How to Get Married on the Beach

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Tie the knot with the sun on your shoulders, sand between your toes and sound of the crashing waves by having your wedding on the beach. It sounds like the ultimate in laid-back weddings, but a beach wedding actually takes a lot of logistical planning. It starts with checking local laws for proper permits, planning for Mother Nature's twists and turns, and informing your guests so they're adequately prepared for all that a beach wedding entails.

The Logistics of Planning

Start by picking a date, which ideally should occur in the off-season. Not only will you be more likely to have a little privacy during your ceremony, but you'll also more likely get a deal and cooperation from a nearby reception venue. If you're able to find a private beach -- such as one attached to an oceanfront estate -- you probably won't have gawkers hanging around near your ceremony setup. However, if you have a guest list over 50, you will likely need to book a spot on a public beach. Time the ceremony so it ends an hour before sunset, so you will have ideal lighting for photos and time for sunset pictures. Prepare for any havoc that Mother Nature can wreak; most commonly it comes in the form of excessive wind, but high tides, rain, hurricanes and overall chilly weather can dampen spirits on your wedding day. Pick an alternate location as a standby if the weather doesn't cooperate.

Permits and Legalities

Beach towns often have different ordinances, so it's vital you check with your town about what's allowed and what's not during a wedding. You may encounter ordinances governing noise and rules for chair or archway setups, open containers, bonfires or candles, and more. Some towns might require a permit for you to simply have your wedding on the beach, while others might charge a fee for the privilege. Start by visiting the website of the town in which you wish to marry, and then follow up with a phone call or visit to the government offices. If the laws are strict or costly, consider moving your beach wedding to a nearby town for more leniency.

Ceremony Set-Up

If you're allowed to set up seating for your beach wedding, skip standard chairs; lightweight versions can blow away in the wind or sink into the sand. Instead, set up some heavier wooden benches for guests who need to sit, such as the elderly, and ask your other guests to stand during your short ceremony. Offer a bit of shade with large beach umbrellas or make the wedding program double as a hand fan if it's a sunny day; set up a water station, too, so no one gets overheated. Beaches tend to be windy, so tie or weight down anything that could blow away, such as a lightweight arch, ceremony programs or rose petals lining the aisle.

Beach Wedding Attire

The beach isn't the place for a ballgown wedding. Instead, choose a lightweight dress -- long or short -- made of chiffon or charmeuse. Consider how the gown drags along the floor when making your selection; a lace gown often picks up debris, and will easily get dirty during a beach wedding ceremony. Skip a veil, which will blow in the wind, in favor of a fresh flower, brooch or fascinator pinned into your up-do. As for shoes, ditch the heels; they'll sink into the sand. Instead, wear wedges, flat sandals, espadrilles -- or go barefoot, as long as the sun's not too hot.