Beach weddings can be incredibly romantic, especially in a place like Cape Cod. But it’s not all sunshine and sea breezes. It’s easy to get so caught up in planning that you don’t consider the challenges that a wedding on the beach can pose. Thankfully, Jamie Bohlin, Cape Cod Celebrations owner and Senior Planner has some advice on how to avoid the typical pitfalls.
It’s an unavoidable fact that sand gets everywhere. And unless you plan on rocking a short dress, be prepared for it to get into your gown. “You should know and expect that if you’re having a beach wedding, you’re going to get sand in your dress,” says Bohlin. Her advice is to set up a boardwalk instead of walking on the bare beach. Other than that, you’ll just have to depend on your bridesmaids to brush you off.
And don’t think guys have it easy, either. That gritty feeling of sand trapped in your shoes and socks can really dampen the mood, not to mention ruin a nice pair of dress shoes. “A lot of the time we see the guys go barefoot or flip-flops. Same with the girls.” So do yourselves a favor and ditch the fancy footwear and embrace the feeling of the sand between your toes.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the sand can make it difficult for your elderly guests. The beach can be difficult terrain even for the able-bodied, so put extra thought into making sure they can get down to the ceremony space. Bohlin says, “I would highly recommend being mindful of the elderly that are attending. Assign someone to escort Grandma and Grandpa to and from their seats. Other than that, there’s not much you can do.”
A gentle breeze can be great for keeping guests cool, but it can get pretty windy by the water. And the windier it is, the more you might have to adjust your vision. “We had one bride who insisted she be married under a Chuppah,” says Bohlin. "Unfortunately, the wind was so strong that day that it could have blown down the beach like a parachute, so they had to move the ceremony inside." So if you’re planning on using any sort of fabric-covered arch or canopy, she advises that you make sure it’s secure.
Veils can be another problem. “If you’re wearing a veil and the wind is in your face, you’ll be fine, but if it’s blowing away, be ready for it to be in the way of a lot of pictures. You might want to lose just the veil.” Consider a tiara, or maybe a little birdcage veil as an alternative. You can always wear your dream veil during the reception.
The ocean produces many beautiful sounds. Waves crashing and seagulls calling can create a great atmosphere as you say your “I Dos.” But it can also make it hard for your guests to hear those touching vows. So how do you make sure they’re not reduced to lip-reading? Surprisingly, a speaker system might not be the best idea. “A lot of times people ask if they should get a microphone, but wind can give feedback, so it’s sometimes better to ditch the mic and just project your voice.”
Besides that, even a basic sound system can be difficult to set up if you don’t have ready access to electricity. Bohlin suggests the alternative of only having a limited amount of chairs and encouraging your guests to gather around so they can hear and see properly. This has the added benefit of making clean up easier. “If you’re doing a beach wedding, the town usually requires you to set up and break down quickly. You can’t just leave the beach chairs all night.”
So avoid the distracting static and hassle of setting up speakers and chairs, and just make sure you say those vows loud and proud for your close family and friends to hear.
Unless you’re rolling in cash, the likelihood of you having your own private beach is slim. The height of wedding season in Cape Cod is also prime beach season, so you might be competing for privacy. Kids chasing after wayward volleyballs, joggers, and sunbathers could become unintended background during the ceremony or photos. Luckily, this one's surprisingly easy to take care of.
Make sure you have a proper permit to hold your wedding there. “If you’re at a public beach, your beach permit generally gives you the right to ask people to stay away,” says Bohlin. Be considerate and inform the surrounding beach-goers that you’re holding a wedding. “We usually find that when you tell people there’s a wedding going on, they’re so happy and willing to move.” This is especially easy to do if you’re holding your wedding in the evening. Not only are people generally packing up after a long day of fun in the sun, but the lighting is great that time of day, so your photographer will be especially happy.
During any outdoor wedding, you want to make sure your guests are comfortable and able to enjoy every special moment. But the beach can cause a lot of little discomforts that are distracting for your guests, like the glaring sun, cool winds off the water, and of course, sand.
Bohlin suggests having special favors for your guests. Sunglasses and little bottles of sunscreen are a great way of protecting them from the sun, especially if you personalize them. If the weather seems to be turning cool, or if the ceremony is later in the day, consider offering ways to keep warm. “If it seems like it’s going to be chilly, pashminas at the end of the aisle are a good idea.” That way your guests can continue to be stylish without getting goosebumps.
As for your old enemy sand, it’s not invited to the reception, and Bohlin says couples have found a clever way to keep it from getting tracked inside. Have wide paintbrushes outside the reception area where they can brush the sand off their feet before going in. They’re easy to get and clean off a good deal of the grit and sand.
Your magical beach wedding is now within reach! Keep Bohlin’s advice in mind and don’t be afraid to make adjustments. It will make your big day go much more smoothly, and guests will applaud your forethought.
Visit our companion website Gay Weddings on Cape Cod.com, the ultimate resource for gay weddings on the Cape.
All the listed vendors are gay-friendly and happy to make your special day magical and memorable!