Tips for California Beach Weddings

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Now that summer is in full swing and this is a popular time for California beach weddings, I want to mention a few things that will be very helpful for those of you planning beach weddings.  Since I have been an officiant for many, many beach weddings I have seen a few problems that could have been prevented.

California Beach Weddings

Last year I wrote a post called Los Angeles Beach Weddings Rules and Permits in Los Angeles County and explained some of the legalities about California beach weddings. Now I just would like to offer some advice and point out some things about beach weddings that you weren’t aware of specifically for

California Beach Weddings

  1. Sand
    Of course, there’s sand at the beach.  This is partly what makes it so fun and romantic. But sand has it’s issues too. For one thing it gets in everything, and I mean everything.  If you have shoes on, remember that they will probably get a bit trashed. That’s why I either wear my sandals or my worn pair of shoes. I would recommend simply bare feet on a cooler day and sandals on the hotter days for when the sun has made the ground feel like lava.
    Beach Weddings Southern California
    Leave your shoes behind for a more enjoyable beach wedding in Southern California.
  2. Wind
    If it’s a windy day the sand will smack you a thousand times in the face, but I like a little exfoliation. What else does wind affect? Hair. That’s right. Many a time I’ve officiated a beach wedding ceremony for a couple who is picture perfect before their ceremony begins.  When the ceremony begins, especially if it is anytime near sunset when the winds can really pick up, the couple’s hair is often blowing in every direction. Wedding pictures are not as special when the couple’s hair is blowing in front of their faces, up in the air and, often, ending up in their mouths. I recommend the use of heavy gel or hairspray before any beach wedding. Plaster that hairdo down! My wife always comments before a beach wedding that I’m wearing way too much gel, and then she pauses and says, “Oh, wait. You have a beach wedding right now, don’t you?”
  3. Water
    You would think that with all that water at the beach that you will not need to drink water. Au contraire mon frere. You get quite thirsty with all that salt air and the heat and the extra clothing not usually worn at a beach. So bring some bottled water for yourself and your guests. Some brides and grooms smartly put their own wedding favor labels on the bottles for a nice touch.
  4. Senior Citizen Guests
    Consider the elderly guests. Grandma may really want to be at your wedding, but she is not going to take off her nice shoes and it is quite difficult for an elderly person to walk the many yards on clunky sand to that perfect spot. I recommend that you either rent a wheelchair so that her ride there is an easy one or make the wedding location one that is an easy one to master. Since I’ve been on every beach in Southern California many times over, I can offer you wedding advice on each beach location.
  5. Sun
    Wear sunblock. Simple. No ifs, ands or buts. If you haven’t built up your tan over many months, I suggest always that you wear sunblock. The sun’s rays are more intense at a beach. If you are from out of town, definitely wear sunblock the second you step off the plane. I have had entire out-of-town wedding parties be bright red and near sunstroke show up for a wedding. I wear sunblock every day, but even with that, I still always have a sunburn or suntan.Now, the downside to wearing sunblock at the beach is that sand will stick to your face. So when that wind is kicking up and smacking those tiny grains in your face, you’ll have a wonderful exfoliation when you wash your face later.
    Beautiful Southern California Beach Wedding
    Southern California beach weddings offer all of the scenery you need.
  6. Sunset
    Almost every bride and groom wants to be married at sunset on the beach. There are a few things to consider about this. One is that the wind kicks up at sunset. See “Wind above”. Two is that you’ll be walking back in the dark. Three is that all your photography will have to be before and during the ceremony. Often the lighting is not so great during the ceremony as long as your photographer has an on camera flash or a high speed with a backlighting compensation.
  7. Crowds
    Public beaches are open to the hoi polloi so you have to anticipate the crowds. Some are belligerent. Some are funny. Some only think they are funny. Some refuse to move. If you can have a devil-may-care attitude and a good sense of humor about the crowds, all the better. Remember though that weekends and summers brings more crowds to the beaches. And weekend summers are well, saturated with people. Nevertheless, I can suggest some of the most uncrowded public beaches.
  8. Birds
    Beaches are full of seagulls and egrets and other interesting birds. Once in a while they will fly overhead and do their business. Hopefully it doesn’t land on you. It rarely happens, but I can’t say it hasn’t.
  9. Bugs
    We’re pretty lucky here in Southern California. Bugs are not a constant problem. If they are a problem it is typically in the evening.  In any case, they are usually not biting bugs. Usually. However, on many occasions I have inhaled a small bug and had to choke it down while speaking. Once, I almost had to stop the wedding ceremony. My eyes watered up and I panicked and cleared my throat and thankfully, it went down. I continued the ceremony, but after a longer pause.
  10. Seaweed
    Almost all the beaches are strewn with seaweed. It can look a little ratty at times. It also can get tangled on feet. Many a high heeled woman has twisted her ankle on the unexpected seaweed. So be careful. Don’t wear those heels.
  11. Traffic
    The bane of my existence is traffic. Anticipate traffic x 3 near the coastline, particularly in the summer. Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) can be an absolute parking lot, especially on the way to Malibu. UntIl March 2015, there will be construction on PCH from Santa Monica to Malibu, which almost certainly means delays. Many out-of-towners aren’t aware that everyone in the world knows about the California coastline so they find themselves navigating through the PCH parking lot hoping to get to their wedding, or their friend’s wedding, on time. Add in a sunset beach wedding (nee Rush Hour Traffic) and you have stress. Do yourself a favor and give yourself an extra hour to get there and you may still be cutting it close. You can always have a drink at one of the many restaurants with a view nearby while waiting.
  12. Parking
    See “Traffic” above. When the multitudes of surfers and sunbathers hit the beaches in summer, there is ultimately a parking glut. I can steer you to some of the better beaches for parking, however, even those can sometimes have an unexpected surge in cars.  Be sure to have plenty of quarters or a credit card for parking meters.  If there are no meters available you’ll have to pay the piper at a parking lot.  Summer parking lot fees can be as high as $15 or more.
  13. Favors
    One of the fun things about beach weddings are the creative wedding favors that brides and grooms create. I’ve seen everything from the water bottles (above) to monogrammed beach towels to seashells to countless beach and nautical themed DIY or bought wedding favors. They are usually fun and casual, just like a California beach wedding.


Beach weddings can bring about all sorts of unexpected events. That’s the beauty of them. But if you are adverse to something unplanned happening at your wedding, a beach wedding may not be for you. There have been some beautiful moments that I have witnessed, such as the whales and dolphins in the distance and once a whale came right to the rocks to visit. Sometimes the unexpected happens that could be interpreted as negative such as when the mother of the groom stepped on her dress in the sand and accidentally, and unknowingly, pulled her top down. But they later become funny events. Trust me.

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