5 Important Tips for Planning a Sunset Wedding in Los Angeles

sunset wedding couple kissing

Ahh, Los Angeles – a city of sprawl, perfect weather, and, of course the beach. Many couple ask me if it would be a good idea to have a sunset wedding with those beautiful ocean views in the background. Drawing on my experience as a Southern California wedding officiant for over three thousand weddings, the only simple answer that question is, “It depends.”

No matter what time of day you plan to be married there are positive attributes and potential drawbacks. A wedding ceremony as the sun sets offers some of the most breathtaking backdrops and beautiful photographs but there are several variables that may make sunset a frustrating time of day for your marriage ceremony.

sunset wedding bluff
A bluff, like this one at Crescent Bay Park in Laguna Beach, is a great place for sunset weddings.

The most obvious risk presented by a wedding ceremony at sunset is that, well, the sun is setting. There are a there are countless factors that may result in unexpected delays that could cause your ceremony to be begin when the sun has already set or it is so low in the sky that you miss the most picturesque skyline during your ceremony. Let’s go through five of the most important ones so that when the time comes to say your I do’s the sun hasn’t already said goodbye for the night.

Keep in mind that a sunset wedding doesn’t have to be right on the beach to provide the same great scenery. You can rent plenty of beautiful wedding venues just above the waterfront that will organize the ceremony and reception, which is especially helpful for larger wedding parties.

Make a Time Cushion

Understand that weddings rarely start right on time. One way to provide yourself with some insurance is tell your guests that your wedding will begin at least twenty to thirty minutes before you actually plan to be married. That way even the stragglers will probably arrive in time to attend your ceremony. Also, take your family photographs before your ceremony so you won’t be prevented from do so after your wedding when it is getting dark.

Consider Traffic Conditions

If your beach sunset wedding will be in Malibu or Laguna Beach, it is certain that some guests will underestimate the time that it take to drive there. If sunset will be 5 or 6pm your guests will be driving in rush hour traffic.  During the summer months the traffic on Pacific Coast Highway is terrible regardless of the time. If any guests are just visiting Southern California, they probably won’t take traffic into account and will be late unless they are staying very near to your wedding site.

sunset wedding long beach art musuem cake
Renting a wedding venue can give you the same stunning views while also providing protection from the elements.

Be Aware of the Wind

In some beach areas, particularly in Malibu, the winds often get stronger during the hour or so before sunset. That can wreak havoc with styled hair, veils, flower decorations and heavy wind can make it hard for guests to hear a ceremony and any accompanying music. It is a good idea to visit your proposed wedding location prior to your wedding day at the time you will be planning your ceremony.

Keep in mind that a sunset wedding doesn’t have to be right on the beach to provide the same great scenery. You can rent plenty of beautiful wedding venues just above the shoreline that will also organize the ceremony and reception, which is especially helpful for larger wedding parties.

Check the Tide Schedules

Before you schedule your sunset wedding on the beach, check the tide schedules. If you will be married on one of the many beaches in Malibu, Laguna Beach or Newport Beach that sit at the bottom a bluff that beach may nearly disappear at high tide. I have officiated a few weddings at El Matador Beach in Malibu when everyone had to be pressed up the bluff so they would not be standing in the water.

Watch out for Competing Weddings or Photography Shoots

sunset wedding santa monica pier
Venues like the Santa Monica Pier are stunning at sunset, but their popularity can lead to an unintentionally crowded ceremony.

The Southern California coastline offers numerous beautiful vistas, but the number of couples wanting to exchange their vows in the twilight is surprisingly big. If you are unable to reserve your beach or ocean view setting (and that’s a whole different issue) you may find another party – or more than one – expecting to to have their sunset wedding at the same location. I have seen seething arguments between competing brides, grooms, and parents of the brides and grooms.

Southern California is also the center of the entertainment industry and ocean view settings are frequented by photographers shooting models, actors, and even teenage girls preparing for their quinceanera. Those photography sessions are typically in front of the rock formations on the beach or on bluffs overlooking the ocean and some of the modeling shoots can be a bit risqué. None of the subjects are willing to be flexible and step aside for a wedding.

In the end, only one couple can be married at the chosen spot at sunset, only one model can have their photo shoot, and only one quinceanera can be held. Fortunately, most pristine ocean settings have at least one alternative setting within short walking distance. But its still good to get their early or have alternative locations for your sunset wedding, lest things go array.

Now that you know how to prepare for your LA sunset wedding…

As you can see there are always many more factors to consider when planning your sunset wedding than most couples expect. An outdoor wedding on the beach or a bluff is likely to be a wonderful experience, but when you a planning such a wedding you encounter obstacles that you don’t anticipate. My advice is to plan in advance, but don’t sweat it if things go wrong. In the end it isn’t about the views, but about the love you share with each other and the guests you invited. Holding these things in mind, I hope this summary will prepare you address those potential hitches with confidence.

Sunset Wedding Officiant

One of the great things about getting married in Southern California is that you don’t need a sunset wedding ceremony to have a beautiful backdrop. California is already filled with so much natural beauty that doesn’t matter what time of day you want to hold your ceremony. You’ll still be able to find a place just right for you.

Whether you’re planning on getting married in Orange County, Los Angeles, or anywhere else I can issue your marriage license and perform your wedding ceremony as an ordained minister. Furthermore, you can use my list of wedding venues to choose a place to tie the knot (if you don’t already have one in mind). My job is to take the stress away so you can focus on enjoy the day. Call me at 562-547-3255 or use my contact form to send me an email.