunately, the right beach will provide an eye-catching, romantic atmosphere that won’t need much else.

#4 Choose the Right Beach

Choosing the right beach will be just as important as any other venue search. While decor and included services may not contribute to your decision as much as they would with an indoor venue, it’s still crucial to make an informed decision before choosing your beach.

Different beaches will provide a different atmosphere. When touring various options, you’ll want to keep a few factors in mind:

  • Size – How large is your wedding going to be? Some beaches offer miles of coastline and plenty of dry, sandy areas. Others have narrower shorelines that may become dangerous during high tide. You’ll want to visit your prospective beach venue at different hours of the day, in order to get a feel for what to expect on the big day.

  • Geography – Some East Coast beaches, such as Miami and Myrtle Beach, offer soft, supple sand that’s easy to walk on. However, the farther north you go, the rockier the beaches can get. Of course, a cliffside coastline like those in Maine may be beautiful for pictures, but it won’t always provide the safe, comfortable space you’ll need for the actual wedding ceremony.

  • Privacy – Are you looking for a calm, quiet place to host your wedding, or maybe something a little more lively? You’ll want to consider this when touring beach venues, and determine what level of privacy you’re looking for (and willing to pay for, if the beach is privately owned).

  • Attractions – Similarly, some beaches have a lot more to offer than just—well—the beach. Consider whether you want to keep it simple with sand and surf, or perhaps opt for a more exciting beach with different attractions. Many East Coast beaches have close proximity to amusement parks, boardwalks, and food if this is something you’re interested in.

The bottom line – Beaches can be just as unique as traditional wedding venues. Don’t make your decision hastily just because you've opted for a beachside wedding. Take your time, weigh the pros and cons of each option, and (most importantly) visit the location.

#5 Keep Your Reception in Mind

While you may have a beautiful, beachside ceremony planned out, it’s vital to put an equal amount of time into planning your reception. After all, this is the portion of the night when guests can actually get up, dance, and join in on the festivities.

Ask yourself: Do I want to hold my reception at the beach? Many couples do this, but it may take a little extra planning and effort. In this case, you’ll need to transport dining sets to the beach location.

A better option may be to find a nearby venue that hosts beachfront weddings. This way you’ll have a reliable place to get furniture and decor from, and you won’t have to worry about transporting large items yourself. Nearby venues may also offer indoor spaces as a backup plan, which (as we already mentioned earlier) is always a good idea on the East Coast.

Another option would be to host your reception at an entirely different location. While many couples do this successfully, separate locations will require additional transportation. Keep the following questions in mind when considering a secondary reception venue:

  • How will you and your spouse get there?
  • How will your wedding party get there?
  • How will all other guests get there?
  • Who will take care of cleaning up the ceremony location?
  • Does the reception venue have parking?
  • How far away is the reception venue?
  • Will there be traffic?
  • Can you fit two venues into your budget?

The bottom line – Hosting a beach wedding is great, but it leaves options in terms of your reception. Putting together an entire wedding dinner on the beach won’t be easy, so it may be beneficial to consider other options. A nearby venue that offers beachfront ceremonies is going to be the easiest solution to this problem.

#6 Get Your Permit

Unless privately owned, most beaches are considered public property. Public property is subject to the laws of the local city or country government. Essentially, this means that you’ll usually need a permit when planning a beach wedding.

Permit prices and regulations will vary depending on your location. On the East Coast, you’ll generally get a mixed bag when it comes to permits. While many Florida beaches don’t require wedding permits, beaches in New York tend to be pretty strict about permits.

Many beaches also require proof of insurance in case anything goes wrong during your event—but some places like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina forgo this rule. As a rule of thumb, you can expect to pay about $100 to $150 for a beach wedding permit.

The bottom line – With most public beaches, you’ll need to acquire a permit in order to hold your wedding there. These costs will vary depending on the city and state you’re in, but the average is typically between $100 and $150.

#7 Prepare for Sand

Let’s be honest, we love the beach, but we don’t love the sand. This tip may seem a bit silly, but it’s important to consider the sand when planning a beach wedding. More specifically, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you going to have a chance to wash off your feet?
  • Are you planning an outfit/footwear change before the reception?
  • How will your guests deal with their sandy shoes?

While sand can be tricky, it’s not a deal-breaker for a successful beach wedding. You’ve got a few options when it comes to eliminating sand from your wedding night:

  • Offer flip flops – If you’re planning a beachside ceremony and an indoor reception, consider putting out a basket of complimentary flip flops for ceremony guests. This way, your loved ones can save their dress shoes for the later portion of the evening.

  • Foot washing station – We’ve all used a foot-washing station at the beach before, but who says you can’t use one for a beachfront wedding? Try to secure a foot-washing station near the wedding location for guests who want to rinse their feet off.

The bottom line – Keep physical comfort in mind when planning a beach wedding. Having a few helpful resources—such as a foot-washing station or flip-flops—will make this sandy venue easier on guests.

Plan Your East Coast Beach Wedding at Zola

Planning a wedding on your own can be tricky, but Zola’s here to simplify the process. Zola users can map out their seating chart, find reliable wedding vendors, and even customize their beachy save-the-dates all from the comfort of home.

Ditch the stress and jump straight to the celebration. Start planning your East Coach beach wedding the modern way—at Zola!

Find Your Wedding Vendors at Zola, All Pre-Screened for You

Even more answers