Southern California is the idyllic beach wedding sort of place. There are miles of beaches in Los Angeles County extending from Malibu all the way down to Long Beach and in Orange County, from Seal Beach to San Clemente. I have been the officiant at many beach weddings and offer various pieces of advice that will make your beach wedding experience more enjoyable and less stressful. If you are considering beach weddings in Southern California consider this:
Crowds: All Southern California beaches can be very busy so it is important that you pick the right beach and the right time of day. As a general rule, the hours between mid-day and late afternoon are the most crowded and the hottest. If you plan your wedding in the morning or in the hours before sunset you will have the beach much more to yourselves and your guests will be much more confortable.
Flowers: Flowers always add to the beauty of a wedding. However, if you plan to be married on the beach it is important that you use natural flowers. Synthetic flowers are not welcome on the beach because they do not naturally decompose and, instead, remain as trash on the beach and in the ocean. Synthetic flower petals are particularly undesirable because they tend to scatter in the breeze and are much harder to clean up after a wedding ceremony. So make sure that your flower girl is scattering beautiful and real flower petals. Your ceremony will look even more beautiful and you will not be fined by the beach authority on your wedding day.
No Alcohol: Southern California Beaches, particularly those in Los Angeles County, strictly forbid alcohol. Some couples have slyly sipped a celebratory bottle of champagne but even champagne can result in a citation that dampens your wedding day, and you’ll end up watching the beach authority pour your expensive bottle in the sand.
Hot Sand: Please keep in mind that the white sands of a Los Angeles beach can get very hot as it bakes in the sun. This can take the fun out of barefoot ceremony as you step into the blistering sand. At the very least, make sure that everyone brings thongs so that your wedding will be a celebration and not a trauma to their feet.
Wind + Unity Candle = Frustration: While the unity candle ceremony is a wonderful symbolic element to many weddings, there is almost always an ocean breeze that can wreak havoc with the simple act of lighting a candle. If you would prefer a unity ceremony as part of your beach wedding I strongly suggest that you consider the unity sand ceremony. Otherwise, you will likely be one of the countless couples who simply pretended that their unity candles were lit, or even worse, burn your hands as you try to light a unity candle from one of those long protective glass vases.
Wind + Hair = Mess: I wear lots of hair gel when I am officiating a beach wedding. Why? The wind makes me look like a frizz head. It may make you look gorgeous, but often the direction of the wind cannot be determined until you get there and the wind at sunset kicks up a notch. So consider wearing a heavy amount of hair spray or hair gel…or just be natural and have fun with the wind. My wife tells me to recommend no glossy lips on brides because your hair will stick to your lips.
Not Easy to Walk in the Sand: While most people do not have any trouble walking on the sand it can be very difficult for guests who may be elderly or handicapped to make their way across the sand to your wedding site. If you will have any guests who are not very agile or who may be in a wheel chair you should consider a beach location that is close to the parking lot and does not require climbing down any stairs or rocks. It is sad to see the bride’s or groom’s grandparent or other loved one having to watch the wedding from a distance.
Expensive Parking: Although some Los Angeles County beaches offer free or metered parking, most beach parking lots charge $10 or $20 per vehicle to park no matter how long you plan to remain at the beach. Many guests have been blindsided by the high parking fees. A few classy couples have reimbursed their guests for the parking expense which ensures that that nobody felt put out by the expense.
No Dogs Allowed: Only a few Los Angeles County beaches permit dogs and those beaches are so crowded with dogs that they are not great settings for a wedding ceremony. Although you may love your dog, make sure that Fido will be welcome at the beach and that your wedding will not take place in the middle of a dog-park before you make plans to include your dog in your beach wedding ceremony.