Dreaming of saying your vows amidst sun and sand? You don’t have to plan a destination wedding that may break the bank. There are gorgeous beaches closer than you think. Not only are there picturesque locations all up and down America's coasts, but you can create your own "beach" wedding by any large lake or river. When you find the right beach for you, here are some tips to get the most from your experience:

Location

Will you be at a resort? You may be able to reserve the pool area for your reception. Even if none of your guests choose to take a dip, the sparkles off the water make for a beautiful atmosphere. Many resorts are already well set up for gatherings, with bars by the water where your guests can get drinks. Ask if there are further elements you can use or rent; a little colorful uplighting goes a long way to transform any space into a party. Resorts also often have in-house staff like caterers and DJs, so ask before hiring your own.

Just because you've always dreamed of a romantic wedding by the water, it doesn't mean you need to give up having an indoor religious wedding. Many churches and houses of worship are located near beaches. Do some research around a few beach communities and see what options are available. You can have your wedding inside and walk the party to the beach afterwards.

Another option is reserving beach space at a public park or privately-owned nature area. Even at public areas, take care that you check the local regulations; large gatherings of people often have different rules than individual beach use, and you may need to fill out some paperwork or abide by certain rules. Check ahead about time restrictions, too. If you're planning on using structures like picnic shelters or gazebos, you can often reserve these for a nominal fee.  

You're at the ocean, so why not take advantage of the water? Charter a boat ahead of time to take the party to a floating venue and give your guests a tour of the beach. Many cruises offer dinner packages, so you can do your feasting and dancing upon the waves. Or, if you want something more intimate, you and your new spouse can ride away together into the sunset after the reception.

Beach Fashion

Although the level of formality is up to you, beach weddings are often more informal. Not only does this foster a more relaxed and festive atmosphere, but it's also practical. Most guests will find it easier to wear light, breathable fabrics in the sun and comfortable shoes (or none at all) in the sand.

Dress for the wind. Especially at sunset, the beach can be a gusty place. Steer away from long, trailing fabrics (unless you wear a dramatic, flying veil just for the wedding photos) and lengthy, dragging trains. Likewise, while floppy sunhats are great for shading your eyes, they can catch the wind and blow away if they're not secured with ribbons or pins. Men should consider wearing clips to prevent their ties from flapping out of place.

Bring sunglasses. Although you won't be wearing them during the ceremony, a pair of fabulous white shades will prevent you from squinting against the glare of the sun and water, and you'll look moviestar-glamorous instead.

Look for lightweight, breathable fabrics like linen, cotton, or chiffon. Light colors will reflect the sun, so the groom may choose a white or tan outfit as well as the bride. You can also incorporate bright colors easily into a beach wedding, and a splash of bright red, yellow, or blue looks beautiful in the sun for photos.

Although beaches are warm during the day, they can cool rapidly at night. Bring a shawl or wrap so you're not shivering when the sun goes down.

Beach weddings are perfect times for accessorizing with flowers. Ask your florist about orchid garlands for your wedding party. You can achieve an exotic look fairly easily by incorporating tropical flowers like birds of paradise and Hawaiian ginger.

Comfortable shoes are extremely important. Even though you may love the way a pair of heels looks with your dress, remember that you'll be walking through (and sinking into) sand. To prevent damage to your shoes (and your ankles), opt for nicely-decorated beaded or embroidered flats instead. If the beach is relatively clean, you may also decide to go barefoot.

Considerations

Wheelchairs are notoriously hard to push in the sand, so if you'll have guests who need extra assistance, prepare the area with carpets or hold your wedding near a boardwalk.  

Are you having a sunset wedding? Keep in mind the light will be coming in horizontally, so you'll want to avoid west-facing ceremonies in the later part of the day.

Is your area known for seagulls, jellyfish, or other beach fauna? Caution guests ahead of time not to throw food and to watch where they tread. Similarly, check the area beforehand to make sure it is clear of broken bottles and other dangerous and unsightly trash.

Beach weddings are full of romantic possibility, and the perfect way to enjoy an intimate gathering of family and friends. With its bright colors and beautiful photo opportunities, you can treasure memories of your beach wedding for years to come.

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