Waterfront Wedding Venue Ideas

Looking to submerge your wedding day ceremony in waterfront bliss? Zola has you covered with our waterfront wedding venue ideas.

By The Zola Team

Waterfront Wedding Venue Ideas
Photo by L Amour Foto

The First Look ✨

A waterfront wedding locale drips in romanticism and possibilities—gifting you and your loved ones with a flood of memories for years to come.

Within this guide, we’ll explore three prime waterfront locations to say your “I dos,” in addition to added benefits, considerations, and ideas to include in your waterfront wedding day plans.

The Many Possibilities of Waterfront Locales

As you know, water covers 71 percent of the planet’s surface, meaning that you won’t be lacking when it comes to possible waterfront wedding venues. Ultimately, choosing the perfect body of water to backdrop your wedding comes down to what you’re looking for in your ceremony. Are you craving a casual beachside feel? Or are you in search of a refined lagoon to dance under the stars?

No matter your arrangement, one thing that can help you make the most of your wedding is considering the many different types of waterfront venues available to you. In this guide we’ll go over:

Beach Venues

If you’re a fan of tender movies and television shows, you’ve probably seen a few examples of beachside weddings. The beauty of a sun-soaked, sandy beach makes the perfect setting for cinematic romance. But, beach weddings aren’t just for television—let’s look at all a beach wedding venue has to offer.

Ideas for a Beach Wedding

Beach weddings are incredibly versatile—whether you’re going for an elegant feel or a boho vibe, the sandy aisle is an ideal canvas for your dream wedding. When planning your coastal ceremony, it’s easy to be caught up in a wave of to-dos. So, we’ve outlined a few must-haves when it comes to your seaside soiree:

  • Scrumptious seaside snacks – You can’t go wrong with a buffet of seafood for some sea-to-table deliciousness. Start the cocktail hour with shrimp cocktail and move on to juicy salmon, delectable clams, and buttery lobsters to round out the night. If you’re going for a more casual vibe, gift your guests with crab cakes, lobster rolls, or fish and chips. Once you’ve found your perfect locale, consider using Zola’s database of pre-screened vendors to cater your ceremony.

  • Seaway decor – While the natural beauty of the beach is enough to entrance guests, you can also add to the seaside splendor with ornamental archways, aquatic centerpieces, and tropical touches that transports guests under the sea.

  • Oceanfront libations – Serve your cocktails in ocean-glass chalices. Opt for classic beachside drinks like strawberry daiquiris, or please the refined palates with a seafoam sangria. Don’t forget to garnish each cocktail with a fruity surprise such as a pineapple wedge or a slice of starfruit.

Benefits of a Beach Wedding

The great thing about a beach wedding is that you can make the ceremony as simple or ceremonious as you’d like. In addition to versatility, a beachside wedding offers the following advantages:

  • Easy decor – Beach weddings take a lot of the work out of choosing decor. The natural beauty of the beach will provide its own flair, from sparkling sand to colorful seashells. Rather than go all out with decorations, you can keep it simple with paper lanterns and floral touches. Just remember, whatever you do choose for decor has to stand up to the conditions of the beach. You don’t want your tables and chairs blowing away if it starts to get windy.

  • Good weather – Even when there isn’t a maritime wedding happening, people flock to beaches to soak up the warm weather and enjoy sun-kissed days. Inviting your guests to a beachside soiree is sure to brighten your loved ones’ moods, and welcome in a sunny new season.

  • Casual vibes – If you’re looking to host a laid-back wedding that feels more like a weekend kick-back than a ceremonious event, a beach locale is a perfect fit. A beach provides a casual setting and gives you plenty of options to have fun and take some of the starch out of the ceremony. You can still have elements of formality if you’d like, but a breezy beach wedding makes room for more free-flowing creativity.

  • Romance – Waves slowly lapping on the sand. The sun setting in the background as the sky turns into shades of pink, purple, and orange. The water reflecting the light and shining behind you as your partner says their vows. Nothing quite says romance like a sunset ceremony with stunning views on the beach.

  • Fun – In many ways, a wedding is a really big party that you’re hosting for all your friends and loved ones. Any good host knows that to be successful, you need to make sure that people are having fun. What better place to have fun than the beach? In between the ceremony and dinner, you can invite your guests to play a match of beach volleyball or even host a sandcastle-making contest to add to the oohs and ahhs of the day.

  • Fewer expenses – Prices of a beach wedding can vary greatly, but since you’re not paying for a large banquet hall or grand ballroom of a hotel, beach weddings give you the opportunity to save some money. You can then use your savings on other considerations such as decor or entertainment, put it towards your honeymoon, or keep it in the bank to spend on your matrimonial home.

Considerations of a Beach Wedding

As you can see, numerous qualities make a beach a great venue for a wedding. But there are things to consider while planning your ceremony to make sure that everything goes smoothly.

Showing up at your town’s public beach with a couple of friends and quickly eloping is one way to take advantage of gorgeous waterfront views. However, for those who want an elaborate beachside ceremony, there are a few factors that you’ll need to include in your wedding planning checklist:

  • Regulations and permits – There are a lot of beaches in the world and they all have their own rules. Whether you’re planning on going to a private beach, a public beach, or a beach resort, you’ll need to do your research. Not all beaches will require permits, but that’s something you want to make sure of well before the day of the ceremony.

You’ll also need to know what the regulations are regarding noise and the time you’re allowed to be on the beach. Cops breaking up your beach party may be a funny memory from your high school days, but you’ll want to make sure your wedding reception is cop-free.

  • Crowds and noise – While there may be limits on how loud you and your party can be, there’s no limit on how loud the beach will be. The waves hitting the shore, the seagulls shrieking overhead, and the animated children calling out for each other may interrupt your beachside “I dos.” Be sure your ceremony doesn’t get drowned out by the beach itself. If needed, you can always look into microphones and speakers to make sure that you and your partner are heard by each of your guests.

You’ll also want to consider crowds. If you do opt to use a public beach, make sure that you’ve found a great spot and time for your ceremony. Otherwise, you might find your moment of romance competing with a weekend beach volleyball tournament.

  • Environmental factors – When you’re walking down the aisle, you don’t want to see your officiant standing ankle-deep in the surf. Know where the tides will be during your ceremony so that the water doesn’t start encroaching on your moment. You’ll also want to be wary of birds, bugs, and sand getting into your reception’s food. As such, securely cover your snacks.

Additionally, if the weather takes a turn for the worse, it’s good to have a backup plan. If you’ve booked through a resort or hotel, see if they have an indoor space you can move into if needed. If you’re taking a more DIY approach, you may have to get creative with a weatherproof tent or moving the ceremony somewhere nearby.

  • Accessibility – Once you find a location you love, it’s easy to forget that other people may have a tough time getting there. Always consider your guests. Guests who struggle with their mobility may find sand difficult to navigate.

Check that the beach is easy to get to and has easily walkable paths. In some areas, you may also be able to rent golf carts or other vehicles to help your guests get from the parking lot to your ceremony.

  • Destination – Beaches, by definition only exist on the coast. So, if you live in a landlocked state, but yearn for a beachside ceremony, it’ll most likely be a destination wedding. A destination wedding can be a fun adventure, but some guests may not have the time or means to go to such lengths.

Zola’s wedding guest list manager can help you plan accordingly. Just enter your guests’ information and we’ll help collect any contact information and keep track of RSVPs. You can even update your loved ones about transportation, accommodations, and the weather.

Oceanfront Venues

Are you in love with the idea of an ocean backdrop, but crave the security of an indoor location? An oceanfront reception venue can give you the best of both worlds.

Oceanfront resorts will often offer a choice of an indoor or outdoor ceremony, and they are populated with other activities to keep you and your guests entertained before and after the celebration.

Ideas for an Oceanfront Venue

Booking a venue with an ocean view, such as a resort or a restaurant, likely means that you’ll have less flexibility than if you were to choose a purely outdoor location. Luckily, it also means that you’ll be equipped with an elegant backdrop to complement each of your personal touches:

  • Elevated cuisine – If you’re not using a local vendor, you and your guests can dine on the delectable eats offered by the venue. Dine on a multiple-course menu and end the night with a parade of desserts befitting Poseidon.

  • Ornate decor – Bring the breathtaking views of the outdoors inside with refined ornamentation and designs. Crystal chandeliers will beautifully reflect your surroundings, picking up the tints of the deep blue ocean and the setting coral sky. You can continue the theme by adorning your table setting and centerpieces with aquatic color schemes.

  • Lavish libations – Leave the daiquiris and Coladas for your beachside honeymoon, and bring deluxe dinnertime drinks to the table instead. Keep the tropical feel with fruity renditions of juleps, martinis, and negronis.

Benefits of Oceanfront Venues

The main benefit of an oceanfront reception venue is that you still get the majestic scenery of being on the water. However, other perks may also make this an attractive option:

  • Available help – A lot goes into planning a wedding. A DIY approach may sound like a fun idea, but there’s something to be said for having expert help. Most oceanfront venues specialize in events like this and will have people available to help guide you through the process so that you don’t forget even the smallest details.

  • Indoor facilities – Most venues will have indoor and outdoor spaces for your ceremony. Regardless of what you choose, it can be nice to have the ability to move some or part of the day inside. Indoor spaces come pre-equipped with amenities such as temperature control, easy access to bathrooms, and a ready-to-go bar for refreshments.

  • Flexibility – If you need your wedding to be a little later in the day for any reason, it’ll be easier to arrange with an indoor venue. When hosting at an outside venue, the sun makes its own schedule, which can make it difficult to change times or dates.

  • Traditional feel – Casual and laid back is great for some, but maybe you always envisioned your wedding as more of a classic occasion. You can be as formal as you like in a venue with an ocean view without worrying about it clashing with the setting.

  • More meal options – Having a three-course meal or elegant plated dinners with wine is hard to do on a beach. Your options are more open when you’re dealing with a venue that has a full kitchen and won’t have to transport the food out to you.

  • Ample activities – There’s a lot of ocean out there. Thankfully for you, that means there are a lot of venues that specialize in different activities. In addition to being able to use these facilities for your ceremony, you and your wedding guests can enjoy the marina, golf club, winery, and lodge, too.

Considerations of an Oceanfront Venue

An oceanfront ceremony is certainly an elegant and convenient way to say your “I dos” near lapping waves and a sparkling shoreline without getting your toes too deep in the sand. When planning for your ceremony, consider the following:

  • Cost – Oceanfront venues come with a lot of amenities. However, very few of them are free. Also, if you do go a more traditional route, you may find that your decor costs are higher than that of a casual wedding. Just know that oceanside venues typically cost a bit more than a DIY ceremony on the beach. It’s important to budget accordingly.

  • Options – People love weddings near the water, but what about on the water? A fun twist on an oceanside wedding venue is to have your ceremony on a boat. Whether you own a boat or rent a private charter, this is a great option to do something a little bit different that your wedding guests will remember.

  • Destination – If you grew up on the coast of California and all your family lives there too, then this may not apply to you. But if you’re from Nebraska, it may be more difficult to gather your entire extended family for a destination wedding. Be sure to plan accommodations and transportation for guests who do plan to come, and give them something special for the journey—such as a beachy gift bag or a reservation at a nearby spa.

  • Book in advance – There are a lot of oceanfront options, but they are popular. As such, many will book up years in advance. This means that you may have to do some searching to find a venue that is available during the time you’re looking for.

Zola’s pre-screened wedding venue finder will let you browse through our trusted database of venues, which you can narrow down by budget, style, and capacity.

Lakefront and Riverfront Venues

If you’re positively entranced by the idea of a waterfront venue, but looking for something more secluded and intimate than a beachfront location, lakefront and riverfront venues offer stunning views with a unique spin.

Ideas for a Lakefront or Riverfront Venue

The great thing about lake or riverside weddings is that you don’t have to make a trip to the coast for a waterside celebration. Instead, you can linger in the lush foliage and dance the night away with your partner under centuries-old trees.

Some lakesides even have small beaches where you can hold your ceremony, so you won’t have to completely abandon the idea of a sandy shindig. When planning a landlocked wedding, be sure to include the following:

  • Watercourses – Locate a local vendor to provide you with fresh finds from the nearby waterways. Whether it’s bass or catfish, your guests will be in for an eclectic, regional surprise. If you’re going for a more casual vibe, include classic BBQ staples such as meat kabobs or elevated hot dogs. For an extra delicious conclusion to the night, enjoy s’mores around the campfire.

  • Natural decor – Thread the natural beauty of the surrounding flora and vegetation into your wedding ceremony. Decorate an archway in flowing vines and bright flowers, or decorate your reception area with wooden picnic tables and mason jar centerpieces.

  • Down-to-earth cocktails – Continue the theme by complementing your natural motifs with cocktails to match. For earthy concoctions, opt for a signature rosemary vodka gimlet or an herbaceous mint julep.

Benefits of Lakefront and Riverfront Venues

Whether you’re holding your ceremony near a lake or a river, the beauty itself is enough to fill your memories with good times for years to come. Some additional benefits of lakefront or riverfront venues include:

  • Versatility – More venues mean you aren’t tied to the coast. You can still have the feel of a destination wedding while only traveling a car ride away. Having more options also means that you may be able to lower your venue costs or find a venue that’s available in a shorter time frame.

  • Simplicity and intimacy – Lakes and rivers manage to provide a sense of grandeur on a smaller, more intimate scale. It’s perfect if you’re planning a smaller ceremony with a handful of your closest loved ones.

  • Close to nature – Expanding your waterfront search to include lakes and rivers may lead you to find more isolated locations where you can hone in on the focus of your wedding, whether it’s prioritizing you and your partner’s growing relationship or finding a place where you and your guests can comfortably take a breath of fresh air.

Considerations of a Lakefront or Riverfront Venue

When planning your wedding ceremony, be sure to consider the following:

  • Permits – Some lakefront or riverfront venues may require permits, depending on the time and size of your wedding. As such, it’s important to contact local officials to gather everything you need to help your wedding run smoothly.

  • Season – While the summertime might feel like the perfect backdrop for your lakeside ceremony, this time of year may mean the arrival of unwanted guests—mosquitos. As you know, bugs flock to waterside spots, so warmer weather could exacerbate the mosquito madness. Consider hosting your wedding during the spring or fall months to avoid the crowds.

  • Cohesion – No matter what you choose, you’ll want to accentuate the natural beauty of your choice through all facets of your wedding. You can do this in many ways, from your invitations and place cards down to your wedding website. At Zola, we provide you with free wedding websites that are easy to use to help you create the perfect feel when your guests visit (and to show off any eye-popping photos of your venue). You can also use our customizable wedding paper suite to make sure that your save the dates, invites, menus, and programs all fit your theme.

Zola Can Help Find Your Perfect Venue

Whether you like to go with the flow or come in with force, the versatility of waterfront wedding venues ensures that your wedding will be just as you always pictured it—perfect.

Zola can help with every element of your wedding planning, from invitations to thank you cards, to ensure that your wedding is everything you imagined it would be. Start planning your wedding with us today.

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